December 22, 2016

Jonny’s Story: About Northern Irishman in Poland

Jonny Blair backpacking in Tczew, Poland

“What’s your story, baby?” – Nicky Wire.

So why is a passionate Northern Irish travel writer living in Poland, when thousands of Polish people leave Poland to work in the UK and Ireland year on year? Jonny’s motives are pure and simple. Fuelled from his heart and his mind, Jonny’s passion is now in Poland, Jonny loves Poland and has finally settled here after a ridiculous 150 country journey around the world. At the same time, Jonny enjoys the fact that Polish culture is present in Northern Ireland and that there are some Northern Irish things in Poland. He attempts to draw a parallel between the two as he embarks on a journey of words, trains and pierogarnias.

When the sun sinks in the Polish seaside resort of Gdynia, here is Jonny’s story:

I was born in Newtownards, Northern Ireland (Irlandia Północna) in 1980. In my early days living in Bangor, Northern Ireland I became infatuated with football, geography and history. It was a hat-trick of loves. I dreamed as a young child of playing football for Glentoran FC or Northern Ireland, but that was never going to happen. I simply wasn’t good enough or passionate enough. So I dreamed of travelling the world instead. On my journey, I wanted to earn a degree at University, make friends with people from every country and culture I could and see some of the world. My love for writing intertwined with my base in Poland is undoubtedly the reason why I launched this site in 2016, my new platform. I managed to see a lot of the world – up to October 2021 I had visited 186 personally recognised countries (FIFA would recognise around 150 of those).

Watching my beloved Northern Ireland at Windsor Park (second right)

“Gatta love that ain’t gat no name” – Suede.

I studied Journalism in Belfast (Northern Ireland) in 1997 and I studied Public Relations in Bournemouth (England) in 2003. I worked with many Polish people from 2004 – 2007 while spending my days in the English seaside resort of Bournemouth. During that time, I visited Poland twice and made many Polish friends. These were really amazing people. I felt close to them. My first visit to Poland was in 2005 and later again in 2007. There was magic in the air, even if I didn’t know it then. By 2007 however, I had travelled around the world to about 30 countries including China, Belarus and Canada. In 2009, I was now living in Australia and by the age of 30 I had visited all 7 continents including Antarctica and Africa, encompassing 50+ countries.

I lived in the land down under, 2009 – 2011

All of this was from working hard and travelling on a cheap backpacking budget. I had more than 50 jobs along the way (some detailed here). I simply worked almost every day – whether as a teacher, a writer, a barman, a marketer, a farmer – I am work hungry. Work never stops. In 2011, I moved to Hong Kong. While based in Hong Kong, I was able to visit almost every country in Asia including lesser frequented places like East Timor, Bangladesh and North Korea. I also had a long term girlfriend there and we travelled the world together for five years and I became a self employed professional travel blogger, writer and itinerary planner. At the same time, I still was a barman and a teacher.

Touring Colourful Poznań, Poland in 2015

Having cracked the esteemed and selfish “100 country mark” in 2015 and split from a long term love, I began to realise that staying in one country was what I needed in life now. I didn’t want to live in China or Oceania again. I was 35 and homeless; the nomadic life had taken its toll. I was back in Poznań, Poland in 2015. On that trip, I felt I could live in Poland, but wanderlust got the better of me again, so I headed to Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan and tried to make it my new home. But I only stayed a few months there, until life brought me to the city of Gdańsk in Poland in July 2016. It was here that I suddenly realised where my heart belonged, so I stayed!! I have since released these books –

1.Backpacking Centurion – A Northern Irishman’s Journey Through 100 Countries: Volume 1 – Don’t Look Back In Bangor.
Backpacking Centurion – A Northern Irishman’s Journey Through 100 Countries: Volume 2 Lands Down Under.
Backpacking Centurion – A Northern Irishman’s Journey Through 100 Countries: Volume 3 – Taints And Honours.
4.I Went To Gdansk With Somebody.

I fell in love with Gorgeous Gdańsk in 2016

But my journey is not all champagne and roses. This is not easy. My life has been up and down, and down and up. This website was born in the midst of a year of personal problems and severe depression. I want to promote Poland in a good way through my personal stories and experiences. I love Poland so much and I hope you see that through my writing, my photos and my stories. I am a writer. I am a tourist. I am a teacher. I am an author. I am a storyteller. I am a Northern Irishman.

“I’m an alien. I’m a legal alien. I’m an Ulsterman in Warszawa.” – Not Sting.

So this site will aim to document my journeys and it will run alongside the Facebook Page and my Instagram Feed.

Some of you may also know me from my association to the following passions:
Ulster Cherry – I am an AFC Bournemouth football fan
GAWA – I am a massive Northern Ireland football fan
Globetrotting Glenman – I am also a Glentoran FC fan
Don’t Stop Living – I turned my passionate travel blog into a business and used it as my main platform for 9 years (2007 – 2016). Since there, I still post on it sporadically but not daily like before.

Read about Jonny's love for the capital city, Warszawa.

This a present from Stalin’s reign

Finally, please enjoy the website and get in touch with me or meet me if you want. I don’t bite. I love people, but I especially like Polish, Northern Irish and English people. I feel most at home around that hat-trick of people.

However on my journey, I was saddened to learn that:

“The nice people lose in life and become the saddest. the nasty people win and become the happiest – this is probably the biggest thing I have learnt on my journey. The honest people end up the saddest. The liars end up happier.”

That was the biggest thing I learnt on my journey – ☹️

My thanks to Basia Gowierza, Rafał Kowalczyk and Magdalena Chrząstowska who inspired the birth of this site and made my smiles real again.

Stay happy, all of you. #nimip #ulsterczyk #northernirishmaninpoland #polnocnyirlandczykwpolsce

Kocham polskę.

Jonny Blair (December 2016)

Here are a few other ways to connect with me:
– Like Northern Irishman in Poland on Facebook
– Subscribe to Northern Irishman in Poland videos on YouTube
StumbleUpon Northern Irishman in Poland
– Follow Northern Irishman in Poland on Instagram
– Follow Northern Irishman in Poland on Twitter
– Follow Northern Irishman in Poland on GooglePlus

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