Shona Grant is paraphernalia.co’s creator & writer.
Hi, I’m Shona.
In a previous life I travelled the globe attending Fashion Weeks in New York, London, Paris & Milan. Seasonal range purchasing from International Designers determined my calendar. Product sourcing in Europe, USA & Asia and product development in India and China sparked an interest in manufacturing, opening doors for my own factories in China.
8 years later I found myself in Thailand for a couple of years. Now I’m based in Dubai where my Commercial Pilot husband accepted a role. Travelling the globe collecting fodder for paraphernalia.co blog posts and articles for travel magazines is now my life. I’m a foodie, and while fine dining is a passion, I also love street side stalls and food trucks.
I often work within a budget to share with travellers what may be experienced on the cheap, while at the high end, detailing the added value to validate additional costs. I’m enthusiastic about life and its many opportunities and love sharing “the things we love….”
paraphernalia.co - the things we love….
paraphernalia.co was created for travellers, and couch travellers, interested in international dining, drinking, exploring, shopping & accommodation. I research so my readers don’t have to. I’m curious and love discovering surprises to share. From restaurants to home cooking schools, wineries to distilleries, walking tours to boat cruises, I aim for paraphernalians to use my guides in their entirety or as a reference to get started in the location.
TPM: What kind of traveler are you?
PNC: I’m a spontaneous traveller. I generally have a few plans in place for the year but often I’ll check the husband’s roster and decide at the time where we’re off to in a few days. We try to travel in the destination’s off-season as much as possible.
TPM: Why did you decide to start a travel blog?
PNC: With the amount of travel I’d been fortunate to have in the fashion industry and my expat adventures, friends and family would often request recommendations and itinerary ideas so I wanted to record where I’d been and what I’d been up to as a guide for others. One of my favourite things about writing a travel blog is reliving the experience and having a reference for future trips.
TPM: I know you travelled a lot while working in the fashion industry. But, now you’re living the “Expat” life. What countries have you lived in as an expat? Why did you choose these places?
PNC: I’d been travelling to China since 1995 for work and in 2006 I had the opportunity to live there through my clothing manufacturing company. I spent 2 years in Beijing and 4 years in Shenzhen. My husband was flying from both of these cities at the time and it was easy for me to travel to my factories from both locations.
My semi-retirement coincided with a glitch in the aviation side of our lives so I had a brief 6-month stint back in Sydney and the husband ended up with a Thai based company with a contract in Saudi Arabia. I visited him in Bangkok for a couple of weeks and ended up staying for a couple of years. He now flies from Dubai so I went too so we could live under the same roof .
TPM: Where in the world is your favorite place to visit? Why?
PNC: I often think about this, but fail to come up with an answer. Having a soft spot for every country I’ve visited, no matter the economic or political stability, it’s too hard for me to choose.
TPM: What do you think is the biggest sacrifice you have done for the sake of traveling?
PNC: Without a doubt, being away from family and friends is the biggest sacrifice. We have a gorgeous niece and 2 wonderful nephews who we love to spoil, but we have missed a lot of their lives. I have been fortunate enough to be able to be in Australia with family as we speak for my mum’s 80th birthday so that’s a fantastic bonus. I still can’t believe she’s 80!
TPM: How many countries/states have you visited?
PNC: At last count I’d visited 33 countries so I still have many to explore.
TPM: Have you had any scary moments while on your travels?
PNC: I had a pretty scary moment in Phnom Penh one night where a group of 5 lads mugged me in the street. In hindsight I should have simply handed over my bag to avoid the bruises but that wasn’t my reaction at the time. Petty theft is understandable in Cambodia so I don’t blame them. What was heartwarming was the generosity and care given to me from complete strangers after the fact.
TPM: Where is your next travel destination going to be? Why?
PNC: I’ll be arriving back in Dubai at the end of November when it will be perfect weather to road trip so we’ll drive to a couple of the other emirates and Oman. I haven’t planned any further than that yet, but I’m sure something will pop up.
TPM: How has travel changed you?
PNC: Confidence was the first thing to spring to mind. I’m as happy travelling alone as with my husband or with friends. I find it relatively easy to strike up a conversation if I need company.
Having first hand experiences with different cultures has increased my tolerance and acceptance of others. I’ve always been curious but I’m now a little obsessed with experiencing other cultures, cuisines and lifestyles.
TPM: What advice would you give to someone who’s thinking about becoming an “Expat” traveler?
PNC: Firstly, if the opportunity presents itself, do it! The friends you make and the experiences you have are priceless. Keep an open mind and focus on the positives. Be curious. Learn about the history and culture of your new destination to avoid misunderstandings and to prepare for living differently to what you may be used to. Embrace it and try not to compare where you are to where you come from. Accept the differences and enjoy them. Keep a journal, it makes for hilarious reading in the future.