The Freedom Life: October 2017

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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 This October

I really, really thought October would be the month where I could get a lot of work done before my big trip to Japan. I had an ENTIRE MONTH to sit down and work every single day. Well, of course, life gets in the way, as does a part-time college counseling job.

In addition to attempting to work on my blog and related projects, the part-time college counseling gig really ramped up. With the Early Decision/ Early Action Deadline on November 1st, I had a ton of essays to edit. I also spent almost the entire National Week Holiday in the office doing a million admissions interviews. Oh… and I picked up a second part-time college counseling gig because apparently, I’m insane.

Aside from working non-stop, I did have some fun this month. One of Chris’ friends came to visit us in China, and we took him to hike the Gubeikou section of the Great Wall. Chris and I also planned a one-year anniversary trip to Sanya, which was incredible!

Finally, I had a little scare where I thought I was going to get deported. More on that later, though.

Where I Went

  • Beijing
  • Gubeikou Great Wall
  • Sanya, Hainan


Here are a few of the absolute best moments of October!

Mariott Dadonghai

Hanging by the pool in Sanya

1. A Luxurious Anniversary in Hainan

Chris and I made a pact on my birthday last April, that every year for our anniversary we would gift each other an experience instead of a physical present.

However, our anniversary just happens to fall during the Chinese National Week Holiday… aka the absolute worst time to travel or plan any fun activities. So, instead of surprising each other with romantic excursions, we booked a vacation to Sanya in Hainan, the “Hawaii of China.”

While I usually don’t stay at the big hotel chains, we made an exception on this one and booked ourselves a room at the Marriott, right on the beach. This was actually the first time I’ve had a real vacation in a looooong time.

While I still worked a bit in the evenings, it was kind of a relief to relax in the sun and lounge by the pool for once in my life. While traveling is fun, sometimes you do actually just need a vacation.

Lakeside Great Wall

This is my excited face

2. By Far My Best Blogging Income

Just last month I was concerned about my blogging income, dreaming of the days I’d make over $1,000 USD a month from my site and related projects. Well… this month I brought in over $1,500!! What?! How did that even happen??

I know this is mainly because I had a few big payoffs last month from a campaign and some college counseling referrals, but I don’t care. I’m still proud of myself.

I guess this month has shown me that it is actually possible to make a decent income on my own. While I still might not be making over $1,000/month regularly for these next few months, at least I know it’s possible if I just keep working hard.

Gubeikou Great Wall

Hiking Gubeikou

3. An Incredible Great Wall Hike

I know what you guys are thinking: Does this girl go to the Great Wall once a week or something?!

Well, Chris had a friend in town for a few days and we decided to take him out to the Gubeikou section. Our driver actually dropped us off at the very, very end of Gubeikou, which to be honest, is kind of crappy. We actually ended up hiking the wrong way for about 20 minutes until we found ourselves surrounded by television wires strung through old towers of the wall.

Eventually, we decided to try going the other way, and after a solid hour or two of hiking through the wild wall, getting lost two more times, we eventually made it to the more popular area of Gubeikou. The veiw we got when we finally entered the beautiful area was stunning, and I’d never been able to see the wall from that vantage point before. We were all so stunned, we had to sit there and admire the view for a good 15 minutes.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to hike all the way to the end and then turn around, so we had to exit the wall right when it started getting good. All I know is that I’ll be back to Beijing again, just to try that whole section from start to finish!


When in Hainan… eat borscht? (Seriously.)

4. Getting My Visa Situation Sorted

I’ll dive into this a bit later in the “challenges” section, but let’s just say that I was a bit worried I was going to get deported… but I didn’t! Hoooray! I was also worried they wouldn’t let me on a flight to Sanya without my passport… but they did!

Way to go China for not deporting me and letting me go on my anniversary vacation while my passport was getting a new visa. I was really worried there for a minute, but China actually had my back for once. What a pleasant surprise.


Not everything this month was perfect. There were a few downsides to the month of September.

Gubeikou Great Wall

We thought Chris might have to pack up all my stuff…

1. The Visa Catastrophe

Wait… you almost got deported?! Yeah. That happened. Long story short, I have a Residence Permit that allows me to live and work in China until April. However, this visa is contingent on me working full time at my last job.

After I quit my job, my company had a duty to cancel my Residence Permit, giving me 30 days to leave the country. However, since I’m working part-time for my company, I convinced them not to cancel my Residence Permit until I’m about to leave. I’m still working for them, and besides, the amount of work I do for them part-time is almost a full-time job anyway.

But while I was gone traveling with my parents in September, the company decided to cancel my Work Permit without telling me. When they finally told me this, I freaked out and started googling. Everything I read online said that once my Work Permit was canceled, so was my Residence Permit.

When I added everything up, it had been OVER 35 DAYS. Let’s just say I flipped out. I was SURE I’d be deported and started thinking I should leave the country right away before they noticed. Thankfully, my company made a few phone calls and no one at the Exit and Entry Bureau even cared that my Work Permit had been canceled a month early. WHEW.

Mariott Sanya

I can’t believe I almost missed this!

2. Traveling Without a Passport

Once I realized I wasn’t getting deported or paying any sort of a fine, I had a new problem. Those 30 extra days you get to stay in the country aren’t just stamped onto your existing Visa. I needed to relinquish my passport for a solid 10 days, meaning I wouldn’t have my passport for my trip to Sanya!

The visa office gives you an official receipt when they take your passport, which you’re supposed to be able to use in lieu of your passport for everything, including domestic flights. However, there is no official information ANYWHERE to verify this, and the visa lady wasn’t too convincing. Cue three hours of phone calls to China Southern and the Beijing Airport, which eventually led me in a giant circle with no answers.

It wasn’t until Chris posted on Reddit that we got some REAL answers. Basically, everyone said it was fine, and if anyone gave you trouble, just tell them to call the police and verify. I’ve never loved Reddit so much in my entire life.

China e-bike

Riding my cute bike into work!

3. College Counseling Stress

I really, really thought October would be the month where I’d make a lot of progress on my blog. Instead, I spent the whole month doing college counseling stuff. Wasn’t I supposed to have quit my job already?!

Firstly, I spent the whole National Week Holiday, in the office meeting with kids to prepare them for interviews, back to back to back. Seriously, one day I had six 1-hour meetings in a row, with only 30 minutes to shove some sushi in my face for lunch.

I also got guilted into taking on ANOTHER college counseling gig online. The per-hour pay was great and I was super excited until I realized I was supposed to be editing essays for free. This company also requires a TON of admin work and micromanaging. I have to record every meeting on Zoom and send it in, fill out meeting reports, and I spent over an hour doing a 6-page detailed Initial Assessment Report. While I love the student and I’m happy to help her, even she’s annoyed at the insistence on using Zoom and Hipchat, when we could easily be chatting and video calling using Chinese Wechat.

Things I’ve learned: Ask for all of the details before agreeing to anything, and stand up for yourself if something seems unfair. I need to get better at saying no, even when people are asking for a favor.

What to do in xian

Who am I without China?

4. How Am I Supposed to Leave China?

I’m leaving China in just over a week and I’m FREAKING OUT.

I have five years of stuff here that I need to sort through. I need to mail things to Australia, pack for Japan, and store another suitcase of things that can’t be shipped. I need to figure out what to do with all my extra liquids and toiletries. I need to go to the Great Wall one more time. I need to get work done before I start my two-week Japan hike. I need to eat at all my favorite restaurants. I need to throw a goodbye party. I NEED TO CALM DOWN BEFORE I HAVE A PANIC ATTACK.

Am I really leaving China? Is this real life? How will I exist without this country? Who am I without China? I feel like I’m losing part of my identity.

Tiananmen Square

Monthly Finances

Quick background: when I quit my job as a college counselor in September, I had paid off all of my student loans and managed to save $20,000 USD. I wouldn’t have taken the leap to work for myself if I didn’t have a little nest egg to keep me going.

This month I promised myself I’d write a post every week. I think we can all see that didn’t happen. However, despite not having enough time to work on my blog, this was my most successful blogging month so far! A lot of it had to do with a big payout from working on a brand campaign and referral payments from my company for finding them some awesome college counselors.

Here’s My Monthly Income Breakdown!

  • Branded Content – $619.58
  • Freelance Writing – $55
  • Affiliate Sales – $155.63
  • Teaching Referrals – $607.33
  • Travel Consulting – $64.76

Total Revenue – $1,502

Total Profit (Minus Blog Expenses) – $1,288

Best Instagram

This photo is from the Lakeside Great Wall near Huanghuacheng. I was actually pretty surprised by how peaceful this section was, considering the crowds at the gate. I guess everyone goes to have a picnic near the wall, not on it! 

Book of the Month

This month I finished two books! The first was Lucky, written by Alice Sebold, the author of The Lovely Bones. Lucky is a memoir detailing Sebold’s rape as a college student and the resulting trial to bring her rapist to justice. The book itself is pretty good, but it’s also very heavy, and I had to take a little break from it while on vacation. Definitely, not a beach read, but I’m glad I sat down and read it.

The second book I read this month is one of my new favorite books of ALL TIME. Undress me in the Temple of Heaven by Susan Gilman is absolutely amazing and you should all buy it right now. I originally avoided it based on the title because I thought it was going to be another stupid China travel Memoir. However, in the first five minutes, I was very pleasantly surprised.

Firstly, this is a memoir of a girl traveling through China in 1986 when China had literally been open to tourists for “approximately 10 minutes”. Reading about how much China has changed in the last 30 years was so shocking. In addition to learning more about China’s past, the book’s plot is CRAZY all on its own. While things start out normal enough, the story really picks up and towards the end, I literally could not put it down. I devoured this book and read it in less than a week, which I haven’t done since the days of Harry Potter.

Fall in Beijing

The fall is actually really pretty in Beijing!

Best Reads of August

Here are some of my favorite blog posts from this October!

How to Make $100K a Year Teaching Overseas – Oneika the Traveler

Want to make teaching abroad a career? Feel overworked and underpaid in your teaching gig back home? I learned so much about teaching in international schools from this post. Oneika almost (ALMOST) makes me want to go back to teaching and get a certification.

If This Town Were in the US I’d Probably Hate It– Heart My Backpack

Why is it that so many world travelers roll their eyes at the wonderful things they have back home? I guess we all wish the grass was greener… or maybe more exotic.

The Faces of Modern Kyrgyzstan: Portraits from Central Asia – Young Adventuress

Get me to Central Asia already! Seriously, every time I see posts from this region I want to start packing my bags.

Nah Dude, I’m Not Going to Lighten Up About Your Rape Joke – This Battered Suitcase

Not only does Brenna say everything I’ve been thinking these past few years, but she also opens up about her own assault, which I find incredibly brave. Rape isn’t a joke, and things won’t change until we all stop laughing.

Gubeikou Great Wall

A quick glimpse from the wall

What’s Next for November 2017?

I’m actually leaving China. OMG IT’S HAPPENING. Next Sunday I’m getting on a plane to Japan so I can hike the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage treck for two weeks. I’ve never been on a long trek before, so I’m actually kind of nervous. Will I survive, or will I be picking off my toenails like Reece Witherspoon in Wild?

Wish me luck everyone!



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.

6 comments on “The Freedom Life: October 2017

  1. So excited for our new adventure together.

    I know how weird it must feel to be leaving the place that has helped to shape and define you these past five years, but China isn’t going anywhere and you’re so much more than a Sino-English translator and college counsellor.

    Love you!

    • I’m so excited too! I know I’m definitely more than a college counselor/translator but sometimes it doesn’t feel like it. Especially in our house! So excited for Japan and all of our adventures to come :)

  2. I can’t believe you’re leaving Richelle. Chris is right though, China’s not going anywhere! I’m super excited to see where this new chapter leads you. Beijing won’t be the same without you. Because even though we never see each other it’s nice knowing there’s someone out there who understands my weird Beijing life! That being said, I JUST found out I’m leaving too… in like six weeks! If I don’t see you before you leave I hope our paths will cross soon. Meaning if you’re ever in Vietnam let’s meet up!

    • Beijing is way too big! That’s part of the reason I’m glad to be leaving. You might as well have been living in Tianjin, because it probably would’ve been faster for me to get there than your campus! I’ll definitely be back to Vietnam though. Chris has never been, and both my trips have been way too rushed. Enjoy the beautiful Beijing weather while its lasts!

  3. So excited for you! BUT now that I love China….well you will just have to be my tour guide once again someday. Can’t wait to see you two after the holidays! PS: Just downloaded Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven…gonna get a start on it tomorrow.

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