Travel Blogger Interview – Janaline Smallman

Hi folks. I’m super excited to bring you a brand new round of interviews from amazing travel bloggers/vloggers around the world. And first off the bat in 2021 is Janaline, a South African blogger who has made the big move to Shanghai picking 2020 as the year to do it! She runs a brilliant blog so please do check it out, and please do enjoy my interview with her!

  • Hi Janaline! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview. Would you mind starting by telling us who you are and where you’re from, and of course the name of your blog? What do you do when you’re not blogging (doesn’t have to be work, could be hobbies or interests etc) Where are you based at the moment?

Hi there, my name is Janaline and I am addicted to travelling…… I think a lot of people can identify with loving travelling yup to the point of it actually being an addiction. Well, I have been travelling for nearly 20 years and it has become more of a lifestyle than a hobby for me. I started my bog after already having lived in a couple of different countries and had always secretly thought of my adventures as my journey around the world. So, when I started sharing these adventures, I was letting people see and follow my journey, so it seemed fitting to call my travel blog Janaline’s world journey.

I am currently based in China and plan on living here another year before I will be heading off to a new country and on a new adventure. I have always loved walking around and exploring a city on foot, but Shanghai has caused me to fall in love with cycling! When I am not working or walking through one of the many parks in my neighbourhood I am cycling through the interesting streets of Shanghai. I have even bought myself a bright red vintage bicycle, named ladybug, with which I go on long sightseeing cycles in my part of Shanghai.

  • When did you start your blog and why did you decide to start a travel blog?

I started my blog nearly 10 years ago while living in Russia. Another friend I had made through my travels had just started a blog about her travels and suggested I should do the same. She sold my on the idea when she told me that you get to share your adventures with other like-minded people and in turn get to share in their adventures. This seemed like a great idea to find out about new places to explore and to inform people about some stunning off the beaten path places I had found. It started out as a way to share my adventures with family and friends abroad without having to email them photos (yes, back then we still emailed photos to each other) and I got to connect with other travellers.  I enjoyed it so much that I have kept going, although this past couple of years I have been a bit quiet in the travel blogging world.

  • Previous to 2020, you wrote about adventures from all over the world. What made you decide to move to China?

Prior to China I have lived in a couple of different countries all over the world namely, South-Africa, England, Russia, Chile, Vietnam, South-Korea, the UAE and Japan. I do love moving around and exploring new countries and cultures, never living in one place too long. I think up till now 3 years had been the longest I have stayed in one place. A couple of years ago I decided to take a break from the constant travelling and moved to Cape Town, South-Africa to be close to family for a change. I loved living there, I bought a small flat and even started making and selling ceramics at a couple of galleries. But soon the itch came back, and I was ready to head off on a new adventure.

 I had fallen in love with Asia and after spending 4 years working and living in Cape Town, I decided to head back to Asia. When I decide it is time to move, I usually search for jobs in 2 or 3 different countries and then choose from there. I applied for jobs in Taiwan and China and when it came time to decide which job to accept there happened to be a big earthquake in Taiwan which made me choose China. I originally planned on only spending 2 years here but signed another 2-year contract in February this year. At least it is with a different school and I got to move to a different part of Shanghai.

  • How was the experience of setting yourself up in China? Was it difficult?

I thought China would be quite challenging, but I soon found out that Shanghai is quite different from any other city you find in China. Shanghai is definitely the easiest Chinese city to live in as you don’t need to know any Chinese to get around, the city is filled with foreigners and you can pick and choose which cuisine you would like to try out. And did I mention delivery!?! You can order anything from food to live fish to furniture or plants and have it delivered to your doorstep.  I lived in Pudong, a very modern part of Shanghai for 2 years, and honestly, I could have been living in any big city in any country at that point. My neighbourhood was filled with foreigners, foreign restaurants and even big shopping malls.

China has forced me to become more tec savvy and to always have my phone with me as you use your phone for everything. You use your phone to pay as your bank account is linked to your WeChat account (the Chinese version of WhatsApp) which shops scan to take payment. You need your phone to order taxis, food and even to use the shared bicycles found all over the city. I had never before used my phone this often and now we need our phone to show our green QR codes. This is a code linked to your phone that shows you don’t have covid-19 and have not been in contact with anyone who does. Your QR code is tracked and will change colour if you have travelled to a place now known as a red zone or have come in contact with someone now known to have covid-19.

June 2020, I changed jobs and moved to Qibao Old Town, a very ancient part of Shanghai and LOVE it here. This part of the city feels like “I am living in China”. It is centred around an ancient water town and filled with parks and tree lined lanes to cycle along. Here I find I do sometimes need Chinese to get by but for that I have translation apps on my phone. There are hardly any western restaurants in my area, but I do love trying out all the local dishes and am now a local on Saturday mornings at the neighbourhood fruit and vegetable market.

  • What have been the highlights of living there and what are the favourite things you’ve seen and done?

I have had so many amazing experiences while living here in Shanghai and it is difficult to pick one thing that I have done. But my favourite thing so far has been exploring the beautiful parks of this city. There are so many beautiful parks or even small little green pockets dotted all over the city that you can easily slip away from the crowds and sit in the quiet of nature for a while.

My other favourite thing has to be the huge variety of Chinese dishes. My Chinese friend, Scarlet whom I met at my first job, has made it her mission to take me to local restaurants and having me try all the different Chinese dishes. We have gone to some amazing places that I would never have thought about trying or have been able to try as everything is in Chinese and I don’t understand a word. I leave ordering the food in her capable hands and have not been disappointed.

  • How are people viewing the Corona Virus in China? What are they being told about it?

Honestly, I am probably the worst person to ask about this. Sorry. I have stopped watching the news or even reading the news months. I figured, being away from everyone I know in a foreign country is already stressful enough, and the news was filling me with dread and scaring me, so I made the conscious decision to stay away from it. That said, I am not oblivious to what is going on. My parents are in England and my mom just had a COVID-19 scare as 2 of her colleagues got COVID-19 and they were all sent home, fearing that they might have it. And the rest of my family is in South-Africa where it is also going quite bad.

Here we are all keeping safe. We are wearing our masks and being careful, but things have gone back to “normal”. A new normal where your temperature is constantly taken, and everyone is wearing masks and you can’t really travel freely. The government is definitely doing their best to ensure there is not another outbreak and to keep everyone safe. A lot of us (e.g. medical staff and teachers) are not allowed to travel or leave Shanghai as a precaution and they have started with vaccinations.

  • What do you like to write about and why?

As I look through my blog posts I can see how my “taste” and “writing style” has changed through the years. I used to write a lot about places I had seen and what I did there or experienced there. Lately I have written posts about giving advice about travel or something travel related. But then again, I have not left Shanghai in over a year so this has limited my journeys this year to short adventures in the City. 

  • What have been some of your favourite destinations?

My favourite place by far for a holiday has been Israel. I would go back there anytime and hope to go again in a couple of years. It is a country filled with so much history and such a rich culture, I enjoyed every moment of my adventure there from the people to the food to the impromptu road trip I took with 2 people I had just met at a hostel. Yes, I went on a 4-day road trip through the North of Israel with people I had just met 30min before agreeing to join them. Luckily for me it turned out to be an amazing adventure and some of my best memories about that beautiful country.

  • Who do you see as the audience for your blog?

Fellow travellers, gypsies and lovers of adventures!

  • What advice would give to someone just starting out blogging?

Know why you are starting. If it is for fun, enjoy every moment of it and make it “yours”. But if you hope to get famous or make a lot of money, be warned it will be a lot of hard work, long hours and a lot of time spent in front of your laptop. I started out for fun, made a pit stop in trying to monetize my bog and am back to just doing this for the fun of it, to share my journey and to connect with people.

  • What is the hardest thing about running a travel blog?

Time. It has taken me a long time to build an audience, to get regular readers and to get my blog out there in the blog world. It takes time to read other blog posts and to connect with other fellow bloggers. It takes time to write blog posts and time to go through and edit photos. It takes time to keep my blog going, and unfortunately, lately I don’t always find enough time to spend on my hobby of travel blogging.

  • Please recommend three posts from your blog you’d like people to read (and why!)

My top 3 posts would be:

10 Ways travelling has changed me: Although this is an old blog post it might inspire someone to start travelling, to take that first step and see what lies beyond their own borders.

Pros and Cons of Solo Travelling: A lot of people, especially woman put off travelling because they are scared to go at it alone. I hope this blog post might inspire some of them to just go, not to wait for someone else. Travelling solo is a big adventure and you will learn so much about the world and about yourself.

10 Things my first months of Living in China has Taught me: This would be a great read for anyone planning on visiting China. Get some tips on what t expect and what to prepare for your visit.

  • Finally, how can people find you on the net and social media? Please include blog address, facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and any other channels you use.

You can find my journey at the following places:

Travel Blog              http://janalinesworldjourney.com/

Facebook Page                   http://www.facebook.com/JanalinesWorldJourney 

Twitter          https://twitter.com/JanalineSmalman

Instagram:           https://www.instagram.com/janalinesworldjourney/

  • Finally (again!) what are you hoping or dreaming for in 2021 and beyond?

I am entering 2021 with no set plans. I am going to go with the flow, hoping that I will get to see my family and maybe go on a new adventure outside of Shanghai. But let’s see what happens.

Until then, I wish everyone a healthy and safe 2021!!

3 thoughts on “Travel Blogger Interview – Janaline Smallman

  1. Thanks for doing this interview, Andy! Janaline sounds like such a fascinating person with plenty of experience living abroad in various parts of the world. I’ll have to stop by her blog now to check it out! 🙂

  2. It’s nice to read about Janaline’s travels (we follow her blog) and love all her adventures! And yes, it’s also great that she is a fellow South African … we hope to read many more of her travels!

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