So the suspense is finally over. Come February I am moving to China! Beijing to be exact.
Looking back over my previous posts it is not lost on me that this is the third “I’m Moving …” post I’ve written in the past 18 months. I still can’t believe I’ve moved so many times in such a short amount of time. From Jakarta, Indonesia, to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, to Beijing, China. Honestly, I never expected things to unfold this way…
I always knew that I would only be staying in Jakarta for one year, but those of you who have been following along for a while know that I had planned on staying in Phnom Penh for much longer than six months. But sometimes things just don’t go according to plan.
Since I left California to start traveling in August of 2013, my life has been full of unexpected twists and turns. I never imagined that a year of travel would lead to a move to Jakarta and then Phnom Penh. And never in my wildest dreams did I think that nearly two and a half years later I’d be moving to China. Life, especially my life, is crazy!
So why Beijing you ask…
Well, to make a long story short Aaron was offered a job at a university in Beijing a few months ago. We spent a lot of time mulling over whether or not this move would make sense for us. And in the end we decided to take the adventurous route and just go for it. We both know it’s going to be very different and very challenging but we’re confident that this is the right move for us at this point in time.
Part of me feels sad that things didn’t work out in Phnom Penh because I really do love that city, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that it’s time to move on.
During the past few years Southeast Asia has become my second home. I’ve lived in both Indonesia and Cambodia and had the luxury of traveling to almost every country in the region multiple times (except Myanmar, which somehow still alludes me!).
I feel like I’ve really gotten to know Southeast Asia, in all its religious, cultural and ethnic diversity. But East Asia is completely foreign to me. It might still be Asia, but I know it’s going to be completely different. This is the very first time I’ll be moving to a city (and country) that I’ve never traveled to before. And to be perfectly honest, I’m not quite sure what I’ve signed up for!
Beijing will be a challenging city for myriad reasons – the pollution, the weather, the censorship, the crowds, the culture shock, to name a few.
Beijing will no doubt be challenging.
Beijing has been on the news a lot lately because of its extreme air pollution. Seeing images day after day of a city so full of smog that’s so dense people literally can’t see across the street is disturbing, to say the least. And knowing that constantly checking the air quality levels and wearing anti-pollution masks will be a reality for me is kind of terrifying.
I’m just going to come right out and say it: I am from San Diego, the land of the world’s most perfect weather, and I am a wimp when it comes to cold weather. Also, I have spent nearly three years sweating it out in hot and humid Southeast Asia. My attire for the past few years has been jean shorts, tank tops and flip flops. But in Beijing things are going to be much different, at least in the winter months. Right now it’s about 20°F (-6°C) in Beijing. For me, that is freezing! Right now I’m in San Diego where it is 66°F (19°C) and I am covered head to toe and wrapped in a thick blanket as I write this. I’m pathetic. Suffice it to say, I am going to be screwed in Beijing. Also, I have no idea how to dress for winter weather…like, I’m clueless. So feel free to give me any tips in the comments section below!
Clearly this is something I’m not a fan of and I’m really not excited to deal with it in my daily life. In China things like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google are all banned. Basically everything a blogger (and freelance writer) needs isn’t allowed. Luckily there are loopholes and I will be using a VPN. But still this censorship thing is already not cool. That being said I’ve always had a kind of obsession with communist and socialist governments, especially the propaganda part, so part of me is oddly excited to experience what it’s like on the ground in China.
Beijing is massive. Like, a population of 20 million people kind of massive. I have never lived in a city quite that large or populated, so I find it a bit daunting. Traffic and commutes are also supposed to be horrendous so I’m expecting that getting around the city (especially if I have to commute at all) will be challenging for me. Luckily though there is a wonderful public transport system, including a metro stop right near where I’ll be living. Taxis are also relatively cheap, which will hopefully make matters easier. Communicating with taxi drivers in Mandarin, however, will be a whole other issue…
The culture shock:
I’ve lived in some pretty foreign places but I have a feeling that I will experience the biggest culture shock in China. Again, I’ve never traveled there so I don’t know exactly what to expect. But I have been reading a couple of Beijing-oriented expat blogs (Adventures Around Asia and Paper Crane Stories) for years, so I’ve learned a thing or two about what to expect. Dealing with things like the language barrier, the constant pushing and shoving by elderly ladies, and the rules and regulations are just going to be the tip of the iceberg. This is going to be an adventure!
But Beijing will also be amazing!
Despite the challenges I know I’ll face as an expat in Beijing, I’m actually starting to get really excited about my imminent move. While I was sitting in the airport in Phnom Penh earlier this week, waiting for my plane back to California, I picked up a Lonely Planet Beijing. As I flipped through it it finally hit me that I’m moving to what is actually an incredible city that’s an amalgamation of ancient and contemporary. Things like Tiananmen Square, the old maze-like hutongs, the 798 Art District and the Great Wall are all a stone’s throw from my apartment. So much history and culture!
And then there’s the food! Despite the fact that I’m a vegetarian all of the different (and oftentimes baffling) foods on offer in Beijing sound kind of amazing. One of the many things that Beijing has going for it is that virtually every type of regional Chinese cuisine is represented there. And supposedly you can actually find vegetarian-friendly food in Beijing. I know being a vegetarian will be a big challenge in Beijing. But really, what’s new? I’m actually really excited to start sniffing out all of the amazing vegetarian food on offer in the city. If anything, I’m excellent at doing that. And mark my words, I will find every mock meat eatery in town!
I’m also really excited to have the opportunity to start exploring more of East Asia. Not only are there some pretty incredible places to travel within China, but I am jazzed about the idea of visiting places like South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan. I feel like this move opens up a whole new part of the world to me, which is exciting!
Clearly, I’ll be writing in depth about all of these things once I actually get on the ground and experience them for myself. While my blog has pretty much always focused on Southeast Asia, obviously things are going to change a little bit. I hope you’re as excited as I am to experience something new!
Are you surprised by my next big move? Have you ever been to China or Beijing?
Where I’m staying: After a bunch of research I’ve decided on the Hotel Kapok Wangfujing, located in the heart of Beijing’s historic center. I’ll give a full review of this hotel upon my arrival!