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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!
This month I headed back to the US for a week of friends and family. First I stopped by Seattle for a few rainy days to see my parents, and then I was on to Napa Valley for my high school friend’s wedding!
May was also a month of moving. I moved out of my private office and into a public open office area (Which wasn’t as horrible as I thought it would be). I also began the process of moving from my Andingmen apartment to my boyfriend Chris’ place, because surprise my landlord sold our apartment and kicked us all out.
Where I Went
I spent most of the month hanging out in Beijing, but for one week I flew to the US where I went home to Seattle and headed to Napa for a wedding. In Seattle, I mainly relaxed and did a million errands, but in Napa, I rode I hot air balloon over the wineries with Tinggly Experiences and attended the fanciest black tie wedding I’ve ever been to at Auberge du Soleil.
Unfortunately, I was a bit too hungover for wine tasting the next day, but I drank enough fancy wine at my friend’s wedding that I didn’t really feel like I was missing out.
A lot of great things happened this month! Let’s go through my favorites.
A Beautiful Napa Wedding
Last month one of my best friends from high school married her college sweetheart in Napa, so I flew down from Beijing for the wedding. Fun fact: In the summer of 2013 I actually traveled to Tibet with her husband (without her!) having only met him once a few years prior. Weird, right?
A year or so later, they let me crash in their Palo Alto apartment while I was applying for a Chinese visa, and we visited the Napa Wineries together. It’s crazy to think that the next time I’d see them together would be at their Napa Wedding!
They were married at Auberge du Soleil, a stunning resort overlooking the Napa Wineries. This was my first “friend-wedding”, and I didn’t think I’d cry… but I did. After a tear-jerking ceremony, they had a great reception with food and wine pairings and a lot of dancing. I sat at a table with the bride’s cousins and high school friends and we all had a blast!
Let’s hope my future wedding is at least half as good as her’s was.
Road Tripping with My High School Friend
Unfortunately, I didn’t get as much time with the bride as I would’ve liked, but I did get to bond with another high school friend who attended the wedding!
Living in China, I feel like it’s pretty hard to keep in touch with my friends from back home, especially my high school friends who now live all over the country! So this wedding was a perfect opportunity to spend some time with a friend I’ve barely seen since high school.
The two of us rented a car (a first for me!) and drove from San Francisco down to Napa Valley where we crashed at a Motel 6. Classy, I know. We had a great time getting ready for the wedding together and eating all the non-Chinese food I could get my hands on.
Floating in a Hot Air Balloon Over Napa Valley
While the wedding was incredible, floating over Napa’s wineries with my high school friend was a close second! While I wasn’t a huge fan of the 5 am wake-up call, the two of us threw on some warm clothes and hopped in the rental car to a parking lot in Yountville, twenty minutes north of our Napa motel.
I gazed in wonder as they filled up the hot air balloons around us. I had seen a hot air balloon up close once in my life before this moment and I barely remember it because I think I was roughly eight years old.
The sensation of flying in a hot air balloon was literally magical. You float along with the wind, so the air is surprisingly warm and calm. For one hour we watched as the sun rose and spread its golden light across the sky. We also lightly crash-landed into a golf-course pond and took off again without a hitch, our guide cackling at our gasps of surprise.
Afterward, my friend and I ran across the road to the famous Bouchon Bakery to stuff our faces with macarons and sip on crafted lattes. It was a perfect way to start the day before our friend’s wedding. Granted, we did have a pretty big nap in the afternoon… We needed it.
I was invited to check out this hot air balloon ride with my long-time friend and partner Tinggly, the ultimate gift-giving site for travelers. With Tinggly you can purchase an experience for a loved one that they can cash in anywhere in the world. Seriously, if you want to give an awesome gift to someone who doesn’t like “things”, this site is gold. I almost wish I could’ve taken my boyfriend along as a surprise, but this “friend date” was a blast as well.
Spending Time at Home in Seattle
While this trip home was rushed and a bit rainy, it was a good one. First, I had the opportunity to see my parents and grandpa, who I hadn’t seen since Christmas. I ate all the Mexican food and stocked up on healthy quinoa and brown rice for my upcoming diet in June (more on that later). Seriously, Trader Joes is heaven.
While I was home I also had time to sit down with my mom to plan my parents’ trip to China this September! Both of my parents will be flying to Beijing where we’ll spend two weeks exploring my China home, along with Xi’an and Yunnan province. I’ll be sure to write out our itinerary and share it with all of you because it really is a perfect two-week China trip!
Finally, I had the chance to get some hiking boots at REI for all of my upcoming Great Wall trips (and hopefully a surprise long-term trek that isn’t set in stone yet so you’ll just have to wait!). Having read the book Wild not too long ago, I paid extra, extra attention to whether or not my toes hit the front of the boot when going downhill on the fake rock they have set up in the store. I don’t want to loose all my toenails like Reese Witherspoon.
Overall, I’m super happy with my Oboz boots, and I’m glad I bought them through REI because they have literally the world’s best warranty.
Flying First Class!
While the long haul flight from Seattle to Beijing and back was nothing to rave about, I did have a chance to experience first class on the trip from Seattle to San Francisco!
This was my first time ever purchasing first class for myself, so I felt pretty fancy! Why did I buy a first class ticket? Well, when you factored in the price of checking a bag, it was only $40 more expensive to spring for first class. TREAT YO SELF.
On the plane, I drank one too many Bloody Marys and enjoyed my antipasto platter, while all the business travelers around me chugged coffee and worked away on their laptops. Sorry, not sorry.
I only wish the flight was more than two hours!
Life can’t always be perfect. Here were my least favorite moments of May 2017.
Why is America so Expensive???
For the past few years, my only time in the US has been lounging at home in Seattle, with the brief exception of crashing at my friend’s Palo Alto apartment for a weekend. What does this mean? It means I have very little experience traveling in the US.
Living in a place is much cheaper than traveling, and I was shocked by how expensive the US has become. Over $100 a night for a shitty hotel room at Motel 6? Seriously?! My Uber to In and Out and back was how much???
Living in Asia has its benefits, and us bloggers are definitely not lying about the cheap cost of living and travel. Why spend $100 a night for a motel in Napa when you can spend $30 a night for a beautiful boutique hotel in Dali? (Yes, my parents and I will be staying here in September.)
This trip home to the US was extremely busy, which meant I got a bit behind on my blogging. Seriously, I got back to China I realized I was responding to emails from 11 days prior. ELEVEN DAYS!!!
Many bloggers joke about how their inboxes are out of control, and I am no exception. But I usually pride myself on responding to emails within at least a few days. Well, after a busy week in the US, I arrived home to China, and then promptly suffered a mild heart attack.
My inbox was out of control. I hadn’t written a blog post in two weeks. I was behind on work at my college counseling job. I hadn’t even looked at any of the THREE paid courses I’m working on right now. AHHHHHH
Now at least I’ve kind of caught up on the emails…
Throughout March and April, my roommates and I lived under the constant threat of expulsion. My landlord started showing the property to potential buyers and we had no idea what was going on. In early May we got the official news: You all need to be out by the end of June.
Of course, I wasn’t too bummed by this news because I was basically living in Chris’ apartment half the time anyway. I was tired of living in two different apartments, never having the right belt, dress, or my external hard drive when I needed it. So, I figured I’d wait out my lease until the end of June, moving my stuff to Chris’ apartment slowly over the course of a month.
In the last week of May, I received an update: they managed to postpone our move out day until the end of July!!!
JULY?! I had already agreed to start paying rent in June for Chris’ place, and now all of a sudden I need to come up with another month’s rent at my old apartment? You can’t just drop that on someone last minute. When you say I have to be out by June, I assume I need to be out by June, end of story.
When I said I wanted to be out by June, my roommate who I’m subletting from insisted I needed to find someone to cover the rent for July. This led to a mini passive-aggressive fight between the two of us, as I asserted that I didn’t think paying for an extra month’s rent was my responsibility, and she took days to respond to my texts.
How would I be able to find someone to sublet my apartment for just one month? How would I find the time to show my apartment to a bunch of people when I was basically living at Chris’ place?
But, within a few days, a friend of a friend dropped out of the sky and into my lap. He needed an apartment for 6 weeks and was set to leave Beijing two days before we had to be out of my apartment. Score!
So, I went from moving to Chris’ over the course of June to needing to be out of my apartment in the first week of June. At least I found someone to cover the rent?
My Most Popular Post
The best post of May was definitely my story about hiking the Wild Wall! Remember last month when I talked about my Great Wall birthday adventure in an off-the-beaten-path section not officially open to tourists? Well in this post I told you the ENTIRE story, from hacking my way through overgrowth on the wall to the near-death experience I had trying to get off of it!
I also give some great advice about how to plan an off-the-beaten-path Great Wall adventure of your own, where you can enjoy the Great Wall with no tourists.
Last month I also published a post about an incredible new water filtration bag from DayOne Response. While this bag is great for long-term trekkers, etc. it’s best for disaster relief, providing clean water to those who need it most. Why? It’s reusable, lays flat, and can filter enough water for an entire family in just 30 minutes.
DayOne Response is actually a finalist in the Chivas Venture competition for non-profit funding and I really hope they win! Unfortunately, voting has already closed, but you can always support them by sponsoring a bag for a family in need.
My best Instagrams of the month were all from my Great Wall adventure this April! This first shot was taken when I first spotted the beautiful lake through a Great Wall tower.
This second photo was taken on the way down. Just look at that view!!
Want to explore a section of the Great Wall not officially open to tourists? ??Ever dreamed of having the wall all to yourself? . My latest post on adventuresaroundasia.com shows you how!! . Pay a villager $1 USD for the privilege of hiking a stunning, off the beaten path stretch of Great Wall literally NO ONE visits. ☀Trust me, it’ll be worth it!
Finally, I decided to make a second Instagram account, just for fun. I thought this new account would be a great way to connect with my friends and post photos in real-time without worrying about editing them in Lightroom or how they look in my Instagram grid (#ThingsBloggersWorryAbout). If you want to see some fun, behind-the-scenes photos that aren’t edited to perfection, come check it out @RichelleInAsia
Song of the Month
This month I’ve been listening to John Legend’s Surefire. I’m obsessed with this music video about acceptance featuring a young romance between a Muslim girl and an illegal migrant boy from Mexico. Enjoy!
What I’m Reading
This month I read Oryx and Crake, the first book in a series by Margaret Atwood. After reading the Handmaid’s Tale, Chris suggested I read Atwood’s dystopian series that Atwood likes to call “speculative fiction” rather than science fiction because of course, everything she writes could feasibly happen in the near future.
In this book, Snowman, once known as Jimmy, struggles to survive in a world where he may or may not be the last human. In the aftermath of a world-wide plague, Snowman both protects and despises a new, genetically engineered humanoid species known as the Children of Crake, while he laments his lost best friend, the love of his life, and everything that went so terribly wrong.
I also literally just found out that this series is being made into a tv show on HBO. I’M SO EXCITED! Seriously, if you like the Handmaid’s Tale you’ll love this.
Best Blog Posts of May
What are my favorite posts from May? Check ’em out!
Taking Mom Overseas: Our First Mother-Daughter Trip – The Sweetest Way
I loved hearing about Leah’s trip with her mom to Greece. From their rocky past relationship to their experience wandering around Greece in the offseason, this was such a great read. I can only hope my trip showing my parents around China this fall will be as good!
Falling in Love with Northern Norway – Young Adventuress
This post makes me want to get a new blog theme so I can display full-width photos… and buy a better camera… and go to Norway.
Orangutan Trekking in Sumatra – Aussie on the Road
I still haven’t written at length about my experience orangutan trekking in Bukit Lawang, but thankfully my boyfriend is literally the quickest writer on planet Earth and has been cranking out stories about our trip. Read along as he details that time we were chased through the jungle by an angry orangutan.
I’ll be the first to admit, as a white non-Southern American, the idea of needing to serve my husband’s food first at a party before serving myself was kind of alien to me. It’s hard not to jump to conclusions that any woman who acts in this way is repressed. But from the quotes of women from all over the world Gloria collected, you can see that the answer is a bit more complicated.
What’s Next for June 2017!
I have so many things going on in June! Firstly, I’ll be heading to a coworker’s wedding in Fushun, Liaoning province where I will be celebrating amongst 500 people! Second, I’ll also be moving into Chris’ apartment, which will be a nice change from having my stuff scattered across Beijing. I’ll also be welcoming (FINALLY) our third foreign counselor at my college counseling job… It only took them a year and five months to find someone.
Finally, I’ll be embarking on the test of a lifetime: and incredibly strict 1-month diet. In June I’ll be giving up alcohol, sugar, and simple carbs in China. Wish me luck!