The Freedom Life: March 2019

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After five years of living in China, and two years of This Beijing Life, things have changed. I left my job as a college counselor in China, and now I’m living a life on my terms. I’m my own boss, I travel when I want, and live where I want. I’m FINALLY living my dream of location independence.

I hope you’ll all follow me along on my new journey: The Freedom Life.

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What I Was Up to in March

This March was a BUSY month full of USA travel. From my bachelorette party in Denver to a Southwest US road trip (including California, Vegas, and the Grand Canyon), to a few weekend trips from Palm Desert, I barely had any time to get work done! That said, this month was awesome, and I had a ton of fun moments and memories.

Where I Was This Month

  • Palm Desert, California
  • Denver, Colorado
  • Slab City, California
  • Idyllwild, California
  • Los Angeles, California
  • San Diego, California
  • Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Flagstaff, Arizona
  • The Grand Canyon!
  • Joshua Tree, California
  • Palm Springs, California

denver bachelorette party

All the girls at brunch!

Highlights

Overall, this month was pretty awesome! Here are some of my favorite moments.

My Denver Bachelorette Party!

Right at the start of March, I headed over to Denver for my (very early) Bachelorette Party!!

While some people may think Denver is weird for a bachelorette destination, I thought it was perfect. Firstly, Denver is a really awesome and affordable city, making it a great place to have a party without breaking the bank. Secondly, my friends are ALL OVER the US, and Denver is a hub for multiple airlines, making it super easy and affordable for all my friends to meet in one place.

While I knew my bachelorette party would be fun (just based on all the awesome people attending), it ended up really exceeding my expectations. The girls, lead by my Maid of Honor Sarah, really planned such an epic weekend. They found a super cute Airbnb with room for all six of us and planned an epic day of celebrating.

First, we had brunch with unlimited mimosas and bloody mary’s (my favorite!). Next, we did a brewery tour in a tuk-tuk! (Which is awesome because I used to lead tuk tuk brewery tours in Beijing). The girls actually created a hilarious scavenger hunt, which had me getting proposed to (multiple times), rubbing the heads of bald strangers, getting carried around in a bar, and plenty more. The best part was that people in Denver are SO NICE. Seriously, everyone we met wanted to make sure I had a fantastic bachelorette, and people were so eager to check off items on my scavenger hunt.

It was honestly the perfect bachelorette and I could’ve asked for more!

San Diego

Bronte, Annisa and I in San Diego!

Southwest US Road Trip

If you didn’t already know, I went on an epic 2-week Southwest road trip this March! Two of Chris’ brothers and their girlfriends flew over to the US, and the six of us rented the world’s best ultimate soccer mom mini van for our trip, which we fondly named Bessie Lou.

This van took us from LA to San Diego, Vegas, Flagstaff, the Grand Canyon, Joshua Tree, Palm Springs and back to LA! She was brand new with 45 miles on her when we left, and by the time we brought her back she had almost 2,000 miles on her…

This two-week road trip was tons of fun, especially since the two couples that joined us had never been to the US before. I was also able to go to a ton of places I’d never seen, like Joshua Tree and the Grand Canyon! None of us were ready to leave when the trip was over. We had such a great time, and I can’t wait to plan another trip with them again.

Thunder From Down Under

Waiting for the Thunder From Down Under

Girls Night in Vegas

While Chris had his Bachelor Party in Vegas, the girls all went out to celebrate my friend (and Chris’ brother’s girlfriend) Bronte’s birthday. Rather than sitting at home wondering what all our men were up to, we planned a day that was just as wild as theirs.

After a little discount shopping at Ross and a solid hour of getting lost trying to find a Starbucks, the girls all met up on the Strip for dinner and drinks. We all bought VIP tickets to Thunder Down Under, which was definitely a crazy show! I was even called up onstage (I almost had a heart attack), but thankfully it was just to win a free calendar. Whew!

Overall, it was a pretty fun bonding experience with all the girls, and we didn’t end up going to bed until almost 4 am. Granted, we paid for it the next day, with hangovers, blistered feet, and a 10 am checkout.

Grand Canyon

Hello Grand Canyon!

Hiking The Grand Canyon and Joshua Tree

I can finally say I’ve seen the Grand Canyon! I absolutely loved the Flagstaff and Joshua Tree portions of our trip. We got to unpack and stay at some super cute Airbnb properties where we could actually cook healthy-ish meals.

The best place we stayed was definitely a cute little forest cabin in Mountainare (near Flagstaff). In the evenings we’d cook dinner, have a few drinks, and play the world’s hardest game of charades called “God Hates Charades“. I actually had to act out Nicholas Cage taking out a life insurance policy on Wolverine.

The National Parks themselves were also amazing. The Grand Canyon is stunning, and I definitely want to go back and do some longer hikes around there another time. Joshua Tree was also beautiful, and we did the 29 Palms hike to a desert Oasis. Since California has been a bit rainy this year, the entire mountain was covered in beautiful wildflowers!

Slab City

Some art from Slab City

Day Trips to Slab City and Idyllwild

This March, my parents wanted to show us some of the cute towns and interesting places around Palm Desert. Our first trip was to Salvation Mountain and Slab City, which is basically Burning Man all year long. Salvation Mountain is a giant hill in the desert that’s been painted and decorated like it’s straight out of Dr. Seuss with a ton of religious quotes. I honestly could’ve stayed here for hours taking pictures.

Meanwhile, Slab City has a ton of people living off the grid and a bunch of artists creating the coolest sculptures out of trash and recycling. We even had a super interesting conversation with a guy who had glued mutilated Barbie’s all over his car as a statement about body image. He explained that his sister was born with a physical disability, and would ask how many surgeries it would take her to look like Barbie. Since then, he’s had a major issue with Barbie and its representation of stereotypical standards of beauty.

Finally, my family, Chris and I took a day trip to Idyllwild, which is a very cute mountain town. We had great Mexican food, partook in a coffee tasting, and wandered around all the little shops. I even purchased a pair of socks that say “my cat is f-ing cool” with an old school picture of a little girl petting a cat.

Las Vegas Sign

This sign is much smaller than I thought it would be

Losing Inches (But Not Pounds)

As many of you know, I’ve been putting in a lot of effort to exercise, eat healthy, and get to a weight that’s appropriate for me and my body. I’ve been putting in a TON of work, but not really seeing much of a difference on the scale. I know I’m probably transitioning fat into muscle, but still… my weight is far too high for someone who’s only 5’4″.

That said, I’ve been using tape measurements weekly, and I’ve seen a huge difference there! I’ve lost an inch off my chest, another inch off each of my arms, 2 inches off each of my thighs, another two inches off my hips, and THREE inches off my waist! However, despite all of these changes, I’ve only actually lost 5 lbs. WTF?

In addition to measuring myself, I also decided to try on my wedding dress (which I bought off the rack) to see how it fit. I definitely noticed my dress was easier to zip up and fit much better, but it wasn’t until my mom took a few pictures that I realized how much my work has paid off.

It seriously looks like I’ve lost 15 pounds. I’m not joking.

Everyone: my parents, my friends, my nutritionist, all FREAKED OUT when they saw the photos. My nutritionist even showed the photos to everyone in her office. I seriously wish I could show you guys the before and after photos because they’re crazy (unfortunately it’s my wedding dress so I have to hold off for now).

If you’re trying to lose weight and you don’t see the numbers on the scale changing, try using a measuring tape and taking photos. I don’t notice a big difference in my week to week photos, but the before and after of my wedding dress is CRAZY.

While it is frustrating that I can’t seem to get the scale to move, the pictures and measuring tape speaks for itself. At least something is working.

Denver bachelorette Getting proposed to by a bartender with a lemon ring Bachelorette party Denver Meeting another bachelorette!

Challenges

Not everything this month was perfect. Here were some of my rougher moments.

I Forgot My Phone in California for my Bachelorette in Denver…

After getting dropped off at the airport I realized I was forgetting something. My phone! Unfortunately, even if I was able to get in touch with anyone, there would be no time for my mom to drive all the way back home, grab my phone, and make it back to the airport in time, so I was just out of luck.

Thankfully I brought my computer so I was able to get in touch with someone to come pick me up from the train station, but not having a phone was definitely a bit stressful.

Being phoneless definitely made for a very fiance-free bachelorette weekend. I couldn’t text him even if I wanted to!

Unfortunately for me, I had to be really reliant on other people to take photos, which ended up working out in the long run. In the end, it wasn’t ideal, but if I’m going to forget a phone on a trip, at least it was a short one!

Denver snow

At least it looked pretty?

So Much Snow in Denver

Usually, March in Denver isn’t too cold, but this year the snow was CRAZY! The day of my bachelorette it really started coming down, and our brewery tour leader had to switch to his car to get us back home! Thankfully, no one’s flights were delayed for more than a few hours, and Denver definitely does not shut down in the snow.

If this were Seattle, all of the breweries would’ve been empty once it started snowing. But Denver is completely flat and people are used to it, so despite the multiple inches of snow on the road, people kept partying all evening!

Unfortunately, one of the girls didn’t bring boots and her ballet flats were NOT doing the job. I’m honestly surprised her feet didn’t just fall off. When I went to the airport on Sunday evening, the temperature was -1 Fahrenheit and my coat was NOT good enough for that kind of weather. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a place that cold before!

Slab City

I hate packing almost as much as this guy hates dolphins

Packing All My Stuff… AGAIN.

If there’s one thing I hate about my lifestyle, it’s packing everything up and moving every few months. Why do I have so much stuff? Where does it all come from??

Chris and I have managed to easily get our bags down to 23 kilos (50 lbs), especially if we can check two bags. However, we discovered our flight from Beijing to Vietnam at the beginning of April, only allows ONE 20 kilo bag!! We tried to add weight to our one bag, or buy a second checked bag, but neither were options for “such a short flight”. The only option was to pay $15 USD per extra kilo at the airport. WTF CHINA EASTERN??

We even spent an hour on hold with the China Eastern US office only to get a girl that literally had no idea and couldn’t help us at all. Her only advice was to call the Beijing airport and ask them. Why?? What???

Usually this wouldn’t be such a big deal, but A) I’m traveling with a wedding dress that takes up half my small carry-on suitcase so I can’t just put all my heavy stuff in there, and B) it’s really hard for me to find CGM (curly girl method) approved products in Vietnam, so I wanted to stock up and bring them over. Unfortunately for me, I had to make some tough choices…

In the end, our suitcases were both 22 kilos, but thankfully the check-in staff said NOTHING. They also didn’t mind that Chris had 2 personal items in addition to his carry on and that our carryons were all way over the weight limit. Ummm thanks, China Eastern? We totally would’ve just bought a second bag if you’d offered it for less than the price of a new organ.

sea lion Los Angeles

California sea lion!

Getting Super Sick on the Road Trip

During the road trip, most of us got some weird variant of the flu. It honestly sounded like the plague in our minivan. After one day in Vegas trying not to die, and a full day of driving to Flagstaff, I was happy to skip out on Sonoma and spend the entire day sleeping and watching movies in our little cottage. It was definitely necessary.

bbq ribs

So many temptations

Eating Out For Every Meal

After making tons of progress getting fit and eating healthy, it was really hard to keep the momentum going on a road trip. Why is eating out in the US so unhealthy? I tried to make good choices for every meal, but finding good healthy food while traveling is easier said than done.

San Diego waterfront

You’ve got some mean drivers San Diego…

Stressful Driving in San Diego

While I’m comfortable driving, I’ve actually never driven a car as big as Bessie Lou before. This 7-seater minivan was GIANT (seriously, I don’t know how they can call it a mini van). While I eventually got used to her extreme size, navigating the highways and roads in LA, San Diego, and Vegas was a nightmare. Firstly, California drivers are MEAN. WHY ARE YOU ALL SO MEAN???

Do you want to change lanes? These people will legit speed up. People complain about LA, but driving in San Diego was worse. To get anywhere I had to get on and off multiple highways, which were all extremely confusing. Every time I needed to get into town, I had to go on a highway, immediately get off at the first exit onto another highway, change over five lanes and then immediately get off at the next exit. This meant I had approximately 2 minutes to change over five lanes on a super busy highway where no one will let you over.

No wonder everyone from Washington hates California drivers. You guys are all a-holes. Don’t even pretend like this fact surprises you.

Las Vegas Strip

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas… including my kindle.

Leaving my Kindle in Vegas

Guess who forgot her kindle at the pool in Vegas and didn’t notice until she was literally about to leave the US? This girl!

Thankfully the hotel had it and was happy to mail it to me for a fee. Unfortunately for me, I only had 2 days left in the US and there was no way I could get it in time, so I had to run to a Target and buy a new Kindle (I do not want to try and find a Kindle in Vietnam). Maybe I can sell my old one when I get home?

Idyllwild

My mom looking fashionable in Idyllwild

What I Wrote in March

March was extremely busy, so I didn’t have much time to write, but I did crank out two posts!

Best Instagram Shots

I’m excited to move back to Hoi An, and apparently, you’re all excited for me to move back too!

I don’t usually do selfies on Instagram, but I made an exception and apparently you all don’t mind! How can I complain about not being able to fit all my hair products without showing off my hair?

Travel Product I Can’t Live Without

I learned this month that I can’t survive without a kindle! While I love a good physical book, packing tons of books while traveling just isn’t practical. Plus, it can be super hard to find good English-language books on the road. I invested in a Kindle when I first moved to China to teach English, and now I’m on Kindle #3! (I dropped the first one, and left the second one in Vegas… whoops).

Seriously, if you live abroad or travel long-term, you don’t want to be without one of these. It’s super easy to buy books on the Amazon store and download them directly to your Kindle wherever you are.

If you want some good travel book recommendations, check out Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven, Kosher Chinese, Wild, Love with a Chance of Drowning, and What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding.

Denver street art

Megan’s poor feet!!

Favorite Outfit of the Month

This month I rented a gorgeous long-sleeved red dress from Rent the Runway for my Bachelorette and it was perfect! Not only was this dress super flattering, but it was also extremely comfortable. I’m 100% getting a replica of this dress made when I’m in Vietnam.

What I’m Listening To

My interview on the Comes With Baggage Podcast! My fiance Chris and his friend Kaitlyn have just started an epic travel podcast, and I’m the guest for episode 2! If you’re at all interested in learning about our marriage visa problems, how I got started traveling, or my insider advice on teaching abroad in China, you’re going to want to check out this episode!

Listen to the Podcast!

Rodeo Beach

Meeting up with my brother Derek in LA (I missed out on the tall gene apparently)

Best Reads of March

Here are my favorite blog posts from the month of March!

My ‘Interesting’ Experience at the Kumbh Mela Festival – Vicky Flip Flop Travels

Wow! Vicky’s description of this festival is incredible! As I’m reading it, I can imagine the full-on culture shock of attending the largest Hindu festival in the world. This post both makes me want to go… and not go.

How I Became a Successful Travel Blogger – Adventurous Kate

This post was a bit different than I thought it would be, but I actually really liked it. Rather than a post filled with advice, Kate tells the full story of how she got into travel blogging, and the business and life decisions she made that helped her career. She also talks a lot about her upbringing and how that helped push her along this path.

Top 7 Quirky Things to do in Kaohsiung Taiwan – Journalist on the Run

I was LITERALLY just talking with Chris about doing another Taiwan trip, and he mentioned Kaohsiung. When I said “What is there to do in Kaohsiung? Why don’t we just go to Kenting for the beaches?” he mentioned Kaohsiung was worth visiting. What is there to do in Kaohsiung? Well, now I know!

Idyllwild snow

Shorts and snow in Idyllwild

What’s Next for April 2019?

Well… April is already half over, but I can still keep you in suspense! At the beginning of April, I’m heading to Beijing for 5 days of touristing and meeting up with old friends… oh, and eating ALL THE FOODS. Next, I’m heading to Vietnam where I’ll be staying for 5 months! I’ll be finding a good house, joining a coworking space, and enjoying the tropical weather in my hotel’s pool!

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