my expat story: year 2

though technically my second year as an expat began while I was still in the US for summer, I finally made it back to Taiwan in October. by the end of my time in America I was starting to really miss Taiwan. my summer had been fantastic but I was happy to soak in all the dumplings and dragons again.

that fall, we had to make a decision about whether or not to renew our contract. it was a serious struggle for us. at the end of our first year in Taiwan, I didn't think we would stay beyond our 2 year contract. I liked Taiwan. but it was still challenging to adjust, especially coming back after a summer and fall spent in Michigan with friends, family, and easily accessible food for all my allergy needs.

the international teaching scene is strange. hiring begins so far in advance that you have to make up your mind in November about what you want to do the following August. we decided to sign on for one more year with our school in Hsinchu, with the intent to start searching for another international destination. and then we tried to make the best of the time we had left -- and succeeded immensely.

I decided to be brave and announce that I was writing a book. and though that project [a travel memoir about moving to Taiwan] has been shelved for now, I worked diligently on my manuscript for months and ended up with a pretty solid first draft. I'm working on a fiction novel now, but those early days of deciding to write and just going for it are still very dear to me. the energy I had was amazing.

the fall was pretty much a blur of writing. Thanksgiving passed with what would become an annual potluck dinner, and for Christmas we ordered a turkey and made a feast of side dishes. 2013 really ended on a high note for me. I had a year's worth of memories to look back on thanks to completing a 52 weeks photo project, and I even went so far as to make a list of reasons I was awesome that year.

at the start of 2014 I was totally crushing on both the blog and book front, in between substitute teaching and tutoring some teachers in English conversation. looking back -- I have no idea how I was getting so much done at once. but when Chinese New Year hit my productivity was derailed. I can't really regret it though, since I made some incredible travel memories instead.

we spent 10 days in Bali, which was a bit of a mixed bag. [I blame Pinterest for giving me unrealistic expectations.] we drank mongoose poop coffee and braved a jungle full of evil monkeys in order to feast upon mexican food nearly every day. we took an incredibly delicious cooking class, and were disappointed by the touristy Tanah Lot. we only went to the beach once, but spent plenty of time at our lovely hotel's pool.

if nothing else, the packing list post I wrote for that trip is still crazy pinterest popular.

my friend Kelsey came to visit Taiwan and we had a girls getaway to Taroko Gorge. hotel robes, rooftop hot tub soaks, hiking through one of the most beautiful places on earth... it was a dream. we also traipsed all over Taipei and just generally had a damn good time. it was lovely to see a familiar face, but even more to find our travel styles were so compatible and our friendship still easy as it used to be.

I decided that for my 29th birthday I wanted to go to Tokyo Disney, so we did. and it was so. much. fun. Husband and I spend a long weekend stuffing our faces with curry popcorn, hunting for hidden Mickeys, and smiling until our faces hurt. we went in to actual Tokyo too... and randomly stumbled into a famous street festival. but mostly it was all about the Disney magic.

my brother came to visit after his college graduation. we chased waterfalls [well, and I fell into a river] and scooted to all my favorite weird spots in Hsinchu. we saw tigers swimming at the zoo [because Taiwan is ultra roasty in June] and visited a cat cafe for the first time.

and then that summer, Husband and I flew back to America and criss-crossed the country for a series of weddings and family visits. Detroit, Mackinaw, San Diego, Austin. it was both amazing, and exhausting. and at the end of it I was so ready to go back to Taiwan.

after the novelty of the first year abroad wore off, I was left just trying to build a life. some days I crushed it. I went full throttle into both my manuscript and pushing my blog into the travel/expat community. we had some amazing travels, and fantastic times with visiting friends and family. it was a year of extreme personal growth. and for the most part: I was in love with my life.

but some days sucked. they were hard. I was homesick and lonely and confused about what I wanted to do with my life and I cried. in fact, there were some days that I hated Taiwan. but my struggles helped me to grow and become more open and honest in my writing:

"there are days in Taiwan where I feel helpless, even hopeless. those are the days I visit six different grocery stores in hopes of finding an onion that is neither moldy nor mushy... and I fail. the days where I feel so homesick I start looking at real estate in Michigan, the days I would kill to have a real oven or a dryer or - please! - a dishwasher, the days that I want to pull my hair out because between the humidity and my helmet what's the point of having hair anyway?

and then there are the days [like today] where despite all that you find a way to make it work.

it's true that more often here than before I have days that seem incredible, grand, and wondrous. but in between the highs and the lows there's mostly just... life."

year 2 milestones

started writing my memoir
took a Balinese cooking class
caved and bought smartphones
created a blog sponsorship program
completed a 52 weeks project
Starbucks followed me on twitter
did not freak out about turning 29
washi tape everything
navigated the Taipei bus system
survived the monkey forest
learned css to design my blog
many scoot adventures

4 countries traveled


a few favorite posts

decide that you want it
how I was awesome in 2013
29 // birthday reflections
some days I hate Taiwan
a letter to my pre-expat self
create a life you love
23 fun facts + travel stories
don't be afraid of your own splash

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