My Last Night in A Dorm As A Long Term Backpacker and My Top 10 Memories From Backpacking

“When it’s done and all this has gone, just find a feeling, pass it on” – The Coral.

My Last Night in A Dorm As A Long Term Backpacker and My Top 10 Memories From Backpacking

My Last Night in A Dorm As A Long Term Backpacker and My Top 10 Memories From Backpacking

That’s all folks! So it’s for real this time. Tonight is my last night in a dorm bed as a long term nomadic backpacker! The journey had to really come to an end somehow, didn’t it? Yes, tonight, 11th August 2016 is the night when I will last sleep in a dorm room with the knowledge I am wakening up and settling in a city. For the record I am in bed 1 in the downstairs dorm at Hostel Cycle On in Gdańsk, Poland!

My last ever dorm room tonight (my bed is top left).

My last ever dorm room tonight (my bed is top left).

I have a temporary place sorted and as from 1st September 2016, I will have a new flat here in Gdańsk, Poland. When I first arrived here, my plan was to spend a week or so exploring Pomerania, get a visa for Kaliningrad and then maybe fly to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan to use that as a base to finish my book. But, things changed.

“It’s over. You don’t need to tell me” – Damon Albarn, Blur.

Fuck this cow excrement - I need a home!

Fuck this cow excrement – I need a home!

But somehow I preferred to stay here, Gdańsk has it all for me and is the city I had been searching for, for a long time. I toyed with Chisinau in Moldova after my visit in 2014. I headed back to Hong Kong in 2015 to try and salvage my relationship with Panny and settle there. But neither the Kong or Moldova were for me. Then Bishkek offered a glimmer of hope in late 2015, I felt at home there and hung around until April 2016. But I never studied Russian or Kyrgyz and Bishkek seemed transitory for visas and short term fun.

“I woke up sleeping on a train that was bound for nowhere. The echoes I could hear were all my own” – Noel Gallagher.

On the train into Moldova in 2014, Chisinau almost became home.

On the train into Moldova in 2014, Chisinau almost became home.

A story (for the book) which began in Bucharest in 2014 and reminded me of my days at Ards Tech. somehow led me to Gdańsk but again, after a few days here, I had done my touring – the food tour in Gdynia, the cycling with Mika and the place where World War II began. Time to move on again. Nope. Gdańsk was more magnetic than Kyrgyzstan and so I stayed. But when you stay in a city for so long, hostel dorms don’t work anymore. It was the same old boring shit. Nothing inspired me anymore. I travelled so much I became an expert and other people’s conversations bored me as often I’d been everywhere they talked about. Sharing dorms I kept ignoring other people and felt like a monster. I enrolled on a Polish course in Gdańsk, I got my own local WiFi cafes and bars sorted, I made some new friends and I toured some remote Polish towns with textbook aplomb. Where’s Pelplin again?

Backpacking in Poland: Exploring Peaceful, Pleasant, Holy Pelplin

Backpacking in Poland: Exploring Peaceful, Pleasant, Holy Pelplin

I’m actually pretty proud of my stories from LebaStarogard Gdański, Pelplin and Tczew. They were well received, well written articles. It felt like a peak and a good time to knock it on the head.

Backpacking it alone in Starogard Gdański

Backpacking it alone in Starogard Gdański

But every resident of a city needs a home. So I spent hours looking for a new place in Gdańsk. I couldn’t read Polish so it took me longer than expected. A side trip to Kaliningrad in Russia and a bout of depression didn’t help me along, but I knew once I was settled, I could be happy again.

Upside Down House in Park Yunost, Kaliningrad

Upside Down House in Park Yunost, Kaliningrad

More to come on my new home, for now I reflect. So the progression of this blog from its beginnings in 2007 (9 years ago this month when I wrote shyly about Toronto) became an obsession as I bought into the generic excremental myth of travel blogging being the dream. It isn’t any kind of dream any more. I had my fun, I made my money and I moved on. I shared my tips on:

Who wants to be a Professional Travel Blogger?

Who wants to be a Professional Travel Blogger?

The area I'm temporarily staying in until I get my new flat

The area I’m temporarily staying in until I get my new flat

Blogging became so mundane I wanted a bar job back, or to go broccoli picking. But I’m still blogging for now, career plans may change once I settle.

working in delaneys hong kong

On the bar with Jack working on my first weekend at Delaney’s in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong

Here I share my top ten memories from my backpacking journey, and after that my favourite travel blog articles from the archive. There is much more to come of course from the blog – I have 10 years worth of stories to write still. Textbook DSL top 10 as of today from the top of my mind:

1.Meeting Panny Yu in ANTARCTICA (2010)

“Caught in a good romance” – Lady Gaga.

First date with Panny in Montevideo, Uruguay

First date with Panny in Montevideo, Uruguay

A dinner date in the waters of Antarctica brought the most unlikely meeting of all time. Budget backpacker from Hong Kong Panny Yu booked the Antarctica trip a few days before the ship sailed. She probably got the last bed. I was only on the boat because I got a job broccoli farming in Tasmania and loved it so much, I started to earn more than $1000 AUD a week on it. We met the night we docked in Barrientos, we went for a date in Montevideo and we backpacked all 7 continents together over a 5 year period. Good things came to an end and we are good friends now. But we know we can’t go back. 🙂

2.Christmas Day at Machu Picchu, PERU (2010)

“If there’s a God would he give another chancer, an hour to sing for his soul?” – Noel Gallagher.

Our group photo inside Machu Picchu on Christmas Day 2010.

Our group photo inside Machu Picchu on Christmas Day 2010.

This is probably the most obvious tourist spot in my top 10 but it was a long time dream for me to hike the famous 4 day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. I didn’t want to cheat and get a bus or train there, or do one of the fake Inca Trails. As an added bonus, I arranged to arrive at Machu Picchu on Christmas Day.

3.Fireball Festival, EL SALVADOR (2014)

“There’s a bullet in the gun, there’s a fire in your heart” – Planet Perfecto.

Holding balls of fire in Nejapa!

Holding balls of fire in Nejapa!

The fireball festival, Bolas del Fuego in the unknown town of Nejapa was a ridiculous night. I only got the invite that morning after a night on the rip in the capital. It was insane. Fireball Festival El Salvador!

4.Road Tripping from Xinying to Hualien, TAIWAN (2009)

“Even better than the real thing” – Paul Hewson.

backpacking taiwan shinying

Backpacking in Xinying, Taiwan – oh the memories!! Recognise this photo?

The magic of this trip will never cease to amaze me. I saved a few chapters on it for the book. From night monkeys to vagina sunsets to getting lost in Taidong, this was pure dreamland for a backpacker. It reignited my spark and forced me to remember the good things in life, which eventually led me to my job in the land down under. My stories on backpacking in Taiwan are still ranking as some of my favourites – top things to do in Xinying.

5.Our Slow Boat Through CHINA (2013)

“I’ve got my spine, I’ve got my orange crush” – Rapid Eye Movement.

A slow boat through China

A slow boat through China

China holds many special memories for me. It was the first Asian country I visited, still the one I have visited the most (20 visits across 13 of its Provinces) and with Panny I toured some remote parts. Sunrise at Elder Peak, hiking the Upper Trail on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day in Shangri La, touring Chongqing finally in 2013 and the dreamy days in Little Likeng. I have far too many memories from China and picked just one – the bamboo boat on the Li River near Yangshuo. This was the real slow boat through China.

6.Kishinev Wash Out, MOLDOVA (2014)

“Love remains the drug that’s the high and not the pill” – Seal.

backpacking butuceni

Oh Butuceni – what a spontaneous dream day out. Inspired.

When I backpacked through Chisinau in 2014, I realised that my heart was not in Asia, Australia, England or Northern Ireland. It was in the former Eastern Block and Soviet Union states. So the next 18 months of my travels were concentrated on backpacking the rest of the Soviet Union states with a few only I missed (Gaugazia, Turkmenistan, Abkhazia and a few others). Moldova was where I realised it all, on rain drenched days in Kishinev and to lonely Butuceni. Exactly – where?!

7.Crossing the Border into AFGHANISTAN (2016)

“There goes the fear, there it goes…” – Doves.

Arrival into Afghanistan at Hayratan

Arrival into Afghanistan at Hayratan

My zany journey gathered some momentum as I finally cracked Afghanistan in 2016. Of course the country held many highlights like playing football at a Buddhist Monastery in Samangan, a night on the rip in Masar e Sharif and the amazing Buzkashi experience. But it was that lonely border crossing from Uzbekistan that clinched it for me. I knew I had made strides now and nothing phased me any more.

8.Our Secret Kiss in the Main Square of (Known City), Known Country (Known Year)

“Then she slipped away into the night” – Liam Gallagher.

“Mysterious girl, move your body next to mine” – Peter Andre.

Mysterious girl from my journey - more to come on her.

Mysterious girl from my journey – more to come on her.

I’ve snuck in a secret romance into this top 10. In many ways, I had a romance on my travels that was too good to be true. Two beautiful, clever young people who seemed perfect for each other. They never argued, they never really did anything crazy together. But for me, it was a truly romantic fairytale kiss in the main Square in a city in a country. The truth of this romance will come in the book of course. You’ll have to wait and read. Es tut mir leid. I can’t say much more just yet and it might only appear in the Northern irish copy of the book which I will only sell in person!

9.The Turkey Thirteen, Adana, TURKEY (2013)

“We’ll Support You Evermore” – Northern Ireland football fans.

In amongst the Norn Iron fans in Adana, Turkey

In amongst the 13 Norn Iron fans in Adana, Turkey

Through all my years supporting Northern Ireland home and away, the Turkey away match in 2013 is the outstanding memory when I look back. Yes, I was there the night we beat England, the night we drew 1-1 in Sweden and the famous night in Lyon where McAuley and McGinn scored the 2 goals in our win over Ukraine. But the fact there were only 13 of us in this unknown city in Turkey was the highlight for me. It felt raw and vibrant as Andrew Milliken, Garreth Todd, Shaun Schofield, Gary Rogers, myself and the gang started singing Michael O’Neill’s Green and White Army for the last 10 minutes of the match at 1-0 down. The tide was about to turn for our wee country. As a backpacking hotspot, Adana proved to be a gem before we backpacked our way into Iran at Gurbulak.

10.The Night We Crushed Melbourne to a Pulp, AUSTRALIA (2010)

“She came from Greece she had a thirst for knowledge” – Jarvis Cocker.

Crushing Melbourne to a Pulp

Crushing Melbourne to a Pulp

This was a victorious night in Melbourne city and one which probably typifies my lifestyle the last 9 years or so. Again, the full story has a chapter in the book but I’ve told some of it before. And that’s a quick top 10 for now, many more moments could have made it of course…

naked in snow noemi linzenbold

Brand promotion in the snow in Jarvenpaa, FINLAND. DSL.

If you are new to the website, you can also check these stories from my archive:

– The Day my best mate got expelled for nicking the exam paper
– The Day I got sacked by putting the interest rates up
– My Colombian mate who swapped his camera for a cow
– The Day I did a shit in a broccoli field
– The Day I smuggled drugs through Argentina
Showing my willy to Germans in Munich
Bungy jumping in Auckland
– Playing football in Afghanistan
– Buying booze in a death pelanty state
– Sky diving over Lake Taupo in New Zealand
– The Wacaday trip to Karakalpakstan
– Backpacking in the Republic of Podjistan
– White water rafting in the mountains of Brazil at Juquitiba
– 10 Ways to get Sex When you Travel
Nicky Barmby
The Grodig Story
– Getting locked in a bus for a night in Australia
– Top 20 Memories from the former Soviet Union states
Getting naked in Jarvenpaa, rural Finland

And here is a full list of the places I backpacked through, debated countries and regions included:

Where I’ve Been

Adammia
Afghanistan
Algeria
Gambia
Gibraltar
Kaliningrad
Karakalpakstan
Kazakhstan
Kosovo
Senegal
Tajikistan

So while Don’t Stop Living, A Lifestyle of Travel will continue and I will write up stories, I am stationary with a home now. The backpacking journey is truly over for me and I will enjoy this time and the new chapter in my life.

So Don’t Go Away, I’ll see you around. I’m off to sleep in my dorm bed in my dorm room in a hostel for the last time as a nomad.

Goodnight all, Dobranoc.

Jonny Blair

jonny blair lock in bournemouth

They passed me by; glory days…

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