Working Wednesdays: I’m a Business Backpacker, the Life and Times of Don’t Stop Living

business backpacker

Working Wednesdays: I’m a Business Backpacker these days…

Today on my working Wednesdays I wanted to share my latest career move with you all to get you thinking “outside the box”. I’m inventing a new term for myself, as of today. I might be a budget backpacker, I might be a hardcore backpacker and I might be a perpetual backpacker. However I want to be known from now on as a business backpacker. Yes a “Business Backpacker”! With a desire to explore the world, a background working in bars and customer service jobs and a degree in Public Relations, I took the notion of travelling the world, writing about it and somehow, thanks to my readers, my advertisers and the travel industry, I‘m now a business backpacker. Some might call me a professional travel blogger, a travel writer or even just another blogger. But guys and girls, for the last 6 months or so I’ve become a “business backpacker” – it’s the lifestyle I’ve craved, carved and created for myself, all from my experience of travel, my passion for writing and the internet…

business backpacking

Business Backpacker – Jonny Blairs travel blog – working in Wadi Rum Jordan. That’s right “working”.

What is a Business Backpacker?

OK, this is how it works. First and foremost I am a traveller. My style of travel is to get my backpack on, head to places nobody else has ever been, meet some locals, meet some fellow travellers, have a good time and tell everyone about it. I write all my stories from first hand backpacking. This blog has almost 3500 first hand travel articles on it. I write them all myself about places I’ve been and explored. Through this platform, Don’t Stop Living has opened new doors for me in life. That’s the way things have panned out for me.

china budget backpacker

Backpacking in China’s Yunnan Province, always dreaming of bigger things ahead…

This website, as well as being my love, my joy and my passion, is also a business. I hadn’t really shared this notion with any of you before. But it’s a new year, we’re in 2014, I’ve been travelling to places like Iran, Iraq and Nagorno Karabakh recently and things have changed since I chopped broccoli on the remote farms of Tasmania, just 4 years ago. While I used to earn money working in bars and farms, I now earn money through writing about travel.

broccoli farming

From a broccoli farmer in 2010 to a business backpacker in 2014.

How did I become a Business Backpacker?

The simple answer is through this website, Don’t Stop Living. This website has now become a handy and successful resource for keen travellers, new and old. I get over 20 e-mails a week now from people who have read 1 or 2 of my stories and want some advice, tips and inspiration. I get over 50 e-mails a week from travel companies, sponsors and advertisers. Through this blog, I have managed to travel the world through maximising multiple income streams. That’s the hard facts.

obama barack dont stop living

I get so many e-mails and calls, I had to ask Barack Obama to use his office.

I helped people get jobs teaching in Hong Kong, I helped others secure visas for countries like China and Suriname and I recently helped another backpacker in Australia find a job. My get up and go attitude in life stood me in good stead. Thanks for reading my stories, thanks for following me on Facebook and thanks for reaching out and e-mailing me everyone – you’re always welcome and I try my best to reply to every e-mail with direct honesty and forwardness. Through my travel writing, new opportunities came my way and my lifestyle has turned me into a business backpacker.

northern irish backpacker

In party animal mode in New Zealand back in 2007 – who says a Northern Irishman with a sombrero can’t run a business through backpacking ?

When did the penny drop for me and Don’t Stop Living?

This blog started shyly and unknown way back in summer 2007 when I took my lonely soul and backpack to a hostel in Toronto, Canada. In that very hostel I decided to transfer my written notes into a typed blog. Don’t Stop Living was just another travel blog to join the thousands of others out there. It wasn’t until 2012 that the penny dropped for me, and that I saw the business opportunity through it. I’m a slow starter for these things in fact. I was too busy living to understand what power and authority this travel blog had. Then one day in May 2012 I was nonchalantly backpacking in Japan. This is the day, when it all changed…

1. Being Recognised by a reader in Tokyo, Japan (May 2012)

It was a busy Sunday in Tokyo and my travel buddy Neil Armstrong and I were just watching a parade in Shibuya. Someone taps me on the shoulder and asks if I’m Jonny from Don’t Stop Living blog. I realised people read my stuff, this guy even knew my name, where I was from and while I certainly wasn’t famous, my page views had increased and people got interested in my lifestyle.

dont stop living japan

Me and my mate Neil were in Japan when things were about to change for Don’t Stop Living.

2. Being the “Modern Traveller” in Vietnam (August 2012)

Just after Japan I was in Vietnam on a hike in Sapa. Two of my travel companions, on seeing that I was busy writing notes and taking photos only for my readers called me over, asked me to chill out with a beer and join them. I did. They called me a “modern traveller”. Notebook, laptop, pen, paper, Facebook, camera. I was the first travel blogger they had met and as I typed up notes on Vietnam for my blog, it made me realise I was a different kind of traveller to most. I took time out to write my blog. I was hungry, eager and informative. I wanted my readers to read my stuff, love it and want to go and travel.

jonny blair in hanoi

As I backpacked through the streets of Hanoi in Vietnam, things were changing once again. I was basically becoming a full time travel blogger.

3. Living Less Ordinary (October 2012)

Fast forward about two months after Vietnam and I’m approached by Allan Wilson of Live Less Ordinary, a travel and food writer based in Bangkok, Thailand. Not only was I impressed by Allan’s story, but he asked me about monetizing my blog. I told him the truth – I’d used Google Adsense and found it useless at the time and was happy writing my stories but wanted my website to look better. I hadn’t previously spent any money on my blog, was using the free site Blogger and just writing away. Then I decided to take the plunge. I took a risk. I spent money on my site. I got a new design, a new domain, a new logo. Don’t Stop Living was now a lot more professional and I knew it. I used my PR skills to market the site better, I told all the “big name bloggers” about it and I was getting more page views to my site.

Around the same time, I came across Nomadic Matt’s excellent book “How to make money from your travel blog“. This proved to me that others are out there making money from travel sites and blogs. These guys that also make money, are also by default “Business Backpackers”. Check out Nomadic Matt’s site and link there.

jonny blair working

Working overtime on the move to update my travel stories.

4. Business Plans while backpacking in China (December 2012)

I’ve done some proper backpacking in China. I’ve been to towns housing 100,000 people that nobody has ever heard of, or written about. You better believe it. I shake your hand if you’ve also backpacked successfully through Shangrao, Jianshui, Taxia and Shaoguan. I started concentrating on writing about this sort of stuff, and ignored all the other bloggers writing about Paris, Bangkok and Sydney. While I’ve also been to those three cities a few times, I’ve never wanted to write about them. It felt pretty authentic to be travelling to places like Gaobei Hamlet in Fujian Province and telling my stories. Even if nobody was reading, I was confident I was writing the best stuff of my life.

business backpacking in china

Business Backpacker – Arrival at Tinas Upper Trail Hike – Yunnan – China

I’ve been to 12 out of 29 Chinese Provinces now, inspired my the delightful Panny Yu, my girlfriend who, has travelled more than me…one day while sat in a hostel in the Yunnan Province, I was so inspired and sure that Don’t Stop Living was going to be a big success. I set myself some targets and business plans. I had never done that before.

business plan dont stop living

While backpacking in China, I took time out to blog and draft up a business plan for Don’t Stop Living.

5. Then An Advertiser Contacted me (December 2012)

In December 2012, I was sat in a primary school in Shek Kip Mei in Hong Kong ready to teach English. I had got into work early to check my e-mails and have a coffee while I planned my lessons. And there it was – in my inbox. An advertiser wanted to post and advert on my travel blog!! I got a bit excited! I was sitting with a Page Rank of zero at the time. But I had been to all 7 continents, over 70 countries, I’d written 1,200 blog posts, I knew my stuff and I was attracting attention finally. It felt like Wimbledon had won the FA Cup or AFC Bournemouth had reached the Premier League after years in the doldrums.

dont stop living travel blog jonny blair

I was busy teaching English in Hong Kong when an advertiser came knocking on Don’t Stop Living’s door…

Erin refused to interview me on her site (thanks) and Gary refused to add my blog to his list of 300+ travel blogs (nice one Gaz). Secretly I knew my blog was in the top 10 travel blogs in the world. I wouldn’t be arrogant to assume that – read my back catalogue of stories from almost 100 countries – all real life experiences! When that advertiser contacted me, I saw the chance to earn some money from my blog, I jumped at it, made my first $65 US and got on with my travels. China, Phillippines and Sri Lanka were up next and in the meantime I was flat out based in Hong Kong working in 3 jobs.

6. Sponsored Trips (2013)

By early 2013, my work was attracting attention from tour companies and I was offered sponsored trips. Companies were now paying for my travels and I loved it. In 2013 I worked with 5-6 travel companies on sponsored trips. I loved the whole “business” aspect of it. I’d turn up for a “business meeting” in some far flung country, dressed in a Northern Ireland football shirt, having not shaved for a few days and just been in the jungle. I handed my business cards over, got some new contacts and I was working on the move. I took a total of 10 sponsored or discounted trips in 2013.

safari in africa

On a safari tour in Africa now officially a “Business Backpacker”…

As well as this, I got free and discounted accommodation in return for coverage on my blog and my social networks. As a result, I got too busy to work in Hong Kong. I stopped working for Internations in June 2013, I stopped working in the Primary School in June 2013 and in mid July 2013, I had left my job (seeing out the contract) as a kindergarten teacher in Hong Kong. It wasn’t that I didn’t need to work, or need the money. It was that I was too busy – I had made travel plans with other companies, I had agreed to go to a wedding in Israel, a football match in Azerbaijan and had a slight longing to visit Iraq. I took time off to travel and in the last 6 months I have only worked for myself online.

internations hong kong business backpacking

My last night working for Internations in Hong Kong before becoming a business backpacker.

7. The Business Backpacker (2014)

When January 1st 2014 came round, I was replying to e-mails from my hotel room in Iraq. I realised that over 90% of these emails and Facebook messages were related to my travel blog and my new found “business”. I had planned itineraries for companies like Vadovia, I had become an online travel adviser at Think Places, I had more advertising e-mails every week and I was also being asked to write articles for companies and websites. I even got an email out of the blue in 2013 asking if the BBC could interview me in Northern Ireland. I duly obliged and ended up on BBC Radio and on their website. Probably my proudest “business backpacking” moment to date.

working on dont stop living

With over 90% of my emails being about Don’t Stop Living, I was now obviously working on the move…

So I thought I’d share this notion all with you today – as well as being a superb platform for telling my travel stories to you all, Don’t Stop Living has acted as the launchpad and platform for me to earn some money and get myself onto some cool trips. What this all means is, I’m now concentrating on online work. I may go back to teaching English next month to top up the wage bill to ensure I can backpack after the World Cup but the reality is, I’m a business backpacker these days. I’m really happy with this lifestyle at the moment, and will enjoy it for however long it lasts!

jonny blair backpacking in iraq

Backpacking in Iraq this week – with business on my mind…

I may have invented a new term there as well. Business Backpacker. I live up to it – I turn up to business meetings in bars in random countries with my backpack on. I dress in a football shirt and baseball cap. I don’t wear a shirt or tie or drink expensive champagne. Cheapest beer on the menu please! 😉 I give my travel industry colleagues my business card from my backpack / whackpack.

erbil iraq jonny blair

Touring Iraq last week – Erbil’s Citadel.

What’s next for Don’t Stop Living?

Next up I hope to continue to use this website to earn some money to keep me on the road. Advertisers can contact me through my advertising page, or by simply e-mailing jonny at dontstopliving dot net . Travel companies are welcome to ask me to work for them. I’m in the process of setting up some other sites including the new Crossing World Borders Travel blog. I’m planning to do a trip to Kerala in India with Allan Wilson next month, working in Hong Kong and Thailand from my laptop, my final fling with teaching English, then heading to French Guyana and Brazil for the 2014 World Cup. After that maybe settling in Poland while cracking 200 countries and getting a few printed books out there.

jonny blair brazil

Enjoying Brazil back in 2011 – aiming to head back this year!

One thing I won’t ever do though, is change what I do on Don’t Stop Living. I won’t accept other people to write for me, if you want to feature on this site, then either meet me and I’ll stick a photo up, or become part of my World Traveller Interviews. I will keep writing my first hand stories from my travels. I will keep writing as much as I can and I will keep you all updated on my whereabouts and my travel plans.

backpacker business

The business backpacker drifting through Petra in Jordan…

You can call me a traveller, a backpacker, a nomad, a blogger, a writer, a travel expert, a vagabond. But I’d like to be known as a Business Backpacker from this day forth. It’s been a long old journey through broccoli farms in Tasmania, ice cream kiosks in Bournemouth and obscures towns in Iraq, but this is one journey I’m enjoying…

Safe travels my friends, followers and advertisers.

Jonny Blair

** Don’t forget to follow me on my social media channels:

– Like Don’t Stop Living on Facebook

– Subscribe to Don’t Stop Living videos on YouTube

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– Follow Don’t Stop Living on Twitter

14 thoughts on “Working Wednesdays: I’m a Business Backpacker, the Life and Times of Don’t Stop Living

  • Well said! I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your stories since being introduced to your site via my friend, Nick, whom you randomly met in Vietnam. How’s THAT for the power for social networking? 😉

    You have earned this right to be a Business Traveler. Best of luck with this new career move, and looking forward to hearing more bigger and better adventures to come as a result of this success!
    Ray recently posted…How to Prepare for the Winter ClassicMy Profile

  • Thanks for the comment as ever Ray. Yes it was very random – I also met Nick on my last day in Vietnam as I had a late flight back to Hong Kong that night – met him at breakfast time. This post has been a long time coming and I waited for the new year 2014 to post it up. Don’t Stop Living has opened opportunities I never thought possible and I’m taking them all in my stride. Doing a bit more teaching work this year but apart from that, I’ll be working on new projects and hopefully inspiring more people to travel. More to come – currently got a huge backlog of videos to upload and stories to write. ON with the show, this business backpacking ain’t for the faint hearted or lazy… safe travels. Jonny

  • Arrogant much?

    Seriously, I came to your site after reading a horrible comment you left on another bloggers website expecting you to offer something better, but instead I read this… shit.

    Just because another person doesn’t want to add you to a list doesn’t mean anything – it’s actually bad to be on other bloggers lists because Google has begun publishing spammy websites (Nomadic Samuel’s for instance).

    Just because you’ve travelled to countries that others may not have or stepped on all 7 continents or whatever other quantifiable measure you choose to use doesn’t mean you “know your shit.” It means you know “a little bit about something.”

    Stop bragging. Put your big boy pants on. Learn to help the blogger community, continue helping your blogs community (which you say you already do so kudos), and buck up a little mate.

  • Thanks for the comment Nicole – have to disagree with most of what you say here though! This is my travel blog which I started back in 2007, I’m not here to help “the blogger community”, I’m here to help the “travelling community” and get more people travelling to places like Iraq, Suriname, Belarus etc. Bloggers, for the most part don’t really travel. I’m a backpacker and travellers first and foremost. A worker next after that, and then finally a blogger.

    Nomadic Samuel has a great site and I contact him quite a bit – it’s not spammy. He is a real traveller and a proper cool nomad, so don’t come on my site to complain about Sam please!

    When am I bragging? I’m not putting any pants on just for you, nor do I appreciate your rude response to an honest and hard grafted blog post. I’m 33 and had the most dead end jobs you could know, but I lived and loved every moment, saving my money to backpack the world. I now inspire fellow travellers.

    Travelling isn’t about blogging, it’s about travelling.


    PS – send me a link to your site and I’ll have a look but don’t expect positive feedback 😉

  • Nicole. Pretentious much? (Note pretension is a whole lot worse than arrogance). As a travel blogger it is the norm to credit their own achievements, as a way to inspire readers because it is them who matter – not bloggers and the blogging community. This is what I hate about travel bloggers and it is the reason I personally have never called myself one. Blogging has become all about back scratching, building value between themselves without building value for their readers. Creating their own little cliques. If you don’t feel you can ‘make it’ as a travel blogger without the help of others then go it alone anyway. Blogging isn’t about being successful. “Put your big boy pants on. Learn to help the blogger community, continue helping your blogs community”. To me is the biggest load of shit I’ve heard in a long time. If I enjoy playing football do I have to go out coaching others. It’s a complete joke. If more bloggers took their heads out of their asses and started focusing on creating helpful content for their readers and the internet as a whole then travel bloggers may one day be taken seriously. But go ahead create your networks, your pretentious little cliques, sit round computers sharing travel banter, scratch each others egos – if you think this is what travel blogging is about then go ahead., and you don’t even need to leave your chair to do so.
    Also back to what Jonny wrote which probably got on your wick; fact is if bloggers have not made a name for themselves they will be ignored. If they have made a name for themselves others will happily put their arm around you. Regardless of your site or content. The same tends to go with advertisers.
    Allan Wilson recently posted…Living in Bangkok ProtestsMy Profile

  • Thanks for the slightly more reasoned comment Allan! I had to laugh how Nicole slags off both myself and Nomadic Samuel. Both of us are what I class as big travellers and hard working bloggers (more fact than arrogance I hasten to add)! If Nicole ever comes back to check my reply hopefully she leaves the name of her site, which I hope is more than some cool westerners ticking off sights like Sydney Harbour bridge and getting drunk in Siem Reap!

    And also Nicole – what “horrible comment” did I leave on another site? Or is that just a fabrication. I’m just about to write a piece on my visit to Amna Suraka in Iraq – one of Saddam Hussein’s House of Horrors, by doing so I’ll be the first “travel blogger” to write a decent overview of the place to hopefully inspire others to visit Iraq, as I have done in the past. And it still won’t be cool enough for these lovey dovey travel bloggers you speak of.

    It’s about travel, it’s not about blogging.

    Safe travels one and all.


  • Nicole, you are very much entitled to your opinion, but you are missing the point of this post. Jonny is just explaining how he ended up turning a passion and hobby – travel and blogging – into the beginnings of a full time career. It’s not something he planned from the get go – it is something that just happened. Given that we are all told to follow our passion and “you never have to work another day in your life,” Jonny’s blog is a prime example of that valuable life lesson. It’s not like he’s an “over night success” as his blog has only started taking off in popularity in the past year and a bit after 10+ years living the Nomadic lifestyle.

    For the record, I am not a professional blogger nor professional travel blogger nor have I met Jonny personally nor any of the other bloggers he recommends. A close friend of mine just happened to have a chance encounter with Jonny in Vietnam about a 1 1/2 years ago, and told me about this blog. I guess you can consider me a “regular reader” of Don’t Stop Living. But, I have no vested interest in defending or promoting Jonny’s blog whatsoever.

    The reason I have decided to keep reading DSL is that it is something that the Average Joe can relate to given its honest, true and credible accounts of the world since Jonny actually goes to these places personally and funds his travels with minimum wage jobs, such as farming and bartending.

    I will disagree with Jonny in the sense that traveling to the more popular places, like Australia or Western Europe, are just as valuable in terms of life experiences. He may think it is a “waste of time,” but I don’t. Any opportunity for a person to leave the confines of their own hometown is a worthwhile adventure in my books! We are very fortunate to have the means and capability to travel where most people in the world do not. But, this blog isn’t designed for that type of traveler – it’s designed for those wanting to venture off the beaten path, but are afraid to do so.

    As for your comment that Jonny needs to “support the blogger community,” he already does with his regular World Travelers series. Through that I have discovered other great travel blogs that aren’t necessarily about “off the beaten travel,” but provide great insight into specific Regions (e.g. Southeast Asia) or other forms of travel whether they be luxury or common tourism destinations. Please have a thorough look at this blog before you throw accusations like that.

    Finally, if you are going to criticize someone for something they said or did, such as posting a rather negative comment on someone else’s blog, then could you at least post the link? Let us regular DSL readers judge for ourselves if Jonny is developing an arrogant and pretentious attitude. Otherwise, your comments hold little value as Jonny’s (allegedly) if you have nothing to back it up with.

    Oh, and Jonny, thanks for allowing Nicole’s comments to be posted. I am sure there are bloggers out there who would censor such comments from their blog to “keep status quo,” so I appreciate you allowing Nicole speak her mind like that.
    Ray recently posted…How to Prepare for the Winter ClassicMy Profile

  • Thanks for the comment Ray. I’m not sure who Nicole is as no website has been left, or even a link to the alleged “horrible comments” I left. I don’t have much malice in me, nor am I particularly arrogant (except when I’m watching my football teams – my teams will always win), so for her to seemingly take me living my dreams and earning some money through my well earned and deserved travels (my opinions of course) seems very rude and almost cries of jealously (dare I say it).

    Like you say, I’m just stating that through my hard work (again – not arrogance – my opinion) this website has opened new doors for me. I’ll be teaching English for a bit of 2014, but for most of the year, I’m aiming to travel more, work on the move and HELP others live their travel dreams!

    As for Australia and Thailand etc., I’ve been to both places (and spent a good deal opf time in them) and I’ll be back in Thailand for a good chunk of 2014, it’s not travelling to these places that I disagree with, it’s every week 1000 new blogs go up online about “top 5 bars in thailand” and “how to travel Thailand on the cheap” etc. and to me it’s not as authentic as 3 blogs a week (maximum) posting about heading to Iraq or Azerbaijan where no other tourists go. Yes they are both travel and both amazing – but I prefer a place these days with less tourists.

    Safe travels and hope to hear your response Nicole!


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