The Freedom Life: December 2018

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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 work as a digital nomad and travel? Here's the location independent monthly recap you've been waiting for! #digitalnomad #locationindependence #travel #travelblog #travelblogger #australia

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What I Was Up to in December

Wow! I almost can’t believe that 2018 is over, and my time in Australia is almost finished too! That was fast…

This December I spent the entire month in Australia, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t busy! From Christmas and fake Thanksgiving to weekends in Armidale and Coffs Harbour, this was a pretty hectic month.

Where I Was in December

  • Rural NSW, Australia
  • Armidale, Australia
  • Bellingen, Australia
  • Coffs Harbour, Australia
Christmas presents

We spent 3 hours opening presents


Overall, I had a pretty great month. Here’s what went right for me.

Christmas in Australia

This month I spent Christmas in Australia with Chris’ family. We had a HUGE Christmas celebration with around 17 people, including 6 kids. I had a great time spending Christmas with Chris’ large family, and it was pretty fun to wrap such an insanely large amount of gifts!

Since it’s summer in Australia, our Christmas festivities also meant enjoying the summer weather and lounging in a large blowup backyard pool (when it wasn’t taken over by the children). Overall, it was a really great Christmas!

Dragon the cat

Baby Dragon in her harness

Getting Our New Kitten

As an early Christmas present, Chris’ mom gifted me a rescue kitten! Chris and I have been taking care of her for the last few weeks, and we even built her a giant cat condo and taught her to walk on a leash. Yeah, that’s right. We have a leash cat.

She’s the cutest, sweetest kitten in the world, although she does insist on climbing/ jumping on EVERYTHING, and she’s obsessed with drinking water (even sparkling water) out of my cups.

Unfortunately, we can’t take little Dragon with us when we leave Australia next month, but thankfully everyone here loves her, so they’ll look after her until we come back.

Forage Fest

Forage Fest!

Beer and Music Festival in Armidale

For Chris’ birthday, the two of us spent a weekend in Armidale to attend a beer and music festival. We rented the cutest Airbnb, enjoyed tasting some great (and not so great) beers, caught a ton of Pokemon (yes, we still play Pokemon Go), and ate at some great restaurants.

While Chris’ family might live only 45 minutes from Armidale, it was nice to actually stay in town and experience what Armidale has to offer. I’d only ever been to the malls for Christmas and grocery shopping!

PS- Don’t forget to grab $30 off your first Airbnb!

Cedar Bar

Cedar Bar!

Wedding Planning in Bellingen and Coffs

For those of you who don’t already know, Chris and I are getting married in Bellingen, Australia this fall (well… spring in Australia). Since this will be the last time we’re in Australia until about a month or two before the wedding, we decided to take a quick tip down to Bellingen and Coffs Harbour.

We asked Chris’ mom to come with us because let’s be honest, I know nothing about wedding planning. I’ve never even been a bridesmaid! It was super helpful to have an experienced wedding planner with us, and definitely took some of the pressure off.

The three of us took another visit to our venue and even ordered two of the mains we plan on serving at our wedding (roast lamb and pork belly). I had a trial run on my hair, which went surprisingly well (usually my curly hair = disaster), and we even managed to score an INCREDIBLE deal on a photographer.

All of this wedding planning has really made our wedding feel more real, which is super exciting!

healthy dinner

That time I used a measuring cup for my sweet potato mash and it became fancy plating

Cooking Healthy Meals at Home

It’s just SO amazing to just be able to walk into a grocery store and find everything I need. For those of you who didn’t know, I’ve been working with an online nutritionist to try and improve my overall health. I’ve gained a bit of weight over the last few years, working an office job and living in Asia (and eating out for all of my meals…) so I’ve been trying to be a bit healthier and actually cook for myself.

Cooking a lot of “healthy recipes” in Vietnam was always a struggle because I could never find half the things I needed. Sure, vegetables, avocados, and tropical fruits are cheap, but god forbid you want ANYTHING else. Good luck with that.

I loved being able to walk into the grocery store and find beans, high-protein plain yogurt, hot sauce that isn’t loaded in sugar, hummus, large bottles of sparkling water, lime juice, quinoa, and tuna that isn’t soaked in oil… It’s been so much easier to cook and eat a healthy diet here! I actually LOST weight over Christmas (even if it was only 1 pound).

Dragon the cat

Hurt foot? Perfect place for a nap


Not everything was perfect this month. Here are some of the challenges.

My Injured Toe

A few weeks ago I noticed a pain in my pinkie toe after going for a run. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with it, and just assumed it would heal on its own. After wandering around a decent bit in Bellingen and Coffs Harbour, my toe just kept getting worse.

The pain transitioned from my pinkie toe down into the joint in my foot. From here it radiated along my whole foot and up into my ankles and knees. I could barely walk, and I definitely couldn’t put any pressure on the whole left side of my foot.

Honestly, I have no idea what I did, but it was super frustrating to have this happen, right when I was getting into a routine of exercising consistently. Thankfully after a solid 2 weeks of resting, icing and elevating, my foot is back to normal!


Our late Thanksgiving

Trying to Watch What I Ate During the Holidays

Obviously, the holidays are never a good time of year to try and lose weight, but I tried nonetheless. With so many snacks and desserts around this December (THREE Birthdays, delayed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years), it was like every day held some new temptation.

The most important thing I learned was to allow myself to enjoy the foods I REALLY wanted to have, and steer clear of mindless snacks and desserts. I’d rather save my calories for a slice of apple pie, than a bunch of gummy candy or random hard cookies.

I also made sure there were healthy snacks around. I bought carrots and hummus, made giant salads, and purposely sat away from the potato bake and pasta salad so I wouldn’t be tempted to load up my plate with seconds.

All in all, it actually WORKED. I had a few rough moments where I got upset with myself and how “unfair” it was that I couldn’t eat XYZ, but towards the end of the month I worked out a system where I could treat myself and not feel guilty.

Now that it’s January and everyone’s talking about feeling bloated and needing to go on a diet, I’m actually feeling good! Although the pressure is on since I need to go wedding dress shopping in two weeks…

jalapeno cocktail

Spicy jalapeno cocktails in Armidale

Money Getting Tight

This month was pretty low income-wise for me, which isn’t the best considering we just had Christmas… Thankfully I have two GIANT $1,000+ payments coming in soon, but I still don’t love not being able to fully pay off my credit card. I mean.. I could, but all my money is stuck in China so… yeah.

I’ll admit, it is frustrating to see such low numbers coming in despite all of the insane amounts of work I’m doing. But hopefully, all of this long-term work will pay off in 2019!

Ben Lomond

These horses are my neighbors here!

What I Wrote in December

This month I actually wrote a ton of blog posts! I guess I’m just making up for last month…

Worst Case Scenario: What if I Get Scammed Teaching in China

I was procrastinating on YouTube when I saw a video: How I got scammed out of $5,000 teaching English in China. WOW. I could not stop banging my head on my desk. So many red flags!!! I really want to make sure that people teaching abroad in China avoid these mistakes and don’t get into scammy situations, so I pulled apart what happened to her and analyzed what went wrong, and how you can avoid these scams yourself.

Osaka Off the Beaten Path: 20 Unique Things to do in Osaka

Most people only visit Osaka for a day or two and use it as a base for flights or day trips. I honestly wasn’t expecting much from Osaka the first time I visited, but now after my second trip there, I have to say there’s SO MUCH to do that everyone is missing out on!

30 Perfect Gifts for Girls Who Travel

My updated 2018 Holiday Gift Guide! If you’re doing a late Christmas, or someone has a birthday coming up, be sure to check this list out!

The Freedom Life: November 2018

That one time I flew from Vietnam to Australia to Japan to Australia… all in one week. This is what I did in November!

Best Instagram Shots

Who knew Kobe had such a stunning Japanese garden? Be sure to visit Soraku-en in the fall for the beautiful leaves!

Travel Product I Can’t Live Without

Working from a laptop has NOT been great for my back, posture, and general health. So for Christmas Chris grabbed me this AMAZING foldup travel laptop stand, which has been so great for my posture. However, it is a bit difficult to type with my hands a solid foot in the air, so I just grabbed this thin portable wireless keyboard and mouse (in rose gold of course). I’m still getting used to typing with it, but I think this is going to be SO GREAT for my back.

If you work from home (or a hotel) on a laptop, you need to get yourself a laptop stand ASAP.

What I’m Watching

This is the video I watched that inspired my latest post: Worst Case Scenario: What if I Get Scammed Teaching in China?

Best Reads of December

Here are my favorite blog posts from the last month!

Trekking Around the World: 13 Offbeat Treks You’re Not Considering, But Should – Uncornered Market

After spending two weeks hiking the Kumano Kodo Iseji in Japan, I really want to do another trek! This is a great list of treks who could use a little more love, which is great for the environment, overtourism, and… being unique?

9 Reasons to Visit Sri Lanka in 2019 – Journalist On the Run

Sri Lanka has been on my travel list for YEARS and I still haven’t gone. Maybe when things calm down after the wedding? Regardless, you all should go.

Is Instagram Ruining Travel? – Be My Travel Muse

I have to admit, I’ve read a few too many articles on this topic lately, however, they’re usually all written by people who don’t use Instagram professionally. I like this one by Be My Travel Muse because she DOES travel for the gram, and talks about how Instagram has changed her travel style, not always for the better.

My Worst Travel Moments of 2018 – Adventurous Kate

The craziest moments make the best stories! I always love reading about peoples’ travel mishaps, and this is no exception. But can we seriously talk about how rude those “house people” were??

Coffs Harbour

Hello Coffs Harbour!

What’s Next for January 2019?

Towards the start of January I’ll be heading down to Sydney for a few days, and then it’s on to the USA! I’ll be in Seattle for 3 weeks, where I’m going to go to ALL the appointments: dentist, doctor, glasses, haircut, wedding dress shopping… while also meeting up with friends, hosting a late Christmas and a wedding shower! Wish me luck!

What were you up to this December? Let me know in the comments below!

The Freedom Life: December 2018



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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