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Adventures with a 111 Places Champion

Every time I hear of someone doing the 111 Places Challenge and visiting every single place in one of our guidebooks, I get so excited to follow their adventures! And when they continue on to do more challenges with our guidebooks, I need to know their story.

I recently had a chat with CJ Journeys, one of our 111 Places Challenge Champions who visited and posted a picture from every chapter in 111 Places in York That You Shouldn't Miss. He figured out how to find the exact spot where our photographers have stood and recreate their images but with the book in hand (see below). So I wanted to learn more about his experiences as he journeyed back and forth across his home town and several others. ~ Karen Seiger, Editor-in-Chief for North America

KS: How did you first learn about the 111 Places guidebook series? CJ: I first learned about them when I met up with a friend in Dusseldorf. My friend used 111 Places in Dusseldorf (in German) to take me to many of the places in the book over the weekend. I posted a photo on Instagram of me standing in the exact spot where the book’s author and photographer had stood to take a photo, and I was surprised to hear from Caro, your colleague at Emons Verlag [our publisher]. She saw my images on Instagram and offered to send me a copy of 111 Places in Liverpool That You Shouldn’t Miss!

And now I’m a fan boy! I absolutely adore the 111 books. Other guides are for tourists. But if you have friends visiting for the first time, 111 Places guides have exactly the places you’d take them to prove how wonderful your city is without being a tourist - statues, parks, squares, great food places.

@CJJourneys on Instagram

KS: What surprised you most in your own city of York?

CJ: There were the so many things that surprised me - you don’t know! Like the grave of Dick Turpin, the highwayman robber. It’s not in a museum or even signposted – you just walk down the street, go into a park that nobody goes in, and there’s this famous grave right there. There were so many of these places that we somehow walk right past every day. I didn’t even know they existed - you can’t unknow it once you’ve seen it for yourself. There’s so much history here - Romans, Vikings… You have to get these books!

KS: I understand you’ve used several 111 Places guidebooks to plan some recent travels?

CJ: Yes! I spent 3 days in Glasgow! I sat on the train mapping my visit based on where the places are located in 111 Places in Glasgow That You Shouldn’t Miss.

I grew up almost scared to go there, what with the drug culture from Train Spotting, the homelessness, plus the two football teams – you just didn’t go into the city center if they were playing. Recently, we were going to go overseas, and of course that didn’t happen. But I had received 111 Places in Glasgow for finishing the 111 Places Challenge in York. I drew a route, and I planned three days of walking.

One of the places in the book was a pub. I went there and was trying to line up the book with the bottles on the shelf for my photo an American guy at the bar asked what I was doing. We ended up talking for a long time. Our visit was phenomenal. Glasgow was the city that really blew me away.

CJ Journeys himself at the Bon Accord in Glasgow

KS: How has your travel changed with 111 Places guides?

CJ: I’ve turned 111 Places into a bit of a hobby. Rather than go do all the things in tourist leaflets, I can just go to every place in your books. I can walk up, find the exact spot where your photographer stood, and get the shot. I can’t get the experiences I have with your books anywhere else.

KS: You’ve traveled almost everywhere in Europe. You’ve been to Mt. Everest Base Camp. You’ve climbed the highest mountain in Norway. What are you doing while we can’t travel?

CJ: I’m exploring my own country! My current plan is to go to the highest point in every county in the UK. There are over 70 of them. And next year, I’ll hopefully climb Mont Blanc in France.

KS: Your photography is so creative – are you a creative person generally?

CJ: Actually, I’m a data analyst. I did maths at college. But I am an adventurer, photographer, writer – on the weekends! Levison Wood walked the length of the Nile and the length of the Himalayas. I walked the length of the Ure, Ouse, and Humber river system– it took a week and a half.

On Fridays, I turn off the computer, pack my bags, and go. I don’t understand how people stay in bed on a Saturday morning. I like both city breaks and hard hikes.

@CJJourneys at Crosby Beach, 111 Places in Liverpool

KS: Is there one place out of them all that surprised you the most?

CJ: Actually, yes – Crosby Beach in Liverpool. Antony Gormley cast a steel statue of himself and made 100 of them. He placed them all over the beach. Some of them are right on the shoreline. Others are in the sea and get completely submerged when the tide comes in. Some are covered in barnacles and worn away. Others are smooth because people rub them. For five hours, I sat on the beach till the sun went down. It was a moment of absolute, sheer happiness, 100% on my own - nobody else was there. I took the photo of the reflection of the statue in the water with the sun in the exact same position as in the book.

And I thought, “Another photographer stood here, and then nobody else before I came along and stood in the exact same spot.” I was just happy. It was one of those moments where you have to remember just how great life is. And I wouldn’t have gone there without your book.

KS: That sounds amazing and inspiring, and we’re so glad to be a part of your adventures!

CJ: Well, I do want to inspire people. I’m working Instagram and my website, I wait for people online to ask me where a particular spot is. It’s a chain – the book made me go, my photo made someone else go, and they told someone else to go.

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