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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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?