Category Archives: Health & Happiness

5 Fun Ways to Get Fit for Free While Living Abroad

get fit for free, expat lifestyle, staying healthy, living abroad

One of my biggest frustrations when I first moved to Shanghai was finding ways to stay in shape on a budget.

I was in quite a bit of debt my first few months in Shanghai. I certainly couldn’t afford to spend any extra on a gym membership or expensive fitness classes, and I could no longer go to Planet Fitness 3+ days a week for only $10 a month. Not getting my work out in made dealing with all the other adaptations of a new life in Shanghai harder to manage.

Staying fit in Shanghai was simply not affordable for me at the time, and now that I can afford it, I don’t want to spend that kind of money on it.

If you’re living somewhere that gyms and classes are really expensive or inconvenient to get to (also Shanghai if you live where I live), or just can’t swing the extra money right now, here are some ideas so you can get fit on a budget!

Free Fitness, Health on a Budget, Let Passion Unfold, Expat Life, Expat Struggles

+ Take advantage of YouTube, Pinterest, and blogs about at home workouts.

This is what I did to begin with and continue to do now. I’m a big fan of blogilates. I always feel so great after a blogilates work out. Cassey is full of positive energy! Doing her workouts in the morning always puts me in a good mood for the rest of the day. There are loads of resources on the internet for free, but hers are the ones I’ve felt most motivated to stick with.

+ Get a group together to workout before work -or any time really.

Having a group is never a bad idea. It’s great motivation (and guilt when you don’t follow through). Last year a group of us would meet up everyday, take some workout videos out to the track on our school’s campus, and go hard in the morning before getting ready for work. We all had our own DVDs, downloaded videos, and printable workout routines that we could choose from. We mostly did Jillian Michaels but would occasionally switch it up for other resources we had to keep things fresh! This was so much fun!

+ Walk or bike from place to place.

I noticed a big difference in my health and happiness when I began walking more frequently. Take the 20 minute walk to the metro instead of waiting for the bus.  See if your city has a bike share program or get your own. It’s such a little change, yet it makes a drastic difference!

+ Create your own class.

If you or someone you know is skilled in a certain type of fitness, create a class with your friends. I’ve had a friend do yoga for a small group and know people at work who have led Zumba classes. It’s a super fun and free way to work out, plus you’re with friends!

+ Become a runner.

This is something I need to be better at. If you’re a runner, you can do that anywhere. You don’t need equipment, a room, or anything really. Just your body, some good tunes, and a determined attitude. In Shanghai, it’s important to have a good mask to protect you from the pollution. I use the iD Mask. It’s super comfortable and effective, great for outdoor fitness in the smog!

These are my favorite ways to stay in shape without spending much money, if any at all.

I’m always looking for new ideas to stay active without spending. What are your favorite free fitness tips?


What little things bring you happiness?

Do you ever just feel like you need to write, not about anything in particular but just write?

I have deemed today a me day, so while I have loads of writing I could do about my recent trip to New Zealand, I’d rather write about literally nothing to clear my mind. I hope some of you understand where I’m coming from.

As I said, today was a me day. If you’ve ever met me, you’d know that I don’t give myself a lot of those. Right now, I’m still off work for the holiday but that will change shortly. Since it’s still the holiday, everyone who lives here is either on a flight coming back or recuperating from their trip. So, I figure this might be my only opportunity for some me time. Overall, it’s been a good day.

I woke up this morning and chatted with some friends back home. Thankfully the internet was working at 6 am.

I was able to finish some work for grad school before the internet cut out at 9 am. But naturally, experiencing dysfunctional internet really frustrated me, so I shut off my computer and decided to be old-fashioned and do things that didn’t require Wi-Fi.

I cooked myself breakfast (a rare thing). It wasn’t anything extravagant, but it was about as good as it gets for me.

I cleaned my apartment. All of my laundry is officially dry and put away. Doing laundry is a 24 hour event when you live in China.

I played my ukulele. I haven’t had time to do this in months, so it was really nice. However, I realized how rusty I am and how important it is to keep at it or I’ll never get any better!
I doodled. I have not drawn anything in a really long time (mostly because I’m a perfectionist and I have to leave myself ample time to work on a drawing , so if I don’t have the time I won’t even start a project).
I set goals for the semester and did some teacher research to make the spring a bit easier on me, hopefully!
I worked out. Being in New Zealand reminded me how much I miss being active, so I came home in the right mindset to get back into a new fitness routine. It’s crazy to me how quickly I can forget how happy working out makes me.
I pampered myself with a new face mask. I will say this didn’t go as planned, but in the end, my skin felt pretty good!

And now, I’m writing. I’m writing about nothing that anyone else cares about simply because it makes me happy to just write. There’s no pressure when I can just ramble about whatever and it frees up space in my mind. I used to write random ramblings a lot, but since I’ve started traveling, most of my posts are strictly about travel. Sometimes it’s nice to write random ramblings. So here it is, a post just to post and to make me happy.

 Sometimes the little things are the most important things. What little things do you do that bring you happiness?


The Color Run: Shanghai Edition

It isn’t every day that I participate in something in China that I could also participate in back home in the States. Now, I’m not saying that I ever have any Western experiences in China, because I do. But honestly, apart from hanging out with friends or going shopping, I don’t spend a lot of my spare time participating in things that I would in the U.S., for example The Color Run.

Over the weekend, I did this colorful 5K with a few friends from work. It was an amazing time, as expected, and it was cool to compare this to the time I did The Color Run in Toledo, Ohio.
Thankfully, it was pretty much the exact same thing. I won’t lie, at one point I was worried I had paid to go for a walk but eventually learned that wasn’t true. Phew!
If you’ve never walked or ran a 5K with a rainbow of cornstarch being blasted at you, then you haven’t lived.
Okay, I’m being dramatic but it really is a ton of fun. It isn’t meant to really be a race. You’re welcome to run but most just walk it and play at each checkpoint, ensuring they get the most color possible on their souvenir T-shirts. 
Things I preferred in Shanghai:
//The color was sparkly! I’m pretty sure that’s a new edition this year and that its at all locations.
//They had a foam checkpoint. Instead of having color thrown on you at this point, you got to run (walk) through a bunch bubbles! Takes me back to Welcome Weekend at my university.

//We got a fun bag with more promotional goodies than the one three years ago.
//I got a medal this time!!!
//They had photo opportunities everywhere with cute displays to get in!
**I realize some of these changes may have nothing to do with it being in Shanghai but are instead examples of how this run has grown over the last few years.
Things I preferred in Toledo:
//The run back home went through a scenic route downtown. They didn’t need to set up cute displays to take photos at because Toledo has plenty of picture-worthy murals to stop at along the way. In Shanghai, it was through what will probably one day be a park, but for now it just looks like it’s under construction.
//The big festival at the end was so much better. Everyone had so much energy, throwing their color packets and rocking out to the music. It was a great atmosphere.

//I didn’t have to be in a taxi for an hour just to get there. #bigcitystruggles and I didn’t have to walk a half mile just to get to the 5K starting line.
//I didn’t have to go to packet pickup in Toledo. Everything was shipped to my house. This time I had to travel an hour just to get my packet.
//This one I may be mistaken on but I really thought we got more color in Toledo. In Shanghai, the finish line was super anticlimactic. I was a bit underwhelmed when there was nothing there to really mark the ending. The only indicator we had made it was an archway that said Finish Line. Maybe I just expected too much because it was a major let down.
Honestly, both were amazing. I really enjoy doing The Color Run and would recommend it to anyone anywhere.
Have you ever participated in The Happiest 5K in the World anywhere else? Have you done a color run with a different company? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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My Story: How I Ended Up Teaching in China

Here’s my story about how I learned the importance of stepping out of my comfort zone and realized how rewarding it is to live life without fear dictating my every move.
Where it all began:
Oftentimes the people I meet don’t believe me when I explain how different I am from the person I was in high school. I was always a happy, quirky, outgoing people-person, that hasn’t changed; however, I was one of the most nervous people you’d ever meet. I was terrified of stepping out of my comfort zone.
To paint you a picture, I’ll share some of my most embarrassing moments. 
I was the girl who threw up on the bus on the first day of 6th grade because I was so nervous about starting middle school. Then, I refused to ride the bus for another week because I was so worried about what people must have thought of me.
I love to sing, constantly. When I auditioned for a show in 8th grade, my voice literally dropped an octave because of my nerves. It was the first time I had to audition in front of my classmates. What did I think was going to happen if I got the part?
My freshman year of high school, I nearly cried when I had to give my first presentation in class. I was shaking so badly and nearly got sick, again. FLASHBACKS! 
My senior year of high school, I had a call back for a part in our senior musical. What did I do? I cried until they let me not sing in front of the others. Again, what did I think would happen if I got the part? Ugh.
Towards the end of my freshman year of college, the executive board of my favorite student org asked me if I would apply for a position with them and take on some extra responsibility. I told them no because I was too afraid. I was afraid that if I had the extra responsibility, I would screw something up. I hated the idea of possibly being the one at fault so much that I was content just taking orders from people and helping them turn their own ideas into successful events.
The summer after my freshman year of college, I decided to work at an amusement park in Ohio. For the first week or two, I refused to spiel because I was too nervous speaking in front of people – even though I was fully aware that nobody listens to the ride host’s instructions anyway.
I’m hoping by now you see how much I let my nerves run my life and really keep me from doing a lot of things I would have had a great time being a part of.
The turning point was that summer at the amusement park. It was a rough transition too. My Team Leader and Assistant Team Leader decided I would be a good candidate for their “third in charge,” that in their absence I’d be the person responsible for running breaks, dealing with problems, supervising, etc. I was mortified when they asked me. They told me I could say no but I accepted, not understanding why they picked me. I went back to my apartment AND CRIED. I called my mom sobbing and talking about quitting. I was that scared. She was able to talk me down and encourage me to just try it. If I didn’t like it, that’s all I had to tell them but at least I would have tried. 
Getting comfortable being in charge that summer was definitely a struggle for me but soon I fell in love with being the person people went to for guidance, training, and guest problems. I enjoyed owning the fact that I actually do know what I’m talking about sometimes. It was an insane confidence boost for me. I think that was huge because I was never confident about ANYTHING. I’m still very modest but I don’t think poorly about myself. I realize now how much I abused myself emotionally back then. I never appreciated myself and definitely didn’t feel like I had anything to contribute to the world. I just went with the flow and was content with that.
After that summer, I decided I wanted to apply for a leadership position for the following year so I would be able to be in charge of my own crew. I also decided to take on extra responsibility in student orgs and get more involved on campus. When the time came to apply for executive positions for on campus organizations, I couldn’t have been more excited.  
That was the year that I really tried my hand at leadership. It was then that I confirmed my love of stepping out of my comfort zone. After that, I decided to leave the country for the first time and spent my summer living in France studying French. There I learned independence, something I didn’t realize I was lacking. I went through one of the hardest times of my life on the other side of the world without knowing anyone and came out stronger because of it.
This led up to my senior year of college where I felt like I was on top of the world. I was high on life and felt comfortable with the person I was becoming. This year I took on even more responsibilities as President of my favorite campus org, got a campus radio show, became comfortable running meetings, and discovered some things I really enjoy doing. I became more in tune with myself and was more confident than ever. 
My first job out of college was interesting. It certainly wouldn’t have been most people’s first choice but I learned a lot and was forced out of my comfort zone even more. I became more comfortable talking with total strangers, training, getting up in front of a group and teaching them something, and ultimately why it’s so important to LIVE YOUR OWN DREAMS instead of someone else’s.
When I quit that job, I knew I needed to do something I was passionate about. The two things I love most are planning events and traveling. After a friend of mine had spent the previous year teaching in Shanghai and having the time of her life, I decided to message her about it. This was something I had been considering for a while. After getting some information from her, I decided I wanted to take the leap and go for it. Originally I thought I’d go back to France and do the same thing there, but then decided to expand my comfort zone. I already lived in France once, and while I’d love to live there again, I thought it would be a great experience to go somewhere totally different. 

So here I am, living in Shanghai and taking on life from the driver’s seat. You have full control over your life. It’s our experiences that shape us so don’t be afraid to experience something new, different, or challenging. You might learn something about yourself you never knew. And who knows? It just might change your entire life.