This Expat Life: Month 19 (Beijing)

This Expat Life: Beijing, Month 19 - Travel Lush

Whenever Aaron and I fly from LAX to Asia, we always head straight to the airport bar, grab a beer and toast to a new adventure.  Given how many times we’ve made these flights, it’s kind of become a tradition.  So, at about 11pm on February 17 we found ourselves doing just that.  As we were clinking glasses to our third “expat” move, we were chatted up by two slightly drunken guys sitting next to us.  It turns out they were embarking on their very first backpacking trip to Southeast Asia and much like us they were celebrating.  (Only they were drinking a bottle of champagne each.  Well played guys!)  They enthusiastically told us about their plans to explore the Mekong in Vietnam and party hard at the Full Moon Party in Thailand.  Always excited to talk about travel, Aaron and I peppered them with travel stories, tips and advice.  And before too long the conversation turned toward us.

“So where are you headed?” one of the drunk guys asked. 

“We’re going to Beijing,” I said.

“How long is your trip?”

“Oh, um we’re actually moving there!”

“Wait, you’re moving there?  You’re actually moving there right now?  Like, you’re getting on a plane and moving there right now?” he asked.  Mind apparently boggled.


“Oh man, you’re living the dream!”

I get this reaction a lot and it always amuses me.  In some ways, it’s true.  I am living the dream.  Well, I’m living out some version my dream.  As a highschooler I really did fantasize about traveling the world and living abroad.  And I’ve managed to make these things actually happen.  I haven’t had the perk of picking and choosing the cities I live in.  And I’d be lying if I said that adapting to life in a foreign country is easy.  Because it’s not always easy.  Sometimes it’s downright hard!

Long Beach, Koh Rong, Cambodia - Travel Lush
My life is not always a day at the beach!

That being said I consider myself lucky to have had the privilege of visiting so many different countries and experiencing things that others never get the chance to experience.  But it doesn’t mean that this lifestyle is an easy one or that I’m living the “dream,” so to speak.  Being so far away from the creature comforts of California is tough.  And being so far removed from my family and friends is by far the most difficult part.

This is something that was on my mind a lot last month during my trip back to California.  Having the opportunity to spend a month back home made me realize just how much I love and miss my family and friends.  So as I wrapped up my visit to California in February, I made sure to relish every moment of it.

San Diego hiking trail - Travel Lush

my cat (1 of 1)
I love my little cat, even if he is a bit curmudgeonly and meows too much.

I tried my best to put the stresses of moving to China aside, be present and visit with my loved ones as much as possible.  I was able to eat at my favorite childhood taco shop with my dad.  It’s a tradition we’ve had for years, one that I’ve missed dearly.  So being able to munch on burritos and just talk to my dad, face to face, was a luxury I made sure to cherish.  I had weekly Bachelor viewing sessions with my mom.  I freaking love that show.  Don’t judge.  Plus, my mom just happens to be the best mocker ever so having the chance to watch it with her week after week was good times, indeed.  I got to drink champagne, watch the Super Bowl and partake in some good old-fashioned sports smack talking with my crazy (in a good way, of course) family.  I was able to have a sleepover with three of my favorite college friends and their little kids while we recounted old memories and created new ones.

It’s the little things like this that I miss while living abroad.

It turned out to be a pretty perfect visit and this time around it was harder than ever to tear myself away from California and the people that I love.

But on February 17, it was time to move on.  So Aaron and I gulped down our expensive airport beers, said our goodbyes to our new friends and after roughly 24 hours of travel we landed in Beijing.

I arrived with visions of horribly polluted air, impossibly frigid temperatures, intimidatingly dense crowds of people and noise beyond belief.  Oh how wrong I was!

Beautiful details in Beijing, China - Travel Lush

As I gushed in my last post, I’m currently loving Beijing and I’m thoroughly excited to be living here.  I had the chance to play tourist for a few days and check out some of the city’s major temples, historic palaces and traditional hutongs (old mazelike neighborhoods).  I also moved into my little apartment a few days ago.  It’s a bit removed from the city center, about 40-ish minutes by subway or taxi depending on crowds and traffic.  It might be a bit far from the action but at least I can get to the action when I want to!

sunset beijing china - Travel Lush
I don’t have the best view from my apartment but at least I get to see Beijing’s amazing sunsets every night!

Last weekend Aaron and I met up with Richelle (the blogger behind Adventures Around Asia).  Richelle and I met last October at TBEX and lucky for me she also happens to live in Beijing.  It’s so nice to actually know someone here.  Plus, she’s actually really cool…always a plus.  A group of us went out to an awesome dinner at a Sichuan restaurant in one of the city’s trendy hutongs.  And then we hit up a random reggae bar (so authentic, I know…) nearby, where we drank until the wee hours.  To top off my first big night out in Beijing it started snowing right as we were leaving the bar!  This might not sound exciting to some, but I’ve been in Southeast Asia for like three years.  Suffice it to say I haven’t seen or touched snow in a long time.  It was a momentary flurry but it was kind of a magical moment.

I’ve also found that being a vegetarian in Beijing isn’t so bad after all, especially when you know people who speak Mandarin who can order for you.  And luckily I do!  There is going to be a huge learning curve with the language barrier.  But in the first week I hunted down a number of pure vegetarian restaurants.  I’ve eaten numerous mock meat dishes (yum!), cooked some excellent veggie stir-fries and sampled quite a few veg-friendly Chinese dishes, like spicy Sichuan mapo tofu (tofu soaked in a spicy chili and bean sauce), steamed veggie dumplings and grilled veggies on a stick.

vegetarian food lama temple - Travel Lush
Fake chicken = heaven.
vegetarian street food beijing china - Travel Lush
Bok choy and mushroom wrapped in tofu skin.  So good and so cheap.

Travel in February

I’m not someone who typically counts countries, but as I was sitting on the very long plane flight to get from California to China I realized I was about to hit a huge travel milestone.  China is the 30th country I’ve visited.  I may not have hit the whole 30 before 30 thing, but maybe I can hit country 34 before I turn 34 this year?  Given that I now live so close to places like Korea, Japan and Russia it’s fully possible!  But we’ll see how things pan out.

Blogging in February

I don’t have anything new and exciting to report on the blogging front this month, so I’m going to do something a little different.  Sometimes I like to look at the search terms people use to find my website.  Here are my favorite search engine terms from February:

  • “Finding girls on Nusa Penida backpacker” – Just a tip, if you’ve ever been to Nusa Penida it’s the last place you’d go to look for backpacker girls.
  • “Taxi rape story lush” – I think they must have found my taxi ride from hell story…and no I wasn’t raped.
  • “How common are Speedos in Southeast Asia” – I honestly don’t recall writing about Speedos…not sure how they found my site with this one.
  • “Gili freelancer girl sex” – My favorite one!

Instagram in February

Most popular post in February…

That about sums it up…how did your February 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.

12 thoughts on “This Expat Life: Month 19 (Beijing)

  1. 30 countries!! What a great milestone! Finding and having friends while being an expat, to me, is probably the most important thing. It can get lonely even if you have a significant other. Glad Beijing is treating you well so far! I’m enjoying reading all about your new journey!
    Terra recently posted…Shiraito Sake Festival in Itoshima

    1. It’s so true, creating a community is so key. Especially for me since I freelance and spend the majority of the time at home on my laptop. But so far Beijing seems like a wonderful city to meet people!

    1. It was so much fun! I have to go out with you to eat more often so you can order veggie food for me 😉 I think I might go on Tuesday so hopefully I’ll see you then!

    1. Me too Chantae. I will say that I’ve now experienced a few pretty bad pollution days, so that’s not so fun. (I’m actually headed out now and the anti-pollution mask is coming with me!) But other than that I feel like I really fit with this city. And I’m so glad Richelle is here. I’m probably annoying the hell out of her with all the weird questions I keep asking her 😉 Haha, people must be really interested in Speedos?

  2. I’m really glad you’re enjoying it so much. Search terms are hilarious. I always get weird, random ones too. Or sometimes very practical ones like “Where to buy blonde hair dye in Beijing” that I’ve never actually written about but would love to help that person find their blonde hair dye if I knew who they were!
    Joella recently posted…LA Days: Griffith Observatory

    1. Me too 🙂 I love reading through the search terms. Sometimes people search for the most random things! I get a lot of people searching for prostitutes in Indonesia (especially the Gilis) through my blog…but I’m not sure why! I also get “why Indonesia so weird” all the time!

  3. Oh my god, those search terms! Pahahaha. There are some real weirdos out there.

    It makes me so happy that you’re loving Beijing so much. I totally know what you mean about savouring the moment back home. I went back to Wales for 5 days last month and realised I took about 8 pictures in total because I was too busy trying to be in the moment with my family and friends and making the most out of everything.

    I do think we need those little reactions of “Wow, you’re living the dream” every now and again though to remind us of how lucky we are. I’ve been doing the expat life for nearly 4 years now and I feel like moving to a new country is exciting but kind of normal now. When people have that “Wow” reaction, I remember that this is a very privileged life I have and I feel so blessed. 🙂
    Ceri recently posted…(A Late) Sunday Post: Back to School

    1. I know. I took so few photos while I was back home. But I should have taken photos of my actual family!! Ooops. The fact that the guy at the airport was so enthusiastic about my lifestyle was a bit of a confidence boost, especially because at that exact moment I was kind of in a state of shock that I was actually moving to Beijing. Given how hard Phnom Penh was for me and how down I’d become on my life decisions, it was a good reminder of the fact that I am really lucky. And I actually really do like expat life (most of the time!).

  4. Such an exciting month! I’m glad you’re finding plenty of delicious vegetarian food in Beijing. I remember having a great meal in Beijing a loooong time ago, but it still stands out as one of my favorite meals that trip. Cannot wait to follow along as you get settled into your new life!
    Julia recently posted…Adventures and Eats: February 2016

    1. It was an exciting month! Yes, there really are a lot of veg-friendly foods and restaurants in Beijing. I live a bit out of town so I am struggling a bit to mix things up but I’m faring pretty well. I’m currently obsessed with making ramens 🙂 The food in this city is so good though. I kinda wish I wasn’t a vegetarian so I could eat everything!!

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