From World Cup Sticker Books To Playing Next To An Ancient Buddhist Monastery: Here's How Jonny Turned His Travel Dreams Into Reality
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21st Jun | 5 min read
 “Move closer; set my mind on fire” – Tim Wheeler. 

Jonny is a Northern Irishman who currently lives in Poland. However, his journey to get there has been nothing short of insane. Along the way, he’s lived in 7 countries, studied in 5, and worked in over 50 different types of jobs. He loves adventure, and as a tourist, he's visited over 150 countries and all 7 continents. You can follow Jonny’s adventures on his Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube, Flickr accounts, as well as on his two blog’s Don’t Stop Living and Northern Irishman In Poland. You can also connect with him on GAFFL.

Why I Travel

“It’s a small world after all. It’s a small small world” – Disney. 

Panini World Cup sticker books. As a kid, I collected stickers from the World Cup. In 1986, I remember seeing South Korea, Morocco, Iraq, Uruguay, Brazil and so on and I dreamed that one day I could visit such countries. Slowly but surely I work my way through them all. Self-motivation and selfishness make me continue. I revel in the thrill of it all.

I’ve Made Some Amazing Friends Along The Way

“Spend your night life table hopping, trying to keep your bag of bones in trim” – Noel Gallagher. 

I have met too many people in fact. Of course, many long-lasting friendships, however down the years my best friends were from Northern Ireland, Poland or England. My best lovers were from Hong Kong and Hungary. We cannot trust everyone we meet so we must be careful but you can learn a little something from every single person that you meet.

I Travel To Places That Are More Obscure

“A kaleidoscope of chaos; it’s a long long way from here to there” – Paul Van Dyk. 

I hate following trends so I decided to find places that are more obscure, a little bit wacaday and bereft of mass tourism.  

My favourite destination is Northern Ireland. I have never seen a more beautiful country in my life and I have spent more time there than anywhere else. However, I have a slight bias as I grew up in Northern Ireland and I love it. Away from the beauty of Ballintoy, Bangor and Belfast city, I also love Mexico, Uruguay, Poland, Australia, Iran and England. It’s hard to pick a single favourite destination, so here I narrowed it down. 

Favourite city – Belfast/Gdansk.

Favourite town – Bangor/Bournemouth/Starogard Gdanski.

Favourite village – Nieciecza/Yaseh Chah.

Favourite hike – Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.

Favourite extreme place – Antarctica.

Favourite unusual place – Uzupis or Podjistan. 

I just prefer every trip whether popular or not, but the ones I love to write about and promote the most are always the less popular places. You won’t see me churning out a “top 5 bars in Paris”. I’d be sick on the way in! 

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How I Chose Where To Travel Next

“Dust from a distant sun will shower over everyone” – Neil Finn. 

I hate repeats and I like to close doors so if it is a new country or a new city, I would prefer to choose that first. So when I look at a map and see 5 countries that I wasn’t in, they have a bigger chance to be next to than to do repeats. I only really do repeats now in Poland, England, and Northern Ireland. For the rest of my journeys, I am looking for new places. I get bored of the same place and returns don’t inspire my wandering heart.

Before the Coronavirus kicked off, I was travelling 3-4 times a year on 2-week trips. Before 2016 (when I settled in Poland), I was backpacking it hardcore, almost non-stop for 3.5 years. It’s not always solo though – sometimes with family, friends, new backpacking buddies, and all the lovers (that have gone before) 

My Favourite Travel Memory!

“Tony Kane loyal” – GAWA. 

Playing football next to an ancient Buddhist monastery in Afghanistan with only locals stands out as amazing. I was the only foreigner and on the “pitch” made of sand beside the monastery was a former Afghanistan under 19 international. He and I were the two captains and we played in the heat. I played in Afghan-style clothing, with an AFC Bournemouth scarf, sunglasses, and a hat. The match finished 0-0 but I firmly believe I scored the winner with a 40-yard fluke lob that I thought was under the bar. It was ruled out and on with the show!

Some Things That Prevent Me From Traveling More

“Close your eyes so you don’t feel them. They don’t need to see you cry” – Robbie Williams. 

Viruses, money, visa rejections. They are the main things that prevent travel for me. Normally there is a way around the visa problems, but the viruses and money have a stronger hold on us. 

The biggest challenge is overcoming depression. I travelled alone in 2014 and encountered a nasty person who caused my depression. Life has been a struggle since. After that, a fellow tourist became a stalker to my friends in Poland and England, and to my family. That has been very tough too. If you beat depression, you have won the Travel World Cup. I’m sitting on bronze. It’s a tough fight. 

Advice To New Solo Travelers

“I find it hard to belong to something new” – Ben Paulley. 

I could write a lot about this but here are five quick points. 

1. Work as hard as you can every day and never turn down jobs or offers. Keep working.

2. Always try the beer and food in a new country or city.

3. Don’t follow the trends and become a follower of obvious places. Get “off the wheaten craic” (off the beaten track) and be the only tourist in some of the places you visit.

4. Never buy water. But drink loads of it. Every time water is included in the price of things, take it, fill your bottles up, milk it. I hate buying water.

5. Kiss the girl; she’s not behind the door. 

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