“You’re here. It’s a reality show” – Nik (Ten Coins Hostel, Sofia)
Upon checking into the incredible Ten Coins Hostel in Sofia in Bulgaria a year ago this month, I was greeted by Nik the owner and invited to eat and drink with him. When I arrived he said to his wife and to myself, “He’s here. It’s a reality show.”
Nik and Julia who run the hostel in Sofia were aware I was backpacking in Bulgaria and coming to stay with them for a few nights. They had followed my travels and as I posted on the move blog articles, Facebook photos and Tweets, they were able to see my route. One day I’d be crossing the Moldova to Romania border, the next week, I was in Veliko Tarnovo, then I toured Plovdiv before arriving in Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital. This couple are real travellers. They backpacked the world before they decided to buy a hostel, have a baby and settle down. But they were now watching my reality show. I never thought of it like that before. It was like a real life journey and it scared me and excited me at the same time.
“You’re on the move Jonny, you’re real.” Nik said to me, “we are watching your reality show”. Although it was state the obvious and so true, I never took any notice of the fact that my journey has been real and genuine, it’s been a natural progression, earning money in England and France, touring Australia trying to save the cash for Antarctica, then backpacking hardcore for 3-4 years doing some PR and teaching work in Hong Kong, working in bars and monetising my websites. Always on the move, never staying in the same country for longer than 3 months the last few years. I took it for granted that every other backpacker and travel blogger did the same. But I was wrong. I started seeing the fakes. The bandwagon jumpers. Too little, too late. There were just too many flashes in the pan.
It did wind me up that each week, each month I see travel blogs come out of the woodwork with the intention of making money, with the intention of stirring things up.
“I’m quitting my office job to become a digital nomad and live a life of freedom” – Too many people
People starting up blogs and websites to earn money, to “become a digital nomad”, to become “location independent”, to “become a legend”, to live a “life of freedom”. It doesn’t work like that. Fakes will always be fakes. We can see through them, there is no progression on their journeys. You don’t just pack your bags and live a life of freedom. I never quit my job to live a life of freedom. I don’t want to be this “overnight digital nomad” living a “life of freedom” in that sense, in fact the sound of that sucks! I want a life of fulfillment and enjoyment and follow my passions. You can follow my progression on here, from the first article in 2007, to the struggles I had in 2009, right up to this week’s stuff. I do reflect on it too much, but that’s me. I do slag off others too much, but that’s me.
Some people claiming to have “backpacked for years”, to have “blogged for years”, then they do their research and they release an awesome website, e-book or travel idea. All a bit sudden and fake though ain’t it? Like writing a shit article (yes, shit) like “Top 87 coffee shops in Bangok” or “Best 3 strip clubs in Sydney to get a blowjob in” type, just to get page views or their ass licked or willy sucked. It was all a bit bizarre. Yet when you check these types of articles, you find their authors are less than “a reality show”, they’re the opposite – often they’ve travelled for 3 months of their 30 year life. That’s not quite the reality show, so don’t dress it up as one. A reality show can’t be forged – it’s all real and genuine.
“I’ve been travelling for 8 years and writing travel articles since 1974” – Fake Travel Blogger
You weren’t born in 1974.
“Sometimes the complaints will be false” – David Brent
Even odder, these types of websites, articles and wannabe backpackers become the new fake hardcore, the ass lickers if you like! People bow down to them, the Beastie Boys have to move over. Suddenly they’re the new Messi, they’re the new Maradona of travel blogging. It feels like a Hand of God goal all over again. They’d punched it past Peter Shilton and Terry Fenwick was still boiling the kettle. Cup of the Earl please (Earl grey tea)!
While the David McCreerys of this world go un-noticed, the quiet hard working midfield man who played in two World Cups. Some of us, we sit in the background. It’s actually the way life will always be and we’re happy with that. I’m not going to change and I’m happy to be living my own reality show. And I’m happy that even one person might read this, might share that and might even meet me for a beer on my journeys. You around for a beer? Sure thing mate, name a pub and a country. Don’t turn up with a shirt and tie on and a filofax and a Pot Noodle in your hand!
Of course the truth ironically is, we are all a reality show, all of us. The only difference is, some of it has been documented the whole way, we’ve seen the real life journeys and progression. I don’t know what’s better – having the reality show in the public sphere or not. I’ve been living a reality show of travel, documented monthly mostly on YouTube (as I backdate the blog and Facebook can be higgledy piggledy) and finally I cracked 1,000,000 actual real life views for my YouTube channel. This was a nice feeling. The reality show marches on and I’m leaving behind my real memories, in exchange for new ones.
You can slag my articles, you can set up fake travel blogs, you can lie about your backpacking journey on a website, but you can’t fake a reality show. I look forward to sharing more of my real life journey and I’m proud of the life I’ve had so far. I don’t need to prove myself anymore by backpacking through hundreds of towns you’ve never heard of – that’s been done for real, check the archives. I don’t need to prove myself to football fans anymore – flying back from Hong Kong to watch AFC Bournemouth lose 1-0 to Bury, backpacking in Azerbaijan watching Northern Ireland lose 2-0. Shock horror – a real journey and a real football fan documenting the story along the way. And I even have friends who continue to be fake football fans and fake travellers, it baffles. You can tell them a mile off – you hear nothing from them for months and then they see a match on TV against your team and suddenly they’re a self confessed real fan (except we didn’t see them at the match!).
“Put your money where your mouth is, your Mamma said that you were real” – Noel Gallagher
The cool thing is, I’m writing this on a boat back to my home country – I’ll be in Belfast in Northern Ireland for my cousin’s stag do this week and can’t wait. And I’ll again be uploading photos and videos from it – it’s all a reality show. This life, your life, my life.
Your life, it’s a reality show, please don’t dress it up as anything else!
A few of my reality articles:
Purifying Echinacea in Lillico, Tasmania, Australia
Backpacking in the Republic of Uzupis
Watching Northern Ireland play against Turkey in Adana
Touring the Driftwood Structures in Nimis, Ladonia
Touring Shahr-e-Kord in Iran
Touring Amadiya in Iraqi Kurdistan, Iraq
Backpacking in San Pedro Sula, Honduras
Attending the Fireball Festival in Nejapa, El Salvador
Feeding Hyenas in Harar, Ethiopia
Standing on snow at Barrientos, Antarctica
Backpacking in Xinying, Taiwan
Touring Penis Rock in Guangdong, China
Getting my willy out in Jarvenpaa, Finland
Working for Internations in Hong Kong
Touring Sark in the Channel Islands
Backpacking through Tytannia Province in Adammia
Climbing up Mount Kinabalu
Eating out in Tiraspol, Transnistria
I’ll see you around! For Real. 4Real!