This Expat Life: Month 22 (Beijing)

It’s weird.  I feel like time has just been flying by since I arrived in Beijing.  Life in Cambodia seems like, well, a lifetime ago.  It’s hard to believe it’s only been a few months.  It’s hard to believe, too, just how different my life is now than it was in January.

street art phnom penh
Back in Phnom Penh. Before things went slightly awry.

A few short months ago I was completely unsure of what I was doing.  I knew I’d be moving on from Phnom Penh but I didn’t know where I was going to go.  There was talk of moving back to Indonesia, moving back to the States, or just traveling for a while.  And while all of those options sounded appealing in their own way, none of them actually were.  Because they all came with uncertainty and a lack of any sort of (semi)permanence.  I’m sure other expats can relate to it when I say that the uncertainty of semi-nomadic expat life can really wear on you.  And it did, especially when I realized that things in Phnom Penh just weren’t going to work out.

While I’m typically a go-with-the-flow, sure I’ll move to [insert country here] on a whim type of person, at some point in Phnom Penh I just got kind of scared.  Scared that my life would always just be up in the air.

So when Aaron floated the idea of moving to Beijing – the land of some of the world’s worst air pollution, the land of 22 million people, the land of big and scary China – I balked.  I actually didn’t balk, I flat out said no and then I probably burst into tears.

This Expat Life: Month 22 (Beijing) - Travel Lush
Beijing really isn’t so scary after all!

I just didn’t think I could take being challenged, yet again. You have to understand that I’ve now spent nearly two years living abroad as an expat.  But the year before that was spent traveling around.  Uncertainty has played a large role in my life in the past few years.  And while it felt freeing at the beginning, I have to admit that it started losing its luster before too long.  I know I chose this path and I’m okay with that.  But I can’t help that I’ve changed just a little bit, actually a lot, in the past few years.  And at this point I need a little bit of stability in my life.

I didn’t think it would be possible to find that in Beijing.  But I kind of have, at least for now.  I’m working more regularly, I have a semi-normal work schedule, I feel comfortable here.  It’s a relief knowing that there’s a 95 percent chance that we’ll actually stay put for the next year.  Hell, there’s even been talk of staying longer, if things do in fact continue to go well.

And that’s exactly what I needed.

This Expat Life: Month 22 (Beijing) - Travel Lush

But I’m not going to say it’s all perfect.  Because Aaron works as a university professor he gets amazing breaks.  Basically nearly three months this summer.  We’d always planned on moving somewhere else this summer.  The plan was Lisbon – a city we’ve dreamed of moving to for years.  But it turns out my work is keeping me in Beijing.  And while I’m grateful for that, it is really hard for me to feel forced to stay put.  I think that’s a challenge for anyone who has a traveler’s heart.

But I suppose sometimes you can’t have it all.


Staying put doesn’t mean I don’t get any time to travel.  I mean I am going to Tokyo in a couple of days!  So I really shouldn’t be complaining too much.  Quick trips might not be my cup of tea, but when it’s all you’ve got you learn to make the most of it.  And man, I am ecstatic about finally getting the chance to go to Japan!  I hear they have sake vending machines.  And yes, I plan to find one straight away.  I also have a list a mile long of all the veg-friendly restaurants I plan to hunt down.  Ramen here I come!


I actually did manage to write a couple blog posts this month.

My (Very Brief) Love Affair With Hong Kong

9 Things to Know Before Traveling to Beijing

This Expat Life: Month 21 (Beijing)

Funny Search Terms:

On one of my previous monthly roundups I listed some of the funny search terms people have used to find my website.  I had a few gems this month, so I thought I’d share them with you.

  • living in the big durian‘ – FYI, the Big Durian is what Jakarta is called
  • gili trawangan sex party‘ – YES! Just kidding.  I have no idea how someone found my site with this one
  • pro and contra about 3 in 1 in jakarta‘ – I’m assuming they’re talking about 3-in-1 instant coffee, in which case there are only cons
  • gili trawangan free sex‘ – As you can see I get these all the time!  Oddly enough I only wrote about the Gilis once and it was my very first blog post!
  • indonesian toilet habits‘ – I wonder what this person was thinking they would find…
  • hope you got home safely on friday night. sorry about not taking a taxi with you. glen‘ – This is my all-time favorite and I have so many questions: How did this lead to my site? Why didn’t he take the taxi with her? Is the girl still alive? Glen, we need answers!


This was my favorite photo from the month and one of my favorites from Hong Kong.  Apparently it was yours too!


This Expat Life: Month 22 (Beijing) - Travel Lush

How did your May shape up?

About Justine

Justine Lopez is a California native who always seems to take the unconventional route in life. She also suffers from a serious case of wanderlust. In 2013, she set out on a yearlong round-the-world journey and never looked back. Since then she's lived the expat life in both Jakarta and Phnom Penh. She's now living and working as a freelance writer in Beijing. As she meanders her way through Asia she's always seeking out great vegetarian food, budget travel deals and amazing new travel destinations.

8 thoughts on “This Expat Life: Month 22 (Beijing)

  1. Oh, girl, I SO feel you on the whole uncertainty wearing you thin thing. I’m so tired of not knowing what’s coming next. I get a little piece of mind just from planning a few months ahead of time, like right now I’m planning to be in Stockholm until September and that feels pretty good. But…then what? It’s a game I’m getting pretty tired of. I think staying in Beijing for awhile will be good for you, although it’s sad you won’t get to spend summer in Portugal like you wanted.

    On a lighter note, those search terms are HILARIOUS and I plan to head to GA right now to dig through some of mine. I don’t think I’ve had any as silly as that taxi thing, and seriously, why are people finding you by searching about sex parties?! All the questions…

    Oh, and does the nickname “the Big Durian” imply about Jakarta what I THINK it implies? If so, remind me never to travel there lol
    Leah recently posted…How I Created a Consulting Side Hustle and the Exact Tactics You Can Steal

    1. Yeah, moving around all the time can wear on you, for sure. It feels great to know that I’ll be in Beijing for another year. But even still, the whole process of figuring out what comes next starts in August, when academic jobs are posted. It does get really stressful. I’d love to be able to move somewhere we can actually stay long term. But I’m not sure when that will actually happen!
      Ha, I’m glad you enjoyed the funny search terms! I really don’t know why so many people find my blog using sex and Gilis. I seriously wrote about the Gilis once and the focus was not on sex. Haha, the Big Durian. You just have to give it a chance Leah!!

  2. I’m glad that you are finding some stability and liking your life in Beijing! Even though I haven’t moved that much over my lifetime, I have made 2 big moves in the last 3 years to 2 different continents. I go back and forth between wanting to just travel with very few belongings, and staying in a place longer to have some stability. The thing I want the most though is to have a stable enough life so that I can have a nice kitchen! I might have said that before, but I’m tired of using crappy pots and pans that I didn’t pick out!

    I’m glad you get to go to Tokyo! It’ll be a nice change from Beijing for sure.
    chewy recently posted…PhD: the final six months

    1. I feel you on the kitchen thing. In Phnom Penh I had a real kitchen, complete with a stove with four burners. It was heaven. And it was the first time in two years I had an oven!! Now I’m back to having a tiny kitchen with an electric range. It will only work if you use flimsy metal pots and pans. I can’t even use my pots and pans that I lugged to Beijing 🙁

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