“Here am I.
Going nowhere on a train.
Here am I.
Growing older in the rain” – Noel Gallagher.
I broke 5 records today in my adult lifetime. Incredible!! Poland is the winner, it has beaten Australia and previously Northern Ireland as the longest time I have spent in one country as an adult.
22nd February 2020 – 22nd February 2021. It’s a year today since I –
1.Was last on a flight. (previous record 1 year – Australia)
2.Was in a country other than Poland. (previous record 1 year – Australia)
3.Crossed a border. (previous record 1 year – Malaysia to Australia to New Zealand)
4.Visited a new city/town. (Previous record for that was 5 months I think – Northern Ireland)
5.Got a passport stamp. (previous record 1 year – Australia)
Today marks exactly 12 months to the last time I changed countries – yes that’s right – this global backpacking lunatic is unbackpacking now, I simply don’t backpack anywhere outside of Poland now. In my adult life, this is officially now the longest time I have spent in ONE SINGLE country without moving. Yes longer than a single adult stint in Northern Ireland. I have now been in Poland for 366 days, and counting!! My last passport stamp (but not my last border exit) was today, one year ago – 22nd February 2020. I got that at Cape Town International Airport in South Africa. Here it is, those days baby…
Poland has broken the record held by Australia from October 2009 to October 2010, which was 365 days. On that occasion, I was leaving Australia because I had to. My one year working holiday visa had expired. I worked it and backpacked it hardcore and stayed flightless for a year back then.
Before that, Northern Ireland held the record, a period of 10 months from September 2000 to July 2001. Also notably, I haven’t taken a flight in 12 months either. My last flight was on February 22nd 2020. I touched down in Warszawa Chopin Airport on February 22nd 2020 on a LOT flight from Amsterdam in The Netherlands and suddenly, the world had changed. We wore masks on those flights and knew the severity of the virus was spreading but I didn’t think I’d stay a full year in Poland without travelling abroad or visiting an airport.
That flight from Amsterdam was actually my fourth flight that day and so I will explain why Cape Town was my last passport stamp, but not my last flight. I had previously flown from Cape Town (South Africa) to Windhoek (Namibia) to Luanda (Angola) to Amsterdam (The Netherlands). At that point in life, I had been to 188 countries recognised by Don’t Stop Living, about 150 of those have international football teams. So rather than make it to 200 real countries by the age of 40, I halted on 188. If only for now…
Of course, down the years, I adapt easily to new situations. I had to do it many times in my life. So staying at home, not going out, not backpacking abroad is easy for me, it was simple. Wearing a mask was easy, staying at home and not being around people, it was also easy. Backpacking the world had been and gone. I stayed at home for the most part, writing a lot, doing online teaching, blogging everyday, doing more Podcasts and outreach, marketing and even sleeping more than ever before – I caught up on sleep. Some of my latest interviews –
1.Interview on My Second Home Poland
2.Interview on Global Weby
3.Interview on the John Freakin Muir Podcast about my books
4.Interview on Belfast Real Podcast about my books
5.Interview with Gerry Armstrong on Stick It Up Your Ballacks
Even though I have stayed entirely in Poland for the last 12 months, I have still managed to leave Warszawa a few times. I backpacked to Bydgoszcz, Łomianki, Gdańsk, Sopot, Gdynia, Łódź, Poznań, Piła and Zakrzewo in the last year. However, none of those places were new, and neither was Amsterdam, Luanda or Windhoek. Those inter Poland trips were mostly short weekend trips but at one point I spent 9 weeks without alcohol, 5 months without leaving Warszawa or Łomianki and a further 4 week stint without alcohol. Has it been easy? Yes of course. Very easy and simple to do. The last new city I was in, was also Cape Town in South Africa. I have gone 12 months without visiting a new city. Again, that is the first time in my adult life I have done that. 12 months – not even any new cities in Poland, yes really!
Mask loyal. Amidst all that crisis, I finally released my Backpacking Centurion hattrick series between 25th June 2020 and March 2021. This would have happened anyway. The first volume was actually supposed to be in May 2020. Here you go…
Backpacking Centurion – Volume 1 – Don’t Look Back In Bangor
Backpacking Centurion – Volume 2 – Lands Down Under
Backpacking Centurion – Volume 3 – Taints and Honours (should be with you by June 2021, I’ll have it out in Poland in March/April)
I have three more books on the way. The fourth / black volume of BC, a book on how I moved to Poland and my new book on supporting the Northern Ireland football team. Here’s a sneak preview of the front cover of that one, entitled “ChampIAN STEWARTnova”.
This week by chance I made it back to Warszawa Lotnisko Chopina for the first time in 12 months. And I didn’t even mean to go back there. It was because I was supposed to be teaching at a business nearby (a rare bit of face to face work) but the metro was cancelled. The metro system in Warszawa wasn’t working so I had to act quickly or risk being late for work. The next bus just happened to be heading the right way and later to the airport. Once on-board, I realised that it would be quicker for me to take this bus all the way to the airport before changing buses at the airport onto the 148 bus straight to work. So the metro being closed actually changed my route and gave me this memory and an opportunity to see what is happening at Warszawa Lotnisko Chopina.
I wouldn’t otherwise have gone to the airport at all. It was deserted. It was sad. 90% of the entrance doors were shut.
So what a topsy turvy year. No border crossing, no new cities at all, no new countries, no passport stamps. I stayed in Poland. Who knows what the future holds.
Here is a video I made at Warszawa Lotnisko Chopin this week: