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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
With beautiful warm weather and spring in full swing, it was torture to spend the majority of April cooped up in my office. Every chance I got I was out exploring my neighborhood (my new favorite hobby). I also joined a gym, and I’ve been forcing myself to wake up early and go almost every morning. Sitting on my butt all day in an office has not been good for my waistline!
I also finally made it to the Lama Temple, a famous religious landmark in my area. I judged a high school debate tournament, and celebrated my 25th birthday!
Finally, I started making major changes to my blog. I participated in the Travel Blog Monetization Summit hosted by Tommo and Megsy of the Travel Freedom Network. I would say I actually learned more from this virtual summit than I did at TBEX Asia, which is saying a lot! If you’re a travel blogger I definitely suggest you sign up for their next summit in the fall.
Where I went
This month I spent my time exploring Beijing. I visited the Lama Temple, wandered the hutongs, tried my hand at improv, went to a comedy show, and spent my birthday dancing in Sanlitun.
1. I turned 25!
I turned 25 this April 23rd which officially makes me a “left behind woman” in China since I’m not married and I don’t even have a boyfriend. Regardless, I’m actually happy and excited to start becoming a real adult… since I still don’t feel like one.
For my birthday I judged a high school debate tournament instead of going to work, which is actually way more fun than it sounds. Then I went to my favorite restaurant in China: Hai Di Lao hot pot. Hot pot is a Chongqing specialty, where you boil meats and veggies in a numb-spicy Sichuan broth. You can also create a dipping sauce to cool down the spice and heat. I like to use sesame sauce, garlic and chives.
After dinner I went to a bar called “The Local” where I stayed till 2am. Then I thought it would be a good idea to go dancing at a rooftop bar in Sanlitun called Kokomo until… until it was light out.
I spent all of Sunday hungover. It was worth it.
2. I got featured on Matador!
I have to thank my friend Hannah from Eat Sleep Breathe Travel for this one. I was recently featured on the Matador Network on a list of 16 Female Instagrammers Who Keep it Real. Basically, girls that aren’t afraid to look how they look on Instagram. Not all of us can be Insta-models.
I will admit that I’ve actually been refraining from putting a lot of photos of myself on Instagram. Mainly because photos of my face aren’t as vivid and artsy as my other shots. I feel a little self-conscious since the most famous female Instagrammers are all basically models.
While I do want to start featuring more photos of me (which means I need to take more photos of myself), it’s nice to get confirmation from the world that I don’t need a fancy outfit, a full face of makeup and an all-day photo shoot to get recognized as a female travel blogger on Instagram.
3. Enjoying the Beijing Sun and the Hutongs
If you follow me on Snapchat, you’ll know I spend every weekend exploring my hutong neighborhood. I’ve been taking lots of nice DSLR pics for an upcoming post on my new apartment and neighborhood, so get pumped for that.
I’m absolutely in love with my neighborhood and the wonderful weather has been amazing! I’ve been wandering around snapping and photographing cute cafes, bars and local alleyways. I spent a few hours reading Game of Thrones at the Lama Temple. I’ve been testing out local restaurants, visiting rooftop bars, and tasting craft beers. I went to an improv festival and a comedy show… I love Beijing!
1. Birthday “Pity Party”
For anyone who’s heard that new song “Pity Party”, that was basically my birthday this year. I organized a whole night of fun and… not many people came. I think the problem is that I have a lot of “acquaintance friends” and not a lot of real friends, but it still made me feel like crap.
My birthday weekend was just freakishly busy for some unknown reason. Three separate people had parents in town. One of my roommates was co-hosting a giant goodbye party. There was a debate tournament that weekend. People were out of town… Seriously, it was a bad weekend to be born.
I thought all my work friends would at least go out to dinner with me after the tournament, but only two could make it, plus a Chinese friend. Then only one of my friends from dinner could actually make it to the bar with me afterwards.
When I showed up at the bar, none of my friends who I had invited were there and I felt super awkward. We ran into a bunch of my guy friend’s football buddies which was also a bit awkward until they found out it was my birthday and decided to turn my party into “a thing”.
Thank god his friends were so cool because they really turned the whole situation around. Then slowly but surely a few more people showed up. It was definitely an intimate party, but it ended up being really fun after all.
…Maybe next year I’ll have more friends.
2. Trying to Get Fit
I joined a gym. I’ve been cooking more. I’ve been doing yoga… I still feel like I haven’t made a dent in my fitness. It’s not that I care about a number on a scale… I don’t even own a scale! I can just tell that the months and months I’ve spent sitting at a desk all day have been horrible for my body and overall fitness.
I just feel sluggish, like my clothes are tight and my bra digs into the top of my stomach when I sit down. My pants are tight, my face looks rounder and I have a baby muffin top. For someone who’s used to being very in shape it’s a bit frustrating.
I know it’s a slow process but I can’t help but want the changes to be immediate. While I think the gym is helping, I also need to change my eating habits, which is really hard to do in a foreign country! I think I just need to cook more, but I get home from work so late that by the time I finish cooking I’m not eating until 9pm.
Has anyone else had this problem? Any fitness advice or ways to get healthy in a country with cheap MSG-laden food would be greatly appreciated!
3. CONSTANT CONSTRUCTION
Oh man, this month was ridiculous with the construction noise. I had construction projects going on all around my building! Both hutong alleys on either side of my complex and my apartment roof were being demolished at all hours of the day and night.
The hutong right outside my window had builders around the clock ripping out the elderly exercise equipment, replacing the bricks on the building facades… and god knows what else. They would wait till the middle of the night to throw these bricks into a truck with no regard for the noise they were making. When I say night, I mean the dead of night, for example 4am.
Then we have the hutong on the other side of my complex that I use to walk to work. They used jackhammers to completely rip up the entire road. We were road-less for about two weeks when they finally repaved the road and put in new sidewalk bricks. Let’s just say it was dust-city over there, and the construction tucks and noise made my walk to work a little less than pleasant.
Then we have the roof. I don’t even KNOW what they were doing to the roof. It sounded like they were using power drills and jack hammers to drill off the tiles on our roof? But since I live on the top floor it was so ridiculously loud I couldn’t even hear myself think. Thankfully this would stop once it got dark but sometimes they would start as early as 7am.
For those of you who follow me on Snapchat you know what I’m talking about….
My Most Popular Post
It was a close call, but I would say my most popular post this month was “How to Demand What You Deserve“, where I talk about the imposter syndrome and how difficult it can be to negotiate for yourself as a woman.
My second most popular was the Diva Cup for Travel, which I know a lot of people have been waiting for. I promise the THINX period panties post is coming soon!!
I’ve noticed that a lot of my most popular posts aren’t necessarily travel based, but more introspective, passionate, personal pieces. A lot of these happen to be gender equality based, so I decided to create a “Girl Talk” tab on my menu where you can find all the stuff that tends to fall in that category.
While my niche might be Asia, more specifically China, I’ve kind of created a sub-niche for myself with feminism. I really like writing from the heart, and when inspiration strikes (usually after midnight), I can’t contain it!
My most popular photos of the month were from my March trip to Vietnam! Firstly we have a photo taken at a market in Hue. I visited with my cooking class and couldn’t get over all the vibrant colors!
My next most popular Instagram shot is of one of the Tomb of Minh Mang just outside Hue, Vietnam. I was surprised by how “Chinese” all of these tombs looked. I could be back home in Beijing!
Wandering the ancient tombs of Hue, I couldn’t get over how much they look like Chinese temples!
A photo posted by Richelle (@adventuresaroundasia) on
Song of the Month
Well I can’t not share Pity Party since It’s so applicable to my life
But I’m also loving Everything from City of the Sun. It’s my go-to song when I want to get work done!
What I’m Reading
I finished the third Game of Thrones book (finally) as well as Lean in by Sheryl Sandburg! Now I’m working on the 4th Game of Thrones book while I slowly but surely catch up to the TV show.
As for blog posts, I had a bunch of favorites this month:
Does the Length of Your Blog Posts Matter?- Elle and Company Design
For all of the travel bloggers or content writers out there: sometimes longer is better! It was really nice to get affirmation that while those click-worthy Buzzfeed listicles do well on Social Media, people don’t feel connected to them and they don’t rank very well in Google either.
Why Travel Boycotts Are a Bad Idea– Nomadic Matt
While you might think you’re making a statement, all you’re really doing is hurting average citizens who need your help. I couldn’t agree more!
How to Save up Money for Travel: You Don’t Need to Stop Drinking $5 Lattes– Travel Freak
Jeremy has been traveling the world for 6 years and gives you his expert money saving tips. It’s all about prioritization, not deprivation. As a fellow coffee lover, I couldn’t agree more!
What I’m Watching
THIS. I might get to joke about being a “leftover woman” because it’s not my culture, but for many women in China the pressure is very real.
What’s Next for May 2016
I have a visa run coming up which means I
have to get to leave the country. I’ll be announcing it first on Snapchat so be sure to follow along if you want to be in the know!
I’ll give you three clues:
ONE: My company was willing to fly me to Hong Kong because it’s the cheapest “international destination” you can visit from Beijing. However this place was only a tiny bit more expensive so my company didn’t even bother making me pay the difference.
TWO: It’s a CITY with amazing spicy food and I can’t wait to literally eat everything.
THREE: I haven’t been to this country in almost four an a half years so I’m really excited to go back!
Can any of you guess where I’ll be heading?!
19 comments on “This Beijing Life: Month 8”
I love Hai Di Lao! Miss that place so much. And happy late birthday!
Thanks so much Phyllis! Me too :D Hot pot is my fave
Hey Richelle! I’ve been following your blog since you arrived in Beijing (I’m working in Beijing too!) and your post surprised me – I always imagined travel bloggers meet heaps of blogger friends in their city! Anyway I’m not a blogger (I wish I could be though!) but if you ever decide to meet your readers let me know ☺️ Glad to see you had a good birthday at the end of the day!
Hey Michelle- I’m always down to meet people! I think making friends in a new city is always hard, especially if you actually have a 9-5 job (or a 10-7 job like me). For the first few months I was in China I was working 6 days a week and tons of overtime so I was too tired to go out and make friends outside of work. If you ever want to meet up let me know! I don’t know if I have enough followers here to host a real meetup haha
Hey Richelle! 3 small things: 1)I went to Hai Di Lao for my birthday this year, too! And it was (a little disappointingly) a small group. 2) I love The Local! 3) I’ve spent a few late (late) nights at Kokomo haha (haven’t most expats in Beijing?)
2 bigger things: 1) Happy belated birthday! 2) I love how you keep it so real. I don’t know if I’d be brave enough to share that my birthday was disappointing (I know I wouldn’t; mine was this year and I don’t think I blogged about it) or that I’m not happy with myself physically (which I’m not. Trying to make better choices though.). I’m so glad I discovered your blog. Off to follow you on Snapchat now!
P.S. Totally think you should host a meetup! I’d come!
Hey Amanda! We should totally hang out (and invite Michelle). I’d love to meet up with you guys. Maybe we can do a re-do of my birthday with hot pot, the local and Kokomo? hahaha! That sounds like an awesome night plus there will be zero expectations. For some reason birthdays, Halloween and New Years always come with way too many expectations!
I’m in minus Kokomo lol I’m an old lady at heart. I don’t think I’ve been to Kokomo for two years… at least.
Hahaha! Well I’ve only been once so…
Ugh, I check your Snapchat almost everyday lol but I can’t for the life of me remember if you’ve mentioned what city you’re going to! Is it a city in Thailand? Or Korea? Happy belated birthday! I’m sorry it was a pity party :( Making friends in other countries is so hard, but at least it was a night to remember?
Hahaha I just mentioned it today! I’m having people guess for a postcard present :D Yeah, I’m thinking of writing a blog post going into the details of how it’s hard to make friends when you move to a new country, especially if you have a real job.
Richelle! I feel like most of my birthdays since I’ve moved abroad have been pity parties. It’s so hard to make real connections with people when you haven’t lived somewhere for very long (or in some places, your entire life). Congrats on being featured in Matador, that’s awesome! I love your Instagram, so a very well deserved accolade!
Laura | eternal-expat.com
Wow thanks so much Laura! I definitely agree, unless you’re a student (aka when I studied abroad and did grad school abroad) birthdays can be hard if you move a lot. I think that’s one of the most difficult things about being an expat. It can be exhausting to try to make new friends and communities all the time when you’re living abroad and not traveling- especially in a place with a big expat community.
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This monthly recap post is a great idea! We’re about to go for a year of travel and I’ve been trying to figure out a format to keep our family and friends updated will still producing more “bloggy” content ;-)
You should definitely do a monthly recap! I’m constantly writing posts about things I did months (sometimes years!) ago, so monthly recaps are a great way to keep people up-to-date in real time