“I followed the stars and I sailed to the sun, I held it in my fingers.
Alone on the beach on my own out of reach when you just passed me by.
I’d give you the world if you’d take my hand, but you left me alone in the sinking sand.
I strike up the band for one last stand, but you just passed me by” – Noel Gallagher.
It’s all so real, it’s all so beautiful…Please note that this post is not meant to be arrogant or misleading. It is from the heart, from my opinions and it is true to my word. Yes, I do not think it is the dream to be a professional travel blogger any more…I lived it, I am your person to chat to, but I know the truth…
I’m normally Mister Positive. I’ve always been the “yes man”, it’s EASY to backpack the world remember? I rarely turn down new opportunities and I embrace and enjoy every chance I get to become a better man. I live a “don’t stop living” attitude – enjoy life to the full, today could be our last – live it up. I’m ambitious, confident and selfish. In 2012 when I was aware of some mediocre travel bloggers earning a sh*tload of money from boring travel blogs about Thailand and France, I decided to get amongst the cash with my travel blog (5 years old and at 1,000 posts deep at the time, much heftier than any other blogs on the market at the time). I was sitting on a sleeping giant, and then I awoke it, those backpackers had to backtrack…
“Our dreams are the same, in the sleep we don’t get” – Jonny Blair.
It was easy to transfer my blog from a hobby into a business for me. It came naturally due to my PR experience and my lengthy career in media relations. For the last 4 years, travel blogging has been a business for me and I often boasted and preached about how good life was and how everyone who can write and travel, should think about this as a career. All that hype was bliss and kept me smiling. People I meet in every hostel dorm room say to me:
“Jonny, that’s amazing. I wish I had your life!” – every dorm buddy that hears I’m a professional travel blogger.
My reply is always the same – “let’s swap, give me your life instead”. And there goes their dreams, and mine. BANG.
“I won’t say no to you, Jonny” – Jesli Tyklo Czchesz.
I’m a 1980s Northern Ireland football fan. Norman Whiteside is my hero. Sooner or later in life, everything becomes boring to me. I constantly need to change to find new excitement. I sleep in 250+ beds every year, I’m always on the move. I never linger long. Even in Hong Kong, I was based there but out and about every 2-3 weeks around Asia, or further afield. Life never stood still for me. Life never changed that much. I lived the nomadic dream to the core until it exploded. Yet my ex-girlfriend was always with me, and my best mate was there to meet up with often.
“Nothing’s gonna change my world” – John Lennon.
The explosion came earlier in 2016, and many of my friends and family were aware of it. I wasn’t the same Jonny Blair travel blogger any more. The fact that this travel blog was my income, all my business deals, everything was controlling me now. I had almost lost control myself. I found ways to cope such as backpacking through countries people haven’t heard of. I loved that – I went to Karakalpakstan, Uzupis, Ladonia, Podjistan and many more. I went backpacking in Afghanistan to prove a point more than anything.
I launched other websites and wrote eBooks almost to get it out of the way and prove I could do it. But deep down, none of this was ever my dream. None of it made me that happy. Don’t Stop Living is a real life journey, and it is sometimes a cover up for my own happiness. The reason for that is, I want my readers to see me and be happy in their lives, and they all imagine that I am happy in my life. In reality, this is not the way things are for me in life.
“I think I’m just happy” – Kurt Cobain.
I previously wrote about how to become a professional travel blogger and shared my tips on becoming a professional travel blogger. As long as you really travel, write and work hard – you will make it too. But now I have done it – since July 2013, I’ve been self employed for 3 years now (except for a 5 month stint as a teacher to earn extra cash for Brazil World Cup). Yes I have travelled all over the world, aided by the revenue gained on here. But there comes a peak and an explosion and it’s time to tell you the negative parts of this job. I’m not moaning here by the way and I don’t want any of your “but that’s a cool life, colon, bull excrement”, because the mind is powerful and if you are not feeling good, then we can’t and shouldn’t hide it. Happiness is always relative. A millionaire may not be happy, and a poor child without food may have a happier existence. Here are the 5 negative parts to my job and why I don’t really want this lifestyle any more. I mean it.
“Happiness lies in your own hands” – Madonna.
“I should be so lucky” – Kylie Minogue.
I have been depressed many times in life, sure in 2009 I almost jumped off a cliff and ended my life because of a nothing Hungarian dancer called Noemi who I was in love with. I learned my lesson and moved on. I saw psychiatrists a few times on my travels to see if there was any reason for my depression or any cure. But it’s just me, I have to just fight it. I was just depressed, nothing was medical.
In my younger years I spent a month in a psychiatric ward in my home town of Newtownards. I found myself not to be as crazy as the people in there. I still get depressed and I have suffered more depression working as a professional travel blogger than I did as a barman, or a broccoli farmer or a theatre assistant.
I can’t explain the depression, but I get depressed now and then. I always win though, because I abhorr defeat.
2.Anger and Frustration
I admit I am not good at controlling my temper when it comes to machines. Computers infuriate me and at times I have smashed my own laptop up just because a page wouldn’t load or because my mouse wouldn’t click on a link.
I take my anger and frustration out and I always blame the hardware rather than myself. At times, it got out of control and I almost lost my business because of it.
After these times of anger, I often went for a quiet walk or drank tea or coffee to relax my head again.
“My soul slides away, but don’t look back in anger I heard you say” – Noel Gallagher.
(easier said than done, Noel).
Too many travel bloggers are fake. I get slated by others for claiming fakes but you check 100s of the travel bloggers out there and they write about places they haven’t been, they share photos on social media just to get 1,000 likes on a photo they are not even in, they are SO FUCKING FAKE!!! Even Gordon GuruGod (name changed) put a fake photo of the Mourne Mountains up and he backpacked to over 190 countries!! The fake-ness of it I hate. I hated the fakeness during my time in PR in London. Why can’t people just be real.
Put a photo of yourself and get 20 Facebook likes rather than a fake photo and quote to get 1,000 Facebook likes. I stopped following pages with fake likes a long time ago. I’m a PR man with a good marketing mind so I won’t be fooled by it. Look at this cow brown substance!!: 4,000 likes? Dream on. I really hiked it and got 10 people to love it 😉
Despite my thoughts on it, this is one reason I don’t enjoy the job. There are not enough real people out blogging and writing about their days of travel. When I do check other people’s travel blogs, these days I still think Katie Aune and Wandering Earl are the best out there. They are so real and genuine. And my friend Justin Egli has one of the best blogs out there – but you see he doesn’t sell his soul to fake marketing, Ikimasho. Don’t succumb to fake marketing, I worked in it long enough to know you are FAKE!! This part of the travel blogging industry is horrific and a nice reason to stay mediocre, under the radar and real.
“My milkshake brings all the boys to the bar and damn right it’s better than yours.” – Kelis
4.Loss of Appetite
This might be a personal thing to me, but sometimes I get a loss of appetite for food. I’m aware there is a disease called anorexia and I never confirmed if I have that or not, but I am slim, I never put on weight and food is never a huge priority on my travels.
The irony coming in the same week I did a huge food tour in Gdynia, Poland! Even when I try to eat a lot, my stomach cannot handle huge amounts of food and it’s the biggest waste of money for me to ever enter an “all inclusive” or “all you can eat” restaurant.
5.Gold Over Love
The ultimate reason, there is the old saying about “forfeiting love for gold” and we all know the meaning. It’s been well documented in textbooks, poems and plays down the years.
I started life as a writer in 1991, so I’m 25 years a writer. My first writing was a Glentoran football fanzine called “One Saturday Afternoon at the Oval” and alongside it a document of my first ever trip abroad without my parents (a trip to Netherlands in 1991). Since then, writing has been my passion. Not a day goes by without my pen and paper and me writing things down. I’m a real life writer. I write poems, lyrics, stories, travel articles, football articles, books. I write. I love it. But I never properly did any writing for money until this blog became professional.
Our football fanzine in the 1990s was for passion, not for profit. Yes, we made some cash on it, but that wasn’t the plan. When you start making money on your passion, people think you’ve cracked it – that is everyone’s dream. But it’s not. I don’t want money for my writing. I want readers that enjoy it. I want personal enjoyment from my writing. That’s all I ever wanted. I want to have enough money to live the life I want, but I don’t want the money to control my writing.
“Here I am stuck in the middle with you” – Stealers Wheel.
When companies started paying me for travel articles, sponsored posts and itinerary plans for cities, I gladly did it all and took the money. The money came in useful! I cracked the 100 country mark, I also visited 30 unrecognised countries, all 7 continents. I watched the World Cup Final and I got to watch Northern Ireland again in places like Azerbaijan and Faroe Islands. I went for gold over love for a while.
On a final note, this is probably an odd post for most of you as nothing really comes together. But this is my site and these are my thoughts. Don’t get me wrong, I love this website and I’m proud of my travels and the money I can earn, but I constantly need new challenges. During the whole first three years of travel blogging, my relationship with long term budget backpacker Panny came to an end. It was a natural end. It hadn’t worked out. While I shared this story a few times, I never went into detail as there was no need to. We had fun, it ended. We moved on. It’s been 11 months since I last saw Panny and I got on with my backpacking and really by the end of 2015, life was good again but a bit lonely. I wasn’t looking for love.
“Funny how it always goes with love, when you don’t look, you find. But then we’re two of a kind, we move as one.” – Rita Coolidge.
There is more to come of course from Don’t Stop Living – a 100 chapter, 160,000 word book, more travels and lots more writing but I’m staying put in Poland for a while now, I’m in Gdańsk. The latest challenges are to learn some Polish, really finish this book (burden on my shoulders again), find a different dream and bring back my perpetual smile. You know I’ll do it.
“Here comes my happiness again” – The Mavericks.
“I will send you my travel tips on Wednesday (ahead of your visit to my town on Friday)” – Александра Мюллер / Aleksandra Mueller / Ola Mueller.