7 Things I Wish I Packed

Hello!

Can you believe it’s already March, and Taylor and I have been living in China for 10 months now!? Within these 10 months, we’ve lived in two different apartments and have visited America a few times since. I thought this was the perfect time to chat about our packing struggles.

As you can imagine, we spent months packing our bags before moving from America to China. We traveled with a total of 4 checked bags (up to 50lbs), 2 carry ons, and 2 personal items. Packing for a 2 year journey was daunting, because anything we didn’t bring along either had to be donated, put in storage, or thrown away. It was an extreme elimination process, which taught us a whole lot about what we valued. For the most part, I feel like we did a pretty good job at packing the necessities. However, now that we’ve been here so long, I can shed light on what we really needed and didn’t need! If you’re planning on being an expat in China, this could be informative to you.

What this blog post won’t be:

  1. A guide to packing for China.
  2. Everything we packed.

Basically, this is a list of 7 things I didn’t pack on our first trip to China, but have made the effort to bring back over the past 10 months!

1-3.jpgFor some reason, I didn’t bring my own backpack when we came over the first time. I don’t think I realized how much I’d need one. We’re constantly on the go, so having a backpack has made life so much easier. I can’t be bothered to carry a tote every time we travel.

2I will never stop bringing snacks back with me. When we landed in China back in June, I had the hardest time eating any food, because I couldn’t find anything I liked. I’ve found some Chinese snacks I enjoy now, but I always LOAD UP a suitcase with my favorite foods from America before returning.

3-1.jpgThe amount of bug bites I acquired over the summer is unreal. I did not expect a huge city like Nanjing to have so many dang mosquitos. I also didn’t realized that almost all the sunscreen here had a “whitening” effect (a cultural thing).

4.jpgBefore coming to China, I asked my good friend Caitlyn about what I should pack. (she lived in China for 2 years too.) Her biggest suggestion, was to pack less clothes and more photographs and personal items. Boy was she right! I took home a ton of clothes before Christmas and came back with a lot more photos and items to make our apartment cozy.

5As we expected, we haven’t found a church here in Nanjing. This means we have to really pour ourselves into devotionals. Every time I return home, I find some more that I can bring back with me.

6.jpgFor the first two months, I went to Starbucks nearly every day. Then, I was kindly sent a mini Keurig. Unfortunately, that Keurig blew a fuse and didn’t produce one single cup of coffee. In the meantime, I settled for a small drip coffee maker. The problem I’ve been having is finding LIQUID coffee creamer and GROUND coffee. Most stores here only sell coffee beans and powdered creamer. Along with my snacks, I like to fill my suitcase with the little individual vanilla coffee creamers from Sams! This lasts me a good bit.

7.jpgLast but not least, makeup! I assumed I’d be able to find all the products I buy at Ulta Beauty in China. I was very, very wrong. Chinese woman have completely different makeup needs, and I have yet to find my staples. They do have Sephora here, but again, they don’t carry all the same products I’m used to in America. Also, I’m not trying to break the bank!

And that’s 7 things I wish I would’ve packed from the start, and always bring back with me! I hope this was interesting to read whether you’re planning on living as an expat or not.

xoxo

Our International Phone Plan

Ni Hao!

Today I wanted to write about something that Taylor and I get questions on a lot. Our phone plans! Kind of a boring topic, but I think it’s informative for someone traveling abroad or moving internationally.

created by dji camera

Before we moved abroad, Taylor and I had contracts with Verizon. We were loyal to them for several years, and we absolutely loved them. We never had any issues and they’ve always been great. When we found out that we were moving to China, our phone plans needed to change because we needed something that allowed us to communicate internationally. Unfortunately, Verizon didn’t have any long-term international plans available. They only offered a daily rate. They actually recommended that we check out Sprint. I really didn’t want to check out Sprint, because I’ve never heard anyone say they enjoy their phone plan with them. Then again, I didn’t know anyone living internationally!

DSC_5614

Sprint offered to pay off our contracts with Verizon and allowed us to text and FaceTime from anywhere in the world at no extra cost. It was also way cheaper than what we were paying with Verizon. Taylor and I were able to update our iPhones, plus they gave us an additional 2 phones that we now have as backups. We’ve been living in China for 4 months now and have traveled to multiple countries, and haven’t had any issues with our Sprint phones. We can still text free of charge (on both ends) and we can FaceTime with anyone in the world. If we make a normal phone call it is 10 cents a minute, so not a big deal. However, all FaceTime calls are completely free. Taylor and I have an app called WeChat, which allows us to make phone calls to each other within China if needed.

IMG_0659-2

After visiting America for a few weeks back in August, I’ve had the chance to see how my Sprint phone preforms there as well. To be honest, it works much better abroad. I didn’t get great signal and almost all of my calls were dropped. The internet was slow as well, unless I was connected to the wifi. Our sprint phones serve their purpose and work great while we’re traveling. We spend more time in other countries these days so it’s perfect for our needs. Whenever it’s time for us to move back to the states, I’m not sure if we’ll keep our sprint plans. However, it’s super cheap so I can’t complain too much! 

IMG_5447

For those of you asking, yes you can text and FaceTime call us free of charge! We may be in another country, but we’re easily accessible! The only difference is the time! 🙂 I hope this helps some of y’all if you’re thinking about changing phone plans or if you’re moving internationally anytime soon! xoxo

A Night in Hong Kong!

Last weekend, Taylor and I completed our second visa run to Hong Kong! I went into a lot more detail about what a “visa run” is and why we need to take them in the first Hong Kong post I wrote! You can read that HERE.

IMG_4517-2IMG_4520-2

The two of us headed to the Nanjing airport on Monday afternoon, and landed in Hong Kong around 5pm. We took a taxi immediately to our hotel, The Rosedale, and dropped off our luggage before heading to dinner. We were starving and craving Outback Steakhouse! The only time we can eat here is when we’re visiting Hong Kong. We would normally never eat at a chain restaurant while traveling, but when you live in China, you take any sliver of home you can get. ❤

IMG_4529-2IMG_4523-2

After a long day of traveling, we headed straight to bed and rested for an early morning of exploration! Taylor’s company only pays for a one night (two day) stay out of the country when we need to take our visa runs, so we squeeze everything we can into that time! We woke up bright and early, walked to Starbucks for coffee, then took the hotel bus downtown.

DSC_5629DSC_5649

We spent the entire day walking along the harbor, flying the drone, and shopping (Christmas is right around the corner)!

DSC_5636DSC_5634IMG_4534-2IMG_0709-2DSC_5626

When we were ready for lunch, we returned to White Beard’s Fish n Chips across the harbor. We ate here last time and loved it so much! Taylor ordered their lemon garlic fish and I got their fish bites!

DSC_5643DSC_5620IMG_4540-2

We always love traveling to Hong Kong, even if it’s just for one night. The weather is always perfect, there’s a huge western influence, and there’s so much beauty! We’ve only been twice now, but there’s still so much we want to see and do here! We can’t wait to return.

IMG_4558-2

On another note, WE RETURN TO AMERICA this week!! We’re both ecstatic, and can’t wait to see all our friends and family! Thank’s for reading! xoxo

The Great Wall of China | Beijing Part 2

If you missed my last post, it was all about our first day exploring Beijing! You can read it HERE. Taylor and I had such a fun and relaxing day wondering around the city, but we were even more excited for our second day. Like most people, we have been dreaming about seeing the Great Wall of China because it’s one of the 7 Wonders of the World. We knew we were going to see it during our time living in China, but we strategically planned to go during the month of October. As I mentioned in my last post, it’s less crowded, cooler, and the leaves would be transitioning.

IMG_5562IMG_5462

If you haven’t figured it out by now, Taylor is no average guy when it comes to traveling. He always takes the path less traveled and strives to make his experiences the most unique. The Great Wall of China was no exception. His boss whom we had lunch with the previous day made sure we had the most authentic and wonderful experience. He’s been living here for over 10 years, so he was very helpful!!

IMG_5578

At 7:30am, he sent a driver to come pick us up at our hotel for the day. If you’re planning on traveling to Beijing to see the Great Wall, please remember that the most popular sections of The Wall will take 40 minutes to an hour to get there. There are various ways you can get there:

  1. The Bus – Probably the cheapest route.
  2. A tour group – make sure you do your research on this one. I’ve heard people talk about how they were scammed by doing this.
  3. Hiring a Car – I’m not sure how much this costs, but I’m sure it’s not cheap.

Most tourists visit a part of the wall that has been rebuilt by the government for tourism and accessibility. There’s nothing wrong with this, but we didn’t want hundreds of people around and we wanted to see something real and historical. We were taken to Huang Hua and it took 2 hours to get there by car. Once we arrived, our driver dropped us off in a very small farming town. We paid 5RMB each to walk through a woman’s restaurant, which lead to a small opening in the wall. The view from that first lookout was amazing!

IMG_5407ESS1xe+MTJGDB1UGAmkZwAIMG_5558RoQYnlJaQaSFSlEnoskhHgIMG_5509IMG_5534IMG_5438

We hired a photographer named Tony to join us because we really wanted to enjoy the moment and take our Christmas card photos. Tony was a friend of a friend, and he’s currently earning his bachelor’s degree in Beijing. He was absolutely phenomenal and a joy to have along. If you’re in the Beijing area and want a photographer, I’d highly recommend him. I know we’ll be asking him to take photos again in the future!! He was such a sweet guy.

IMG_5492-3IMG_5548IMG_5541IMG_5519IMG_5517IMG_5538IMG_5579IMG_556980jYhM9CQRqPdHFNdWF9%g

Walking along The Wall was a lot more difficult than we were expecting. Some parts were straight up! It didn’t help that we were dressed for photos. 🙂 We hiked to the next town, which took close to two hours with all the pictures. We crossed paths with one other person during the whole time. This is unheard of with The Great Wall. Even Tony was astonished and said he’d never return to the popular sections again. He told us that he visited during the summer and he could barley walk or take photos with all the people.

IMG_5595IMG_5483IMG_5511

We paid another 10RMB each to exit the wall through someone’s orchard. Our driver was waiting there ready to take us home. I was so exhausted after all the hiking and photos that I fell asleep the whole two hours back into the city. We were dropped off in Sanlitun, and headed straight for lunch.

IMG_55999lAaYQvNSjiv%1KxGEUXRg

We ate at another favorite, Home Plate BBQ! As you can imagine, we were starving! Taylor ordered the fried buffalo chicken sandwich and I ordered their classic pulled pork sandwich. We also split an order of bbq pulled pork fries! Yum!

Y0c1NlZySQeocD8YhA3SJgsDmarGDWTzmFWIUt6JBVbgVEcHLq6NQVytq3c0MV5QyAh0HEHCT4Qgyt%s5x69Wt0Q

After scarfing down our food, we went back to The Bookworm to look at our photos and reflect on our Great Wall experience. Tony took all the photos on my memory card so we’d have access to them immediately. We were also able to edit them however we wanted!

LmzFI2RXTqaCTTxtk%vApw

Before heading to the train station, we walked around one of the markets. To be honest, we didn’t really enjoy it. The stuff there was almost “too nice” and the sellers weren’t willing to negotiate much. Nothing stood out either. We prefer the markets in Shanghai much more. We got to the train station a few hours before our train because we were meeting our wonderful friend Jenny!! We met her years ago when we visited China the first time, and we finally had the chance to reconnect because she lives in Beijing now. We got Starbucks and caught up on life. I’m so thankful for a friend like Jenny!

IMG_4501

Side note: if you’re a Starbucks mug collector like me, the Beijing train station has almost every Chinese city you can imagine!! Don’t stress if you can’t find one out and about.

uk1HrvrsTd6jm3W858b6fQM1LJYGkFSGy1%m0MxV3FAw

I still can’t believe we hiked The Great Wall of China! Everything about our experience was perfect, and I can’t wait to take family and friends there in the future. ❤

We’ll be traveling to Hong Kong for our second visa run tomorrow. Make sure you’re subscribed for all the details. Thank’s for reading!! xoxo

Weekend in Beijing | Part 1

Taylor and I just got back from a weekend trip to Beijing!

As China residents, we’ve been dreaming about visiting this city together for a few months now. It’s so close, yet so far! Taylor had visited Beijing maybe 4 or 5 times before on his own, but I only visited for a few hours before my flight to Hawaii back in July. We waited until October to visit for a few reasons:

  1. It’s way less crowded. Tourists who travel to China can usually be found in Beijing and Shanghai during the summer months.
  2. The weather was much cooler, making it more enjoyable to walk around.
  3. We wanted to see the Great Wall of China while the leaves were transitioning.

With that being said, you should consider visiting Beijing during the Fall too! I’m so glad we waited. I think this is the best time to visit China in general.

We took a high speed train from Nanjing to Beijing Sunday night after Taylor got off work. We left at 7pm and arrived around 11pm. For some reason, the train station in Beijing wasn’t allowing anyone to exit through the taxi station so we were all pushed to the street. Our estimated DiDi (Chinese Uber) wait time was over 2 hours!! They also weren’t allowing Taxis to come to the street where everyone was standing in the cold?? #china In order to get to our hotel, we had to jump in a taxi with a complete stranger and pay him half the ride just to get out of the area. After driving for 15 minutes, we got out and tried ordering a DiDi again. Thankfully, we only waited 10 minutes this time.

YLNLdtiHRyqOhn3mY4jeFQ

The next morning, we headed to the MLB China headquarters! We’d heard only good things about it, so we wanted to check it out ourselves. This was like a baseball lovers dream space!

rJuBHY5sQM+Vt5MzJ+EyigKeb2tYXqSD2zX66WoVD3WwqTBHF1vaQ7GeMmoENuzIPwsXPjgtaTTzen1gAcnJo9vQ

We had lunch with Tay’s boss before heading to the Beijing Zoo!

Bqb0cA0qT5K0nud97uilBQ

It only cost 19RMB ($3) each to enter the zoo and see the panda exhibit! If you don’t want to see the panda’s, it’s even cheaper!

2Tkps9PiSLCrAmYpQnAhUw%Xl4RtobQ%udI2z1qHwLIgDSC_0710DSC_0714-2uNbkoWH3RdK2r%EHIrHqYADSC_0752DSC_0732DSC_0742DSC_0765IMG_43831X36ID0ZSyit8JZ9JY4Lkg

After a few hours of walking around, we went to Tiananmen Square. It’s located in the center of Beijing and was built back in 1415 during the Ming dynasty. We had our photo taken in front of the entrance for 15RMB ($2.50) as a keepsake! 🙂 By the time we got to the square they were shutting things down, so we got to walk from the front gate to the back gate for free!

KHmAGGw0TCmaI6K+uqjH4ADSC_0783DSC_0772DSC_0798

One of the biggest reasons we enjoy coming to Beijing, is for the food! If you’re an American looking for comfort in China, then you HAVE TO check out Sanlitun. It’s a big western area and we love exploring here. We had dinner at The Local, which is Tay’s favorite! I ordered a hot spiced apple cider and the chicken parmesan sandwich. Both were amazing!!

IwxpQPUDQWu4Kzj02jTUCwQTr0UvQQR3yBdWgjXTqQiw-2

After devouring our dinner, we went next door to The Bookworm for drinks! This was the cutest place ever and I wish there was something like it around us in Nanjing. As a bookworm and all things cozy myself, this was like heaven to me! It’s a library/bar/cafe! We each ordered a whiskey sour and skimmed books about China. I could literally spend all day here.

MqaHAn5YRVGuuuJPZy6v6wNbHS98WsTpSbt8kLSFhhvgzXKapg98SWq17ponKk48bgI7PIy6X9Q+29QrMTJQleGg

We topped off the night with some ice cream from Cow’s! I was in the mood for something extra sweet, so I ordered the birthday cake flavor and Taylor ordered the peanut butter cup!

n5WGUCC7SV27mYp5S%woEgn4LV9Lt9SXKs%+48GH8N0wCnGRB%pKRb+n8IR4lm0MZw

We crashed early once we got back to our hotel because we had to be up early the next day. We were traveling to the Great Wall of China in the morning! Stay tuned for part 2 of our Beijing trip! xoxo

 

 

Getting Lost on Purple Mountain

Hello!

I hope ya’ll had a great week!! In my last post, I talked about how we visited a local park in Nanjing on our Monday afternoon off. Well today’s post is all about what we did the very next day! If you didn’t know, our weekends are Monday’s and Tuesday’s rather than the typical Saturday’s and Sunday’s. We wanted to spend our Tuesday afternoon casually exploring Purple Mountain. This is a famous area in Nanjing because you can hike, walk through the botanical gardens, or see the Xiaoling tomb of the first Ming emperor. What was supposed to be a casual hike up and down the mountain with a little exploration in the middle, turned into an all day hike trying to get off the dang mountain. I started the day recording our “small” adventure, but called it quits on filming after we were lost and confused and everything turned into a hot mess.

DSC_0616

When hiking the mountain you have three options. You can take the stairs straight up, walk along a winding road, or get inside a cable car. We chose to take the stairs because we wanted to hike it. After huffing and puffing for 45 minutes all the way up, we sat and looked out at our city below to catch our breath.

DSC_0629DSC_0638DSC_0625

When we were done soaking in the foggy view, we began walking down off the mountain together. The map showed a path that connected the mountain to the botanical gardens and Mausoleum down below, so we set out to find it. After walking a mile straight downhill, we came to a gated dead end. We had to turn around and walk uphill another mile. This just kept happening. I’m not kidding when I say it took us HOURS to get up and down this mountain. The paths were not labeled correctly and the maps weren’t accurate. #china

DSC_0643DSC_0647

My muscles are still aching!! Once we finally made it down off the mountain, we took a taxi to the gardens and Mausoleum. Turns out, it was a lot further than we thought it would be.

DSC_0725DSC_0731DSC_0729

DSC_0714DSC_0711-2.jpg

It’s believed that the emperor is buried somewhere in this amazing courtyard.

DSC_0651DSC_0704DSC_0691DSC_0673DSC_0666DSC_0676DSC_0678DSC_0696

The Purple Mountain park was closing at 6pm that day, so we only had about an hour to walk around and explore. Thankfully, this meant it wasn’t overcrowded. Truth be told, I don’t know if I could’ve explored any longer than that anyways because I was so exhausted. We drove straight to dinner afterwards because we were starving and ready for bed. I don’t think we’ll be hiking Purple Mountain again anytime soon. 🙂

Thank’s for reading! xoxo