This Expat Life (Beijing): Month 40 + I’m Moving!

After moving abroad in July 2014, I started compiling monthly roundup posts about life as an expat in Asia and all the nitty gritty that goes on behind the scenes here at Travel Lush. You can check out my previous monthly roundup postsJuly, August and September/October.

This Expat Life (Beijing): Month 40 + I’m Moving!

I feel like there’s a trend with these monthly roundup posts. Whenever I write a super positive post, it’s almost guaranteed that the next month’s post will be a bit of a downer. Like I’ve said a million times before, living and working abroad is full of ups and downs. If I were to categorize it, November would definitely fall in the “downer” category.

The funny thing is nothing bad actually happened last month. On the surface things went along as they usually do. I spent the majority of my time working, and in my spare time I hung out with the small group of friends I’ve made here. I went to a craft beer festival, traveled to Hong Kong for a quick visa run, and stuffed my face quite a few times with my favorite Beijing street food, jianbing. On the surface, life was normal… good even.

But on the inside I was feeling all sorts of angst, mainly because my future in Beijing was looking less and less certain. For the majority of the month I had no idea whether I’d be staying in Beijing for a few more years or if I’d be leaving in a few weeks. While I have learned to cope with this unconventional and transient expat life of mine, not knowing what’s going to happen next always stresses me out to no end.


Let me try to explain. Aaron and I moved to Beijing with the intention of staying through an 18-month contract. (We’ve now been here for 22 months.) Earlier this year, we were given the opportunity to stay longer. We spent a long time weighing the pros and cons of staying in Beijing – of which there were many of both – and in the end decided we would stay on. Up until a few months ago, it looked like we’d be staying in Beijing for up to three more years.

And then things rapidly fell apart.

I won’t go into all the nitty gritty of what happened, but let’s just say that working abroad can be unpredictable and you really never know what’s going to be thrown your way. A few months ago it became increasingly clear that our situation here wasn’t exactly sustainable. Things got to the point where we both just really wanted to move on from the stresses of our life here in Beijing. So we started looking at other options, in other countries.

This summer Aaron came across an opportunity that intrigued us so much we both agreed that if everything fell into place we were both 100 percent on board with moving on from Beijing.

It’s impossible not to be charmed by this city.

Like all academic job negotiations, this one took a long while. Seriously, the waiting game is so difficult. The second we thought “Yes! We’re for sure moving.” Something would come up that made us think it just wasn’t going to happen. Things went on like that all month long.

If our new plan didn’t work out we literally thought seriously about going back to Bali. We also decided a few times that we’d (reluctantly) remain in Beijing. There was even brief spell where we toyed with the idea of throwing all caution to the wind and just setting up shop in Lisbon (a dream of mine!). We were all over the place. We just didn’t know what we wanted to do, but what we did know is that our situation in Beijing just wasn’t working for either of us.

Life in Bali was good…

I love Beijing. I do. But our living situation here is pretty bad, and after nearly two years it’s worn on both of us. Our one-bedroom apartment is small. And while we’re used to living in close quarters, it’s a little too cramped considering both of us work from home a large chunk of the time. We also live on a small university campus in the middle of nowhere. We’re an hour from downtown Beijing, which means taking advantage of all the amazing things this city has to offer takes a lot of effort. And when you work 40+ hours a week, it makes making the trek from our apartment to downtown Beijing really unappealing.

Beijing’s lovely hutongs.

I honestly envy other expats who live downtown. I hear stories of how they live in cute hutong homes, walk right down the street to go to coffee shops, restaurants and meet up with friends. It sounds lovely, but that’s just not my life. I suppose that’s why I’ve not really adapted to Beijing and why I leave every chance I get. I’d much rather spend my time living and working from a villa in Bali or an apartment in a beachside city in Vietnam than working from my claustrophobic out-of-town apartment in Beijing.

temple of heaven beijing
If I lived downtown, things like this would be in my backyard.

Suffice it to say, both Aaron and I decided last month that while we might be able to stick it out in Beijing until June 2018, that would be it. We’re just not happy enough living here and we both desperately need a change.

So yeah, the majority of last month was a bit of a bummer for me. But then, on November 30, we finally got the news we’d been waiting so many months for!

We’re moving!!

That’s right kids. Come December 25 I will officially be saying goodbye to Beijing and boarding a plane bound for my new home country. I’m not quite ready to announce where I’m headed just yet. But I will say that it’s a country I’ve been to a few times before. I’ve even written about it on this here blog! If you have any guesses as to where I’m going feel free to leave them in the comments below.

This will be my fourth move in the past four years. Yikes! I’m honestly just incredibly excited to move on and try something new, but I would be lying if I didn’t say that I’m also a bit apprehensive. If you haven’t noticed by now, I have a knack for moving to big, challenging cities (Jakarta, Phnom Penh, Beijing). You know, I like to keep things exciting. This new city will be a challenge, for sure. But it’s one I welcome and I also think it’ll be pretty amazing.

I’ll be announcing where I’m headed very, very soon. So stay tuned!

Working & Blogging

I’ve been struggling to keep up with the blog lately. All the stress just kind of got to me last month and zapped my desire to do much of anything. But I do plan on putting more time and effort into this blog once I leave Beijing, especially since I’ll have a lot more time on my hands.

This blog isn’t a money maker for me but it’s worked wonders in connecting me to amazing people around the world, and it’s even helped me land jobs in each of the countries I’ve moved to. It’s definitely a pet project I intend to continue with. And now that I actually know where I’m going I feel a whole lot more inspired to write. It’s like a huge weight has been lifted off of me.

I quit my job in Beijing…

I don’t really talk about what I do for a living all that often. I suppose I’m never entirely sure how much to share about my personal life. But in Beijing I work full time writing and managing social media for an expat-oriented website and magazine. I love that my job keeps me writing every day and that I’ve had the chance to remain in my field. And while it feels bittersweet to move on and to say goodbye to my coworkers and my job, I’m excited to see what’s next. I’m definitely ready for a change. Though I will say, going into a new city without a job is really, really scary for me. It’s always the thing that makes me the most nervous about moving to a new place.

My Beijing coworkers, as depicted by our lovely intern. That’s me eating fruit (third from the left).


I’ll basically stay at my job here in Beijing until a couple days before I leave. On Christmas Day (less than two weeks!!) I’ll be boarding a plane to my new city. Because Aaron doesn’t start his new job until February we will both be free to explore our new city and do some actual traveling for five weeks before his new job starts. And at that point I’ll hunker down and get back to work. I’m excited to have a break though. This is the first time I’ll have taken a real vacation in a while so I’m beyond excited to take a hiatus from working.


Honestly, I’ve hardly posted any photos this month. Part of that is due to being in a big rut last month. But my life in Beijing isn’t quite as colorful as my life in Bali, meaning I don’t tend to whip out my camera unless I’m exploring downtown, which I don’t do all that often. But obviously Great Wall photos are always a crowd pleaser!

How did your November 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.

11 thoughts on “This Expat Life (Beijing): Month 40 + I’m Moving!

  1. Ooh so exciting! Yeah it is a shame you never got to move to the hutong. I have good memories of living in our little hunting house. But you definitely had some great experiences nonetheless. Now on to the next! I’m really intrigued about where you’ll go next. Did you say if it was in Asia still? If so I vote either Singapore or somewhere in Japan. Hmm or maybe Malaysia!! Ha!

    1. It is exciting. Yeah, not being downtown (especially in a hutong) is something I feel like I totally missed out on. I do feel like being so far away from the action made it tough for me to really get to know the city. But you’re right, I’ve had an incredible experience regardless! Haha, I did not say whether or not it was Asia. But really Joella, do you think I’m capable or tearing myself away from Asia? And no, none of your guesses are correct!

  2. I am excited to see where you end up next, Justine. It sounds like you’re ready for a new adventure! I am thinking you’re sticking to Asia too, so I’ll guess Vietnam? Ho Chi Minh City maybe?

  3. I’m so sorry that China didn’t work out!

    I’ve been trying to think where you feel most comfortable. In that wise, I would say Bali. On the other hand, if you were looking for somewhere new and where you don’t get a lot of “digital” travellers, I’d choose Vietnam!

    So, when do we get to hear?
    Victoria @TheBritishBerliner recently posted…10 Christmas gifts that don’t cost a single thing, and 10 gifts that do – 2017/2018!!

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