“When it’s done and all this has gone, just find a feeling, pass it on” – The Coral.
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!
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.
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.
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?
I’m actually pretty proud of my stories from Leba, Starogard 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.
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.
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:
- How easy it is to travel the world
- How to become a professional travel blogger
- How to easily make money from your blog
- Why NOT to become a professional travel blogger
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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:
Republic of Ireland
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.
21 thoughts on “My Last Night in A Dorm As A Long Term Backpacker and My Top 10 Memories From Backpacking”
Best of luck to you in your next chapter, Jonny. Don’t Stop Living has taught me a lot about cool little places and festivals around the world that I should check out over time (e.g. Bolas del Fuego, Suriname, Iraqi Kurdistan, Paraguay, Mount Kinabalu, etc.) Even reading about your travels with the GAWA has made me rethink about my style of travel in North America and that I want to base my trips – International, domestic or weekend – around interesting festivals or sporting events. If we ever cross paths, then I want to do a proper “Thirsty Thursday” with you to thank you for showing me how big the World really is as long as we just keep our eyes and minds open. Sláinte!
Ray recently posted…Taste of the Danforth – A Celebration of Toronto’s Greek Community
I have enjoyed reading about your adventures so much. I’m envious of all your travel experiences, but it’s time for you to make a lifestyle change. I commend you for making the decision to plant some roots…very few people will have as many memories as you to reflect upon.
“Sometimes it’s the journey that teaches you a lot about your destination.” – Drake Enjoy the new chapter in your life. You will always be a traveler.
Can’t wait to get my hands on the book and the mystery romance!
Gdansk is a good place. Did i tell you i have family not far away? Between koscierzyna and bytow. Its a kaszub village with beautiful nature and extremly delicious food especially when its cooked by my dear grandma 😉
So this is really it johny? Oh man hard to believe..for you maybe aswell? I just started to really follow your blog. But you know what i think, i fully respect your decision.
Now you will have a lot of time for your book i guess.
Thank you for doing this. I like that you spammed youtube full of your videos. So I can watch the videos where we spent some time together or someone else appears i know thats fun! 🙂
Hi Michel, thanks for your comment and message. Wow – family in a Kaszub village? It is one of my dreams here to visit a real Kaszubian village.
Yes this was the last night I stayed in a hostel dorm. I enjoyed our time together in Bishkek, it was great to meet you, but you met me towards the end of my journey. I had already been travelling around 8-9 years by then so it felt like a good time to quit and seriously – Gdansk is amazing!!
I am looking forward to the next part of my life and I hope I can meet you again soon.
Best regards and safe travels,
Hi Damien, Thanks for the comment. Yes, I can’t wait to finally get something printed and released. Hopefully to a small crowd down my local cafe in Bangor. Safe travels. Jonny
Hi Cacinda thanks for the comment. Yes I will always be a traveller in my mind but somehow you need to stop somewhere to catch up on yourself. Now I have that chance to settle down and write up all the stories from the last decade. Safe travels. Jonny
Hi Len, thanks for following the blog the last few years and wishing me all the best for the future. Best regards and safe travels. Jonny
Hi Ray, thanks for the comments not just this week but down the last few years. I’m sure you will continue to follow my backdated (and less regular) stories. For sure we will concoct a Thirsty Thursdays together sometime – the great thing is neither of us knows where it will be yet but I will do it. When the 10 year anniversary of this blog comes up, would a good moment for that. Safe travels. Jonny
Will be looking forward to that ten year anniversary of DSL! And of course, I will continue to follow your backdated stories over the next few months. You do realize that you have yet to write about your experience at the final match during World Cup 2014? 🙂
Ray recently posted…Taste of the Danforth – A Celebration of Toronto’s Greek Community
Hi Ray, of course I haven’t written about the final yet – it has a book chapter and at the time I was feeling a bit depressed – long story which involved corrupt FIFA tickets stealing our final tickets and then charging us extra to get them. Yes, we made it to the match but I wanted to shit on Sepp Blatter and Michal Platini’s head that night. Safe travels. Jonny