After FIVE Years in China, I’m Finally Moving On

After two years of working as a college counselor in Beijing (and over five years of living in China), I’m finally moving on. That’s right, my job is finished, and soon I’ll be leaving my cozy Beijing apartment for bigger and better things.

I know, I can’t believe it either. I never thought this day would come, and now it’s almost here. I know quitting my job and leaving China is a huge deal, not just for me but for this site as well. But it had to happen someday, and that day is… six weeks from now.

Leaving China

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Let Me Fill You In

Leaving my job in China is obviously bittersweet. On the one hand, I’m super excited to finally be able to travel as long as I want and work for myself without having to worry about round-trip tickets and vacation days. On the other hand, China has become my home, and I know many of you are a bit upset that I won’t be living here anymore.

Who wants another bland, professional travel blogger who hops nomadically from country to country, living in cheap digital nomad hotspots like Chiang Mai and Bali. We have enough of those, thank you very much.

So today I thought I’d talk a bit about all of the huge changes going on in my life to give you all a little insight into where this site is headed.

Why did I quit my job? What’s next for me? Will I still be writing about China? Where am I going? How am I going to survive without a full-time salary?

Well, read along folks, because this one will answer all your questions!

college counselor China

My first few weeks as a college counselor in China!

Why I Quit My Job in China

Well, first things first, I didn’t actually quit my job in China. My two-year contract as a college counselor expired and I personally chose not to renew it, much to the disappointment of my boss and coworkers. While working as a college counselor was an incredible experience (and a great way to pay off all of my student loans!!), it just isn’t my dream job.

I’ll be honest, working as a full-time college counselor while also managing this site AND creating a new teach abroad site was REALLY HARD. I was constantly stressed and exhausted. During admissions season I developed panic attacks, and I suffered from some hard-core FOMO whenever I was offered an incredible opportunity I couldn’t take because I had to be at work.

My story is the same as any other person who wants to start their own business without the capital to quit their full-time job. Side hustles are hard. Developing a new business with a full-time job is time-consuming and exhausting. I haven’t been able to fully devote myself to this blog because I’ve been too busy actually working at work.

It’s my hope that leaving my job as a college counselor will actually give me the time and energy I need to make the most of this site. For the last year and a half, my traffic has been pretty much stagnant. I struggle to crank out posts on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, and I’m not making as much money as I would’ve hoped by this point.

But now you finally have my full attention, and that’s super exciting!

Nottingham Ningbo China

Me over two years ago, finishing up my dissertation at the University of Nottingham in China

So… I’m Still Actually Working for My Job in China

Wow. So many over-exaggerations! Not only did I not quit my job, I’m actually STILL working for my old company part-time.

As much as I want to dive head-first into being a professional travel blogger, I’m also a little too responsible for my own good. I’m not a fan of having a low bank account balance or taking any financial risks, and I couldn’t bear to leave my students right at the start of admissions season either. So, I decided to sign a part-time contract with my college counseling job for the remainder of the admissions season.

This fall I will be helping my students craft and design their college admissions applications remotely via email and Skype. I’ll be paid for each final draft I help my students complete, as well as each hour I meet with them to chat. So far, this hasn’t been too much work, but I know things will ramp up when deadlines start approaching.

I’ll also be coming into the office 1-2 days a week throughout October and the first half of November. I’ll be meeting a ton of students back-to-back to prep them for upcoming application interviews (my specialty!), and I may also teach a few large classes on specific topics like interviewing, essay advice, etc. Thankfully my company is paying me pretty well for these meetings, and I’ve been working closely with my coworker to schedule them all as tightly as possible.

Summer Palace Suzhou Street

Exploring the Summer Palace’s Suzhou Street

Why I’m Leaving China

I’ll obviously write a full post on this later because there are many, many reasons why I can’t stay in China forever, (crowds, pollution, censorship, food safety, bureaucracy, and if I get bumped into one more time…) but there are a few major reasons I can quickly address here.

I Want to See the World

Firstly, there’s just so much of the world I want to see that I haven’t been able to explore because I’ve been living as a full-time expat in China. There are even some major parts of China I still haven’t been able to travel to, mainly because I only get Chinese holidays off from work, and I don’t necessarily want to go to Huangshan at the same time as 2 billion other Chinese tourists.

I know that if I was paying rent in China, I’d constantly feel guilty whenever I was on the road. Why am I wasting all of this money on an apartment I’m not even in?! I know there’s Airbnb and subletting, but to be honest, I’d rather just put all my stuff in storage and actually travel without worrying about an apartment.

Beijing appartment

Bye bye expensive apartment

Beijing’s Rent is Way Too Expensive

Seriously, I paid more for my room in a 5-bedroom apartment in Beijing than my friend Edna did for a room in Paris! Sure, I could easily move to a cheaper city like Xi’an, Chengdu, or Kunming, which might be an option in the future, but why do that when I could have my own villa in Bali for half of what I’m paying to share a room in a tiny rundown apartment by the Beijing Zoo.

China is Horrible for Digital Nomads

Two words: internet censorship. Sure, I can get around it using VPNs, but I’m SO TIRED OF IT. Did you know I have 6 VPNs?! Yep, while I usually use Express, I have five other VPNs as a backup. FIVE.

I’m sick and tired of just not being able to get on Instagram, or having to drain my 4G to load a Snap. If I can’t get my VPN to work I have zero access to my email, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google, Snapchat, YouTube, GoogleDocs, Pinterest, and basically everything I need to actually do my job.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the Internet just worked? I’ve almost forgotten what that’s like.

Chillin’ with Mao in Tiananmen Square

I Need a Break From China

I love China. I just spent two weeks showing my parents around Beijing, Xi’an, and Yunnan. I had such a great time and even contemplated coming back to Yunnan for a month or more! I imagined myself picking out an apartment in Xi’an and possibly opening up a cute boutique hotel there (because for some reason Xi’an doesn’t have any boutique hotels).

China is incredible, but I need a freakin’ break! China is not the easiest place to live, and after 5 years, I just want some peace and quiet! I just need a break from the constant construction, crowds, pushing and shoving, oily food, pollution, and internet censorship.

I know I’ll be back, but for now, I need to take a breather so I can appreciate all of the good things about this incredible country without becoming the dreaded ‘Jaded China Bitch‘.

Travel Insurance

Big Adventures Ahead!

So… Where Are You Going?

With all of this free time comes the desire to pack it to the brim with adventures and travels. At one point I really thought I was going to show my parents around China in September, head to TBEX Ireland in October, travel around Ireland and UK, then go to WTM at the beginning of November, head to Africa in Mid-November, and Australia in December.

Oh my god. Not only would that completely drain all of the money I’ve saved up. I also wouldn’t have ANY time to actually work.

Thankfully I was able to put my foot down and give myself a solid 6 weeks for working here in Beijing. But come mid-November I will be traveling to Japan to work with the Mie Prefecture and spend two solid weeks hiking the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage trail! Then Chris and I will be exploring a few other major cities: Kyoto, Osaka, and Tokyo!

After that, I’ll be heading to Australia to celebrate Christmas with Chris’ family in Ben Lomond Australia, a tiny village in Australia’s New England. To be honest, some peace and quiet after a few years in China sounds like heaven.

Finally, I’ll be visiting my parents in Palm Desert California, and then I’m onto a friend’s wedding in Atlanta!

leaving China

What’s Happening With Adventures Around Asia?!

Australia? The US? What’s going to happen now that you’ve left China?

I get it. I’ve actually had multiple people message me saying that they’re disappointed I’m leaving China. People have come to associate me with this country, which is actually incredible, but also a bummer for many people now that I’m leaving.

So, to answer all your questions and quell any worries, here’s what’s happening with Adventures Around Asia!

leaving China

Hanging out at the summer palace

I’m Still Going to Write About China

I have so much content on China I could literally create a new site tomorrow and never run out of blog post ideas. Seriously. I almost wish this blog was only about China so that I could have the time and energy to fill it to the brim with useful China content, crazy stories, and detailed guides.

Even though I’m not living in China full-time, I’ll still be writing about China. I’ll still travel to China, I’ll still create awesome guides, and I’ll be sure to keep all my info up to date. The only thing that will change on the China front is that I will no longer be continuing my expat monthly recaps, This Beijing Life.

Gubeikou

I’ll still be covering Asia off the Beaten Path!

I Won’t Be Writing About Places Outside of Asia

I decided a long time ago that Adventures Around Asia will focus on Asia off the Beaten Path. I’m not going to all of a sudden start writing about Australia or Europe. I want to use this blog to show off the destinations and cultures that not everyone visits. I want to inspire people to explore like a local and get off the typical tourist trail.

There are enough blogs about Europe and North America. There are enough sites teaching you how to quit your job and travel the world as a backpacker or digital nomad, and there are far too many blogs talking about traveling Southeast Asia on the cheap.

I don’t want to compete with them. Frankly, they’ve been doing it better and longer than I have. While I do plan to share what’s going on in my life with all of you through personal posts and my new monthly recap series, The Freedom Life, I don’t plan on restructuring my blog to talk about something completely different.

eat scorpion

Gotta update all the stuff from 2012!

I Will Be Writing More, and Updating Old Content

You know what’s great about not having a full-time job? Having the time and energy to actually commit to this site. Every time I read an old post about Sichuan or Yunnan from 2012, I squirm with embarrassment. Every time I check my most recent posts and see that I’ve barely written anything, I feel guilty.

Now I finally have the time and energy to fully commit to this site. Sure, I won’t be in China, but my China content will only get better in the following months. Promise.

TBEX Bangkok

Sometimes it feels like I’m the only blogger that’s NOT location independent

Aren’t You a Little Late to This Digital Nomad Game?

It’s a bit weird becoming a “digital nomad” when it feels like most travel bloggers are finally starting to settle down. To be honest, I almost feel like I missed the boat. Isn’t the digital nomad fad a huge cliche now anyway?

But despite all that self-doubt, I know I need to do this for me. There’s so much of the world I still want to see, and I want to be able to run my business and make money while doing it.

I know I’m late to the game, and I don’t care. I’m not becoming a “digital nomad” because it’s cool, or popular, or because everyone’s doing it. I just want to travel and see the world while also contributing, helping others, and growing a business I’m proud of (and without worrying about money all the time.)

I know the nomadic lifestyle doesn’t last, and I’m not even sure how long I’ll travel for. I’m an expat at heart, and once I’m tired of traveling, I’ll be settling down somewhere, probably in Taiwan. I’ll get a cute apartment and a cat, practice my Mandarin, find local friends, and buy some fuzzy blankets.

For me, “digital nomad” isn’t the dream. My dream is location independence. I want to be my own boss. Travel when I want to travel. Take opportunities when they come my way, and stop constantly worrying about vacation days and being in my office at a certain time, dressed a certain way, every. single. day.

I want freedom. I want control. I want to work for myself. Whether that’s on the road, as an expat, or at home in the USA is up to me.

What About Money? How Will You Survive?

Good question.

To be honest, I don’t make much money off of this site. It was my goal to be consistently making $1,000 USD a month by the time I quit my job. However, I can pretty much say I’m only hitting $600. While this isn’t a huge issue, it’s also not where I want to be, and definitely not enough to comfortably live in Beijing.

That said, I do have a few major income streams right now, and many more ideas where that came from!

Firstly, I had about $16,000 USD saved up when I quit my college counseling job. I have to say I’m pretty proud of myself for saving that much, considering I spent the first 1.5 years paying off $20,000 in student loans.

On top of my little nest egg, I have my part-time college counseling, which is a nice little consistent source of income. I’ve also been working as a recruiter for a few different schools and education companies in China. For every teacher that arrives in China, I make about $150-300 USD. This is a pretty slow moving process (especially since I’m SUPER picky about which schools I work with), so it can take months and months of work before I finally see a penny. However, I think this will be a pretty decent stream of income for me in the future.

leaving China

Upcoming Business Projects!

In the next few months, I also really hope to work on boosting my passive income by fixing old blog posts to focus on affiliates. I feel like I’ve really been dropping the ball in this area, and I’d love to fix it.

FINALLY, I have a huge project I’ve been working on for the past few months. I can’t tell you all yet, but I will say it has to do with teaching abroad in China. I’m really hoping I’ll be done with everything by January, but it’s been a pretty slow-moving process.

If you’re at all interested in teaching abroad in China and you want to be one of the first to know about my HUGE MASSIVE INCREDIBLE PROJECT, be sure to sign up for my Free Teach Abroad Mini-Course and you’ll be the first to get all the info!

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain

Just casually climbing a mountain in Yunnan

What About Your Boyfriend?

Oh, Chris? He’s coming too!

Chris has been location independent for a while now and works from home as a travel blogger and safari sales expert for a popular Tanzanian safari company. The only reason he lives in Beijing is because I’ve been stuck here (and his brother and nephew live here too).

To be honest, in the past I always imagined embarking on this new adventure alone. I was kind of excited about the prospect of long-term solo female travel. I embraced the challenge.

However, now I’m super excited about the idea of having someone to share everything with. Chris will be with me every step of the way, from hiking the Kumano Kaido, to working till the wee hours in a cafe with horrible wifi. Thankfully we have pretty much the same exact travel style, which makes things fairly easy.

…and we’re NOT combining blogs. I’m too much of a control freak for that. 

leaving China

Anything Else You Want to Know?

I know these are some huge changes, and this is a lot of information to process. That’s why I want to know: Is there anything I haven’t covered? Is there something you want to know about in more detail? Please let me know in a comment so I know what to cover in my next few posts!

Also, are you curious about hearing more on how I’m surviving as a “digital nomad”? Would you like a monthly income breakdown with personal updates on how I make money and emotionally handle working for myself? If so, would you like to see it in a monthly recap or as a post of its own? Be sure to fill me in on your thoughts!

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About Richelle

Expat, traveler, and spicy food lover, I’ve spent the last few years living in China and traveling around Asia. In my spare time I enjoy salsa dancing, exploring night markets and stuffing my face with street food.

16 comments on “After FIVE Years in China, I’m Finally Moving On

    • Thanks Joella! Yeah, I just felt too responsible to fully quit until I’m making a good income. Also, I couldn’t leave my students right before admissions season!

  1. Well congrats on taking the next big step! I hope you find what you are looking for outside of China…Visit South Africa if you have time, it’s great :)

  2. It will be so weird not having you in Beijing, even though we never see each other! Seriously though I’m super excited for you. China is wonderful but it is also so challenging. Pollution, VPNs and everything else you mentioned are wearing on me and I’ve only been there a year and a half!! I can’t wait to follow along with your travels. And don’t worry too much about shaking up content. I think a lot of us will keep reading no matter where your writing about. This is exciting Richelle! Happy travels.

  3. Yay to your next step forward! I think it makes so much sense that you are staying on part time just for the rest of Admissions season, to help make the financial change a little less sudden, and then woo, off you go! I am still look forward to reading much much more about China, but shall now also look forward to your coverage of everywhere else. Wishing you best of luck!n

    • Thanks so much Kavita! Yeah, it feels a little anticlimactic, since I AM still going into the office. But hopefully it will feel more real when I actually leave China in November!

  4. So exciting!!! I’ve loved following your blog. I actually just left China after almost 8 years there…it’s not an easy transition but China will always be there! Oh and there is 1 boutique hotel in Xi’an called iii House. It’s so beautiful! Next time you’re in Xi’an be sure to check it out :)

    • Wow good to know! It might not have been on Booking.com for the dates I was looking. I’ll be sure to check for next time. That’s so cool you lived in China for 8 years. Impressive!

  5. GIRL. I have loved reading your blog! I have lived in other countries as well and I get what you’re saying about “peace and quiet”. Although Ive never lived in a foreign country longer then a little over a year – what I always notice is that it makes coming “back home” so refreshing. Honestly, what I have learned is to be content with never being content. There’s always going to be another place I want to go/live. And even once I’ve seen everything – there are places I’m going to want to go back to! I think life is what you make it! your lucky to get to have your experiences and I’m lucky to have mine! Be adventurous but be smart! Just because there is no mold to fit into doesn’t mean your less of a person – maybe you’re creating a new mold that others can follow!! My tendency is to overthink things which can be bad because then I end up not doing things or I give myself too much to worry about and … then I’m miserable. but then things end up working anyway! Enjoy your life! Who cares what people think – they’re not paying your bills! Do whatever you want. I know I definitely needed a break from the countries I was at. CHEERS!

    • Thanks so much Camellia! Peace and quiet is definitely necessary after a few years in China. I totally agree with you about never being satisfied. I want to work, but I also want to trave, and I also want to be an expat. There’s no time for it all! Glad to hear that you’re living your life the way you want to!

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