This Expat Life: Month 13

After moving abroad I started compiling monthly roundup posts about life as an expat in Southeast Asia and all the nitty gritty that goes on behind the scenes here at Travel Lush. Head here to read Month 10, Month 11 & Month 12.

Here’s what I got up to in August…

This Expat Life: Month 13 - Travel Lush

Moving to Cambodia

Duh, clearly moving to Phnom Penh was the biggest thing to happen to me in August.  Last month I moved into my apartment (full post coming soon), saw a man get hit hard by a tuk tuk, made homemade pizza in my very own oven, and sweated out of pores I didn’t even know existed.  Oh, I also bought a houseplant and killed it, was offered a job and turned it down, and had a mini-breakdown and recovered from it.

This Expat Life: Month 13 - Travel Lush
Homemade veggie pizza makes everything better!

It’s been a wild ride already!  And in case you missed it, I wrote a full post about my first impressions of living in Cambodia here.


Admittedly August was a slow month for travel. Although does moving abroad count as traveling? At the very beginning of August, I bid farewell to California once again and hopped on a plane back across the world to my new hometown…

This Expat Life: Month 13 - Travel Lush
Hello Phnom Penh!

So far I’ve had a blast rediscovering this crazy city. And I’ve tried my best to look at it through the eyes of both a tourist and a newbie expat. That’s the thing I love about being an expat in Southeast Asia – every day kind of feels like you’re traveling, every day brings new adventures and new challenges.

Also, now that I’m back in Southeast Asia I’ve started to make some travel plans for the rest of the year. So far I have two trips to Bangkok scheduled.  In a couple weeks I will head to the city to meet up with a dear friend from college, and in October I will return to the city for my first travel blogging conference, TBEX.


Oh work. This has by far been the biggest source of stress for me this month. July was a decent one for me freelancing-wise, but the workflow was uncomfortably slow in August. It’s the first time I’ve ever looked at my bank account and actually felt true panic. While I had always intended to freelance in Phnom Penh, seeing that my savings had dwindled to such a low level made me realize how nice a full-time job and steady paycheck would be.

In the past few weeks I’ve sent my resume out to magazines and newspapers in the city. I even got a pretty decent job offer a week after moving here! But after careful consideration I turned it down…

It’s a decision that was painful for me, especially because I need the money so badly. But when it came down to it it was the right decision for me. Turning down a regular paycheck was a big challenge for me last month. And I’m pretty sure that it was part of the reason for my mini-meltdown.

So instead of committing to a normal, full-time job I spent the better part of last month trying to navigate the world of freelancing. It’s time consuming, it’s daunting and it’s hard work. But I do feel confident that with hard work and determination I’ll be able to make the freelance writing and editing thing work for me.


In August I spent most of my time coping with jet lag, job hunting and moving into my new apartment.  I’ve had a lot on my plate but I’ve still managed to blog fairly regularly. But once I get a little more settled in Phnom Penh I plan to focus on this blog more and more.

While blogging has always been a hobby of mine I am intrigued by the idea of making this site more professional, reaching out to companies that I love and potentially trying to monetize this site. I have no plans of making my blog a primary source of income, but it would be nice!  I’m mean I do pour my heart and soul into this site!

At this point that dream is definitely on the back burner while I pursue freelancing as a career. But I plan to continue blogging for the sole reason that I love doing it! And we’ll just see where it takes me. I am, however, getting really excited about TBEX, where I’m hoping to not only learn a lot more about the art of travel blogging but to learn a lot more about the freelancing world as well.

Also, blogging-wise, for anyone who’s interested, I just wrote a Luxury Guide to Jakarta for Hippie In Heels.  Check it out not only because I’m a big admirer of Rachel’s site and her business savvy, but because the guide is really awesome if I do say so myself! 

Most Popular Posts in August:

9 Fun & Weird Things to do in Jakarta – This post is now officially my most popular post ever, which makes me happy because Jakarta is such an underrated destination!

A Guide to Motorbiking Nusa Lembongan – This is one of my first-ever blog posts.  I haven’t thought about it in forever but it received a bunch of views this month!  I should probably create a Pinterest image for it…

What I Wrote in August:

A Glutton’s Guide to Eating Your Way through Boracay

This Expat Life: Month 12

It’s Official…I Live in Phnom Penh!

6 Awesome Places to Get Your Eat & Drink on in Boulder

Moving to Cambodia…First Impressions


Most Popular Instagram:

Thanks to all of you who are following me on Instagram and if you’re not on the bandwagon already what are you waiting for?! You can find me at thetravellush!

How did your August 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.

20 thoughts on “This Expat Life: Month 13

  1. My August – well, despite the fact I’m looking for full-time work – ended very well. I got my fun in: I visited Coney Island for the first time (fun place), took part in the World Naked Bike Ride in Philadelphia (yes, I cycled naked with roughly 3,000 others in the City of Brotherly Love) and attended a fun Japanese-inspired festival in Philly. There was plenty of good Japanese drumming and I did several Japanese festival dances.

    Enjoy TBEX! I look forward to reading about it. Have you met lots of other travel bloggers before?
    Rashaad recently posted…Home Sweet Home – Graduation

    1. Ugh, I’m looking for more regular work too. And it definitely put a damper on the month! That’s life though. What sort of work are you looking for?

      Ahaha, there’s a naked bike ride in Philly? That is amazing!! You’re going to write about that right? Also, you’re very brave!

      I finally met my first fellow travel blogger in person last week! I’m really looking forward to meeting more at TBEX, but I am REALLY nervous too. I’ll definitely be writing all about my experience. I’m hoping I have a positive one 🙂

      1. Ideally, I’d like a writing-based job in tourism (since I studied Responsible Tourism Management in English) and I sent my resume and writing samples for such a position in the marketing team of a Boston-based travel agency. I haven’t heard anything yet but the position wouldn’t start until the end of this year/beginning of the next year (I’ll continue to send in appropriate writing samples in an attempt to strengthen my candidacy). Meanwhile, I have a preliminary phone interview next week for another position.

        As for the World Naked Bike Ride, it’s annual event that takes place in many mid-sized and large cities around the world (The ride in Portland, Oregon attracts up to 8,000 participants). Philadelphia wasn’t my first WNBR – I took part last year in York, England (great cycling city, by the way). But it was a bigger thrill participating in Philly because (a) it’s close to my hometown (b) Philadelphia is obviously much bigger (c) so many people participated. A lot of us actually photo-bombed a newlywed’s couple photos.

        Although to the naked eye (no pun intended) it’s bunch of crazy folks cycling in their birthday suits, the WNBR has a serious purpose. The event wants to encourage a more sustainable way of travel, promote positive body image and increase awareness of cyclists. If people can notice cyclists naked, they can notice cyclists at all other times.

        I composed a brief article for about my experience at the WNBR – but it wasn’t a very good one. I wrote briefly about York WNBR experience in my personal blog (Getting Pounded) last year – but I didn’t mention that we were naked – mainly because I didn’t feel comfortable mentioning it and because it was York, England (very lovely, historical city that just might be home to my favorite museum). I probably won’t mentioned the Philadelphia ride in my personal blog because that blog is more or less devoted to the U.K. But if I ever kickstart a personal blog, I would definitely write about the WNBR because it is so fun (I actually uploaded more than 100 photos from the Philadelphia ride to my Flick account). I would love to ride in another big city.

        TBEX sounds so amazing. I won’t be able to make it this year but hopefully in the future.
        Rashaad recently posted…Home Sweet Home – Graduation

        1. I would love to have a job like that too! What an awesome degree to have. Um, if you do start your own personal blog you definitely need to talk about the bike tour in full detail. That’s the stuff people love to read about…or is it just me? Plus, I really love that it has a cause. Promoting stuff like that is awesome. Yes, TBEX should be good. I’m just super interested in meeting people who have managed to make the digital nomad/freelancing life work for them. I feel like the conference is perfect timing for me right now since I’ve recently transitioned to a complete freelancer.

  2. Best of luck on the work front, I know what that feeling’s like and the mini meltdowns it caused me last year. I wish I’d had the guts to not settle for the first job that was offered to me because I’m not entirely happy there but it’s better than nothing for now!
    Jade recently posted…Portrait of Sonia

    1. Thanks Jade 🙂 I am feeling so weird about not taking that job. A steady paycheck would have been SO nice, especially right now. Oh well, it wasn’t right for me so I just need to keep working hard to find something else, something better!

    1. Hi Kelly! I have had more ups than downs. And the downs were more work related than Cambodia related. So I guess that’s good? I agree, moving to another country will always be an adjustment. But a month in and I’m settling in nicely I think 🙂

      Yay, I will definitely be writing all about TBEX when the time comes!

    1. You’re definitely not the only one Silvia. Take comfort! But I have no doubt you’ll be doing something amazing in no time. I had such a fun gig in Jakarta…but I don’t think that opportunity is going to come around again. Time to get creative I guess 😉

      In full disclosure Aaron made the pizza. I for the life of me can’t make or knead dough. I sprinkled the cheese on though 🙂 And it was delicious!

  3. Can totally understand the anxiety over work and money issue, that’s been my biggest worry of late too..haha…give yourself some time and I’m sure it will all get sorted out alright…just keep believing :)…and I wish I can go for TBEX! I was all ready to book it and then things came up and then work came up and then, I end up not able to make it anyway. Oh well, there’s always another time…enjoy your time there! 🙂
    Sha recently posted…My Packing List for Osprey Farpoint 40 Backpack

    1. Yeah, I read your last post about your work situation. That’s not fun 🙁 I feel like I struggled so much in Jakarta before I found something. It’s not fun to have to start all over again in a foreign country. Alas, with hard work I will figure it out and so will you. Too bad about TBEX. You’ll get ’em next time 😉

    1. I always like to hear about people’s work/blogging lives too, which is part of the reason I decided to write about it in my monthly recaps. I’m definitely interested to see how people make it work. Turning down a regular paycheck will haunt me until I find more regular work!! But honestly, the job would not have worked for me and I do feel confident it was the right decision for me and for the employer. We’ll see!

  4. Wow… What a rollercoaster ride that sounds like! I just found your blog, but I can’t wait to follow along on your travels and adventures living abroad. Also can’t wait to see your future collabs with the companies that you love and trying to monetize your blog. You blog is great already, so I’m sure that you aren’t too far off from reaching those goals! 🙂

    – Maddy @

    1. Hi Maddy! And thank you for the kind words about my site. I’ve had such a fun time keeping up with this blog over the past year and I would love to grow it. We shall see! As for the moving to Cambodia thing, it has been a bit of a roller coaster ride, but I guess that’s just the way it goes when you move abroad!

  5. I know this is super late but that’s a hell of a good month for only just moving to a new place. Don’t worry about the travelling thing yet – everyone needs time to get settled when they move. I can’t get enough of these pictures from Phnom Penh though. It’s making me want to go there so bad!
    Ceri recently posted…18 months in Korea … The Highs & The Lows

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