Jonny Blair Interview: 85 Countries And Counting…

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Jonny Blair backpacking in Manchester

Having traveled to 85 countries is no small feat, but one man out there makes it look like an every day miracle. Jonny Blair is a nomad that’s been on the road ten long years since he left his hometown of Bangor in Ireland. He has worked many jobs along the way to support his wanderlust, and is always willing to share the inspiration that drives his motivation.

If you’re interested in long-term travel overseas, Jonny Blair at Don’t Stop Living knows the secret formula. I’ve always been interested in long-term travel–but ten years is a real stretch–so I interviewed Johnny to figure out how and why he does it, and how much longer will he do it for:

Here’s the story behind Jonny Blair’s inspiration.

Dont Stop Living is the longest-running one man travel to guide to all 7 continents, which obviously begs the question, what’s it like in Antarctica?!

It’s easily the best place I’ve been. It’s a constant winter wonderland without murder or war. In fact it’s the only continent that has never had a war and that makes it special. It’s a place to find your peace, spiritual enlightenment and you stare out in awe at a land of white wilderness. It’s just epic and words are hard to describe it with – anyone that has gone there will know the feeling. It’s an amazing place.

What surprised you the most about Antarctica when you were there?

The temperature! I expected it to be cold but it just wasn’t. We were there in November time though, which is their summer. I ridiculously wore 2 coats, 2 pairs of socks, even thermals underneath on the first few landings before realising I was sweating all the way and completely over dressed. The sun was shining down and a snowstorm was on its way, but it wasn’t as cold as I’d expected. I’ve had colder days in Northern Ireland, China and Iceland believe me!

You’ve been to 85 countries so far. Is it your goal to visit every country in the world?

Well that would be nice but life is short and we have to just live in the moment and savour it. I do have a current target of 100 real countries though and want to have that achieved by the time I turn 35, so I better get moving – only 9 months left!!

Jonny Blair balancing beer bottles in Soweto South Africa
Jonny Balancing beer bottles in Soweto, South Africa

Once I get over that milestone, I’ll look at something else. Every province in China maybe. Or all 50 US States or every national football stadium in Europe.

Are you more likely to press on to new places or backtrack and visit places you’ve already been and loved?

To be honest I do both and I’ve been guilty recently of re-visiting too many old places I loved – in fact in the last 6 months I’ve only been to one new country (East Timor) the other 7 countries were repeats (as were 90% of the cities), and so will the next two be – England and Brazil. I was in Hong Kong, Amsterdam, Liverpool, Belfast, Shenzhen and Bangkok all recently and I’ve been to them all before – some of them multiple times.

After my return to Brazil, I’ll try and only visit new countries and that should make me reach my goal of 100 quicker. But after that I know I’ll want to revisit some old haunts again – Bournemouth, Sydney, Hong Kong and Belfast.

What’s been your most dangerous moment while traveling?

Almost everything that happened to me in Venezuela was dangerous. I hated the place. Bag slashing, visa refusals, over charging, attempted muggings, rip offs, black market crash and border searches. I just hated it. The time a soldier held a gun to my foot while checking my bag at San Antonio del Tachira was probably the scariest moment.

What’s one thing that all the countries you’ve been to have in common?

Football. It’s truly the world game. It’s the people’s game. I have watched and played football in over 50 countries. Every country has a national team. I was in a bar in East Timor last month watching football, I played with locals in Iran, I kicked ball in Tanzania and I’m off to Brazil for the World Cup.

Jonny Blair backpacking in Sydney Australia
Backpacking in Sydney, Australia.

Football is the global constant that every country has in common – people love it – and all you need is a ball or something similar you can kick around. Goal posts can be found for free anywhere in nature.

Why long-term travel, and why to 7 continents? What do you get out of it? What’s the biggest benefit?

Diversity, freedom and unboredom. I never get bored. I wake up in a new day in a new city with an endless list of new acitivites to try, places to see, people to meet etc. All 7 continents because we only live once and we might as well see as much of the planet as we can. The biggest benefit is happiness. As humans we need to stay happy. Travel and football always keep me happy.

What was it like visiting North Korea? Is it true that you can only enter the country with a tour group?

I loved North Korea. It’s a cool country and very under-rated as a tourist destination. Unless you’re a global professional of some kind (i.e. professional footballer, politician etc.) you kind of have to go as part of a tour.

Journalists are not allowed though so I had to say I was an English teacher on my visa application. Travel Writer would raise suspicions that I was there to judge them. I used Young Pioneer Tours who are the budget tour operator and loved them.

What has been your biggest travel fail?

There’s been a few. Take a pick from the following:

-Spending $1000 AUD on a 2 year New Zealand Working Holiday Visa and NEVER using it.
-Spending money on a TEFL course and NEVER doing it.
-Going tubing in Vang Vieng, Laos and basically throwing $1000 US into the river.
-Missing a flight in Iceland because I was out late and didn’t waken up in time.
-Turning down sponsored trips to Abu Dhabi, Kerala and Paris.
Falling in love with a Hungarian girl and wanting to kill myself because she dumped me.

But there have been way way more successes than failures down the years!

Do you see yourself traveling indefinitely?

It depends what “travelling indefinitely” actually means as once I get the money together that I need I’ll buy my own place so I have a base at least. But even if I have that, I’ll still want to travel at least 6 months a year.

Jonny Blair backpacking in Kaluts desert Iran
Backpacking in the Kaluts desert in Iran

You never know where life will take you so my answer to this question is indefinite. Or in short the answer is: Definitely Maybe (I borrowed that from Noel Gallagher).

If you were forced to stop at country #86, where would you go? Why?

Really good question and I’d have to say Cameroon as I was intrigued by Cameroon ever since the 1990 football World Cup. But I won’t stop at 86, I’ll want to keep on going as long as I’m fit, healthy and able! I’m actually considering Cameroon as country number 100, and tempted to let my readers pick country 99 just to see where it takes me. Come along for the ride!

Thank you for your time, Jonnny.

I highly recommend you follow Jonny Blair’s inpirational travel blog, Don’t Stop Living, to keep up with his adventures (and mishaps!) across the world.


If you have any questions for Jonny, please leave them below and he’ll get back to you asap!

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