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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 August!
This month was my LAST MONTH working as a college counselor in Beijing. I know most of you are probably wondering… what’s next? Are you leaving Beijing? Where are you going to work now??
Well, the short answer is that I’ll be working for myself from now on!! The long answer is that I’ve transitioned to a remote, part-time position with my college counseling company to help them edit essays through the admissions season, while I work on building my income from this site and a few other big projects I’m working on.
So… if it’s the end of This Beijing Life, does that mean I’ll be leaving China for good??!
Well, I’ve got a few big plans for the next few months that include playing tourist in Beijing with Chris’ parents, showing my parents around China for two weeks, working from home in Beijing until mid-November, and then a month-long trip to Japan. Heading to Australia for Christmas, and then flying to the US for a friend’s wedding in February.
Wow, that’s a lot of plans!
So no, I’m not leaving Beijing just yet, but I’ll still be saying goodbye to This Beijing Life. I feel like leaving my job is a big step in a new direction, and with that leap, I think next month is the perfect time to introduce a new monthly segment: The Freedom Life Month 1.
But for now, let’s go over my last month working full-time in Beijing!
Where I Went
This month I spent the entire time in Beijing, working my butt off before my big upcoming China trip with my parents in September!
A lot of great things happened this month. Here are just a few of the highlights.
1. Leaving My Counseling Job!
Wow. Two years ago when I first started my job in Beijing it felt like I had an eternity ahead of me. Even just one month ago, it felt as if this day would never actually come. But now that my job is over, those two years seemed to have flown by in an instant. Is my job as a college counselor really over? Am I really free to travel and work for myself now?
The last few days at my job were a bit of a blur. My company threw a goodbye party for me and two other co-workers who also started around the same time as I did. It feels like it was just yesterday that I was living in the same building as them, just walking distance from work, having late-night hangouts with cheap Chinese beer.
The joint farewell party was very sweet, and multiple people teared up as we gave our little goodbye speeches. There was also a slideshow with some flattering (and not so flattering) photos of the three of us, and the company created gift calendars with work photos and nice quotes from our former co-workers.
Overall, it was really nice to leave a job on such good terms, and it was a bit bittersweet clearing out my desk on the last day.
2. I Got a Tattoo!
A few weeks ago I got my very first tattoo at a great shop in Beijing!
I’ve always been a bit obsessed with watercolor tattoos, and Beijing-based Chenjie is basically Instagram famous for them. I’ve been wanting a Chinese watercolor goldfish along with my Chinese name in calligraphy for years now, and I finally mustered up the courage to get in touch with Chenjie and book an appointment.
Unfortunately, Chenjie actually is famous and was booked SIX MONTHS IN ADVANCE. I was super bummed considering I don’t know what I’ll be doing six months from now, and it felt a bit irresponsible to pay an $80 USD deposit for a tattoo in Beijing on a random date.
However, New Tattoo came to the rescue and introduced me to another one of their artists, Chen Bo, who is also great at watercolor and does incredible calligraphy. I wasn’t quite sure if I liked his style, but decided to go for it anyway. Let’s just say I was EXTREMELY nervous about my decision to not wait for Chenjie
Thankfully Chen Bo did an incredible job, and I’m so happy with the results! Overall the tattoo was around $400 USD and took 1.5 hours. I’m so happy with how quick (and mildly brutal) he was, and I love the goldfish he came up with.
Seriously, if you need a tattoo in China I can’t recommend Chen Bo and New Tattoo enough. The place is pristine, with hospital-grade bedding and supplies. All of their tattoo artists are actual artists and will use computer software to adjust the size and design of your tattoo so that you’re super comfortable with the style, size, and placement. They even have an employee who speaks English to translate everything for you!
3. Leading a Brewery Tour
This August Chris and I started leading Beijing Brewery Tours for Lost Plate! After doing their Beijing tuk tuk food tour, I became friends with the owners, Brian and Ruixi. Chris and I eventually offered to lead their brewery tours for fun, and we had the opportunity to lead our first one in August!
The Brewery Tours are extremely fun, and a great way to explore Beijing’s craft beer scene. We go to three distinct Beijing craft breweries and sip on a set of flights at each one. Chris will introduce each beer, the unique flavors and ingredients, and the history of the brewery, while I give a cultural tour of Beijing’s hutongs, discussing the history of these alleyway streets, along with the more current, economic and social conditions of the alleyways and people who live here.
Overall, the Lost Plate Brewery Tour is awesome, and you should definitely check it out if you’re going to be in Beijing! Chris and I will be leading pretty much all of their Brewery tours in October, so be sure to book with us!
If beer isn’t your thing, Lost Plate also has awesome food tours in Beijing, Xi’an, Shanghai, and Chengdu!
1. Visa and Contract Stress
The weirdest thing about quitting my job is the fact that I’m not actually really quitting, I’m moving to a part-time position. My goal was to be a part-time essay editor to help my company through the admissions season, but of course, this took a lot of negotiation.
It was pretty obvious that my company just wanted me to stay through the entire admissions season, with some extended vacation so that I could show my parents around China. Unfortunately for me, I’m horrible at letting people down, so it was a big struggle for me to hold my ground, even though I knew that the company would be willing to compromise.
Once we had a contract firmly in place, I thought everything would be fine until my last day at work when I was told that the company would be canceling my work visa. What?! I figured it would be no issue to keep me on my work visa until I finished working part-time for the company. All they have to do is just NOT submit paperwork saying I’ve left.
Sure, you’re supposed to be working full-time in order to keep your work visa and residence permit valid, but personally, I feel like working part-time on a work visa is less sketchy than working part-time on a tourist visa!
Eventually, the company discovered that I could stay in China for up to 30 days after they canceled my work permit, and then they could transition me to a business visa without me leaving the country. However, in order to do this, they need my passport and I’ll be traveling with my parents for two weeks at the end of September, RIGHT before my 30 days are up! While the government will give me a slip of paper to use in lieu of my passport, there’s no way to guarantee that the 3 flights and 4 hotels I’ll be staying at will accept my paperwork.
Now I THINK my company has stalled the paperwork so that I can submit my passport after I return from Yunnan, but who knows what’s going on. I just hope I don’t get arrested again.
2. Dealing With My New Tattoo
As someone who’s wanted a tattoo for years, you’d think I would’ve done a little more research. All everyone ever talks about is the pain of actually getting a tattoo. No one ever told me it would take over two weeks to heal!
The pain wasn’t actually as bad as I was expecting. While certain areas near my armpit were excruciating, the area where my purse and bra strap go was practically painless. I guess that’s what happens when you carry the world’s heaviest purse to work and back daily.
I was prepared for the pain, but I had no idea how long it would hurt AFTER I got my tattoo. While the itching and peeling really weren’t bad at all, the pain lasted for almost a week. I also couldn’t wear a bra because my bra strap goes right over the tattoo. After a few days of having awkward outfits, I eventually realized I could wear my bra and just tuck my left strap into the side. It was a bit uncomfortable, but it was definitely better than trying to wear my work outfits with random tank tops and scarves.
3. Saying Goodbye to My Kitties
Towards the end of August, I had to give up my two kitties I’d been fostering for about 6 weeks. I’d grown really attached to them in that time and I REALLY didn’t want to give them up. However, having four adults, one toddler and two cats in my tiny apartment was a bit rough. Especially considering the cats were scared to death of Chris’ nephew, and Chris’ brother’s girlfriend is allergic.
I would’ve felt better about giving the cats back if they were going to a loving home, but instead, they went to a somewhat reluctant Russian girl who will (hopefully) be caring for them for a month while the original Russian owner looks for an apartment.
To be honest, I know their Russian owner loves them, but I don’t think she’s a great animal owner. She’s convinced they can’t eat dry food (we fed them dry food mixed with wet the entire time and they were fine), and so she feeds them raw chicken, 7-11 packaged sausages, and sweet bread. Chris and I did some research and while eating raw chicken is fine if it’s direct from a farm, the chances of contamination from a grocery store are high. I also wouldn’t feed those 7-11 packaged sausages to my worst enemy, and who thinks to feed a cat doughnuts?!
I just wish they were my cats so I could’ve found them a better home than bouncing around from place to place while their Russian mommy gets her life together. The cats actually hid from her for a solid 30 minutes because they didn’t want to leave.
I miss my little Boris and Fluffy so much!
4. Getting “Digital Nomad” Cold Feet
While I’ve been working towards location independence for YEARS now, I still can’t help but feel a bit nervous! I’m only making around $500 USD a month in revenue from my blog, so the idea of taking my site full-time is a bit scary.
I’m not quite sure why I’m so nervous. I have around $20,000 USD in savings from my job as a college counselor, and I survived for a year at the University of Nottingham in Ningbo on just $100 USD a month from two or three hours a week of teaching English. Granted, my dorm was already paid for, but all of my other expenses were completely covered by just one or two English classes a week!
Now I make more money editing an admissions essay from home than I did in an hour of teaching English to little kids.
I guess a part of me is just nervous that I won’t be able to make it work for myself. I’ve put so much time and effort into both of my sites, and my related projects and I worry that I’ll fail and have to go back to working full-time at an office job.
To be honest, I’m not quite sure what I’m so nervous about. Maybe it’s taking the leap of quitting my job. Maybe its the fact that I’ll be traveling and playing tourist for most of September instead of working, or maybe it’s the idea of living location-independent and putting all of my things in storage. Who knows!
I’ve just been working hard this last month to put aside my imposter syndrome and get things done so I can actually enjoy the two weeks I have with my parents in China.
My Most Popular Post
My most popular post this month was definitely The Complete China Bucket List, a comprehensive list of 50 incredible things you have to do in China. I honestly had no idea how many things I’d done in China until I started making this list.
I also got a ton of great suggestions from all of you of things that I’ve left out. I think I’ll need to make a part two, or even expand the list to 100 items!
Both of my most popular Instagram photos of the month came from my Huanghuacheng Great Wall hike in June!
Don’t you love this photo of the Huanghuacheng reservoir? Here’s how you can hike it!
Song of the Month
Who hasn’t heard the new T-Swift song? I wasn’t sure I liked it much at first, but now I listen to it on repeat!
Book of the Month
Last month I finally finished the third and final book of the Margaret Atwood MaddAdam Series. This book was a bit of a letdown compared to the first two books, which I loved. To be honest, there were just too many coincidences for my liking. I don’t want to say the writing was lazy, but the book definitely felt more fan fiction than her first two.
I still think the series is DEFINITELY worth reading, but the first two books were a bit more creative than the third. I guess that’s what happens to most 3-part series where you have to wrap up a story nicely. I just wish there were fewer convenient coincidences.
Best Reads of August
Here are some of my favorite blog posts from the last month!
Why I Loved Traveling in Kyrgyzstan – Global Gallivanting
I’ve been dying to get to Central Asia for a long time now, so I immediately jump on any post about the “stans.” I really loved this post by Anna from Global Gallivanting about her Kyrgyzstan trip, and now I know I need to get to Central Asia ASAP!
Being a Digital Nomad Vs. Being Location Independent – Why Wait to See the World
Being a nomad isn’t the only form of location independence. While I’m excited to travel the world while I work for myself, I know I’m an expat at heart. My plan is to travel until I get sick of it, and then settle in Taiwan!
Is Long-Term Traveling Inherently Selfish? – Be My Travel Muse
This is something that comes up a lot in travel circles. Is it selfish to travel around the world on a budget? Are you more of a hindrance than a help to the local economy? Is it bad to travel without working and contributing?
On Blogging Full Time: 9 Months Later – Heart My Backpack
It’s hard to think Silvia only started blogging full-time 9 months ago! The way she talks about her nerves while transitioning to blogging full time is freakishly similar to how I feel right now. If Silvia can make it work financially without spending every second of every day working, I (hopefully) can too!
What’s Next for September 2017?
September is going to be a crazy-busy month with both Chris’ parents and my parents coming to visit China! First, Chris’ parents will be coming to Beijing, and we’ll play tourist, visiting the Summer Palace, Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, Hutongs, and Great Wall! We’ll also be helping Chris’ younger brother celebrate his 18th birthday by leading him on a hutong bar crawl.
Exactly two days after Chris’ parents leave for Shanghai and Dalian, my parents will be coming to China! I’ll be taking them on a whirlwind trip through Beijing, Xi’an, and Yunnan. This will be me and Chris’ first times meeting each other’s parents, and we’ll even have one night of overlap in Beijing where we’ll all be together.
Hopefully, everyone gets along! Keep your fingers crossed for me.