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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 I Was Up to in May
This May was a pretty busy month! From settling down in Hoi An, to fostering kittens, to friends visiting and getting involved in a coworking space, there were definitely some high highs. However, the death of a friend and getting my birth control implant cut out in Vietnam were definitely some major downsides to the month.
Where I Was This Month
This month I spent the entire month in Hoi An, Vietnam!
Overall this month was a pretty great month! Here’s what I’ve been up to in Hoi An.
Fostering Three Kittens!
Chris and I are working with Jack’s Cat Cafe and Vietnam Cat Welfare to foster three kittens! Rory, Lady and Beanie were found tied up in a bag in Old Town (what???) and given to Vietnam Cat Welfare to rehome. Because kittens can’t hang out in Jack’s Cat Cafe until they’re fully vaccinated, they have to be kept in cages if they’re not adopted or with a foster family.
Chris and I have been fostering these three crazy kittens for the last month and we love them! (Most of the time). They all have very distinct personalities and have grown so much over the last month. They’re the sweetest kittens ever and are always sleeping in my lap… when they’re not tearing the house apart.
I’ll be so sad when we have to give them back in a few weeks!!
Settling into Hoi An
Now that Chris and I are all moved into our new house, we’ve quickly made ourselves at home. I’ve been cooking most of my meals with produce from the local market, I’ve even created a morning routine and work schedule (look at me being an adult!), and I’ve purchased a bunch of stuff on Lazada (Vietnamese Amazon… except not as good) to make it feel more like home.
Now that I’m settled, I’ve actually been giving myself WEEKENDS for the first time since I left my job in China. I also take a half workday on Wednesday to do something fun like a beach day or shopping and a movie in Danang. Since I’ve been going to work at the Hub co-working space, I also have a great work-life balance now. When I’m at the Hub, I work hard, and when I’m home, I actually relax! This is a big change from last year where I just worked inefficiently all day and evening at home.
Scuba Diving on Cham Island
Towards the end of May, my friend Yoko visited Hoi An. For those of you reading since the very beginning, I actually met Yoko while studying abroad in Beijing in 2012 and we’ve had a lot of adventures together. I had a great time showing Yoko and her boyfriend around Hoi An, but my favorite adventure was our day scuba diving with Cham Island Diving!
I actually haven’t been scuba diving since Chris broke his arm in Indonesia (whoopsies!) which was TWO YEARS AGO. My two dives on Cham Island were a great refresher, and our divemaster was actually our neighbor last time we lived in Hoi An! Small world…
While the diving on Cham Island isn’t necessarily the best diving I’ve ever seen, it’s very affordable and I had such a great time. After two dives, we got to go to Cham Island which is literal paradise. We laid in hammocks and drank a fresh coconut while enjoying the summer heat before heading back to Hoi An.
I honestly can’t wait to go diving with them again next month!
Getting Involved with My Co-Working Space
While I did go to the Hub co-working space last time in lived in Hoi An, I only went once or twice a week and I wasn’t super involved. I had a desk at home, so it felt like an unnecessary expense when I could just work at home for free. this time around I decided to get a full-time membership and really focus on making more connections in Hoi An. I have to say, this was definitely the best decision!
I’ve loved having community lunch every day with the other members of the coworking space. I feel like I actually kind of have coworkers to chat with while grabbing a coffee. I’ve attended pool parties, beach dance classes, community dinners, and brewery karaoke nights. While the Hoi An expat community is very transient, it is nice to have familiar faces around Hoi An.
I’ve also really enjoyed networking with other Hub members. I recently attended a mastermind brainstorming session where we all helped one another with issues we’re having with our businesses. I got a lot of great advice and encouragement, which has been really helpful for me since I’m used to only being able to bounce my work issues of Chris!
Buying New Glasses in Danang!
My poor Beijing classes were in DESPERATE need of a replacement, so I’m very glad I finally got a new pair in Vietnam. Not only do I have a new prescription, but my Beijing paid were all scratched up too.
While home in Seattle I had an appointment with an eye doctor that was covered under my insurance. However, the actual glasses themselves are SO EXPENSIVE in the US. I had a $200 credit, and I don’t even think that was enough to cover the lenses.
After hearing from multiple expats that there’s a really good glasses shop in Danang (Quang Optic), I decided to go there instead. I gave them my US prescription, chose what style of lens and frame I wanted, and my blue-light protecting scratch-resistant prescription glasses only cost me around $70 total.
While this is more than I paid at the glasses market in Beijing, the quality is much better. My fancy lenses are from Japan, and my nice frames were 40% off! Seriously, if you need new glasses just come to Vietnam. Oh, I also got my teeth professionally cleaned in Hoi An for not even $6 USD.
Planning Our Honeymoon in Thailand (and Malaysia…. and Singapore)
While Chris and I were planning to do our honeymoon in Fiji, we realized that we could get twice the honeymoon for half the price if we went to Thailand instead. So… I guess we’ll be honeymooning in Thailand!
Chris and I have already spent a lot of time in Thailand (fun fact, we actually met in Bangkok!), so we’re getting a little off the beaten path for this trip.
First, we’ll be relaxing on the beach on Koh Yao Yai for a few days, before heading to Krabi to be a little touristy. Then we’re heading to Koh Lipe where we plan to do a lot of snorkeling and diving. Finally, we’re heading to Langkawi to stay on an overwater bungalow (our main splurge of the trip).
We then realized we had a little bit of time to kill before we could head to the US, so we booked a few days in Malacca and Singapore. I’ve actually never been to Singapore, so of course, I’m going to eat all the foods while I’m there. I also only ever took a day trip to Malacca, and I’m dying to go back!
This trip will be mostly a digital detox, but I’ll be sure to share it all with you when I’m done!
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This month definitely wasn’t perfect. Here are a few of the lower moments from the last few weeks.
Rachel from Hippie in Heels Passed Away
Earlier this month my blogger friend Rachel from Hippie in Heels passed away. I had spent some time with her in person at various conferences and events, and we both kept in touch online. Her death came completely out of the blue, and I almost didn’t believe it at first. I kept praying it was some cruel joke or misunderstanding.
Rachel and I were both in very similar places in life. We were both expats for five years (her in India and me in China) and blogged a ton about our respective countries, both of which are often misunderstood. We both left our expat homes around the same time to move to a new country. We also both got engaged in the same year, and our weddings were planned within a few months of one another.
I still honestly can’t believe she’s gone. Not only was she a lovely person and an online friend, but she was also an incredible writer and storyteller and I loved her blog. Rachel’s passing was a major reminder to stop putting so much negative pressure on myself and just enjoy my life a little bit.
Instead of obsessing over shedding those extra pounds, I want to love the healthy body I’m in and appreciate everything it’s done for me. Instead of viewing wedding planning as a list of tasks to be completed, I need to stop, enjoy the moment and remember why I’m getting married in the first place. Rachel never got the chance to enjoy her wedding, and I definitely can’t take my wedding, my travels or my life for granted.
Major Problems With My Birth Control Implant
For those of you who don’t know, I got a birth control implant in my arm about a year and a half ago. These implants are supposed to last a solid three years and are really gaining in popularity. I actually know a bunch of people who have them!
So this birth control implant was absolutely fine for about a year, and then it started going haywire a few months ago. At first, I figured the problems would go away, but then they just kept getting worse and worse and worse until I couldn’t ignore it anymore.
Not only was I bleeding more often than not, but I also started breaking out like crazy all over my chin, and my arm would randomly ache where the implant was. One night my arm hurt so bad I almost threw up.
After that night, I knew I couldn’t ignore it anymore, so I started doing a ton of research and asking around to see if there was ANYWHERE I could go in Hoi An or Danang. Eventually, I was encouraged to visit Hoang My Hospital in Danang, which has a specialized OBGYN department and English translators.
Getting My Birth Control Implant Cut Out
I eventually made it to the hospital in Danang and met with a doctor who had me do a pelvic exam and a (very invasive) ultrasound. We discovered that I actually have a cyst in my uterus, which actually isn’t as bad as it sounds and is very common. However, they couldn’t know if my problems stemmed from my implant or the cyst.
The doctors decided to take out my implant and see if my symptoms stopped after a month. If they stopped, it was the implant to blame. If they didn’t, I needed medication for the cyst.
The doctor brought me into a surgical room to remove my implant, and of course, I was a bit nervous since she didn’t speak any English. I figured she would numb my arm like they did in the US, but nope, she literally sliced my arm open with no meds. Apparently, this is pretty common and I later found out my UK friends didn’t get pain meds either (wtf guys??), but I was NOT ready for that.
However, once the doctor tried to get my implant out, she realized it was too deep in my arm. I literally SCREAMED when she tried to get it out without pain meds (also, I had no idea what was going on), so the doctor used some liquid pain medication in the hole and got to work on getting my implant out. My implant was so deep in my arm that it took the doctor about 10 minutes to get it out. The English-speaking nurse held my hand and kind of sort of not really explained to me what was going on.
It was not a good day.
In other news though, all my problems have disappeared now! I’m just currently trying to figure out what I want to do. Do I want to let my hormones settle over the course of a few months (and suffer through debilitating period cramps), switch back to birth control pills, or try an IUD? The hospital in Danang has IUDs and even offered to put another implant back in, but let’s be real, I’m never putting anything in my arm ever again.
Trying to Keep the Kittens From Destroying My House
While I love our little kittens, they do NOT love my house. I definitely had to childproof everything because these three wild babies want to tear my house to shreds. Firstly, they love to play on/ in the couch…. with their claws out. There’s a small area behind the back of the couch where they can sit and be hidden, so of course, they loved to be back there. The problem was that they’d then climb out over the top of the armrest… with their claws.
We also have these beautiful sheer curtains we can close for some privacy. Before we got the kittens I loved to have them closed in the evening or when I was changing so no one could see in. I also really enjoyed how they closed in the breeze. But with three kittens those curtains are by far the most fun thing to climb in our entire house, so now they’re constantly hidden behind our thicker curtains.
As much as I love them, three kittens are kind of a lot when you don’t have a laundry room or second bedroom where you can keep them when they’re getting too crazy. I feel like I’m constantly grabbing one from behind the couch, another one from the curtains and a third one out of the kitchen sink. Maybe now I know what it’s like to have a bunch of children… except you can’t put children in a cage for time out.
Just a Little TOO Hot
It’s not summer in Hoi An, aka SUPER DUPER HOT SEASON, and wow is it hot. It’s regularly over 100 F (over 37 C), and the “feels like” temperature is usually around 110 F (43 C). I’M MELTING.
Even with our aircon on full blast in the kitchen/living room, it’s still too hot. I’ve also been trying to work out every morning, but after leaving the aircon off all night, it’s too hot to exercise. About 10 minutes into my workout I would literally become a puddle. Thankfully buying a fan did help significantly with this problem. When the fan blows on my sweat it’s almost cool! … Almost
In this heat, I’ve just resigned myself to being constantly sweaty. There’s no other option.
What I Wrote in May
This month I wrote a bit about Vietnam’s cat meat trade and the stray cat epidemic, highlighting Vietnam Cat Welfare (otherwise known as Jack’s Cat Cafe), who I’m partnering with to foster my crazy kittens! I also published a guest post from Josh of Far West China and Travel China Cheaper, where he talks about overcoming the tech barrier in China! How do you get food delivered? How do you sign up for bike share? How do you pay for stuff with QR codes?? Josh has you covered.
- 7 Tips to Get Started With China’s Technology: Wechat, Apps, VPNs and More!
- Vietnam’s Stray Cats and the Cat Meat Trade: Why it Exists and How You Can Help
- The Freedom Life: April 2019
In addition to my own site, I also wrote about my hometown of Seattle for Adventurous Kate!
- Where to Stay in Seattle: Best Neighborhoods and Accommodation – Adventurous Kate
New Teach Abroad Guides and Training
This month I also created a ton of new teach abroad content for all of you! Firstly, I spent way too long making a brand new guide: 10 Steps to Landing a High Paying Job in China (that’s not a scam). This guide walks you step by step through the process of finding and landing an incredible job so you can rock your first year in China!
While I knew everyone was worried about finding a great, scam-free job, I was a bit shocked by how much the guide blew up over the last week. I’ve been receiving tons of comments, questions, and requests to go MORE in depth, so I decided… why not?
Because I’m a nerd who has no life, I spent the entire weekend creating an awesome live training for all of you! This free masterclass is going to go way in depth on the 10 step process covered in the guide, so if you want to teach abroad in China, you really can’t miss this.
The LIVE training will be held this Saturday afternoon June 8th at 11 am EST. If you can’t make it there will be a replay, so you can still sign up. However, I will be giving out an awesome gift to everyone who arrives in person!
Best Instagram Shots
Langco beach in between Danang and Hue is one of the most beautiful beaches in Asia. I definitely need to take a motorbike trip up to this beach before I leave Vietnam in a few months!
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One of the prettiest beaches I’ve ever seen was just a quick pit stop on the way from Hoi An to Hue. Maybe Chris and I can take a quick trip back here one of these weekends? Look at the color of that water!! It’s so hot outside I’ve been tempted to hide inside with the air con, but when in paradise, why not enjoy it?
Obviously, I didn’t take this picture. This is the photo that Rachel’s family shared when they announced her passing to the world. While there are a million different stunning photos of Rachel all over the world, this one definitely captures her kind personality, love for animals, and hippie spirit.
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I’m devastated. My friend and fellow blogger Rachel from @hippieinheelsblog has passed away and I don’t even know what to say right now. Rachel was such a kind person, amazing writer and an inspiration to me and so many others. We were in very similar places in life. I left Beijing around the same time she finally left Goa. We both got engaged last year, both just celebrated our bachelorette parties and we both had weddings planned around the same time. Rachel has so many amazing things right on the horizon and it breaks my heart to see that she was taken before she could experience them. I honestly can’t imagine what her family and her fiancé Ben are going through right now. Rachel, you are so loved, you made a giant impact on this world and you will be missed.
Travel Product I Can’t Live Without – THINX and the Diva Cup
I’ve already written at length about how much I love my Diva Cup, but after I got the birth control implant, I had no need for it anymore. I lost my Deva Cup somewhere in Japan (whoopsies), and left all my THINX period underwear in a box in Australia. MAN did I regret it these last few months.
As my medical issue got worse and worse, I needed something aside from just regular old black underwear. I bought a few more pairs of THINX period panties and had them sent to the US. Since my constant bleeding was actually not very heavy, these magical undies did the trick.
But once I arrived in Hoi An, things started to get worse, and my 3 pairs of THINX were not cutting it. I eventually found an OrganiCup at Refillables Hoi An (an eco-friendly shop here) and began wearing it pretty much daily until I could find a doctor to help me take out my implant. The OrganiCup is almost identical to a Diva Cup and works just as well, if not BETTER.
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Favorite Travel Fashion Accessory
Since I moved to Hoi An I’ve literally been LIVING in my crocs ballet flats. Crocs? Crocs?? Yes. Who knew crocs actually made cute shoes?
These Crocs Isabella jelly flats are my constant companion here in Hoi An. They’re super comfortable, waterproof, and actually stay on my feet, unlike most ballet flats which slip off my tiny heels.
I never have to worry about rain, stepping in puddles, or having them clash with any of my outfits. They’re casual enough to wear with a beach dress and nice enough that I feel good wearing them to a nice restaurant on date night. I’ve also worn them to salsa and swing dancing classes and they actually stay on my feet.
I have the bronze color which looks great with a tan, but I really want to also grab the oyster glitter color too!
These are miracle shoes. MIRACLE.
What I’m Watching
Not enough people know about the internment camps in China’s Xinjiang province. I mean, let’s be real, most people have never even heard of Uighurs or Xinjiang in general. If you’re not up to date on the systematic “re-education” of Muslim Uighurs in China, definitely watch this video.
While I LOVE China, Chinese people, Chinese food, Chinese culture and just about everything else. I’m not a fan of the Chinese government (just like I’m also not a fan of my president right now either). I always try to separate the average everyday person from political issues, especially in countries like China where it’s very difficult for locals to get all the information about what is happening in Xinjiang.
Having spent time in Xinjiang in 2012, it’s really important to me that China ends their systematic oppression of Tibetans and Uighurs. Now let’s hope China still lets me back in after I’ve posted this…
Best Reads of May
Here are my favorite blog posts from the month of May!
How to Go Trekking in Pakistan: 2 Week Hiking in Pakistan Itinerary – Teacake Travels
Alice goes on the most badass adventures. If you’re looking to get inspired to try something really different, definitely check this post out.
On Huge Lifestyle Changes: My New Approach to Mental Health – This Battered Suitcase
It’s amazing how much listening to your mental health needs can impact your life. I honestly can’t travel 24-7 and take care of my business and my health. Also, having a separate workspace is super important for me, otherwise I’m also CONSTANTLY on my computer.
Backpacking Through Morocco as a Woman: My Most Difficult Travel Experience Yet – Eat Sleep Breathe Travel
Street harassment can be intense anywhere in the world, but Hannah explains how Morocco took it to a whole new level, and what to do if you want to travel in Morocco as a solo female traveler or a female-only group.
What’s Next for June 2019?
This June I’ll be going on a visa run to Chiang Mai, Thailand! While I’ve already done a lot of the touristy things in Chiang Mai, I’m super excited to go back, meet up with friends, and eat all the food!
This June I’ll also have to give my kittens back (NOOOOO!) but I will be getting a new batch to love and nurse back to full health. If my current babies don’t get adopted, you bet I’ll be at Jack’s Cat Cafe every week to visit them.