19 Things I Try to Do In Every Country I Visit

“I have got to find the river, bergamot and vetiver” – Rapid Eye Movement.

19 Things I Try to Do In Every Country I Visit

It’s ridiculous that I never compiled such a list or article on here before. One day in 2013 I remember reading I had about 717 unwritten ideas for blog posts. They’ll never see the light of day you know, but this “what to do in a country” type of thing, I should have covered before, and didn’t. Correct me if I’m wrong of course. So you might wonder if I have a ticklist for each place I go. Yes i do and here it is. I only do it for countries, or at least those I class as a country. Cities or towns i don’t have a specific ticklist though obviously main sights, football stadium, good food and a beer are normally things I want to check out. Incidentally, There are only FIVE things on this list that I have done in every country I have been to. Read on to find out what they are.

19 Things I Try to Do In Every Country I Visit

1.Go To It ✅
This is the first and most obvious point. If it’s a country or even a culture or a remote village or a place, I try my best to go to it. If I don’t go to it, it feels like I haven’t really been there. I love to backpack a country so normally I go to them. The best methods are things like cars, trains, ships, buses, planes etc. It’s rare for me to helicopter it or truck it. Though I vanned a few and walked a few land borders through miles in nomads / nomans land.

Altogether now, in no man’s land

“If it exists as a place, I’ll go to it”- Jonny Blair.

Every country I have been to, I have went to it. i.e. I have been there.

Herm – I went there

“Altogether now, in no man’s land” – The Farm.

2.Stay Overnight
I love to spend at least one night in a country, preferably a week like French Guyana or a month like Iran or 16 months like Poland but we can’t spend months in them all for whatever reason – visas, boredom, short trips, work commitments, events etc. so I pick and choose how long I want to stay but try and stay at least a night. I failed sometimes though –  I realised I backpacked these countries on day trips only – Adammia, Austenasia, Uzupis, Vatican City State, Podjistan, Lagoan Isles, Liechtenstein, Lovely. I have no real need to go back to any of them, but the Vatican would be a nice one to return to.

Crossing the border into the Republic of Uzupis, 2015, only for a day

Inside the Vatican City State for a day in 2015

With San Marino, Transnistria, Artsakh, Catalonia, Karakalpakstan, Gorno Badakhshan and a few other small countries I stayed at least a night, usually longer.

Local beer at my homestay in Tiraspol, Transnistria

I’ve made it to another crazy Republic! My hotel in Karakalpakstan!

So i cannot say it is essential to stay overnight although if I really needed to prove that I stayed overnight to someone to prove a point, I would do this –  I would walk into the Vatican City at 23.59 and leave again at 00.01 the next day. That’s 2 minutes and it probably counts more as overnight than someone who just slept for 8 hours solid in a business hotel in Istanbul yet saw nothing. The time is not as important as the moments for me.

“Take what you need and be on your way” – Noel Gallagher.

Backpacking in Australia – Mount Amos

3.Speak to Local People✅
Most countries I visit these days I already had friends from so speaking to local people is easy to organise. It just gives me a feel for the culture. And yes I know that one person or even ten people cannot be representative of an entire country but I don’t care, I still like to speak to them.

Enjoying chatting to the locals in Chittagong, Bangladesh

In a local bar in the Mexico district of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Having a drink and a chat with the locals in Chongqing after doing the Cable Car across the Yangtze River.

4.Get a Visa or Passport Stamp
I am a member of a cool Facebook group called “Every passport stamp” and I love the whole visa process, the getting the new passport stamp. For this reason, I detest the EU and the open borders with no stamps, it doesn’t feel like I’m a real tourist any more when I forget which country I’m in. The Netherlands to Belgium border is particularly horrendous. Give me a visa and a stamp everytime please!

My Russian visa, for 4 days (96 hours), granted at Mamonovo, Kaliningrad.

My Kaliningrad Visa

My Gorno Badakhshan Visa

People’s Republic of Podjistan stamp

My North Korea Visa

Exit stamp from French Guyana at St Laurent du Maroni.

5.Post my Brother a Postcard
My youngest brother Danny has been getting postcards from me insanely for 12 years now. I try and post him one from every country. Even places like North Korea and Iraq. The only postcard to date that didn’t arrive was from Sweden in 2007, and the South Africa one in 2011 took 6 months. Countries such as Adammia and Krolestwo Dreamlandu don’t have postcards. His collection ammases over 200 all written, sent and received from over 150 countries.

Writing postcards in Starogard Gdański

postcards danny blair

Some of my brother’s postcards from around the globe.

6.Try the local beer
I’m a beer freak and I love trying the new beers and especially local brews. Even in Iran I tried the non alcoholic beer they had and I often search hard to make sure I am drinking the local stuff. I really hate it when I get to Ukraine (for example) and the barman hears I am foreign and suggests “Carlsberg” or “Budweiser” – no thanks – if you don’t have any Ukraine beer, I’m going somewhere else! The more local and unusual the better. One day I should write a list of the beers I tried in each country

My first Gambian beer – a JulBrew down the Sugar Cane Bar

Joburg Beer in Soweto Shebeen

Joburg Beer in Soweto Shebeen

Having a Shymkent Beer at Orbita Boutique Hotel

Ordering a North Korean beer in Pyongyang

Pudel real ale and beer bar, Tallinn, Estonia

Having a Christiania Beer.

Enjoying my dracula beer in Bran, Transylvania, Romania.

Having a beer at the Hemingway Bar with Deacon Blake celebrating my final country in mainland America.

7.Try at least one local food dish
It’s important for me to try local food, I get bored of the same food all the time, so if I can find something local I get on it. This can lead to addiction though – shashlik in the Stans, kebabs in the Middle East, ANY Mexican food and of course Polish pierogi – my ultimate addiction!

My Gdańsk style Pierogi, Poland

Eating Shashlik in the mountains at Ile-Alatau, Kazakhstan

Coloured chinese rice in Yunnan province

Hot, sugary and sticky Chinese rice in Luoping.

Senegal – beach fish and beer

8.Keep a postage stamp
I try to collect at least one postage stamp (unsent) from each place. Normally I buy two when I am posting my brother a postcard and I keep one of them. I’ll put them in an album someday.

Post Office stamps at Chinggis Khaan Square

Stamps from the Vatican City State

atrsakh stamps

Rare Nagorno Karabakh stamps!

north korean stamps

Buying stamps in North Korea.

northern ireland on north korea stamp

The North Korean stamp with the Northern Ireland flag on it – for the 1986 World Cup.

9.Keep a banknote
I also collect banknotes and try to keep at least one. If I am rich, I love to collect one of each different note they have. This would be an expensive hobby in my own country Northern Ireland as we have 4 different banks issuing them plus the Bank of Scotland and Bank of England!

Travel Collectables banknotes

saddam hussein banknotes

Iraqi banknotes

Jersey banknotes

45 and 90 kyat notes

Some of Myanmar’s crazyish numbered banknotes such as the 45 and 90 Kyat notes – no longer in existence.

north korean notes

North Korean banknotes

10.Keep a coin
Similarly, I like to collect and keep a coin, and preferably one coin of each type they have. Again, with notes, coins and stamps – all very light and easy to carry as a cool souvenir from my travels.

A 1 LON coin – legal tender in Freetown Christiania

Afghanistan coins

Vatican City coins

palestine hebron

Adding some Palestinian coins to my collection in Hebron

11.Buy my Mum a Fridge Magnet
My Mum’s fridge isn’t even big enough to have them all stuck to it. Not only do I buy my Mum a fridge magnet from every new country, I often also do it for cities and prominent sights! My siblings started doing doing it too so my Mum has over 200 fridge magnets. Secretly she loves it but she always tells me “don’t buy me any more”. Ooops Mum today I got you a new one from Malta! It is my way as a son of thinking about my Mum everywhere I go. And yes it does mean more to me than a phonecall at that time – people are different. My Mum gets a story with each magnet.

Buy my Mum a Fridge Magnet

Travel Collectables: My Mums Fridge Magnets

Buy my Mum a Fridge Magnet

Some of my Mum’s many fridge magnets from around the world.

Fridge magnets for my Mum

mums fridge magnets

Travel Collectables: Fridge Magnets – my Mums!!

12. Visit a Football Stadium
I love football and it was probably my 1986 Panini Sticker Album that inspired me to visit all those countries. I still try and visit a football stadium everywhere I go, normally the national stadium, but if not, I’ll settle for any stadium visit. As a bonus, I love to watch a match, any level goes, groundhopping is a passion. I

At the football stadium in Recife, Brazil

Dean Court in Bournemouth

botswana football stadium

Flying my Northern Ireland flag at Botswana National Football Stadium.

At the Estadio Zerao/Estadio Milton de Souza Correa. A football stadium in both hemispheres!

Streets where Roker Park once stood – all named after football related things.

Outside the football stadium in Helsinki

Inside the National Football Stadium in Gibraltar

Owen and I at the National Football Stadium in Reykjavik, Iceland

Caught on camera at the football stadium during Northern Ireland's 3-1 win

Caught on camera at the football stadium in Torshavn, Faroe Islands during Northern Ireland’s 3-1 win

A cool bar of football scarves in Macau

The only Northern Ireland football fan in Bobruisk, Belarus

The only Northern Ireland football fan in Bobruisk, Belarus

With long term fellow football nomad Lock in Lee watching the famous SV Grodig BABY!

13.Write About It✅
As a travel writer I feel I must write at least one article on every country I backpacked and I stick to it. Even horrible countries like Venezuela and Algeria i wrote about them. I have a pen by my body 24 hours a day and even without paper, I’ll write it on my skin, or on receipts. I love to write. I am a natural writer.

Travel writer

14.Keep Friendships
As well as talking to local people I love to make friends with them and maintain those friendships. I later try and meet up with the same friends on my future trips. I also normally add them on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter and Instagram. However Instagram is particularly annoying as they have banned me from following any more people as they must have a 7,500 limit and think I am a spam account. I am NOT A SPAM ACCOUNT. I follow 7,500 and want to follow at least double that!! So keep friendship and just…

Don’t Lie to your friends

Don’t do it – your friends will commit suicide. I almost did.

“I’ll send you travel tips on Friday, we are friends” – A liar (if we are friends as you claim, you will send me those travel tips, care about my tourism or meet for a coffee, right? Wrong, you lied). #nastylied

Friendship Loyalty Love – Trust it

15.Make an overall judgement on departure✅
Maybe I’m racist but I judge countries. I love doing it and I don’t care if people judge Northern Ireland either. Venezuela is a dangerous excrement exit. South Korea is commercial excrement influenced by the United States. North Korea is the real Korea, Thailand is full of rip off locals and ex-Patriots who think they are better than you, China is just chaos yet always beautiful, Afghanistan is not a war zone, Poland is paradise. I make judgements but they are calculated and I am pure and honest.

Arrival in Venezuela at San Antonio del Tachira, “Dear God”…I didn’t know the danger ahead…

16. (Danny) Drink Water✅
This is the one thing that I have done for sure in EVERY COUNTRY I have been in. I always drink water. Normally I use my water filter bottle and drink the water produced in that country. But I remember backpacking the Vatican City in 2015 and had brought my water bottle from Italy. But I still count it as long as I had a sip of water in that country. My tip is never backpack a country without doing a “Danny”. I.e. drink water.

water jonny blair money saving

Drink water in every country – do a “Danny”

17.Selfie It
There’s no proof of me being there so I selfie it. Yes officially we could fake these on a computer so that’s why I also do number 18. I also love to get that selfie near the border and immigration area or airport or with a sign for the country so it looks like real proof I backpacked it. Also when I’m older and look at the photos, seeing the name of the country behind me will be a reminder of where I was. It doesn’t have to be a selfie – sometimes I get others to take them.

Arrival into Afghanistan at Hayratan

Arrival into Afghanistan at Hayratan

Welcome to Gibraltar

Jonny Blair Dan Darch and Neil Macey at the Scotland border

Welcome to Scotland

Welcome to Taiwan

Selfie in Malta – I must have been there

18.Make a Video
This point is probably the best proof that I really backpacked it. I make a video in an obvious location and I speak during it. That way I can watch it again and again later and if friends ask I can also show it to them. I also try and YouTube every video I take. My YouTube Channel.

southern tip of montevideo Uruguay

I’ll YouTube these moments.

19. Get a Photo with My Travelling Northern Ireland Flag
Those who know me will also know I am a strong Northern Irish nationalist and take great pride in carrying my FLEG with me to the point where I created a website and bakebook page on it. I try till get a photy everywhere I go with thatun.

Flying the Northern Ireland flag on the Gergeti Hike

Flying the Northern Ireland flag in the Gambia

Northern Ireland and Senegal flags on Lac Rose

Flying my Northern Ireland flag at Buzkashi in Afghanistan

Flying my Northern Ireland flag in the mountains of Kazakhstan

Flying my well travelled Northern Ireland flag at the Dityatki Checkpoint

Marc and I with Northern Ireland (Ulster Banner) and Catalonia Independence flags in Barcelona.

Nial and I flying the Northern Ireland flag at the Old City Walls and Gate, Baku

Highest peak of Inca Trail

Travelling Northern Ireland flag in Mizra

With our flags of Tunisia, Northern Ireland and Hong Kong

A Northern Ireland shirt, a beer, my flag, my Dad and some great lads – this is me.

Northern Ireland flag and the naked snow dive in Jarvenpaa.

The travelling Northern Ireland flag and hero Joey Dunlop Memorial.

northern irish flag sri lanka

Backpacking in Galle – Northern Ireland flag next to a Sri Lanka one.

northern ireland flag iraq

Backpacking in Iraq, flying the Northern Ireland flag in Sulaymaniyah with a hotel owner whose wife is IRISH!

 

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8 thoughts on “19 Things I Try to Do In Every Country I Visit

  • A great read! All great things to do in each country.. I really like the idea of keeping a coin and banknote from each! I have to say that yeah there are a lot who will rip you off in Thailand, I found it was also full of good kind people who will help you. And yeah some of the ex-pats are no good and many think they are a lot better than the locals!

  • Hi Bernie, thanks for the comment. Yes but not just Thailand – locals everywhere can do it. I try to judge people individually now after some nasty experiences on my travels, but making local friends does help me. Safe travels. Jonny

  • I’m just like you when it comes to trying the local beer whenever I travel. A friend of mine introduced me to this phone app called “Untappd,” which essentially allows you to post photos and reviews of different craft beers you drink from around the world. I’ve been using it for about 18 months now to keep track of the different styles of beers that I have been drinking, as well as which International ones I have had previously.

    The great thing about this app is that it even allows you to find local venues – stadiums, bars, beer gardens, craft breweries, etc. – serving specific beers that you are looking for. So if you are looking for a local beer in Ukraine, for example, you can use Untappd to find local craft breweries in Kiev or beer bistros that serve nothing but local brews. Something for you to keep in mind if you are using a smart phone more often while travelling! Otherwise, I would love to read a post of your favourite beers from around the world so I can keep my eyes open for them on future trips.
    Ray recently posted…YouthLink Calgary – A Look Back on the Calgary Police ServicesMy Profile

  • Hi Ray, thanks for the comment. I haven’t checked this site much recently and found over 600 comments. I haven’t used that app before but it sounds like a cool idea for beer and bar lovers when backpacking. Maybe next time. Safe travels. Jonny

  • Now this is an adorable post! I try to buy postcard, magnets and (recently) snowglobes from every city that I visit. It’s a nice reminder. I also used to send mum postcards from each place, but right now I am not travelling anymore and She is with me, helping me out with my little one. I love the idea with the stamps: small and easy to collect. By the way, you look a lot like your Mother 😉 that is sweet!

  • Fantastic read Jonny. A fair few of them I also follow but unfortunately not the stamp collecting, I think that is a brilliant idea and wish I had done it to. I also managed to get some of those rare bank notes that aren’t issued anymore on both Myanmar and Vietnam.

  • Hi Luke,

    Thanks for the comment. Unfortunately I have been suffering from deep depression and haven’t been answering emails, comments or messages about this blog for months. I barely even remember writing these posts and I probably have about 1,500 unpublished. If an answer is ever found perhaps my other stories will one day be published.

    I see you are travelling hardcore now – I will just give you one piece of advice that would have saved my depression if I knew it when I was younger:

    “Trust NOBODY you meet, not even those you feel are close friends.” If only I knew that back in the glory days, I’d not be in depression.

    Best wishes and safe travels. Jonny

  • Hi Anda,

    Thanks for the comment. Unfortunately I have been suffering from deep depression and haven’t been answering emails, comments or messages about this blog for months but have still been focused on my Poland based stories. I barely even remember writing these posts and I probably have about 1,500 unpublished. If an answer is ever found to my depression or the person that caused it can somehow apologise, perhaps my other stories will one day be published. Life must go on in defeat, and in despair.
    Best wishes and safe travels. Jonny

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