The Freedom Life: January 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.

What's it really like to be a digital nomad? Here's a look at the life of a location independent travel blogger visiting family and friends in Sydney and the USA! #digitalnomad #travelblog #travelblogger #locationindependent #travel #Sydney #Australia #US #Seattle

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What I Was Up to in January

This January I headed from Australia to Seattle! I spent a few days exploring Sydney, and then it was onto Seattle where I had a busy 3 weeks: a wedding shower, wedding dress shopping, and a (very late) family Christmas!

Where I Was in January

  • Ben Lomond, Australia
  • Sydney, Australia
  • Seattle, USA
Sydney Harbour

Sydney from the Harbour Bridge


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

Exploring Sydney with Chris!

I love Sydney and I had a great few days exploring with Chris this year. We found a great hotel in North Sydney, and definitely got our fix of Asian food! Malatang, Kimchi Jiggae, Thai green curry… you name it. We met up with a few friends, spent the day in Hurstville, and even walked over the Harbour Bridge to the Opera House and the Rocks!

I Do Bridal

This is NOT the dress I chose :)

Finding My Wedding Dress!!

YAY!!! I was a bit worried about this because I need to buy a sample dress off the rack since I want to save money (I’m not spending over $1,000 on a dress I only get to wear… twice) and there’s no way I’ll be in one place long enough to order a dress and come back for fittings.

I actually had a few different appointments at boutiques that specialize in samples, but I ended up finding my dress SO FAST. Instead of not being able to find anything, I ended up having a giant dilemma between two dresses I loved.

Guess what else: they BOTH zipped up, and they both were in my budget. They were actually completely different styles, and it was a tough choice, but I ended up going with the one that was closer to my original vision (and also made me cry). But I still love the one I didn’t choose (pictured above!).

I currently have my dress with me, and I’ll be traveling all over the world with it shoved in a carry on duffel bag. I plan to get it altered in Hoi An, with maybe a touch-up alteration in Australia. Then I’ll be bringing it back to the US for my second wedding!

If you’re at all thinking of buying a sample dress, definitely go for it! Not only will you save a ton of money, but you also don’t have to wait 6 anxious months for the dress to arrive. You also definitely don’t need to be a size 2 to order a sample. I’m roughly a size 10 US, and there were tons of dresses to choose from that actually fit me!

If you’re looking for some great shops with great affordable sample dresses in Seattle, I recommend I Do Bridal (the place where I found my dress!), Brides For a Cause, and Blue Sky Bridal.

Wedding Shower

Cupcakes for the Wedding Shower!

Seattle Wedding Shower

The first weekend I was home, my parents threw Chris and I a couples Wedding Shower. It was basically a late engagement party, early wedding shower, but mainly it was an excuse for my friends and family to celebrate! While I only had a few friends in town, this was a great chance to see all of my family and family friends that I haven’t seen in YEARS. The event was super fun, and it was great to finally introduce Chris to EVERYONE.

Deva Cut


My First Curly Hair Deva Cut

For those of you who don’t know, I’ve been following the Curly Girl Method for about 6 months. I’ve given up heat, silicones and sulfates in my products, and a ton of other stuff I don’t want to bore you with here. However, the last missing piece of the puzzle was to get my hair cut by someone who is licensed and trained to cut curly hair DRY (without brushing it out like a bush….)

I’ve been looking forward to this for SO LONG and I FINALLY got my cut at the very end of January. I decided to go big or go home, and I ended up chopping off almost half my hair. BOOM.

My hair is so much lighter now! I’m still getting used to styling the new shorter cut, but I’m loving the volume and how my hair looks without those scraggly ends that won’t curl.

If you have curly hair, do yourself a favor and find a curly stylist on the Deva Curl website. You won’t regret it!

Wedding Shower

Late Family Christmas

While I was home in Seattle, my parents threw a (very late) family Christmas literally the day after the wedding shower. This was a great excuse to eat amazing Thanksgiving food (because that’s what I always ask for) and spend time with my family!

Shuffle Ladies

A few years ago when I danced every day and had abs

Joining Two Awesome Health and Fitness Programs

Many of you know that I’ve been working with an online Nutritionist to learn how to eat healthy and get down to a more appropriate weight. However, this month I decided to really amp things up with two new programs!

Firstly, I joined Lose It Without Losing It, a course by Courtney Tucker’s Empower U. This course really dives deep into weight loss with modules on nutrition, exercise, mindset, habits and morning routines, gut health and more! There’s also a small Facebook group and group calls too! I’ve found it to be a really awesome supplement to working with my nutritionist.

The second major change I made was joining Figure 8 Fitness by Body FX. I’ve been having a hard time keeping up with exercise while traveling around, especially since I hate running and don’t have access to a gym. This super intense latin workout series is taught by a professional Latin ballroom dancer.

For those of you who don’t know, I used to be a competitive Latin (and standard) ballroom dancer in college, so I’m LOVING this course. Over the last month, I’ve incorporated these challenging dance workout videos into my morning routine, and I’m really loving it! I’ve only been doing them for about 2 weeks and I’ve already lost an inch off all my measurements!

Dragon the cat

Baby Dragon!!


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

Leaving Little  Dragon in Australia

If you read last month’s recap, you’ll know that Chris’ parents gave me a little rescue kitten named Dragon for Christmas. Unfortunately, we can’t just take Dragon with us all over the world, so Chris’ family will be watching her until we come back to Australia.

That said, it was still really sad to leave her behind! Our hotel in Sydney made a little jingle sound randomly (still not sure what it was) that sounded like her collar bells, and it almost killed me! Thankfully, Chris’ mom sends us Dragon videos every few days, and it looks like she’s her happy, mildly psycho self!

freedom life

Packing is always fun.

Flying Home With Hawaiian Airlines

While I’ve definitely flown far worse airlines than Hawaiian air, I didn’t love my international flight with them from Australia to Seattle. Firstly, we showed up at the airport and realized they placed us in two middle seats a few rows apart from each other.

We then had to pay $200 to move to an economy premium section to sit next to each other since all the seats had already been assigned. I guess that’s what we get for booking through a budget site that didn’t give us the option to pick seats?

After our not-so-great layover in Hawaii (thanks, government shutdown), we had a domestic flight from Hawaii to Seattle. I guess in my head I felt like because I had purchased an international flight, it would be international quality the whole way. I kind of forgot that my long flight from Hawaii to Seattle is actually domestic… so that was fun.

I hadn’t prepared to pay for entertainment, and once I did pay, their movie selection was actually super bad. They also made it seem like they weren’t going to feed us, so we purchased snacks, only to then be given a meal directly afterward. WTF?

I mean, I know that Hawaii to Seattle is domestic, but I didn’t mentally prepare for basically half of my Australia – US flight time to be crammed in a middle domestic economy seat.

Anyway, not my first choice for an Australia-US flight going forward.

cauliflower rice bowl

When you’re eating THIS for every meal, you’d think the weight would just fall off…

Struggling to Lose Weight

Despite working with a nutritionist, tracking all my meals, eating super clean whole foods, not eating out much, trying intermittent fasting, working out 45 minutes every morning (both cardio and muscle building), giving up alcohol for a month, eating 1500 calories per day, and more: I’ve really been struggling to lose weight.

I’ve lost about 10 pounds in 7 months, and I really thought that being in the US and doing all of the above things would make a huge difference. Short answer: it didn’t.

SO now my nutritionist and I are working on a new plan: see if I have some sort of issue with gluten or dairy. She’s designed a super specific meal plan for me (which isn’t THAT fun, but oh well) where I don’t eat any gluten or dairy. It already seems to be working, so I’m going to give it a try and see which one (or both) might be an issue for me!

Black Orchid Diffuser

Welcome to my new hobby! (it’s also a great arm workout)

What I Wrote in January

Unfortunately, I was SUPER busy this January, so I didn’t have much time to write. I definitely plan on writing more posts this February!

Racism and Teaching Abroad in China: Will Schools Hire Me if I’m Not White?

This was a hot topic in my free Teach Abroad Facebook group, and I finally decided it was about time to sit down and write about it. The reason I kept putting this post off was that I didn’t really feel like it was appropriate for me as a white girl to talk about what it’s like to be a POC in China. But after the discussion in my group, I decided I really needed to clear some things up. That said, I do really want to do a collab post highlighting other voices, so if you want to participate, be sure to let me know!

The Freedom Life: December 2018

What I was up to last month! This post covers the month I spent in Australia, celebrating Christmas with Chris’ family!

Best Instagram Shots

Chris and I took this photo last year in Australia and I still love it! It sounds like many of you are excited to hear more about our wedding and wedding planning from abroad, so I’ll be sure to fill you all in!


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Today is wedding shower day!! For those of you who didn’t already know, Chris and I will be getting married this October in Australia (and then again in Seattle)! Now that I’m finally home with my family, in the last week I’ve gone wedding dress shopping (I found the dress!) and today my parents are hosting us a wedding shower. The entire upstairs of our house is decorated with printed pictures of Chris and I all over the world ☺️? and I know I’m definitely going to have a fun time explaining where they were all taken! While remote wedding planning can often mean doing things super early (for example, my bachelorette party is in March and we found our venue before we were even engaged), it is always fun to cram all the wedding festivities into our time in the US and Australia! ?? If anyone is interested in hearing more about destination or long distance wedding planning (or my sample wedding dress shopping experience!) leave me a comment below! ❤️

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I LOVE The Note Coffee in Hanoi, and apparently, so do you! This entire cafe is covered head to toe in post-it notes, and they have an incredible coconut latte!

Piss Alley

I wear this coat to death

Travel Product I Can’t Live Without

One thing I’ve been struggling with is packing for an entire year with just one large suitcase, especially with weather differences! This suitcase needs to last me through wet and snowy Seattle, moderate and dry (but fashionable) Palm Desert, a bachelorette party in chilly Denver, and 4 months in super hot and humid Vietnam. Yeah… not easy.

Thankfully, there’s one staple I won’t leave home without: my lightweight puffy down jacket. I LOVE this coat so much. I layer a sweater underneath and I can survive the snow, or I wear it over a light shirt or dress in the evening to keep from getting cold in California. It’s cute enough that I can wear it for a night out and casual enough for me to throw it over leggings and hike the Japanese mountains. Plus, it literally weighs nothing and takes up no space and it doesn’t wrinkle. GOLD MINE.

There are awesome options for both women and men, so I highly suggest getting yourself one of these for your travels!!

Kumano Kodo

I love this coat!

What I’m Reading

I really want to get back into reading books every night, and this month I’m reading the Sex Lives of Cannibals, a best-selling (slightly older) book by Maarten Troost. I loved his book Lost on Planet China, so I’m excited to read something else from him!

I’m about half-way through the book and all I have to say is… the isolation of my 3 months in Tanzania is NOTHING compared to his life in Kiribati. If you’re looking for a crazy expat story, this is it.

I Do Bridal

One more wedding dress shopping photo!! (Still not the dress I bought)

Best Reads of January

Here are my favorite blog posts from the last month!

A First Timer’s Guide to Ethiopian Food – Drink Tea Travel

I LOVE Ethiopian food and Drink Tea Travel does a great job explaining all of the different options and flavors. Seriously, if you haven’t tried Ethiopian food you need to get on it ASAP.

Diving Where Few Women Have Dived Before: Scuba Diving in the Dead Sea – Alex in Wanderland

I had no idea you could scuba dive in the Dead Sea and it looks amazing!! Just be aware that you have to wear a full face mask because water can NOT get in your eyes!

The Airbnb in Swedish Lapland Where You Can Stay With Reindeer – Heart My Backpack

An Airbnb in the snow with reindeer?? Sign me up!

What’s Next for February 2019?

This February I’ll be heading down to Palm Desert to stay with my parents! This will be a great opportunity for me to explore the area, get tons of work done, and focus more on health and fitness.

Do you want to hear more about my fitness journey while traveling or planning a wedding from abroad? Let me know in a comment and I’ll be sure to feature it in upcoming posts!



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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