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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 This Fall
As you can see, I was a bit slack on the Monthly Recap front last September but it was for two very good reasons. Firstly, I was traveling with my parents all around Vietnam during that time, and secondly, I launched my first online course!!!!
This monthly recap is going to be a big one, so get ready!
Where I Went in September + October
- Hoi An
- Ho Chi Minh City
- Ha Long Bay/ Lan Ha Bay
For the most part, these last two months were really great! From traveling all around Vietnam with my family to FINALLY launching my course, to days of straight sunshine (until recently), I don’t have much to complain about.
I Launched My Course!!!!!
YAY!! I’ve been hinting at this course for a solid year now and working on it practically full-time for the last 7 months, and it’s FINALLY DONE.
In case you didn’t see on social media or via email, I launched a premium course and community called the Teach Abroad Squad! The whole goal of the course is to make teaching abroad in China easy. Find an incredible high-paying job, learn how to actually teach to Chinese students, and survive in China once you get there.
Basically, I can’t go back in time and give myself a better first year in China, but I CAN be there for other new teachers. I made this course to help people have an incredible first year, avoid all the scams and not-so-great deals, and arrive in China feeling prepared to teach to Chinese students. Basically, everything I WISH was in my TEFL and then some.
I’m honestly so proud of this course, and I couldn’t be happier that it’s FINALLY out in the world. I just had my VIP launch in the last week of October, and I’ve already received a ton of great feedback. While the VIP launch is over, the plan is to open back up again at the beginning of 2019!
If Teach Abroad Squad sounds like something you need in your life, I highly suggest grabbing my FREE Teach Abroad Guide here you can learn some awesome basics, and then you’ll be the first to be notified when we open back up again!
My Parents Visited Vietnam
In early October my parents flew down to Vietnam for a 2 week trip to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, Hue, and Hoi An! I had a great time showing them around, and it was fun to visit many of the places in Vietnam I didn’t have enough time in the first time around. Seriously, when I lived in China I’d been to Vietnam TWICE but only for a week each time!
It was especially fun to show my parents around Hoi An. We had some fun clothes tailored, went to all my favorite restaurants, relaxed on the beach, and rested after a busy trip!
Fancy Ha Long Bay Cruise
One of my favorite moments of the trip with my parents was the fancy Ha Long Bay 2-day cruise we took with Mon Cheri cruises! The ship went through Ha Long and Lan Ha bay, where we had the opportunity to kayak through caves, swim in the bay, and have some fancy egg and coconut coffee while admiring the view!
This was my THIRD time in the area, and I definitely recommend Mon Cheri if you want to do a fancy overnight cruise without dropping a ton of money (we got a good deal on Booking.com). Previously I’d done a cheap day trip cruise from Hanoi (don’t recommend it), and a multi-day trip to Cat Ba island where I went rock climbing and kayaking (my go-to budget recommendation, it was amazing!).
Next time, I definitely want to spend more time in the area. I’ll do the 3-day 2-night cruise with Mon Cheri, and then spend some time on Cat Ba island to do some more adventure kayaking!
Motorbike Ride Around Sun Peninsula
Last week my fiance Chris and his brother’s family and I took a motorbike trip around the Sun Peninsula just near Danang. We rode our bikes to Danang, which is only about 30-45 minutes away, grabbed a cheap central hotel called San Marino with an ice cold, but very beautiful rooftop pool (only $40!), and then embarked on a motorbike adventure that next morning!
The group of us took our bikes around the peninsula, seeing the famous pagoda and Lady Buddha statue, all the way down to the Heritage Banyan tree. The views of the coastline were INCREDIBLE, and we had such a good day.
Sure, my motorbike’s back tire exploded while going up a steep hill, but that’s part of the adventure right? Thankfully there was a handyman literally 5-minutes push away (suspicious…) so we were able to get our bike fixed after waiting our turn since we apparently weren’t the only ones having flat tires in the area. Is someone putting tacks in the road or something??
While these last two months were really fun, there were a few major mishaps too!
No Phone For Almost a Month!!
So.. my phone battery randomly exploded a few weeks ago. I grabbed my phone out of my bag and the entire thing was swollen to the point that the screen had started coming off.
Long story short, I was told to go to Danang to fix it. Couldn’t find the Apple authorized store anywhere because we were given the wrong address by Apple (thanks). After 2 hours and multiple taxis we finally found it, waited for another hour, and then were told that my battery wasn’t an Apple battery and they couldn’t replace it.
Cue a huge argument with Apple, who had told me to get a new battery a few months back when all the iPhones were having battery problems. The guy at Apple told me to go to a Staples because they were out of batteries at all of the Apple stores up until I had to leave the US. What he didn’t tell me was that it would void my warranty. Cool. Good service strikes again.
So after approximately 5 phone conversations with Apple, I was out of luck. I needed to buy a new smartphone, but they’re all at least $200 more expensive in Vietnam compared to the US. Since my parents were coming in 2 weeks, I decided to hold out and wait for them to bring me one.
With the new iPhone announcement in the US, I was able to get the iPhone 8 for over $300 less than I would’ve paid in Vietnam. I just had to go without a phone for about…. 3 weeks. It was awful.
For those of you wondering, YES I did look into other brands. Samsung is even more expensive and doesn’t have an international warranty (aka if it breaks I have to mail it to the US), and I didn’t love the other cheaper Asian brands like Huawei, especially not for all the social media, photography, and work stuff I do on my phone.
So, long story short, I love my new phone but I kind of hate Apple.
Trying to Launch My Course RIGHT After My Parents Left
Once upon a time, I made a deal with myself that I would launch my course in October 2018. This made sense, because I wanted to avoid the holidays, and get everything done with my course before heading to Australia.
However, with my parents visiting in early October, this meant that I needed to get almost everything done before they arrived, so that I could launch my course 2 weeks after they left. Talk about stressful!
I was working all day every day trying to put the finishing touches on a 12-module course with 25 videos, plus 4 bonuses. My course is also hosted on its own website (too much of a control freak for Teachable or Udemy), so I had a lot of tech stuff to do as well.
Once my parents left, it was a mad dash to launch day! AHhhhhhhHHhh
My 5-Day Launch: Stress City!
For those of you who don’t already know, I took a program called Create Awesome Online Courses to learn how to create the most epic course ever. One of the things they teach you in this course is how to create a 5-day VIP launch to get the ball rolling.
In this process, you have a free 3-part video series (some of you may have seen this), and after a week you open up your cart for ONLY 5 days. This means you spend that time doing a lot of promoting, and then you wait with bated breath to see how many people join.
In my head, I thought I needed to get everything done before the cart opened, including pre-scheduling all of my emails. So during the 5-day launch, I had nothing to do but obsessively refresh my email every 5 minutes.
Of course, as is typical, everyone signed up at the absolute last minute. Which meant for the first few days I had ZERO signups. I was totally depressed. Every few hours I’d check my email and see nothing. After a solid 7 months of working on this course pretty much full-time, I was basically having an existential crisis.
While I really love my blog and will always keep writing and sharing, I wanted this course to be my full-time job. I really do enjoy teaching, and love helping people achieve their goals and dreams. I also love being creative and designing something completely my own, so creating an online course has been one of my major goals for a few YEARS.
Thankfully, sales started rolling in on the last two days. Thank god, because I was really two-seconds away from heart failure. We now have a cozy tight-knit group over in our private Facebook group, and I can’t wait to add more teachers to our community in a few months!
Food Poisoning On a Plane
On the day I was set to fly from Hanoi to Hue, I woke up feeling REALLY sick with some form of food poisoning. I knew it couldn’t have been the food from our food tour the night before since we all had the same things, so I’m assuming I touched some bacteria and then ate something with my hands? No idea. But whatever it was, it was BAD.
I tried making myself throw up, but couldn’t get anything up. I tried taking Imodium, drinking tea (I couldn’t get it down), but no matter what I did, I couldn’t get out of bed at all. My parents and Chris were all pacing around my bed trying to figure out what to do. Should I just miss my flight, forfeit my hotel in Hue and then pay for another night in Hanoi??
Eventually, I made it out of the house and into a taxi to the airport, but seriously… I was not okay. I felt like absolute death at the airport and almost threw up in front of security. I also almost keeled over on the packed bus to board the airplane, and literally almost died as people shoved me out of the way to board the plane.
When we got onto our budget flight, it wasn’t much better. Chris gave me the window seat so I could relax, but the flight was so crammed, I honestly couldn’t handle it. Thank god it was a short flight because that was the most miserable transit experience I’ve ever had (and this is coming from a girl who literally pooped her pants while waiting for a bus in the Philippines).
When we finally got to Hue I slept for the rest of the day while my parents took in the sights. The lovely owners at Hue Riverside Villa even made me plain porridge to eat that night! Thankfully I was well enough the next morning to go on our countryside motorbike tour. I only had to miss out on the famous salt coffee and most of our lunch.
Stressing About Money
This last month was the first time in my entire life that I couldn’t pay off my credit card in full. I know most of you are rolling your eyes right now, but I’m pretty conservative with my money, and I love having my credit card fully paid off every month.
While I do have a few thousand dollars, it’s all in China, so I can only access it via ATM here in Vietnam. I usually have all of my blogging income paid into my US account or Paypal, which is what I use to pay off my credit card. But with a bunch of travel, international flights, and investments in getting my course set up, my bill has been a bit too large these last two months to pay off fully.
While the interest isn’t too bad, this is definitely NOT a habit I want to get into.
September Income Breakdown
- Advertising – $0
- Blogging Partnerships – $681
- Freelancing – $0
- Affiliate Sales – $381.50
- Teaching Referrals – $0
Total Revenue – $1062.50
Total Profit (Minus Blog Expenses) – $352.50
In September I bought a few major things for my course that really added up!
October Income Breakdown
- Advertising – $0
- Blogging Partnerships – $0
- Freelancing – $500
- Affiliate Sales – $422
- Teaching Referrals – $0
Total Revenue – $922
Total Profit (Minus Blog Expenses) – $688
Most of what I spent in October went towards Facebook ads for my course, as well as my new Virtual Assistant!
What I Wrote in September and October
With all the traveling and the launch of my course, I didn’t have much time to write, and the posts I DID create mostly centered around teaching abroad to drum up some excitement and interest for my new course!
- What if Your Chinese School Doesn’t Pay On Time?
- Am I Legal to Teach in China?
- The Freedom Life: August 2018
Best Instagram Shots
This first shot is from the rooftop of the apartment we rented in Ho Chi Minh! We decided to have a nice glass of wine and enjoy the sunset!
View this post on Instagram
This second photo was actually from a photoshoot I stumbled on in Hoi An’s old town. The girls looked so beautiful in their ao dais, how could I not take my own photo too?
View this post on Instagram
I’m a little obsessed with the traditional Vietnamese ao dai dress. Not only is it super flattering, it’s also comfy with flowing pants underneath! Fun Fact: in Vietnam most high schools require girls to wear the ao dai to school on either Mondays or Fridays (or both). One girl I met in Hue said that a major reason she became a teacher was so that she could wear an ao dai to work a few times a week!
Travel Product I Can’t Live Without
Not necessarily a product, but a travel SERVICE I can’t live without is my travel insurance with World Nomads! I realized when I was sick in Hanoi that my insurance had actually expired and I’d forgotten to renew it, otherwise I could’ve actually stayed in my bed and skipped out on that horrible, horrible day of flying where I almost threw up all over everyone a hundred times.
Seriously there are a million reasons you need travel insurance when you go abroad. Remember when Chris broke his arm and we almost missed 4 flights, or when I stepped on a sea urchin in Cambodia and got blood poisoning? Yeah.
I personally use World Nomads which covers both getting sick abroad, and other important things like stolen phones (they reimbursed me for mine!), missed flights, lost luggage, and more!
Best Reads of October
Here are my favorite blog posts of the month!
Top 40 Things to Do in Hong Kong – PS I’m On My Way
As someone who has been to Hong Kong approximately 8 times, I can attest that this list is actually really good. I thought I’d done everything in Hong Kong but I guess I have to go back!
Tsurutokame: The Only All Female Kaiseki Restaurant in Tokyo – Be My Travel Muse
While on our Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage, Chris and I had the opportunity to try an AMAZING kaiseki meal. These multi-course Japanese delicacies should not be missed, and I love that this one is run by women!
My 6 Worst Dates Ever on the Road – Teacake Travels
As someone who has had their fair share of dating mishaps while living abroad, I really, really appreciated this.
What’s Next for November?
In just a few short days I’ll be flying to Australia for the holidays! Then three days later I’ll turn right back around for a partnership in Japan. Leaving Hoi An is really bittersweet (especially giving my cat back to her owner!!), but we plan to come back in April once the rain dies down!