Jonny's passion for people, places, travel, beer and football has seen him leave his home town in Northern Ireland in 2003. He has been on the road ever since, travelling, working and living in over 100 countries in all seven continents. He writes about his adventures every day and has been featured in Wanderlust travel magazine and on BBC Northern Ireland.
What advice would you give to travel bloggers who are trying to get 'on the map' online?
Become a real traveller before you try and become a real travel blogger. Lots of people start blogs before they even travel, or they travel just so they can make money from a blog. It doesn't work like that and you'll lose respect from your peers. Get out and see the world for a few years, then start writing about it, passionately and with real photos and videos of yourself in them. If you have travelled to enough cool spots and written sincerely and passionately about them, all you need is a bit of online marketing and you will start to get noticed. But don't start worshipping everyone else in the travel blogging business and try to forge fake friendships to get your foot up the ladder. There are a lot of travel bloggers who think they are too good and too big for you and they will try and look down on you. Don't listen to them, take no notice of them and concentrate on staying friends with bloggers who are slightly less stuck-up and willing to meet up. I find the best way is to meet other travel bloggers on the road. That way you also prove to each other you are travelling. I've roomed with a few of them too.
How can travel bloggers ensure their content’s different from everything else out there?
The only thing unique about your travel blog is YOU. Anyone can travel anywhere and write about it - but your personality is ultimately why people follow it. Go to places for yourself and write about YOUR experiences there. Put photos of yourself in the articles. There is nothing worse than seeing an article on a travel blog that doesn't include photos of the author - it makes them look fake, as if they are not really travelling and just using other people's photos.
Also, go to places where there are zero other tourists and write about them. Boring, over-hyped cities like Bangkok, New York and Paris have been covered time and time again, and the stories never change. It never gets any more exciting with those popular tourist spots so avoid writing about them, it's a waste of time. Instead, head to places with less tourists - places like Transnistria, Nagorno Karabakh, Uzupis, Adammia, Austenasia, Iraqi Kurdistan, Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, Afghanistan etc. Besides, you will also get more exciting adventures in these cities and you will meet travellers who have been around for a while, not just your "gap year middle class" variety or your "city break weekend" who is suffering from office burn out.
Would you say that social media’s a vital tool for bloggers?
In the modern era, it has become essential and sadly it is hard to become amazingly popular without it. People in hostels and on buses etc. that are going to follow your story will first ask if you are on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. So sign up for them all and then try and concentrate on the ones that bring you the most success and popularity.
Which articles/stories did far better than you expected?
Strangely the stories I didn't like are the ones that get the most views and the most critics and people slagging them off. It's normally things related to earning money, having sex or top sights of a popular city that attract the most views. I've tried to cut down on writing those types of posts though, as they attract way too many negative comments! The truth is though, when you press "Publish", you never really know which posts will be read and which won't. It also helps/hinders when a company with a big reach on Facebook shares your article.
Have you ever been surprised by a lack of interest in a piece which you thought would do really well?
Yes, all the time. My favourite articles are oddly the ones that nobody reads! I backpacked through Iraq in 2013-2014 and wrote about 20 articles on it, including an in depth review of Saddam Hussein's notorious Amna Suraka. I still try to promote those articles and destinations, but literally nobody wants to read them. They would far rather I had written a drab "top 6 beaches in Thailand" article. However, I won't change and become fake to appease the majority of travellers out there. This is my journey and I write about my real life adventure and mostly to places that nobody else is interested in, at the moment. Once people get bored of Chiang Mai, Singapore and Berlin, they'll need some new places to visit so perhaps my stories on Shaoguan, Amadiya, Uzupis, Pripyat and Vank will eventually get good page views and interest. It's a marathon not a sprint. I've been travel blogging for 9 years now, and gradually each year the reach gets higher.
How often should a blogger be posting new content online, and should most of it be written content? Can video content be just as popular?
Every day. I go crazy if I don't write 30 articles a month. I have a backlog of 2,000 articles to write from my travels, so even if I stopped travelling today, I'd have enough content for a post a day for about 6 years. Travel somewhere new everyday (even if you're in your hometown) and write at least something everyday.
It's second nature for me now, if I write three articles in one day, I know I can have two days off. If I want two weeks off from blogging, I'll write 14 articles in advance. But normally when I do that, the days off, I'm still writing. I'm constantly writing. No writer should ever be more than a metre from a pen and paper. I take mine into the toilet with me. Inspiration comes when we least expect it.
Any other tips?
Be real, be genuine, be yourself. Get out and explore those corners of the world that aren't covered in detail and you will go far! Work hard, see the world and be a people person.
"You don't sit in a rocking chair once you've built a revolution" - Nick Jones
"Don't Stop Living" - High School Graffiti