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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!
What I Was Up to in July!
So many things happened this month it’s been hard to keep up! From a weekend trip to Nanjing to cat sitting two fluffy kitties, to buying a new e-bike, it’s been a pretty good month. However, new major projects (and a second website!) have kept me a little too busy, which has led to me being a bit more stressed than usual.
Where I Went
I took a weekend trip down to Nanjing to visit Chris’ old stomping grounds. We met up with his old Nanjing crew, ate at his favorite restaurants and took a day trip to Purple Mountain where we got to see the Ming Tombs and Sun Yat Sen’s Mausoleum.
Overall, July was a pretty great month. Here are the best parts of these last few weeks.
1. A Trip to Nanjing
Visiting Chris’ old China home was a big highlight of July. it was so fun to be able to meet all of his old friends, people who’ve been pestering him to come down for MONTHS. I also had the opportunity to visit Purple Mountain, which Chris has never fully explored (despite living in Nanjing for a few years).
We were able to see the tomb of the first Ming Emperor and hike up to Sun Yat Sen’s Mausoleum. It’s been a while since I’ve had a good dose of China history, and walking around all day was a nice change from sitting in the office.
Finally, the two of us stayed in the Novotel just across the street from Chris’ old Xinjiekou apartment. Not only was it super central, it was also great to see his old neighborhood. Too bad his favorite chaomian street food lady is no longer there. I was looking forward to meeting her!
2. Launching My New Website!
Guess what?! I created a NEW WEBSITE.
That’s right, my new baby Chalkboards & Chopsticks is a website focused solely on teaching abroad in China. Here I’ll cover how to find a job, resources you might need, and what it’s like to live and work in China. I designed the entire site myself, and I have to say I’m very proud of how it looks!
Don’t worry, Adventures Around Asia isn’t going anywhere. I just want to separate my teach abroad content from the main focus of this site, which is traveling off the beaten path in Asia. I’ll still have a ton of China content on the site, but the goal is to migrate all of my teach abroad stuff to Chalkboards & Chopsticks.
While the new site doesn’t have a blog just yet (that will come later), I encourage all of you to have a look and share with your friends! I also have a BIG surprise in the works that will be available later this fall (hopefully). If you’re at all interested in teaching abroad in China, I definitely suggest signing up for my Free Teach Abroad Mini Course so you’ll be the first to know when my big surprise is finished!!
3. I Bought an E-Bike!
After years of relying on the subway, taxis, didi dache, and my own two legs, I finally bought a beautiful little turquoise e-bike! I got a great deal buying used from a study abroad student who was desperate to sell it (at half price!), and I’ve been obsessed.
While I still take the subway to work most days, it’s great to have the bike option. I’ve also been using it instead of a taxi when I want to go over to my old stomping grounds in Gulou and Andingmen. It’s a big money saver and way more fun than sitting in the back of a taxi.
4. I Have TWO Cats!!!
For the last two weeks, I’ve been cat-sitting two cats for a Russian girl here in Beijing. Their names are Bars and Marso, but Chris and I have been calling them Boris and Fluffy instead.
I absolutely love having cats in the house, and I’ve wanted a cat for YEARS, however, I felt guilty adopting one due to the amount I travel, especially knowing that I might be a bit nomadic for the next year or so. I’ve done some cat sitting in the past, but only for a week at a time.
But for now, the cats are ours with no definitive end-date. The girl we’re taking care of them for is having a rough situation with her housing and needs time to get it sorted. Hopefully, we can keep them all the way until mid-September when my parents come to visit!
5. Fun Coworker Antics
With one of my Chinese coworkers leaving, it’s been a fun last few weeks partying with my coworkers for his THREE separate goodbye parties. First I had spicy crawfish with the office, where we ordered a giant tower of beer and held chugging competitions… ON A WEDNESDAY.
Over the weekend we had an evening of KTV, where I was able to bust out wonderful songs from Britney Spears, NSYNC, Backstreet Boys, T-Swift, and, of course, Miley Cyrus’ Wrecking Ball.
Finally, earlier this week we visited a restaurant famous for making its own flavored Chinese wine. We drank both orange and strawberry flavored liquor out of saucers and ate WAY too much Chinese snack food. Lamb kebabs, chicken wings, seaweed, peanuts, cold noodles, spicy cucumber, fried chicken skin, hot dogs on a stick and more. I’m still full.
Not everything in July was perfect. Here were a few moments I didn’t love.
1. A LOUD Summer Camp in the Office
Every year my office hosts a summer camp for incoming high schoolers at RDFZ, our main partner school. Some aspects of the camp are really fun, like the opening day where I help students come up with a team name (my group’s name was Stupid Ice Cream), and play games.
However, this group of summer camp kids was SO FREAKIN’ LOUD. In between classes and during their 1.5-hour lunch break, I couldn’t even hear myself think. I know it’s camp and everything, but it’s hosted in our office! Just imagine trying to edit an essay over the sounds of 50+ students literally screaming.
They also made our internet so slow, it was impossible to get anything done. I was two steps away from walking into a classroom and demanding everyone put their phone on airplane mode during class.
2. Finding Balance…
While starting a new website and working on my big project has been incredible and exciting, it’s also been super stressful. I want to focus and get everything done, but not at the expense of Adventures Around Asia. In the last month, I only wrote ONE blog post in addition to my monthly recap.
How am I supposed to balance writing blog posts with creating a new site, developing my HUGE secret project, and working at my full-time job?
Don’t even get me started on social media and emails!! I haven’t checked my Twitter notifications in weeks, and I only posted to Snapchat a few times in the last month. It just seems trivial when I have so many bigger things I’m working on. It’s too much for just one person, and I’ve really been letting it get to me.
3. … and Finding Focus
As someone who constantly wants to improve my site and business, I also keep getting distracted by things I should be doing. My traffic hasn’t really improved at all in the last year. Shouldn’t I be doing something about that? Oh, but first I need to redesign my homepage and improve my email optins. Should I be creating something for Cambodia? Wow, I’m totally doing Pinterest wrong. I need to revamp my whole Pinterest strategy!!
It can be so hard to focus on anything when your to-do list is 5 pages long!
It took me a month to realize this, but I really can’t do everything, and splitting my mind between 20 different tasks will only mean that NOTHING gets done. I’ve realized that my big project is where my focus should be, and all other improvements (including making a blog for my second site) need to wait until that’s finished.
I’m leaving my job in less than ONE MONTH (!!!) and I need to be able to support myself when I do. While I have money saved up, I want this project to be finished sooner rather than later so I can actually start making a business, rather than relying on the $500-$600 odd dollars I scrape together every month from this site.
4. The Beijing Weather
Beijing’s weather in July is never good. It’s muggy, polluted, rainy, and super hot. Seriously, the best time to come to Beijing is fall and spring, when the weather is great and there’s no pollution. This July, not only was it super polluted, the air literally felt like soup.
Not to mention the fact that this July was much hotter than usual. I literally felt like I was going to melt every time I walked outside. Gross, gross, GROSS.
Don’t come here in July.
My Most Popular Post
My most popular (and only) post was Why Experiences Make the Best Gifts. It looks like a lot of you agree with me too!
In this post, I talk about my pact with my boyfriend Chris to gift experiences to one another. I also share some of the best experience gifts I’ve ever given and received, as well as some advice to plan and gift your own experience!
My most popular photo of the month was actually my cover photo from the last monthly recap. What a coincidence! I absolutely love this photo, and I’m glad you all do too!
My second popular photo comes from my hot air balloon ride in Napa when I was home in May for my friend’s wedding. Here I talk a bit about giving gifts as experiences, and my gift pact with Chris!
Good morning Napa Valley! Last May I spent the early morning watching the sunrise from Napa Valley in a hot air balloon. Seriously, if you’re going to get a romantic gift, this would be it. Speaking of gifts, my boyfriend @aussieontheroad made a pact to only gift one another experiences. You can read about it in my latest post on AdventuresAroundAsia.com! So I want to know: what’s the coolest experience gift you’ve ever given / received??
Song of the Month
This month I’ve been rocking out to Lights Down Low by Max. I also love their music video, which is actually super creative (and a little sad!).
Book of the Month
This month I finally started book three of the MaddAddam series: MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood. I’m super obsessed with this series, and I’ve basically devoured it over the last few months. If you like the Handmaid’s Tale you have to check it out!
Best Reads of July!
Here are my absolute favorite blog posts this July!
A Day in the Life in Kampala, Uganda -Ashley Abroad
Ever wonder what it’s like to live as an expat in Uganda? I’ve been loving Ashley’s posts about expat life in this unique corner of the world!
After 4 Years of Blogging, This is What I Know – Heart My Backpack
Having a blog around 4-5 years old is awkward. We weren’t the ones to carve out the travel blogging industry, but we also started before blogs were really a business (hence, all of my disorganized horrible diary posts from 2012).
Cape Town: The Most Unique City in the World – The Blog Abroad
My parents are OBSESSED with Cape Town, but living in China, I never quite looked into it. Well, this post from Gloria changed my mind!
Malaysian Eats: Everything I Ate in Penang – Slightly Astray
Oh my god. Can I eat all of this right now? Seriously, Chris’ brother is in Malaysia right now on a visa run and I wish I was there with him so I can stuff all of this in my face.
Taking a Break From the Thing You Love – This Battered Suitcase
I really identified with this post from Brenna, especially after this hectic month. I can’t remember the last time I took a vacation or went more than a day or two without working. I hope eventually I can get to the point financially and with my blog that I can actually just take a one-month digital detox.
What’s Next for August 2017?!
August will be my LAST MONTH at my college counseling job before I take my website(s) full time!!! I’m both incredibly excited and ridiculously nervous.
In addition, Chris and I will also be leading Saturday brewery tours with Lost Plate. Come join us on a tuk tuk tour of Beijing’s best breweries!
I’m also getting my FIRST tattoo at an awesome shop in Beijing, so… which me luck!
One more month at my job before I work for myself!!!