Teaching Traveling: Jonny Blair is a traveling Northern Irishman currently teaching English in Hong Kong. His travels have taken him to Peru, Botswana, Antarctica and Taiwan. He runs a popular and regularly updated travel site called Don’t Stop Living and admits he has “no idea” where he will end up next.
Jonny, tell us about your background.
Jonny: I grew up in the town of Bangor in Northern Ireland back in the 1980s and 1990s but having left there a decade ago, I have managed to live, work and travel around the world. As a result I have changed jobs a lot and I’m always budgeting. I’m 32 now. I’ve worked in bars, on boats, in theatres, on farms, in offices and countless other places. My travels have taken me to all seven continents, and almost seventy countries to date. So while teaching wasn’t what I planned to do, I am now a Native English teacher in Hong Kong! I just kind of fell into it! When I arrived in Hong Kong I was working in a pub and at a party one night a guy told me about an English teaching job so I applied and got it. It was just a bit of fate. I have done Kindergarten, Primary School and Private Tutoring.
TT: Wow! Tell us more about your travels.
J: I have traveled extensively and on a very regular basis for the last ten years. My highlights were a two week tour of Antarctica and the four day Inca Trail hike in Peru. On my travels I have also bumped into Roger Federer in Melbourne, sky dived, bungy jumped and crossed the equator by foot.
Antarctica is my favourite trip so far. I got a 13 day tour as a special offer which left from Ushuaia on the south tip of Argentina. We landed on the Antarctica Continent, we visited the British and Polish bases, we saw thousands of penguins, done a few hikes and we even went for a swim in the ice cold waters at Deception Island. It was totally inspiring.
These trips were before I became a teacher, the best (and most surprising) trip I have been on since becoming an English Teacher is to the Fujian Province in China. The Earthen Buildings there and the island of Gu Lang Yu were very unexpected travel gems!
TT: How do you find these travel opportunities?
J: I had always wanted to go to Antarctica– it fascinated me– and it was when I was living in Tasmania when I visited the Antarctic Centre that my childhood dream became a real probability. Once I knew I wanted to finally do Antarctica, I just shopped around for a good deal and booked it early to ensure I knew I was doing it. Six months later I stepped on the Antarctic mainland at Neko Harbour!
TT: Amazing. How do you fund your travels?
J: All my travel is self funded from working and I have had over 20 different jobs. I have never been out of work in my adult life. The Antarctica trip I funded entirely from working on broccoli fields. I lived in my tent up in the mountains of Poatina in Tasmania, working 12 hours a day and 7 days a week for a few months. I had bought a cheap car at the time so I was also basically sleeping and living out of my car and tent for around 6 months! One day,having been isolated for a month or so, I checked my bank account and realised that I had enough money to finally book my Antarctica adventure– so I did! I find that travel just falls into place, I try not to plan things too much, in fact I only ended up in Tasmania in the first place because of a mate I was living with and look where life led me!
TT: Tell us one moment from your travels that was particularly powerful, interesting, or funny.
J: Just one moment? There are so many to choose from! Can I go for the day I swam naked in Antarctica? That pretty much tops the list. We assembled in a group at Whaler’s Bay – there were about 100 of us on the ‘beach’ waiting and watching but only about 30 of us went in to the ice cold water for a dip. Once I got in the water, I whipped my green shorts off for a slight celebration of freedom in the world’s coldest, most remote and most peaceful continent. One of life’s better days.
I also smuggled drugs by accident in Argentina, worked on the world’s first broccoli harvester, crossed into North Korea and appeared on Slovenian TV.