What happened in the broccoli fields?
No money? No problem! That was Jonny Blair’s — Don’t Stop Living — attitude when envisioning his dream of visiting all 7 continents by the age of 30. It was the summer working on a broccoli farm, far from home, when things started coming together for this northern Ireland native. Immersed in nature, living simply, banking his earnings and never losing sight of his dream became his ethos. Check out this inspiring story. See how he did it — and how you can too!
Tell us about yourself. What were you doing before you started your nomadic journey?
I was living in my hometown Bangor, Northern Ireland, where I had a number of jobs that were never going to change my world. I worked in a local supermarket called Steensons, I did the butchery counter, I worked in a local pub called McMillens and I worked as a savings sales assistant in a bank in Belfast. Days were non-descript and repetitive so I felt I needed to escape Northern Ireland to see the world.
What was the moment that sparked the big move for you go on this big lifelong adventure?
Moving to the English town of Bournemouth in 2003 because one of my first jobs there I was selling ice cream on the beach with a load of cool people from over 20 countries. Once I had made friends with people from all over the world, it just felt like the right thing to do to visit their countries too.
You’ve had quite a range of jobs including: barman, ice cream seller, telephone banking adviser, English teacher, PR rep, broccoli harvester, pyrethrum planter, ferry steward…Which were the most challenging? Which was was memorable?
The most challenging was probably working in PR with Apple Inc. They’re a really tough company to work for and their products are overrated so I had to promote them to journalists and media in London.
The most memorable jobs were in an Irish pub in Parramatta in Australia or working on the England to France boats in the cafe. I also loved working on the broccoli fields of Poatina. I think that job in Poatina changed my life forever.
What happened in the broccoli fields?
By living in my tent on a low budget and by working for 5 months on farms in Australia (on broccoli, cauliflower, pyrethrum etc.), I was able to save around $10,000 and live my dream of visiting all 7 continents by the age of 30 — from the money earned I booked my Antarctica adventure which was in 2010 and I also backpacked around South America all from that job.
Wow, that is quite an accomplishment. You also have a passion for sharing your experiences and tips with others. How did you get started?
I’ve always loved writing and the internet has given us this incredible platform to share our stories with the world online. If the internet didn’t exist, I’d still be doing travel writing — in books, magazines and newspapers, but blogs are better. They’re permanent and they are available all over the world.
What were your good and bad thoughts about first becoming a digital nomad?
Good meant that I could be anywhere I wanted as long as I could get internet at least once a week. Bad thoughts were the lack of clean clothes, the constant changing of beds and cities every few nights and no sense of stability.
What challenges have you faced living this lifestyle?
There have been so many — perhaps the hardest is the technical side of it. I have had 5 computers in the last 4 years, I have had about 7-8 hard drives breaking and slow internet. If it wasn’t for these problems, I would have had more online business, better blogs and my important book would have been released a long time ago.
If you could go back and start all over would you pick a different path in life?
I didn’t really choose this lifestyle, it’s just the way life happened for me. I just didn’t meet that girl, settled down and have kids. Instead I was out travelling, changing jobs a lot, moving country to country and it just became a habit and a lifestyle. There was no conscious decision to do that.
What challenges have you overcome?
All of the above, plus visa issues and money problems.
What advantages does being a digital nomad carry?
Freedom, the opportunity to move around and enjoy your life to the full. Every day is different and nothing is ever mundane or boring.
What are some goals you’ve accomplished?
I visited all 7 continents by the age of 30, I visited 100 real countries by the age of 35 (or 113 countries on the TCC list), I watched the World Cup Final live in Rio de Janeiro. I backpacked through some unknown countries like Nagorno Karabakh, French Guyana, Transnistria, Uzupis and Austenasia.
What’s the hardest thing to you about being a digital nomad?
Like any job or lifestyle, there are many difficult aspects with it. For me, probably the technical side of it. I hate computers, internet and hardware. If I had no problems with computers, I am sure I would have the best travel blog in the world by now. Every day I’ll have a frozen screen, a broken website, a lost blog post or hardware failure.
Where do you think you would be if you had never taken the leap to becoming a digital nomad?
I’d probably be working in a bar in some far flung country living the good life, but nobody really knows what “could have been”.
What advice would you give the average joe?
Work hard, dream big and get out there and see the world while you can. “Nothing comes to those who wait, time’s running out the door you’re running in.”