Long term traveller Jonny Blair, from Bangor is finally about to crack his travel milestone of visiting 100 countries. Having visited Norway in February which was country 99, the self confessed nomad and business backpacker will head to Africa later this month where he will be celebrating a journey that has taken him through 100 countries, around 700 towns or cities and all seven continents.
Jonny headed off on a mission to travel the world back in 2003. His journey has seen him feed hyenas mouth to mouth in Ethiopia, hitch hike through Iraq, stay with local families in Iran, swim in Antarctica, sky dive in New Zealand and hike the Inca Trail in Peru.
This week during a short visit home I managed to catch up with Jonny and ask a few questions:
What countries have surprised you the most and why?
I’m always surprised when I travel. Perhaps the most surprising are those countries I don’t know much about before I go and don’t expect them to be good then I go away raving about them to everyone. In this case, El Salvador is just amazing. A beautiful and under rated country with friendly locals, untouristy sights all to yourself, great beaches and bars. Taiwan is a hugely under-rated place too. And Iran and Iraq are simply beautiful countries too – it’s just a shame the minority in those countries ruin it for the rest of the people there. There was this ancient mountain village in northern Iraq called Amadiya that was just gorgeous and I had to pinch myself that it was in Iraq, the Kurdish part. You can add Bolivia, Uruguay, Ethiopia and East Timor to those surprise countries too.
What’s been your top experience so far?
There are really too many to mention but if I’m pushed to pick one then it would be Christmas Day at Machu Picchu in Peru after the somewhat epic 4 day Inca Trail through the mountains and valleys. It was outstanding.
What remains on your bucket list of things to do?
I don’t like the term bucket list but I certainly have things I want to see and do! Rathlin Island is still on there believe it or not, some day I’ll get there. In terms of journeys, sailing down the Nile and the Trans Siberian Railway. In terms of countries, Cameroon, Algeria and Afghanistan are all on the list. In terms of remote islands, I’d love to go to Greenland, Svalbard, Naura and Palau. In terms of off the wall places, I’m keen to visit Sealand, Talossa, Somaliland and the Conch Republic.
What do you like to do when you get back home to Bangor?
I’m never back in Bangor for very long, but walking my family dog on Ballyholme Beach, watching Glentoran, watching Poirot on TV with my Dad, going down the pub with a few old friends and eating Ulster frys.
Words of advice to anyone wishing to embark on a travel adventure?
Work hard, be confident, don’t be fussy and get out there. I shared my 10 easy tips to travel the world in a post before and I stand by it. Crack those ten and you’ll be fine.
So which country is going to be the 100th?
Let me announce an exclusive – TUNISIA will be my 100th country, nobody else knows that, not even announced on my own site yet!
Jonny wants to help encourage more people from Northern Ireland to get out and see the world. Jonny promotes a lifestyle of travel on his main travel website “Don’t Stop Living“, the website that has given him the platform to work for himself online as a travel writer, author, editor, website manager, itinerary planner and blogger.
Jonny runs a series of travel related websites as well as selling advertising and working with countless travel companies around the world.
In the last year Jonny has attended the World Cup Final in Brazil, gone scuba diving in Honduras, been on a guided tour of the barely known Republic of Transnistria and taught English in Hong Kong.
A book on Jonny’s travels will be released later in the year. You can keep up to date with Jonny’s travels here >