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I’ve noticed that the more I travel and the busier I become, the more impossible it becomes to keep up with my travels in real-time. Well, never fear monthly recap posts are here!
Well… April is almost half over, but it doesn’t matter. This recap is happening anyway. Can’t let myself slip up again like last month!
Overall, this month was pretty awesome. I was chosen to speak at a travel blogging summit, I took a trip down to Hainan, and Chris found a new apartment and ditched that crazy landlady!
Where I Went
While I spent the majority of the month in Beijing, I did head down to Lingshui, Hainan at the end of March! Never heard of Lingshui? That’s okay. Neither had I before I went on this trip.
While most people head to Sanya for the beaches and the sun, many people miss out on the other, less crowded, areas of Hainan. Sanya is a bit far from both Monkey Island and Boundary Island, so in the last five years, the Hainan tourism board has spent their resources building up Lingshui from a tiny run-down city to a go-to destination.
It was definitely cool to see a different, more “off-the-beaten-path” version of Hainan away from all of the huge Chinese tour groups. Well… most of the time. I’m really excited to cover the destination for all of you AND share some of the promotional tourism videos they shot of me while I was down there.
Highlights of the Month
Overall March was a pretty great month. From traveling Hainan to speaking at a travel blogging conference, there are so many cool things I can’t wait to share with you!
1. Speaking at the Travel Blog Virtual Monetization Summit!!!
Last year I bought tickets to the very first Virtual Monetization Summit and it was one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. The summit was so good that once it was over I immediately pre-purchased tickets for the next one. Who would’ve thought that now I’d be SPEAKING?!
It was the Monetization Summit that taught me how to get published and go viral on Huffington Post. It was the summit that made me start taking affiliate marketing seriously. I knew how to deliver on my first press trip, I learned how to market myself properly, and I completely re-branded my homepage. Seriously, this summit was way more helpful than Travel Blog Success and the sessions at TBEX.
For this summit, I’ll be speaking about getting started with email marketing. How to grow your list and make money even with a somewhat small blog and tiny email list. While I was SUPER intimidated to be surrounded by top bloggers making six figures (cue imposter syndrome), I honestly think my talk will be one of the most helpful, especially for those who are still sending out general Mailchimp Newsletters.
Through my talk, I’ll discuss what I’ve done in the last 6 months, and help you through an easy, 7-step process to grow your email list and start making money with each email you send. I really can’t wait to see the final results!!
The summit is online, so anyone can attend, and videos will be released over the course of one month, giving you plenty of time to watch and re-watch everything. Plus, you get access to the videos forever!
2. Lounging in Hainan’s Luxury
My trip to Hainan at the end of March was so much fun, and one of my favorite aspects was getting to stay at two brand new resorts in Hainan’s Clearwater and Perfume bays. While we didn’t have much time to spend at the resorts because we had so many activities planned, it was kind of magical to be able to spend a few hours enjoying the epitome of luxury.
Both of these resorts were brand new, as in they were built in the last year. I’m pretty sure this is why they invited us to stop by for a day to get the word out. They also have pretty low prices due to the fact that not many people know they exist yet!
My absolute favorite hotel was the Narada Perfume Bay where my boyfriend Chris and stayed in our own private villa with an infinity pool. SERIOUSLY. Unfortunately, we only had one evening there, so the two of us didn’t even have time to enjoy the main infinity pool or the beach.
Maybe we’ll save up for a weeklong vacation….?
3. Finding a New Apartment for Chris
If you’ve read last month’s recap, you’ll know that there was a possibility Chris might get kicked out of his new apartment. Well, I’ll go into the details later in this post, but yes, the crazy landlady did kick them out of the apartment.
But there’s always a silver lining to every challenge. Chris and his brother, brother’s girlfriend, and the baby all moved to a new, nicer apartment CLOSER to where I live and work. While it is a bit further away from Chris’ brother’s work, there’s way more to do in this area. They’re walking distance from four subway stops, a giant courtyard where people sing and dance in the evenings, and a big mall with restaurants, coffee shops, and daycare centers.
What’s not to love?
While March was a pretty good month overall, not everything was perfect. Here were some of the downsides to the last few weeks.
1. Cold Rainy Weather in Hainan
I was SO excited to head to Hainan and finally get some sun. Unfortunately, the skies disagreed with me, and there was a random cold front for most of the week we were there. Many of our beach days were spent with gray skies, the wind, and rain. When we did get the sun, we were busy attending Chinese minority festivals or picking strawberries at a fruit farm. Whoopsies.
But when you have no control over the weather or your schedule, sometimes things like that happen. While Hainan is supposed to be warm and sunny year round, it obviously does rain sometimes.
The main issue with the rain is that we had all packed for summer weather and weren’t prepared for the chilly wind. This led to me wearing pretty much the same pair of clothes for half the trip!
2. Chris Got Kicked Out of His Apartment
I won’t go into the full story, but yes, Chris was kicked out of his apartment because the landlady didn’t want to rent to people on tourist visas. While it’s completely fine to rent on a tourist visa, she decided she didn’t want to rent to people who didn’t have a job in China and who’s visas expired halfway through the lease, even though Chris has plans to renew his visa in May.
Thankfully she let them stay in the apartment for an extra two weeks while we all searched for apartments again. As you may remember from last month’s challenges, apartment hunting in China is very difficult, and basically impossible if you don’t speak Chinese. This meant it was up to me and Chris’ brother’s boss to organize the apartment hunting.
Thankfully we were able to find a place that works for everyone, but it wasn’t easy.
What is it with the Chinese and Bureaucracy?
Firstly, when you book an apartment in China you need to pay an agency fee, which is usually one month’s rent. Since we were working with the same agency, they said they could waive the fee. What they REALLY meant was: “You’ll pay a new agency fee and we’ll reimburse your old fee two weeks later”. When we asked if they could just deal with the agency fee internally, our agent refused and said he needed to be paid immediately. Seriously?!!
Since Chris and his family had spent literally all of their money renting the last place and didn’t have $1,000 USD to spare on an agency fee (yes, seriously.) they had to borrow the money from Chris’ brother’s boss.
While we thought all of our problems were done, the agency came back with more issues. Z Room, the landlord company, demanded we pay three month’s rent and the one-month deposit immediately, otherwise they would continue showing the apartment to other people. However, the original landlady wouldn’t reimburse the money we paid her until everyone moved out. GREAT.
Eventually, after a lot of arguing and me angrily texting “THIS IS RIDICULOUS” in English at a real estate agent that doesn’t speak English, they agreed to give us a few days to move into the new apartment before we paid the rent.
3. I Ran Out of Money
Not since my very first month in Beijing have I ever run out of money. I make so much money as a college counselor in China, I’ve honestly never had to worry about it! Well, let’s just say I should probably check my bank account when I decide to send a ton of money back to the US…
Last month after FINALLY paying off all $20,000 USD in student loans, I thought I had enough money in my bank account to make it until my next paycheck. However, shortly after, Chris lost his bank card and didn’t have any access to cash. Since his bank is Australian, he had to have his card shipped all the way from Australia. While he had money, he had no way to access it in China.
Since I always need more US dollars in my bank account, I had Chris send me money on Paypal, while I acted as a human ATM. I also bought all the things for his new apartment on Taobao, using the same account. I honestly didn’t even think about it since I always have such a full account.
That was until I went to the ATM about five days before payday and my account was completely EMPTY. At first, I thought someone had hacked my account!! Then I realized what I’d done and panicked. I absolutely hate being low on money and I had both Chris and myself to feed!
Thankfully my coworker wanted a little more USD in his account, so I was able to pay him $100 USD on Paypal to get us through the next few days. It’s been so long since I’ve been this panicked about money!
My Most Popular Post
This month I re-wrote an oldie but goodie about TEFLs and Teaching Abroad. I get SO MANY questions every day about teaching abroad in China, visa requirements, and different TEFL certifications, I decided to go over all of the information once and for all!
What else did well this month? Well, I also let you all know about an awesome staycation contest for people living in China with UnTour. This contest blew up on social media with more views, likes, and clicks than I’ve seen on any post aside from my viral Huffington Post Article. I guess that’s what happens when you have a prize as good as this.
Seriously, if you win you have to buy me a beer with all that credit!
This first photo was taken in Sumatra’s Pulau Weh, a wonderful island filled with diving, beautiful beaches, and a ton of cute cats with no tails. It was also the island where Chris broke his arm. Whoops.
This second photo was taken in Bukit Lawang where I went orangutan trekking! I absolutely loved this cute little town and I can’t wait to go back.
Song of the Month
I’ve been a bit obsessed with watching dance choreography on Youtube (I should probably get back into dancing), which is why I’m listening to these songs on repeat.
I need to learn the dance to this song!
….I also have to learn this too.
Aaaaand I watched some great choreography to this, but the original music video is great, so be sure to watch it!
What I’m Reading
This last month I finally finished Wild, which I’m obsessed with. It was definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year. Now I’m re-reading the Handmaid’s Tale, for a book club with my students. I was pleasantly surprised to find that all six of my Chinese high school students love the book, and have gotten really into our analysis!
Best Blog Posts
I had to go back a bit through my Bloglovin’ archives, but these were the pieces from March that really stood out to me:
Do Readers Begrudge Travel Bloggers Making a Living? – Girl Tweets World
I think many travel bloggers can relate to the awkward feeling of trying to “make your blog a business” without alienating your readers.
I’ve already talked at length about how I actually think it’s a horrible business strategy (that I’m doing anyway), but this article is a bit more emotional. Do all of you feel annoyed when I shove my newsletters and affiliate links in your face? Do people actually want me to succeed, or would they rather I keep my blog a hobby, even if it means I’m working countless hours on my blog for free.
I really hope it’s the former…
Female Travel in Morocco: What’s it Really Like? – Heart My Backpack
One of my favorite adventurous bloggers is back at it again with a trip to Morocco. Is it really safe for women to visit? Is it possible for me to travel in Morocco on my own? What should I wear?? Silvia has you covered. (Literally and figuratively).
Dear Girls of the World: This is What Cyber Bullying Did To Me – Kisty Mia on Ps I’m On My Way
I’m a decently sensitive person, so whenever I receive a hate comment, I’ll have to admit, it does affect me a bit. While I have had some experience with an article going viral and people hating me all over social media for it (granted, most of them didn’t even read the article), I personally have never been cyberbullied in this way.
Just because you think someone is in the wrong, doesn’t give you a right to harass and stalk them via social media. I honestly don’t even know how celebrities take it. I think I’d just stop reading all social media comments and hire someone to deal with my Twitter!
Surviving Songkran: Celebrating Thailands Wet and Wild New Year on Koh Tao – Alex in Wanderland
Most of the Songkran guides I’ve seen have all been for Chiang Mai, so it’s nice to see something different! This is probably one of the best and most in-depth guides, so if you’re looking to have a great time on Koh Tao this April, be sure to check it out!
What’s Happening in April 2017?
Well, firstly I’ll be turning 26 at the end of April!! Let’s hope more people come to my birthday party this year than they did last year…
In addition to my birthday, the Travel Blog Summit will be starting, so I’m super excited to see my talk and learn more from all of the experts on the panel!
Happy Spring everyone! I hope you all had a great March!