My name is Jon, the better looking half Hitch-Hikers Handbook
Only kidding :) I am, however, most definitely an English teacher living in Barcelona, Spain who when not working dabbles in travel-writing, hitch-hiking and seeing as much of the world as possible.
I like to think I am quite a laid back person. I enjoy talking and listening to good stories, being silly and laughing a life’s little foibles. I speak English, Spanish and a bit of Polish, all three with an undeniably South-East England accent and laughable inability to roll my ‘r’s but I try my best.
I read a lot, especially when travelling, to the point of obsession, snatching a 2 minute read wherever and whenever the opportunity presents itself. I’m a board game master, beginner chef and professional time-waster-in-chief.
I like well placed cynicism, playing football and throwing shapes when the beats are good and the mood takes me.
I hate listening to people’s prejudice, rose-tinted memories of the past and spoilt children.
Do you want to know more about me? Go ahead:
I was born in the suburbs of London in 1985. I would say I had a happy childhood, as most of my memories from this time seem to be of running around a park, climbing trees and playing football. I was not a very studious boy throughout my school years but I did enough to pass my exams and went to university to study History. I am still not sure if it was out of interest of the subject or a means by which to postpone making any actually decisions about my future, but I enjoyed my time in Bristol and met some really nice people. After graduating from university and working a year in menial low rank office jobs, I had planned on a 2 month trip around Europe and to move back in with my parents and start looking for a job in London.
I guess the reasons why I started travelling aren’t so unique. Escapism and interest. When I am travelling I am not working, no two days are the same and you have no idea what you will be doing in two days’ time. Before embarking on my first trip I had started to become disillusioned with the way my life was going, and what the future, as I saw it then, would be. Travelling reawakened my interest in things and gave me a purpose. If I have a trip planned, there is a reason to save money and to educate myself, however patchily, about where I am going.
So after visiting a university friend in Greece we headed north away from the Mediterranean. After arriving in Skopje, Macedonia late at night and checking into our hostel, the friend I was travelling with and I joined the other backpackers who were staying in the hostel for a beer. This night changed my life forever. Whilst there I met a petite Polish girl who was arguing with a bearded Belgian guy about something deep and meaningful. That girl is now sitting behind me on the bed under the covers with her laptop on her lap.
After travelling onto Ohrid, I managed to persuade her to come with us to Bulgaria and to abandon her original plans of going to Albania. The rest as they say is history. Via some passionate moments in front of the blue mosque in Istanbul and some embarrassing moments on a Russian cargo across the Black sea and back to Poland our love grew and I knew that I would not be returning to England. I continued travelling alone for a few more weeks more, visiting Austria, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, but then I returned to Poland and we began to make plans as to how I was going to live there.
So, I found a job as an English teacher. A vocation that has in many ways consumed the last 5 years of my life. Despite having no training or knowledge it was surprisingly easy to find work solely based on my nationality. Although I like to think that I have become a better teacher over time, the effect of the passport lottery shouldn’t be underestimated. I was just lucky to be born British I guess.
We lived together in Poland for three years while Ania finished her studies. Adapting to life in another country is difficult and for me it was no different. There were times that I got disheartened (about learning the language) and other times were I felt bewilderingly isolated but even then I knew that the experience was doing me good. I became more independent, accepting and stoical. I made friends and had some very fun times drinking vodka and playing table football.
During this time we lived and worked in Norway for 3 months in order to save money for another trip. On our south-east Asian adventure we visited Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. It was on this trip that we were inspired to start hitch-hiking.
On my first adventure I did the “hostel jumping” travel format. Organising everything within the hostel structure. Always planning ahead and having accommodation organised as such. A path well worn by most gap year travellers. It was only after meeting Ang and Narah in Panang that my views of travelling were challenged. I had never hitch-hiked before. Now I can’t imagine a proper trip without it. In places like Thailand, where the tourism industry is so overdeveloped, it was only when we were hitch-hiking that we spent time with locals. These were definitely the most rewarding times. The people who bought us lunch, offered us their floors to sleep on and introduced us to their families. It was these people who made the trip for me.
So, for the last two years we have been living in the beautiful city of Barcelona, enjoying our pre and post responsibility years and trying to learn Spanish. In 2011 we visited the Caucasus region & Turkey for another three month sojourn. For me, this trip was the best yet. When compared with the tourism in south-east Asia and Europe, tourism in the Caucasus and the eastern half of Turkey was refreshingly underdeveloped. In Azerbaijan we met one Western person (a Pole). The locals were equally, if not more, interested in us as we were in them! I have never known hitch-hiking to be so easy or people to be so nice. To recount all the individual acts of kindness would require a lifetime.
My nomadic life has many benefits, I have friends from around the world who always surprise, humour and interest me with their range of diverse personalities and foibles. I have lived in some beautiful (and yes I include Katowice in that) places and have had some fantastic experiences. The only downside is that having this diaspora of friends makes it incredibly hard to spend as much time with everybody as I would like to. I also haven’t spent enough time with my family in the past five years and for this I am truly sorry. I love you all though
Our dream is to one day open a hostel in, as yet unknown, but beautiful destination. Until we find that place we intend to see as much of the world as possible and to live,learn and experience as much about life and language as we can.