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Meet the Gypsies : Richelle of Adventures Around Asia
1. Who are you? Where are you from? Where are you now?
My name is Richelle and I’m a young twenty-something from Seattle, USA. I’m a coffee addict, spicy food lover and dance fanatic. I love to eat street food, explore night markets and I go salsa dancing almost every weekend. I think of myself as pretty location independent and I love the fact that I have absolutely no idea what country I’ll be living in next year.
I started my blog Adventures Around Asia when I left to study abroad in Beijing and Xi’an, China in 2012. After graduation, I moved back to China to teach English to 1,000 crazy high schoolers in “the middle of nowhere”. This year, I’m studying at the University of Nottingham in Ningbo, China. UNNC is a British university with campuses in China and Malaysia. After this year I’ll have a master’s in International Communications!
In my spare time I travel throughout Asia, either solo or with a small group of friends. I love exploring new places, eating traditional foods, meeting locals and writing about my crazy misadventures living in Asia.
2. What’s your packing strategy? Heavy or light packer? Suitcase or backpacker?
My packing strategy is still a work in progress. I try to be a light packer, but I always end up trying to bring too many things, shoes in particular. Unless I’m moving across the world for a year, I tend to travel with a backpack rather than a suitcase. I find backpacks easier to manage in Asia, especially when trying to navigate public transportation.
I recently invested in the Osprey Farpoint travel backpack with a removable daypack. I love it so much! I was originally going to get a hiking backpack, but I wasn’t a huge fan of top loaders. I don’t want to take everything out just to get a t-shirt! The Osprey Farpoint is great because it unzips like a suitcase, but has comfortable straps and structure like a hiking pack.
I also love the removable daypack. It can attach to the back of my backpack, or hook onto the front of my body. For flights or long bus and train rides I’ll remove it completely and put it under the seat in front of me, so I have easy access to everything I need. I can even use it on day hikes!
3. How do you afford your travels? Budget traveler or lean more towards luxury?
As a poor master’s student, I definitely travel on a budget. I almost exclusively stay in hostels, and I try to avoid taking planes whenever possible. I love eating street food or cheap restaurants full of locals. While I’m always looking to save money, I try not to let finances inhibit my experience. I will definitely splurge a little on things that are important to me.
Last year I taught English in China, and was able to save up a few thousand dollars for travel this year. I also have a part-time job teaching English that brings in about $60 a week.
Unfortunately, I do have student loans that I had to take out for my master’s this year, but I’m not going to start paying them off until I graduate this summer. My thought is that I’m living in China right now. I should make the most of my experience and travel in Asia while flights are cheap. It’s much more expensive to visit SE Asia from America than it is from China!
4. If you could go anywhere tomorrow, where would you go?
I’ve already got a few trips planned that I’m excited for, but if I were to pick a place I’ve been dying to visit but haven’t planned, I would go to Japan. I want to stuff my face with sushi, spot a geisha, take a fast train and snap photos of Harajuku girls. I’ve been dying to go to Japan for a while, and I hope to eventually get there this summer.
5. Is there anywhere you won’t travel to and why?
I can’t think of any countries I would never travel to, but I definitely would not put myself in a dangerous situation. For example, I probably won’t consider visiting Syria anytime soon.
I tend to be a pretty adventurous traveler though, and I’ll give most places a chance. For example, I really want to visit North Korea eventually, although I might wait until I can get my Irish dual citizenship, because I think I’m taking a risk visiting as an American, even if North Korea is open to American tourism.
6. What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve eaten?
Living in China, it’s easy to try crazy foods. Fried scorpions on a stick, donkey noodles, pigeon kabobs, chicken feet, thousand year old eggs, stinky tofu, intestines and breaded cow stomach are just a few examples. I’ll try anything once!
7. You’re from Seattle (I lived there for 3 years). What do you miss most and do you think you’ll ever move back?
The more time I spend away from Seattle, the more I appreciate what an amazing city it is. I’m not sure if I’ll ever end up back in the USA, but if I do, Seattle would be my first choice. I love the open, liberal atmosphere, the emphasis on protecting our environment and the cool, quirky aspects of the city. I’m also a huge coffee addict, and Seattle understands me.
I also never realized how beautiful the Seattle area is until I started traveling. Out mountains, ocean, lakes and islands are absolutely beautiful. We also have an active volcano! I show pictures of home to my friends here and they’re shocked I grew up in such a beautiful place.
8. You now live in China – what’s your favorite thing about it? Do you think you’ll move on after you graduate?
My favorite thing about living in China is the fact that my life is always interesting. Sometimes it’s entertaining, other times it’s exhausting, but I’m never bored! There are so many places to explore, foods to try and people to meet. I also speak Chinese, which helps me feel a bit more comfortable here.
Originally, the plan was to finally move on after this year. The internet censorship and pollution have been really getting to me. But then I realized my residence permit is valid until December 2015, over a year after I finish school! That means I can basically live in China, no questions asked until that time. I’d like to use that time to try and open a business leading small group customized tours around China. Hopefully I make it work and can sustain myself (and pay off my student loans).
9. What is it like going to school in a country completely different than yours?
The odd thing about my school is that it’s a British university in China. All of my classes are in English, taught in the British style of education, but almost all of my classmates are Chinese. Not only do I have to adjust to life in China, I also have to adapt to the British education system, which is surprisingly very different from the USA.
Even though the University of Nottingham is a British school, the campus is entirely run by Chinese people. This leads to a bit of a cultural clash when the administration and residence halls handle matters in a “Chinese” fashion. For example, the night I arrived at my dorm I was told that there was no room for me, even though I had been assigned that dorm for months! Apparently they told a few graduate students they could stay an extra month, thereby displacing me, because I was one of the last to arrive. They had to move me into a different dorm and give me a few hundred dollars back because my new dorm is cheaper, and doesn’t have a kitchen.
10. What’s the #1 item on your bucket list?
I’ve always really wanted to learn to scuba dive. I’m working on making my dream come true when I visit Thailand this February!
11. Most importantly, where to next?
I’m about to head to Wuzhen for the weekend, a small “Venice” water town near Shanghai. As for bigger trips, I’m heading to Cambodia and Laos this January!
Find Richelle here…