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Since I’ll be moving to Beijing for the next two years, I figured it would be fun to do monthly recap posts talking about the highlights and challenges of my time in China’s bustling capital (or wherever I may be that month.) I’ve noticed that the more I travel and the busier I become, the more impossible it becomes to keep up with my travels in real-time. Well, never fear monthly recap posts are here!
What I was up to this month
Is March already over? The flowers are blooming, the sun is out and it is no longer winter in Beijing!!
The month of March went by way too fast. Probably because I left for a week and flew to Vietnam right in the middle of the month. In addition to my Vietnam trip, I spent my weekends exploring my new neighborhood, meeting new people, and creating new partnerships for my blog!
Where I went
On my whirlwind trip to Vietnam I ate my way through Hanoi, explored the ancient capital of Hue, had clothes tailor-made in Hoi An, and went kayaking and rock climbing in Cat Ba!
The rest of my month was spent back in Beijing, where I explored my new neighborhood Andingmen, as well as the surrounding neighborhoods of Gulou, Nanluoguxiang and Lama Temple.
1. Seeing my college friends
While I usually travel solo, this time I went to Vietnam with two of my best friends: my little and grandlittle from my college sorority. My grandlittle was volunteering in Northern Vietnam with Habitat for Humanity, and the two of us flew down to meet her in Hanoi after her volunteer program ended.
While traveling with your friends can sometimes be rough, I actually had an amazing time with zero drama. I was a bit worried about how rushed the trip needed to be (only 10 days!) but it ended up working out very well. Overall, Vietnam is one of the coolest places to have a reunion, and I’m so glad I got to see my friends after all this time.
2. Rock Climbing and Kayaking in Lan Ha Bay
When my friends suggested we visit Ha Long Bay, I was a bit hesitant. While the touristy boat trip I took two years ago was nice, I wasn’t about to waste one of our precious days repeating that trip again. Over the summer one of my friends decided to forgo the usual Ha Long Bay boat trip in favor of an adventurous kayaking and rock climbing trip on a nearby island. When I asked him about the details I was sold.
Cat Ba is an island near Ha Long bay, that boasts incredible outdoorsy trips and a beautiful national park. While Cat Ba is technically in Lan Ha bay rather than Ha Long Bay, these two bays are basically the same thing but have different names because the area is divided into two districts. Basically, Ha Long and Lan Ha are “same, same” but with different names.
Spending a day kayaking and rock climbing in Lan Ha Bay with Asia Outdoors was one of the best decisions we made on our trip. Even though the weather was misty and a bit chilly, I still had an incredible time. I struggled a bit with the rock climbing portion, but I still made it to the top of all three walls… eventually. The struggle was worth it though. Reaching the top was such an incredibly empowering experience!
Thankfully I was less awful at kayaking, and my friends and I were able to explore small fishing villages, lagoons filled with jellyfish and tiny islands with no other tourists in sight.
Want my advice? Skip the touristy Ha Long Bay tour and head to Cat Ba instead!
3. Tailor Made Dresses in Hoi An
I know I must sound like such a typical girl right now, but getting clothes made in Hoi An was actually way too much fun. There’s just something about having clothing tailor-made that makes you feel really special.
In Hoi An I made a visit to Vanda Tailors which was recommended to me by Raphael of Journey Wonders. Vanda is most well-known for making impeccable mens suits, but they also do an incredible job with women’s formal and work wear too.
At Vanda Tailors I had a stunning royal blue dress made that I designed myself! It is so incredibly flattering; wearing it instantly brings a smile to my face. I picked my absolute favorite color to wear, and the ladies of Vanda made it look fantastic on me. I also knew I wanted to get a summer pencil skirt to wear for work, but I had a very hard time deciding on the color. With the help of the Vanda ladies and my friends, we finally decided on a practical navy color in a thin fabric that’s perfect for the warm weather.
I can’t even begin to describe how much effort went into tailoring that pencil skirt. Vanda Tailors will not let you leave until your clothes look perfect on you (even if you have a flight to catch in a few hours!) They fussed over my pencil skirt for a solid 20 minutes, trying to find a way to make it tight on my butt, without showing the indent I have between where my hips stop and thighs start. Looking back at the photos before and after my skirt was fitted to perfection is astounding. It really does look so much better with all their tweaking. I don’t know how I can ever go back to store bought pencil skirts ever again!
4. New Business Opportunities
I can’t go into much detail here because nothing is set in stone, but I’ve been contacted by a few people for big partnerships involving my blog and China. It all seemed to happen at once, the second I returned home from Vietnam. I had two big meetings in one weekend, both of which asked when I can leave my current office job. Wait… what?
Right now my job is pretty lax, which has allowed me to do a bit of blogging stuff during work. This has been extremely helpful for my work-life balance and general sanity. I know eventually things are going to get to the point where I can’t juggle both, and then I’ll have to bow out of my current position. I’m just trying to hold on as long as possible so that I can pay off my student loans, have free housing, and be there for my students.
For the next few months I’m going to keep very detailed spreadsheets of my income and expenses, especially in regards to my blogging income. I need to see if the income I make from my blog is actually enough to sustain myself. I hate to admit that up until now I haven’t really kept track of my blogging income as a separate entity.
What can I say? Adulting is hard.
1. Missing a Flight…. Again.
Okay, I almost didn’t write about this because it’s so embarrassing. Last month I missed a flight for the first time in my life. You think I would’ve learned my lesson but apparently not.
On my way to Vietnam I was flying out of Terminal 3 in Beijing. I arrived 2 hours early, checked in and went to grab a quick coffee before security. I figured I had plenty of time, and security in Chinese airports always goes very quickly. At least it does in Terminals one and two….
What I didn’t know is that Terminal 3 is one of the largest terminals in the entire world, and security is atrocious! I was standing in line for what seemed like forever, reading my book without worrying. Chinese planes are always late, and usually you don’t even board until after your plane should have already departed.
Eventually it seemed like I was standing in line for too long, so I checked the time. My flight was about to board in a few minutes, so I begged one of the security guards to let me cut. He ushered me into a special line, which still had a decent amount of people in it. When I finally got through, I had to run through the giant airport to find my gate. When I arrived breathless, I was told the gate was closed!! Seriously, the boarding gate was only open for 10 minutes.They didn’t even call my name or anything!
Unlike the last flight I missed, missing this flight was actually a catastrophe. I had booked a round trip connecting flight from Beijing to Hanoi and back. The next flight from Beijing to my connection in Macau was cutting it way too close to be able to transfer, but if I didn’t make the Macau to Hanoi flight I’d have to pay for two new plane tickets, not just one!
I had the option of flying direct from Beijing to DaNang where I could meet up with my friends the next day down in Hue, but if I took that flight my round trip flights would be forfeited. WTF?!
I had two options: abandon my trip entirely or pay for a new flight to Macau that was the same price as my whole round-trip ticket, and risk paying for a second flight from Macau to Hanoi which would be another few hundred bucks.
I decided to risk it, threw out my hair stuff and carried on my bag. I almost had a panic attack during the flight, but thankfully we landed 20 minutes early and my flight in Macau was delayed an hour. I could’ve even checked my bag!
Basically missing this flight is one of the most expensive and embarrassing mistakes I’ve ever made in my entire life. Feel free to laugh at my shame.
2. Breaking Up….?
I would say I had a breakup a few weeks ago, but I don’t think you can really call it that if you’re not actually officially dating that person in the first place. While I don’t want to get too into detail with my love life on this blog, I think it’s important to come clean about this kind of stuff so you know living abroad isn’t all rainbows and butterflies.
Last year I even wrote a post about how travel bloggers glamorize their love lives. We’re either in a happy relationship with another traveler, or we’re loving the single life, traveling solo as strong independent women!
Well, you know what? It’s not always like that. My love life is the worst, and I’m not going to play it up to make myself sound better.
Basically I was casually seeing someone in Beijing who was supposed to leave this Spring. I never expected things to get too serious because he was leaving and I didn’t think he was the right guy for me long-term anyway. To put it bluntly, he was supposed to be a sexy place-holder man that I could waste time with until I found the right guy for me.
Well this guy decided not to leave, which meant we needed to have some “real-talk”. It turns out he values the single life over being in a real relationship with me, so there you have it.
At first, I was confused why I was so upset. I definitely held him at arm’s length and tried not to get too close to him. Then I realized I had been seeing this guy for six months which is the longest
relationship “whatever it was” I’ve had since I dated that Australian guy in college… you know, the one I broke up with because “I chose China over him“.
Regardless of how I feel, I know it was the right thing. He and I don’t want the same lifestyle long-term, so I’m glad I had to deal with this now rather than a year down the line when I’d have to repeat the saga of choosing the lifestyle I want over a relationship AGAIN. Basically, I need to date a travel blogger/ digital nomad who also has expat tendencies and loves Asia, specifically China and Taiwan. WHY IS THAT SO DIFFICULT?!
No wonder my parents told me they think my younger brother is going to get married before I will. It’s not like I have weirdly specific requirements or anything.
My Most Popular Post
This month I told you guys about that time I was scammed out of $45 and then subsequently arrested. Yep, I finally wrote about That Time I Got Arrested in China and for some reason, everyone seemed to think it was funny.
Yeah… go ahead, laugh at my pain.
I decided to actually post my Instagram photos in somewhat real-time this month. This shot from kayaking in Cat Ba was this month’s most popular!
Song of the Month
There are two favorites this month! The hip hop dancer inside of me is obsessed with Major Lazer’s Light It Up, while the Latin/ modern dancer in me is loving Sia’s Cheap Thrills.
Here’s a performance edit of Cheap Thrills featuring the famous Maddie Ziegler from many of Sia’s music videos
What I’m Reading
While I’m still working on that third Game of Thrones book, I’ve also been reading Lean In by Sheryl Sandburg which is a MUST READ for every woman. I’ve actually got a post lined up about how this book has taught me to demand what I deserve in business and in life.
As for blog posts, here are a few of my favorites:
Am I Selfish Now? – Be My Travel Muse I really identified with this post for so many reasons. Kristin struggles with the same relationship issues I do, and sometimes I wonder if I’m just too idealistic or picky. On the one hand I want to be the strong, feminist, independent, solo-traveling woman who doesn’t want to compromise on her “lifestyle”, while on the other hand it’s pretty freakin’ lonely sometimes!
When I Get A Million Dollars- YTravel Blog “When we focus on that number as being the permission to live a life in accordance to what we love and value, we immediately close the door on that possibility.” This was a great read for me. I feel like I’ve been doing this with my student loans. ‘Oh, when I pay off my student loans then I can quit my job and start my own business’. ‘Oh, well I’ll figure that out in two years when my loans are paid off’. Now I’m beginning to realize it’s sort of a cop-out. While paying off my loans ASAP is still a priority, I can work on my business and set myself up for success early, rather than living a life in limbo while I wait for them to be paid off.
Mongol Rally 2016- Teacake Travels I’m really excited about Alice’s new project. 6 girls, two shitty cars, and 21 countries: Highlighting global women’s issues and making a difference.
What’s Next in April 2016
This month I’ll be staying put, enjoying the beautiful spring weather in Beijing. My birthday is also coming up in two weeks and I’ll be turning 25!
This April I’ll be starting two big projects, and I’ll be writing about some lovely feminist things like the book Lean In and my new obsession with the Diva Cup and THINX. I’ll also be writing all about my new apartment, sharing all the photos I took of my neighborhood last weekend!
Interested in THINX? Use this link for $10 off your first purchase… you’re welcome.
How was your March? Let me know!
Heads up! This post contains a few affiliate links. This means that if you purchase these products through my link I will earn a small commission at no const to you. If you want to support me and help me pay off my student loans this is how!