Blog Roundup

It is true. I have been ignoring this blog in favor of Brianja and I apologize for that. I’m in the midst of writing a real post (I promise!), but in the meantime here is a round-up of a few of our recent posts:

I hope you enjoy a few brief stories about our live in Shanghai!

Updates from Shanghai

We have been in Shanghai for 5 days now. It feels as if we have been here longer, and yet it feels like we have not seen or done anything yet. Since we have arrived all we have done is unpack and set up our apartment and run errands. I have a Chinese phone number!

Oh the apartment! It is on the campus of the school we will be working in and is huge. It is bigger than anyplace we have ever lived before. It many ways it is great and in other ways an apartment this big is kind of wasted on us. We won’t be buying furniture to fill the space and we could have made due with a much smaller apartment. Most of all we feel so spoiled to be in such a big place! All we need now is some pictures to put up on the walls and it will feel like home.

first views of Shanghai from our taxi

first views of Shanghai from our taxi

We don’t have a VPN set up yet so we haven’t been able to access the blocked sites – including the new blog the husband and I share. Hopefully that will get set up in the next week and we can begin posting!

Financially we have been using our dislocation stipends to get set up so we haven’t used any of our own money yet. We did put money away for this month so when the time comes we will be able to dip into that.

I have two weeks until I start working. Two weeks to prepare and get ready for my  new career. Thankfully we are almost done with the apartment so I should have plenty of time!

Brianja and Blogs

The husband and I decided to create a new blog to document our experiences as we move to, live and work in Shanghai. After some discussion, we felt it was best to keep this one, with the many person details of our finances and struggles through infertility, private. Always the Planner has been an amazing outlet for me and it would be difficult to give that up. So while I will link to my new blog from here, I will not be linking the other way around. I want to share my experiences in Shanghai with you, but I would rather not share everything on Always the Planner with all of our family and friends.


So I am officially introducing The Adventures of BrianjaWhat is Brianja you ask? Well it is a combination of our names. We won’t be using last names on this new blog, but we will be posting lots of pictures. There will probably be a little overlap between the blogs, but I will be posting most of my experiences on Brianja

Check it out! What do you think? And don’t forget to follow us on twitter!

picture by Tom Holbrook

The Life I Always Wanted

445837177_3ab4c79c90The second semester of my junior year in college I knew that I needed to get away. My small liberal arts campus felt as if it were closing in on me and I couldn’t take it anymore. With the help of my advisor, I managed to rework my schedule and get permission to study abroad the first semester in my senior year. Not having planned well, I did not meet any language requirements and so choose to study in English-speaking Dublin, Ireland. It turned out to be the best decision I had ever made (at that point in my life).

I loved every moment. Yes, I probably partied a little too much, but I also made Irish friends, traveled and enjoyed living in another country. Since this amazing experience I have wanted to live abroad again. I don’t believe in regrets. But, my one regret in life is that I did not plan to study abroad. If I had I would have gone for my entire junior year – studying in more than one place.

After college I managed to swing a job as a paralegal and was able to afford a trip to London. Then came graduate school, where I managed to take a trip to Costa Rica. Without a job in hand after graduate school I took a month and traveled through Scandinavia. With each trip my desire to live abroad grew. So, I applied for jobs abroad, however my chosen field was not one with numerous abroad opportunities. I landed in New York City and quickly fell in love with my new home. However, I never lost that desire to one day live abroad.

Then I met my husband. Besides the fact that he was good-looking, funny, and a teacher I was impressed that he had just returned from a trip to Hong Kong and Beijing. His first time leaving North America and he went to China! As we talked about his trip he mentioned he would love to live in Hong Kong one day. I may have already been in love!

As it tends to do, time goes by and we travel a lot, talking on and off about living abroad. I don’t remember how we found out about international schools. My husband may have already known, maybe I found out, but either way after we got married moving abroad for a few years became a real conversation.

So, here we are two and a half years later getting ready to board a plane for Shanghai in 10 days. It feels too good to be true. I know there will be challenges. We will miss our family and friends, but I also know the potential rewards are numerous and great. We will learn and grow together so much over the next two years.

I am about to start living the life I always wanted and I am nervous, scared, and most importantly beyond excited. I can’t wait to see where this life will take us.

photo by retro traveler

Packing Up

Preparing to move to another country is an incredibly surreal. You have two choices, but everything into storage or sell it all. Not surprisingly, I would rather ‘sell it all’ than pay for storage.

It is a process. You start by getting rid of the things that are easy. Sell this table, give away this couch, bring a ton of clothes to goodwill. Then you realize you still have too much stuff and the questions start. Will I really use this? Sure, I love this electric kettle, but couldn’t I just buy another one when I come home? The best question – Is it worth storing?

Believe it or not, most things aren’t. Before you know it you are down to 10 suitcases and a small space in your parents attic. And…it is freeing!

I no longer have “stuff” weighing me down. I have kept what matters, but can’t take and I plan on taking the rest. Preparing to move to another country makes you realize how much “stuff” you have that isn’t necessary. It feels good to have less.

Random Musings on Moving to China

To be completely honest I still can’t really believe that I’m moving to China and that I have a job lined up once I get there. In a lot of ways it feels like I am about to have the life I always wanted. Because of that, a part of me is afraid something will go wrong.

On the other hand I am incredibly excited. While I know adjusting to a new culture won’t be easy, I can’t wait for the challenge and the opportunities that will come with it! I am a bit more nervous for this new job, but I’m doing what I can to prepare now and hopefully it will go better than I think it will.


While the best things about this opportunity are living in another country and traveling (and it is also great for my husband’s career), the ability to save money is up there. We hope to have student loans paid off after the first year!

I am nervous and excited and I can’t wait!

The Checklist

It sometimes seems as if the number of things to do before moving abroad is constantly changing. My checklist seems to shrink and then grow on a daily basis. Somethings are small – like picking up a months supply of my favorite beauty products. Others are big – like selling our car and getting our visas. But they are all important! I have managed to organize everything we need to do into different categories:


  • In China – Luckily we are being provided housing so we don’t have to worry about finding a place to live once we get to Shanghai.
  • Here – Our lease ended in April and we moved to an apartment where we can live month to month.

Our Stuff:

  • Furniture – We have decided to get rid of most of our stuff. We don’t really have a lot and will keep our nice furniture, but the rest can go. We are planning to give away any furniture that our families may want and then selling the rest at a tag sale.
  • Clothes – We plan on bringing most of our clothes and anything we don’t bring can go to the tag sale or goodwill.
  • Everything else – We will keep our wedding gifts and a few nice things we have, but the rest will either be taken with us or sold at the tag sale.
  • Storage – Getting rid of most things means we hopefully won’t have too much to store. My parents have offered us space in an attic so store what we have left over so luckily we won’t have to pay for storage. Our goal of course is to have as little to store as possible.
  • Car – We are going to sell our car.


  • Flights – Our flights are booked and we are ready to go!
  • Visas – We have our visa documents and forms and a date set up to go to the visa processing office. Hopefully that will go smoothly!
  • Address Change – Right before we go we will have to update our address. We get most of our bills electronically and are making sure any that we don’t we will set up.
  • Language – I bought a language program and am slowly getting through it. My goal is to have a very rudimentary understanding of some basic phrases that can help us get around those first few days.
  • Phones – Luckily we are both out of contract with our phones. Before we leave we are going to have them unlocked so we can use them with a Chinese company.


  • Vaccinations – We are currently in the process of getting our vaccinations. We decided not only to get vaccinations for China, but also for the different places that we want to travel.
  • Doctor’s Appointments – We have scheduled all of our regular check-ups so that we don’t have to worry about finding doctors immediately.


  • Credit Card – The husband and I got credit cards that don’t charge international fees.
  • Bank Accounts – We are reviewing and consolidating our bank accounts.
  • Accountant – What is probably the most important thing is that I am looking around for an accountant who specializes in expats. I want to make sure we have our tax situation figured out before we move to help make filing next year a smooth process.

Saying Goodbye:

  • We are planning a going away party so that we can see everyone before we leave! Just waiting on confirming the space and then I can go from there!

I am sure there are other things that I am forgetting or will come up – but this is our big list of what needs to be done before we leave! And this list doesn’t include packing!

Relax and Get Ready

Where has the time gone? It seems only yesterday that the husband and I learned we would be moving to China. We are already at our 2 1/2 month countdown. Between, vaccinations, getting our visa, and selling our stuff there is a lot to do. However, one of my biggest goals is to actually enjoy my time off. Before I know it I will be working again – and starting a whole new career, which won’t be easy. In fact, I’m sure it will be exhausting. So, as the weather gets nicer I’m letting myself enjoy these relaxing days. In fact, just the other day I went on a great bike ride and ended up here:


3 Months

6126997800_8821a94937I have had an amazing past four weeks. It was an intensive, sleep deprived, and crazy learning experience. I started the process scared and unsure of myself and left with confidence and five new friends. I just finished getting my certification to teach English to speakers of other languages.

I leave for China on July 15th. A few weeks later I start a job teaching English. I have never taught before, or really ever had the desire to teach, yet I could not say no to this opportunity. I signed up for this course in order to get some practice teaching and obtain some knowledge on how we learn languages. It was so much better than I expected. Not only because of what I learned and being able to practice my teaching, but also because of the people I met.

It was a small glimpse into the world I’ll be experiencing once we move. Not only what I’ll be doing but the type of people I will be meeting. I can’t wait!

by rodrigoferrari

Radio Silence

Sorry for the silence lately. I am in the midst of an intensive course that leaves me little time for anything else but work and sleep. Two weeks down. Two more to go.