The Freedom Life: April 2019

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After five years of living in China, and two years of This Beijing Life, things have changed. I left my job as a college counselor in China, and now I’m living a life on my terms. I’m my own boss, I travel when I want, and live where I want. I’m FINALLY living my dream of location independence.

I hope you’ll all follow me along on my new journey: The Freedom Life.

Want to know what it's like to live in Asia as a location independent digital nomad? Here's my monthly recap as a travel blogger in Beijing and Hoi An Vietnam! #digitalnomad #locationindependent #travelblog #travelblogger #asia #beijing #china #vietnam #hoian

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What I Was Up to in April

This April I finally headed back to Asia, where I spent a week visiting my old home in Beijing before I made the move to Hoi An, Vietnam! In Beijing, I met up with old friends and ate ALL THE FOOD before getting my money out of China. Then I flew to Hoi An where I set to work house hunting in the extreme heat. Oh, and I also celebrated my 28th birthday this month by taking a trip to Ba Na Hills!

Where I Was This Month

  • Beijing, China
  • Hoi An, Vietnam
  • Danang, Vietnam
Jingshan Park

Working in Beijing!


Overall, this month was pretty great, and I’m happy to be back in Asia!

Visiting Old Friends in Beijing

Taking a quick trip back to Beijing really made me realize how much I’ve missed living there. I had a great time meeting up with some of my old friends and coworkers. We had a boozy evening at The Local and Tiki Bar (two of my favorite spots), and I even went to my old Beijing Enreach office where I worked as a college counselor!

Moving around so much, I’ve really missed being part of a community, and visiting Beijing was a great reminder that you need to stay in one place for a while to really form strong bonds. I can’t wait until my two weddings are done so that I can settle down long-term for a little while and build a community again!

Zhang mama liangfen

Yum liangfen!

Eating ALL the Chinese Food

While Vietnamese food is great, it really has nothing on Chinese food (sorry Vietnam). This trip was all about the food, and I made sure to eat every little thing I missed, from malatang, to my favorite restaurant Zhang Mama, to old old Yunnan Place. Beijing has such an amazing food scene, and I still didn’t get to eat everything I was craving!

China Teach Abroad Community!

Our Beijing Meetup!

Hosting a Meetup in Beijing!

While in Beijing, why not host a blogger meetup?! I put the word out there to my Teach Abroad Facebook group and planned a dinner to meet up with anyone who could get to Beijing. Thankfully, a few people were able to make it and we had a great time. I also got to have it at my favorite Yunnan restaurant in Beijing: Dali Renjia.

We had a lot of laughs and stories, tons of Yunnan beers, and some really great Yunnan food. I can’t wait to go back to China so we can plan another meetup!


malatang in beijing!

Finally Getting All My Money Out of China

When I left China last year, I did leave a decent amount of money in my Chinese bank account. The plan was to use it in Vietnam since my Chinese card has fewer ATM fees in Asia than my US card. However, after a year of leaving my money in China, I started to get a bit worried. I mean, I had $6,000 in there!

So thankfully with the help of my friend and coworker, I managed to withdraw all $6,000 USD in Chinese cash, which I gave to him, and then he sent me USD to my bank account. Seriously, it was so much cash I felt like I needed a briefcase!

My US money has been running pretty thin lately, so it’s really been a huge relief to have this extra Chinese cash in my US bank account.

Hoi An house

Hoi An has some nice places if you’re willing to go over budget (no.. this is not our pool)

Finding the Perfect House in Hoi An

After living in Hoi An for 5 months, Chris and I really learned what we wanted (and didn’t want) in a house. We knew all of the neighborhoods, had a list of requirements and embarked on a few days of house hunting around Hoi An. I even filmed a little mock House Hunters International on my Instagram Stories!

While it was a tough call, we ended up finding the right place for us, and now I’m so happy to be moved in! It’s been so great to unpack, start cooking again, and we’re even fostering cats next month!!

Ba Na Hills golden bridge

Happy Birthday to me!

Birthday in Ba Na Hills

Every year Chris and I exchange experiences instead of gifts for our birthdays and anniversary. We’ve stayed a night at the Orchid and had a picnic on the Lakeside Great Wall, had a romantic river cruise in Tokyo, spent a night at Africa Amini Masaai Lodge where we tried spear throwing and attended a beer and music festival in Australia.

Well, this year Chris planned a surprise trip to Ba Na Hills Sun World for my 28th birthday! This theme park is located on the outskirts of Danang, high up in the mountains. You may have seen some photos on Instagram of the Ba Na Hills Golden Bridge, the famous floating bridge held up by two giant hands. Yeah, that’s this place!

In addition to the bridge, Ba Na Hills is it’s own Universal Studio’s esque French/Vietnamese theme park! They even have a small rotating globe with Sun World printed instead of Universal Studios (I’m serious). Taking the cable car up to the top was amazing, as was the beautiful bridge. In addition, we also enjoyed some sangria and rode a few amusement park rides!

Eagle Creek packing cubes

My packing cubes!


Not everything was perfect this month. Here were a few of the challenges.

Beijing Baggage Conundrum

If there’s one thing I hate about my lifestyle, it’s packing everything up and moving every few months. Why do I have so much stuff? Where does it all come from??

Chris and I have managed to easily get our bags down to 23 kilos (50 lbs), especially if we can check two bags. However, we discovered our flight from Beijing to Vietnam at the beginning of April, only allows ONE 20 kilo bag!! We tried to add weight to our one bag, or buy a second checked bag, but neither were options for “such a short flight”. The only option was to pay $15 USD per extra kilo at the airport. WTF CHINA EASTERN??

Usually this wouldn’t be such a big deal, but A) I’m traveling with a wedding dress that takes up half my small carry-on suitcase so I can’t just put all my heavy stuff in there, and B) it’s really hard for me to find CGM (curly girl method) approved products in Vietnam, so I wanted to stock up and bring them over. Unfortunately for me, I had to make some tough choices…

In the end, our suitcases were both 22 kilos, but thankfully the check-in staff said NOTHING. They also didn’t mind that Chris had 2 personal items in addition to his carry on and that our carryons were all way over the weight limit. Ummm thanks, China Eastern? We totally would’ve just bought a second bag if you’d offered it for less than the price of a new organ.

Out of Control Beijing Hutong Brickups

One of the things I was MOST excited about in Beijing was visiting all of my old hutong haunts. I had a whole day planned on my old street. We’d eat lunch at my favorite hole-in-the-wall malatang place, then I’d get my purse repaired at my old shoe guy. Maybe I’d stop in and say hi to some of my old vendor friends…

But then we walked onto my old street and I thought I must’ve made a mistake. Everything was GONE. Every single shop was completely bricked up and the entire soul of the street was destroyed. I was so upset I literally started crying.

I was legitimately about to go to my old malatang ladies and tell them that I was getting married! Now they’re gone and I have no idea where they went. My shoe seller? Also gone. The authentic dumpling place? gone. The noodle guy who used to wave to me as I walked to work every morning? gone. My favorite jianbing stall? Gone. My chicken leg guy? Gone. My tea egg breakfast shop? Gone. Gone. Gone.

Not only that but my absolute favorite restaurant, Zhang Mama, was also bricked up, as was my favorite French grocery store, Chez Gerard. Thankfully both of those have moved, and they both have bigger better locations now. Although I’m a bit sad that Zhang Mama doesn’t have that same hole in the wall vibe.

I really thought the hutong brickups were over by the time I left, but I guess the Beijing government was just getting started. Honestly, I’m still SO FREAKIN MAD. I’m going to write a pretty long ranty post about all of this soon, so get ready.

Christina's Tra Que Hoi An

At least we had access to this pool while we waited!

Waiting 2 Weeks to Move into Our New Place

Chris and I found the perfect place in Hoi An, but we had to wait 2 weeks to move in. For Chris, this was a bonus because we got to stay in a nice little guesthouse a bit longer, but for me, I was more than ready to unpack and get settled. After a solid 2 weeks of road tripping, plus a week in China, that meant FIVE WEEKS without a stable base.

While I’m normally fine to do this, I’m also working on my fitness, nutrition, and business, and it’s been hard to focus and work on these three things when I don’t have a home base.

Thankfully we did get a few beautiful days at Christina’s Tra Que Hoi An, and then we transferred to their guesthouse down the road Christina’s Tra Que Oasis (but we still got to use their pool!). Not only was Oasis a bit cheaper than the main Christina’s, but it also had a kitchen where I could at least cook some eggs in the morning!

Hoi An Old Town

It’s too hot to be sick!

The WORST Cold on My Birthday

Right after we got to Vietnam, Chris and I developed horrendous colds. The first night I was worried I had tonsilitis because my throat hurt so bad I couldn’t even speak. Then of course, it moved onto my sinuses and I was a snotty stuffed up mess for my birthday.

The cold combined with the very intense sweaty heat made it a bit hard to enjoy Ba Na Hills (I had a lot of tissues on hand, as well as a small foldable fan which made me look very elegant despite my sweaty appearance. I could’ve stayed at Ba Na Hills all day, but with the way we were feeling, we ended up heading back in the early afternoon to take a good long nap.

Hoi An river

Hello from tropical Hoi An!

What I Wrote in April

This April was crazy busy with the move, but I did manage to get two posts written! I’m really glad I finally got around to writing the story about how I saved $40,000 by working as a college counselor in China. If you’re at all interested in teaching or working abroad, I highly recommend you check this post out!

Best Instagram Shots

I guess I need to take more photos of Hoi An at night! The most popular photo of the month actually wasn’t taken by me! So if you have an awesome photo of Asia you want me to share, be sure to tag @adventuresaroundasia or use the hashtag #adventuresaroundasia

An oldie but goodie, this photo was actually taken on my birthday two years ago when Chris and I hiked the Shuicheng section of the Great Wall!

Travel Product I Can’t Live Without

Okay, this is a weird one, but I don’t go anywhere without my tiny food scale. Ummm… what? Yeah, well now that I’m really focusing on my nutrition and eating healthy, I like to weigh out my food to make sure I’m not overeating (looking at your protein) or under eating (wait… how are all these veggies only one serving??).

Thankfully, I found a really awesome lightweight food scale in Thailand, and I bring it with me all around the world! This food scale has been to Vietnam, Australia, and the US, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon until I break it.

If you’re planning on moving abroad or traveling long-term with kitchens and you want to weigh and measure your food, I highly suggest picking one of these up and throwing it in your suitcase! You can get really small lightweight ones that totally do the job!

Here is the exact one I have (I just don’t bring the bowl), but you can get tiny flat ones on Amazon that can easily fit in a backpack or suitcase!

Las Vegas Sign

This scarf made all my boring outfits interesting

Favorite Travel Fashion Accessory

One article of clothing that I can’t travel without is my trusty colorful patterned scarf. This lightweight scarf goes with me everywhere. I use it as a shawl when I get chilly in the evenings, to cover up my chest and shoulders in temples, and to spice up a plain outfit. I highly recommend bringing a colorful scarf or two with you whenever you travel, just in case.

I originally got this scarf at a market at a small town near Dali, Yunnan. However, you can find very similar ones on Amazon! Personally, I really love this Tribal patterned scarf, this dark blue floral scarf, these fun geometrical patterned scarves, and this lemon silk scarf!

Chez Gerard Beijing

Chez Gerard still exists!

Best Reads of April

Here are my favorite blog posts from the month of April!

Is it Save to Travel to China? – TravelFreak

I get this question so much now that the US has upped China in their travel warning system. China is definitely a safe place to visit, but there are a few things you need to know. This article covers it all!

How to Love Yourself More and Be Happier – Taylor’s Tracks

I’ve heard of the idea of practicing gratitude, but never actually tried it. I’ve been pretty stressed about a few things lately, so I love the idea of actually putting this into ‘practice’ (get it) by getting a gratitude journal!

Cost of Living in Japan: The Ultimate Guide for Digital Nomads – Goats on the Road

I love the idea of living in Japan and working online, but I always just assumed Japan wouldn’t be a great place for digital nomads because it’s so expensive. It’s nice to see all of the steps laid out if I do ever move to Japan!

My Experience Meeting the Headhunters of Nagaland – Globe Trottica

Smoking opium and eating dog with headhunters? Why not? This girl always has the best stories.

What it's really like to live abroad as a location independent digital nomad in Asia! Here's my life as a travel blogger in China and Vietnam! #travelblog #travelblogger #locationindependence #digitalnomad #travel #asia #vietnam #china

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What’s Next for May 2019?

The whole month of May will be spent at my new house in Hoi An, Vietnam! This May I’ll also be fostering kittens through Vietnam Cat Welfare and Jack’s Cat Cafe in Hoi An, so get excited for lots of kitten photos next month!!!



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.

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