“Realise how lonely this is. Self-defeating, oh, fuck, yeah.
Drowned in love and false kisses; a gathering of no meaning” – Richey James Edwards.
The sparkle has gone. There is no denying it. A serious of events in my life have just given me a three-year and counting crisis. It’s inexplicable, it’s unexplainable, it’s non-explanationistic. Where did it all go pear shaped? I really don’t know…I’m so confused. And I won’t apologise for being selfish, outspoken, blunt or ruthless. I’ll expose those who lied, this is MY blog, I don’t care about any other people’s blogs or opinions any more. Those ships have sailed out of Strangford Lough already…
“A kaleidoscope of chaos” – Paul Van Dyk.
Factually from the outside, and the inside, for years of my travelling and blogging, it seemed the following:
- I had a good life. (your lies/expectations)
- I had a great blog. (my truth/selfishness)
- I had a smile. (genuine)
- I could go anywhere I wanted.
- I did go anywhere I wanted.
- I had the freedom, the blog was a success and my spin-off projects were earning me money.
Yes but I was more Northern Irish than you. I’m a Northern Irish nationalist, unashamedly.
But life isn’t money. Who cares?
This period of gold for me, would be, say November 2012 to June 2016. I was really working hard on professionally travel blogging for that time and I made a lot of money, and travelled virtually full time – ridiculous now I think of it.
- How to become (How I became) a professional travel blogger
- My tips on earning money as a professional travel blogger
- Why I didn’t want to be a professional travel blogger any more…
Looking back it was magical. I worked also for Internations Events and as a professional teacher in the Kong. But my focus from 2012 – 2016 was on monetising this blog – imagine the adventures I had and the people I met (of which, one was Ola Mueller…). Imagine what I could do. A life with no limits, apparently…
Here are just a few of the things I did in that magic time:
- In that time, I went from having visited about 70 countries, to having visited around 120 countries. I still eat porridge or Weetabix for breakfast (where I can get it).
- I had so many new, happy, sad, emotional, exciting experiences.
- I attended weddings in 5 countries (Northern Ireland, England, Hong Kong, Poland, Israel).
- I visited war zones and gory downbeat, deadman places such as Killing Fields of Cambodia, German Death Camps in Poland, Chernobyl in Ukraine, Saddam Hussein’s bunker in Iraq, Civil War flashpoints in Afghanistan.
- I slept in the most dangerous city in the world for two nights. And drank in a brewery. And loved it.
- I fed hyenas mouth to mouth. In Ethiopia.
- I did a week-long safari in Tanzania.
- I stayed in 5 star resorts in places like Bahrain, India, Belize, Mexico and The Gambia. In many with my ex-girlfriend.
“Last night I dreamt of San Pedro” – Madonna Ciccone.
- I was being paid to travel, or to write or to just be a blogger, by companies like Expedia, Money Supermarket, Culture Trip, Hipmunk.
- I was attending travel blogger events (and didn’t fall asleep in many of them, though met some assholes!).
- I celebrated visiting my 99th country (Norway) with double “every country in the world” visitor Gunnar Garfors.
- I celebrated my 100th country (Tunisia) just before my 35th birthday, at the same time Panny Yu and I had now visited 44 countries and all 7 continents together (it was to be the end of that but nobody knew it then).
- I returned to my beloved Kilmaine Primary School in the Northern Irish seaside town of Bangor to help Mum sell Christmas gifts at an event in 2015. (arguably the highlight of my entire travels). I loved my Primary School. This was a high.
“Although loneliness has always been a friend of mine, I’m leaving my life in your hands” – Backstreet Boys.
But there was something new in the air as I walked with my brother Marko to Windsor Park that night to watch Northern Ireland v. Latvia…this smile at 1-0 (Steve Davis) hides a bizarre truth…
- I had split with my long term girlfriend and wife-to-be Panny Yu. I felt lonely and lost. She gave me a purpose in life again. Without her, I was nothing…
- But unfortunately, after Panny, I saw that there was now no shortage of new girls to date, sadly travel blogging had opened up such new doors to me. I replied to every message, no matter how innocent they seemed. 🙁
- But with these girls, I didn’t want any of them, nor (presumably) them me. How about a sexbomb model? Would I message her back or not?
- So after backpacking Poland (again) and Ukraine, everything was fine and I relocated by mistake to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan…for 5 months.
I had the time of my life in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. I was single, happy, free, it was a city I thought I would stay longer in. I LOVED it. I helped organise the city’s first ever real pub crawl, I had bars staying open to show AFC Bournemouth matches (just for me) until dusk, life was good in Bishkek.
I arrived in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in December 2015, but by April 2016, I had finally left Asia…as I had pre-arranged some things which couldn’t wait (explained below), after some great photos from one of my all time favourite cities…
But also at the time, I thought it was the way it would always be. I thought happiness was back. I was wrong. Why did I ever leave Bishkek? Three reasons…
1.SV Grodig Baby (Lee Adams and I agreed to watch SV Grodig in Austria at the end of April 2016). This was set in stone. Lee is one of the best guys you will EVER meet on life’s corridor. I was just so lucky that I met him. Top man.
2.Euro 2016 (Every buck eejit knows I had waited since 1986 to see Northern Ireland at a proper tournament, so I needed to be in France in June 2016). I went to all 4 games and was even still proud on exit by a cruel Gareth McAuley own goal v. Wales. We had beaten the Ukraine and only lost 1-0 in our other games. For a country of 1.6 million buck eejits, this was fucking brilliant. I have never ever been so proud to be Northern Irish as that final whistle v. Germany when we lost 1-0 and cut them out from a rout, singing loudly and then the nervous wait to see if we would be one of the third placed teams to make it. A zero goal difference was dreamland. Gareth McAuley remains my player of the tournament and I’ve never met him!!!
3.Asia Was Done
The telling continent shift. The split with Panny had me decided – I was done with Asia now. Given, yes I was only 35 when we split but I’d had my fun in Oceania, Australia and South America. Those continents felt like closed doors. I wanted to be back in Europe and now the truth – my first choice was MOLDOVA. It was never Northern Ireland, England or Poland. Those were a backstage hat-trick.
Incidentally, this is I think the last photo of me “living” in Oceania and Asia…
And within days of that photo, I was back in Europe.
“I’ve had too many dreams today that I can’t get to sleep. In Spanish towns I don’t belong, I look so out of place” – Jonny Blair.
Is this article 3 years old? But posted too late?
But I found my home now in Poland. Yes, Poland. Some of my best friends live here.
“Don’t stop living” – Jonny Blair, stolen from a High School wall in Toronto, Canada (nothing else fits)