The Freedom Life: February 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.

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What I Was Up to in February

This February was definitely a chilly month! From missing a flight due to snow in Seattle to cozying up next to flash floods in Palm Desert, the US has been unexpectedly frigid.

There were definitely good times this month: celebrating the anniversary of getting engaged, leading an awesome webinar, and my highest blog income yet! As well as some tough times: getting super sick, spending the evening at the emergency room, and losing my awesome workout morning routine in the process.

Where I Was in February

  • Seattle, Washington
  • Palm Desert, California
Valentines Day

Valentines Dinner with Chris!


Overall, this month was actually really great! Here are some of the highlights.

A Wonderful Valentines Day and Engagement Anniversary!

For those of you that didn’t already know, Chris and I got engaged on Valentines Day last year, so this Valentines Day was our engagaversary! (That’s what it’s called right…?) We went out to a nice dinner in Palm Desert, and spent the evening drinking almond champagne and eating homemade chocolate covered strawberries cozied up next to the fire. How romantic!

Leading an Awesome Teach Abroad Webinar

This February I led my very first webinar! To be honest, I was extremely nervous about it. What if no one shows up? What if I mess up and get really nervous and stutter all over myself? What if people are pissed at me for trying to introduce them to the Teach Abroad Squad afterward?

Thankfully, the webinar went amazingly and I actually had a great time! I loved that people were actively commenting throughout the webinar in the chat box, and I even had a super lively Q&A at the end!

I’m definitely super pumped to lead more webinars in the future, so if you’re interested in teaching abroad, you should definitely get on my email list (grab my free teach abroad training series here) and I’ll let you know when the next one comes around!

cauliflower rice bowl

Look at me eating cauliflower rice and stuff

Figuring Out this Weightloss Thing (Kind of)

Last month I mentioned that I was really struggling to lose weight despite working with a nutritionist, exercising daily, eating 1500 calories, cooking whole foods for almost every meal, giving up alcohol, intermittent fasting and more. Now that I finally had a month at home with no holidays, my nutritionist agreed that there was definitely something wrong. I either had an intolerance, a thyroid problem, or something else going on with me.

So my nutritionist switched things up and had me cut out gluten and dairy. She also is now having me eat a solid 5 servings of veggies a day, and gave me an example meal plan to follow.

After following the meal plan for a week my weight started dropping after not seeing any changes in over a month. We’ve decided there’s definitely something going on with either gluten, dairy or both. It could potentially also be starches in general, especially if I eat them in the evenings. So, I’m going to experiment and try and see what the culprit is. All I know is that I don’t have a thyroid problem (thanks hospital visit!) and I feel a million times better when I cut the two of them out!

Valentines Day Flowers

Valentines Flowers from Chris!

My Best Blog Income to Date!

This month I made almost $3,000 USD from my blog/ course/ freelancing and I took home $2,600 of it! This is by far my best blogging income to date (especially when you consider my low business expenses for the month). While $1,000 of this was a huge freelancing project, I really hope I can keep up this kind of income in the future. I would make my life significantly less stressful, especially with my upcoming wedding!

Palm Desert

At least I had a nice view of these migrating pelicans?


Not everything went perfectly this month. Here were my biggest challenges.

A Night in the Emergency Room

Right around the beginning of the month, I started to feel really run down. I took a break from my intense morning workouts and tried to rest, but I just kept getting worse and worse. After a solid 2 weeks of this, I was starting to think I might have mono or anemia or something because I just honestly was not getting any better!

I had no normal symptoms aside from being extremely exhausted with a mild sore throat and some serious brain fog. I couldn’t exercise, I couldn’t focus, I couldn’t work, and I wasn’t getting any better.

One weekend I felt especially horrible, so my mom took my blood pressure and heartbeat and both were VERY low. I called my doctor and she recommended I head to the emergency room. Long story short, they did a bunch of tests, it turns out my heartbeat is naturally slow (I kind of knew this from my medical tests in China, but no one had every said anything to me about it) and I had some sort of weird virus.

I am thinking that I might have to have my tonsils out eventually (they’ve been an issue my whole life), but for now, I’m just so happy I’m not sick anymore after a solid 3 weeks of waiting…

Palm Desert

At least I could go for walks

Losing My Workout (and Work) Routine

I had a really great routine going in Seattle: I’d wake up early, work out, shower and get straight to work. I had my alarm go off at a set time every morning (which was early for me… probably not for normal people), and I even was great about a set bedtime and putting my phone away at 11 pm.

But when I got sick I lost all of it. I needed an extra hour or two of sleep a night, I couldn’t exercise, and I could barely even get my work done (hence, fewer blog posts this month… sorry guys). Now that I’m mostly better, I’m trying to get back into the swing of things, but once you stop a routine, it’s so hard to get it started again!

This is especially true since I was right in the middle of a month-long workout plan. I’m not fit enough to jump right in, so now do I have to start over from the beginning? Ugh.

Seattle snow

Well… looks like I’m going nowhere today

Crazy Snow Storm and Postponing Our Flight!

The day before I was set to fly to Palm Desert, it started snowing and didn’t stop. When I woke up there was a solid 5 inches of snow and a raging blizzard outside.

Now, those of you from snowy climates might be rolling your eyes, but let me tell you, snow in Seattle is no joke. Firstly we have barely any snow plows since it only snows once or twice a year (except this year… looking at you climate change). We’re also the second hilliest city in the US after San Francisco. I live at the top of a SUPER steep hill and we just park our car at the bottom when it snows. Granted, my entire neighborhood is one big hill, so there’s that.

Finally, our snow is super wet, and it melts and refreezes overnight which means that our hills are coated in a layer of ice… oh, and none of us have snow tires.

Thankfully Delta let us postpone our flight by 2 days for free, but only after I had a mild heart attack that lasted approximately 4 hours until I decided to finally call them. While it was great to stay an extra 2 days, we had no food, so we basically survived on whatever was in my parents’ freezer. That was fun!

This was a few years ago, but it’s the same every time

Chilly Weather in Palm Desert

We escaped the snow in Seattle only to arrive in Palm Desert’s cold and rainy spell. We had a flash flood on Valentines Day that washed out some of the major roads. It was so chilly I was actually thankful I brought a few wintery items with me. So much for the sun and the pool!

While the weather in Palm Desert is nowhere near as cold as the rest of the country, the houses here are not built to be warm. Tile floors, no heat… you get the picture. The fireplace actually got some use! I honestly felt like I was in a much, much nicer version of my unheated apartments in Ningbo. (Fun Fact: the Southern half of China is not allowed to have heat in the winter!)

I naturally run cold anyway, so basically everyone made fun of me with my fuzzy slipper socks, sweatshirts, and blankets as I sat at a glass table with a tile floor and tried not to freeze to death.

avocado sweet potato toast

My avocado sweet potato “toast”

Attempting to Give Up Gluten and Dairy While Sick

So I think we’ve already established that A) I was super sick this month and B) I finally found a diet that I think works for me. However, attempting to give up bread and cheese while not feeling my best was not that fun.

While I was already eating healthy, I needed to completely cut out the whole grain bread, little bits of cheese, plain greek yogurt, overnight oats, and all the other gluten and dairy inspired meals I’d been consuming. Not to mention my nutritionist now has me eating 5 servings of vegetables per day. SO MANY VEGGIES. Basically, my meals are absolutely huge, and then I’m hungry 2 hours later.

For the first week, I followed a strict meal plan that had me cooking 24-7 (I seriously need to learn to meal prep). I went from intermittent fasting with 3 big meals a day, to 3 meals and 2 snacks a day. I just felt like I was constantly in the kitchen!

Even now, cutting out gluten and dairy is not my favorite thing in the world, but if it works it works, and I feel a million times better. Even if I find out for sure that one of them (or both of them) are problems for me, I’ll still probably eat them in the future… just as a special treat. However, I am super excited to see how many awesome substitutes I can find. I’m now a huge fan of avocado toast using sweet potato instead of bread, and almond milk lattes!

Richelle Gamlam

I found this little gem when I was visiting Seattle

What I Wrote in February

Well, February wasn’t the best month for blog posts, but I did write a super in-depth guide on how to get your Chinese visa in Hong Kong! This guide covers everything from tourist visas to work visas, student visas and everything in between!

Best Instagram Shots

I guess you all love little unique side streets, whether it’s Beijing’s hutongs or random alleyways in Hanoi. I love getting lost when I travel and I’m so glad I stumbled down this street in Vietnam!

I LOVE Xi’an and I always recommend biking the city wall. Fun Fact: Xi’an’s ancient city wall is the best-preserved city wall in all of China, and you can see pretty much all of downtown Xi’an from up there. It takes about 1.5 hours to bike around the entire thing if you stop for photos!

Travel Product I Can’t Live Without

When you travel as much as I do, noise canceling headphones are a MUST. I actually have TWO different pairs of headphones: big ones for work, and Bluetooth earbuds for exercise, short flights, and when I’m air drying my curly hair and don’t want to mess it up.

My main noise canceling headphones are my Senheisers, which I use pretty much daily. These giant headphones are not only great for canceling noise, but they’re also super comfortable because they’re slightly oval shaped which helps your ears fit perfectly inside. The best part is they’re actually not insanely expensive if you get the ones I have!

More recently I got these Bluetooth earbuds which I’m obsessed with. This is actually the first time I’ve ever really used the Bluetooth capability on headphones (I always just plug my Senheisers into my computer) and I have to say I really love it! I just have to remember to charge them, which I’m always forgetting to do. It’s also very handy to have the noise canceling capability on earbuds, which I’d never tried before. If you’re looking for some fairly inexpensive but super awesome earbuds, I can’t recommend these enough.

champagne and strawberries

Happy Valentines Day!

Best Reads of February

Wow! Everyone was seriously on point with their blogs this month (except me womp womp). It was actually really hard to narrow down my favorites because there are so many I liked this month!

Intro to Ethiopia: Things to do in Addis Ababa – Drink Tea Travel

Ethiopia has been right at the top of our list since Chris’ Safari Company started selling tours there. With so much history, amazing food, and a vibrant culture, we need to get there ASAP!

New Orleans and a Question or Trust – Expat Edna

A great short story about trust and travel. If someone offers to take a photo of you, do you just hand them your phone or camera?

On Huge Lifestyle Changes or My “Holly Hell, I’m Actually Doing This” Journey to Being Healthy – This Battered Suitcase

I guess I’m not the only one focusing on getting healthy! Getting in shape and cooking whole meals is definitely not something a lot of travelers are doing (seriously, everyone in Asia eats out for all their meals), so it’s nice to hear someone working on the same things as me and actually succeeding.

Our Arctic Bucket List Itinerary For Norway + Sweeden (1-2 Weeks) – Heart My Backpack

Seriously, every time I read something from this girl I want to drop everything and go to Norway. This 1-2 week itinerary looks AMAZING and it’s something I could actually realistically do in the next few years. Bookmarking this for later…

What Does Globalization Really Destroy – Nomadic Matt

Controversial opinion for the win! I’ll admit that I am one of the first to be annoyed when I see giant American chains pop up in other countries. But do I have a right to be annoyed? Why exactly is it that I hate seeing Western chains in other countries?

That One Time I Crashed My Scooter in Bali – Young Adventuress

I’m a sucker for funny travel stories, and this one does not disappoint. That one time Liz crashed her scooter and fell in a pile of cement…

Trump dog toy

Trump Dog toy… amazing!

What’s Next for March 2019?

Right at the beginning of March, I headed to Denver for my Bachelorette Party! Spoiler alert: it was awesome and I had such a fun (mildly inappropriate) time. I’ll be sure to fill you all in on how that went down next month!

Towards the end of March Chris and I will be embarking on a little road trip with two of his brothers and their partners. The six of us will be hitting up LA, San Diego, Vegas (for Chris’ bachelor party), the Grand Canyon (which I’ve never been to!), Joshua Tree, and back to LA to fly out to CHINA at the beginning of April. WOW!

Want to hear more about my bachelorette party? Any tips for our Southwest Road Trip? Let me know in a comment below!! 



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.

7 comments on “The Freedom Life: February 2019

    • Thank you so much Kathy! It’s been a few yeas in the making and I’m still working on making enough money to feed myself, but it has been a great experience to work for myself and live abroad :)

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