Plan A Failed, Now What?

PlanAFail And I’m lost… again.

Someone once told me, “if you want to make God laugh, tell him your life plans.” Even as an agnostic, I can support that.

My plan was to come to China, backpack Asia, and document it all for friends and family to enjoy. Seems simple enough. I assumed that many of the same business, language, and legal systems we have set up in America would be replicated in China; because they make sense and are practical. I thought that everyone would speak English (to some degree) and that the pollution couldn’t possibly be as bad as reported. I presumed that my China experience was going to be identical to my western lifestyle-but in Chinese.

Basically, I threw myself to the wolves-covered in calf blood-in the middle of winter.

So what do I do now? My Plan A is out the door and I’m not old enough to LEGALLY get a working Z Visa in China to execute plan B, C, and E. Plan D is to marry a rich Chinese man… “D” as in “Desperate.” And TECHNICALLY, this one is still on the table…

My life is like GIRLS, but in Chinese.

After talking to many of my other China friends, I’ve realized that I’m not the only frantically going through the alphabet, trying to find a plan that works.

…“I’m doing a Masters program that I don’t even like”…

… “I only planned to stay 6 months. Then I was going to go back to the UK to be with my super serious boy friend. I was going to get married and become a Chinese teacher… but instead, I’ve been here for 2.5 years and I still don’t know what the fuck I want to do with my life…”

“I’m jobless, homeless, and loveless.”

But this is China. Everything in China is just a constant cluster-fuck, so the best “plan” is to have no plan and to wait for life to pass you a soft ball. Only rookies have concrete strategies. Only people who are destine to fail see out their proposal till the end.

I am neither. Or at least I’d like to believe so.

At any given moment in China, your office could close, an employer could skip town, or your Visa could be revoked. And you just have to take it. Like a freaking woman. You have to become comfortable with taking leaps of faith because there’s rent to make and residency to maintain. So while the goal is stability, I think the word needs to be adjusted.

I prefer “floating.”

Or the ability to keep one’s head above water for long periods of time. This way, I can still enjoy the cold chaos beneath the surface, but at the same time, I can still breathe. I can relax. I can close my eyes and enjoy the journey.

If you’re currently drowning in your mother country, consider yourself lucky that you have the ability to communicate with people around you when you need help. Consider yourself blessed, that you don’t have to fear deportation or imprisonment for simply wanting to create a life for yourself. Remember that you’re incredibly fortunate that there are laws and rules in your society that protect you from harassment, fraud, and intimidation.  During the holidays, it’s  important to remember what we have.

Because most wanderers don’t have that in China. We are just 21st century immigrants just trying to find our place in the world.

It’s okay to fail. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to feel sorry for yourself while eating dark chocolate, as you tell your cat about all your feelings. What defines a truly strong person is the ability to roll with the punches AND take them, at the same time. Because even when everything seems like it’s gone to hell, there are 25 other letters to choose from in the alphabet.  Screw Plans A through D.

If nothing goes right, then zuo guai (turn left).


28 thoughts on “Plan A Failed, Now What?

  1. Sorry to break it to you, but non-Americans go through the same stuff in regards to visa issues as you and your friends are going through in China, if not worse! It seems like your issue is not with China, but with post-college life and the realities of adulthood.

    I would think months abroad in Asia would have broadened your horizons and changed your perspectives, but it seems you’re stuck in a very American xenophobic way of thinking.

    • It’s easy to be rude when you don’t have to look the subject of said rudeness in the eye. People talking on the internet are ruthless and don’t even consider that when they think they’re being all-knowing and wise and bubble-bursting, they’re just being an ASSHOLE. GM, Do you realize your ‘chip on your shoulder’ attitude is the kind of nastiness that high schoolers use on each other when hoping to wound and abuse? Get a life. Rock on ‘Wander Onwards.’ Screw the haters. Good Luck!

      • Honestly, I have no idea what you’re getting at here. you clearly want to defend the author’s post, which is commendable, but I’m not sure why you think I have a ‘chip on the shoulder’ attitude. I’m an expat living in China and I see people with attitudes like the author’s often. It’s unfortunate and rigid, and I hope she can come to realize how, ultimately, she comes off as entitled and racist.

        America is not the center of the universe and the sooner people realize this the better!

  2. why on earth would you think a country with centuries of existence on america would follow america? not to mention what the above poster said is also true, non-americans have just as many problems when they’re trying to get in/are in america visiting. your posts reek of entitlement.

  3. GM and K yall should relax a little…. She is simply writing her thoughts. Any one from China traveling to America would say the same stuff. Not only that, but knowing nothing about China is the exact reason why she’s there. She’s looking to learn, be shocked, dumbfound, surprised, amazed, shes looking for an adventure and she is living it. Tell me about your adventure where you planned everything and knew everything and…. wait thats no adventure. And K if you believe she is so “entitled” what would you say she should be doing differently? Stay in America and never travel? You both should make your own adventure, yall wont even remember this post if you do it right, and defiantly wont sound near as close minded;)

    • Connor, I have been in China for 6 months now. I come from a Western country. I would never have thought that my life here would be like my western life “but in Chinese” as she said. It is ignorant to think that everybody would follow America because “it makes sense and is practical” – let’s talk about the many ways USA’s government has fucked up last year. China is older than USA. China is a different and larger country than USA. It is different to go to a foreign country without a concrete plan than expecting everything to be as in one’s home country.

      Nobody should feel lucky when one is “drowning in one’s mother country”. If you are a foreigner anywhere, there could be deportation or imprisonment waiting for you – also in almighty USA.

      “Remember that you’re incredibly fortunate that there are laws and rules in your society that protect you from harassment, fraud, and intimidation.” Also in China. If you cannot speak Chinese, go to your embassy. Fraud, harassment etc. are possible anywhere in the world (and I’m from one of the most safest and honest countries in the world).

      In my opinion, this post is just ignorant and close-minded.

    • i have made my own adventure. i am an expat living in a southeast asian country, for almost two years now. prior to moving i had a decent amount of travels. never did i ever expect anything to be just like in america.

      of course she should travel if that’s what makes her happy, but travel with lesser expectations. that’s how culture shock happens. i’ve never experienced it myself because i go into every new country knowing that i’m going to be out of my comfort zone. i’ve been on trips with people who constantly complain about X country not having something that exists in america, and it’s incredibly obnoxious. you’re not in america. countries have different standards. that’s the world.

      she sounds entitled because she apparently went into this expecting an easy process because she thought it would be just like america. traveling internationally is never an easy process (especially china), and a little research beforehand would have told her that.

  4. Hey Vanessa, hope everything turns out well for you in China, and that you keep on updating us along the way! I honestly rarely find blogs that I enjoy reading as much as I have yours – your entries are funny, inspiring, and brimming with positivity. Awesome job. Also, ignore them haters and keep doing what you’re doing – clearly, they’re always going to find something to critique. i don’t often comment on these kinds of things, but I saw a lotmore crap in the comments section than I was expecting and wanted to let you know that you’ve totally gained a fan today. Happy New Year.

  5. I don’t understand why everyone has to be so negative towards you, Vanessa… I agree that everyone (including those with only negative things to say) is entitled to their own opinion, but I wish people could state said opinions more positively.
    For the record, I love your blog and the fact that you don’t apologize for your own opinions and adventures. I’ll probably come back to it once a month to catch up on everything you’re doing. Happy New Years!

  6. For people who admire this girl, let me clarify. This is not adventurous. This is literally one of the most dangerous and idiotic ways to move to a foreign country. There is nothing romantic or inspiring about this situation. This is not spontaneous, this was naive at best.
    If you want to be adventurous, be adventurous. Go out, explore, travel, learn and experience new things, but do it intelligently. If you’re moving there, know what the basic laws are there. Know where embassys, hospitals, and police stations are. Where do you go if your passport is stolen? How do you go about getting a job? It is not “killing sponteneity” it is common sense. In the same way that you shouldn’t randomly hop in a car with a stranger and “just go”, you shouldn’t travel to, much less MOVE to, a foreign country without having some form of an actual plan.
    I sincerely hope that you find a way to work things out, but I very seriously suggest going back home until you do.

    sources- Experience living in 5 different countries.

  7. Hey Vanessa, I totally agree with the other girls. I wanted to let you know how inspirational and true you’re blogs have become to me. I first noticed you’re blog when you wrote your 23 things to do before marriage post after that I started doing some browsing and I’ve read many of you post! I couldn’t agree more with everything you say! It’s so refreshing to know there are more people out there that think like me. I’m 21 and you are literally writing everything I’m feeling! You are so brilliant and an inspiration to all young single girls! Keep up the blogging because people are paying attention! Don’t worry about the negative comments! You are always spot on and I love reading you post! Keep it up!!

  8. So you did zero research on this country before moving there? Where did you go to school? Did you ever travel ANYWHERE before moving there? Why, WHY in the world would you think for a second that “China would be America in Chinese”?!

    • Oh and i would stop California dreaming if I were you, the radiation there is a b!tch! I am sure you don’t know that though since you are in a different part of the world and it seems like you are so self absorbed you don’t realize things happen when you aren’t experiencing them.

  9. Guys, seriously! Easy to be so rude and negative when you’re anonymous on the internet! What is gained in being so abusive?

    I have lived and worked in China for a few months now, and many young Chinese people have similar assumptions about the west – is it because they are racist or stupid? No of course not, it is because we are all shaped by our cultural background and upbringing: of course ‘our’ system, or way of doing things (wherever that may be for you) seems like the most logical to ‘us’. That’s why we travel: to broaden our horizons beyond what we have been brought up to think is normal.

    Here is someone is actually bothering to go out and experience another culture, and find out for herself what it is like. We are all shaped by our upbringing, we can’t avoid our preconceptions – but if more people bothered to expose themselves openly to a greater variety of cultures perhaps we’d all be a lot more understanding and empathetic.

    Sadly this doesn’t always seem to be the case re many expat communities in China, who seem content to form cliques and bitch amongst themselves.

    Let me also say that in the case of China, no amount of research is likely to prepare you for the situation on the ground, which can often be rather complicated, especially regarding local politics. Recent changes in visa policies have not helped either (blame much less local politics!).

    Also this is a BLOG – you don’t know this woman personally, stop talking to her as though she was your errant grandchild.

    • I would say this to her f2f, but since I don’t know her, I cannot. I know this is a blog – that’s why I am able to say what I think and i think she knows it too. Every time you post something to the internet, you should be aware that if you are inconsiderate there will be comments. It is ok if you don’t know something and then go find it out by yourself, but thinking that China is like USA is just ignorant. I have met around 30 expats from USA and even more from Europe and Asia and nobody of them thinks so. I have met and talked with 200 Chinese people and nobody of them thinks that USA is like China. This is NOT a common thought. I would feel bad that there are problems because in China they occur kinda frequently, but because those problems happened because she was too lazy/ignorant/xenophobic/what ever to find out, I won’t feel bad. In this case it’s hers own fault.

      I just met a young (6 yo), kinda poor girl from outskirts of Beijing and the first thing she asked that how my own country is different from China. And then I read this blog, where an adult says she thought that China would be like USA.

      Oh come on.

  10. Wow- these comments are so harsh! She openly admits to being naive in her initial plans and all anyone wants to do is make her feel worse about it. Clearly the internet has lost its compassion, if it ever had any. God forbid anyone ever feel frustrated after realizing they f***ed up. Hang in there girly.

  11. Ha ha ha

    “I assumed that many of the same business, language, and legal systems we have set up in America would be replicated in China; because they make sense and are practical. I thought that everyone would speak English (to some degree) ”

    Jesus Christ. Are all Americans as stupid as you?

    • Well, I teach English in China. English is a mandatory part of the curriculum starting in primary school here, since it is the common international language. So, by the time they are in college, a Chinese person has been “learning” English for about 10 years. So, wouldn’t you expect them to speak English to some degree? However, even so, not many people speak English that well because of the way the education system works.

      Anyway, what I am getting at is, no need to make insults. Nobody knows everything. There is no reason to call people stupid just because they are not all-knowing beings of perfection. No one is. People know what they know based on the experiences they have had in their lives so far.

      Anyone who is stepping out of their comfort zone to experience new things will grow because of it. Being naive in some way or another is always a part of that, no matter who you are. That’s why it is so powerful to experience new things… You just learn a bunch of stuff you didn’t know before. Nothing wrong with that.

      • No, I would not expect the average Chinese person to speak any English. China is a proper civilisation which has been around for 5000 years and the USA in its current form has been around a couple of hundred.

        How utterly arrogant to expect that they would. This fact alone, not to mention the assumption that China would have a similar legal system to the US (now why would they do that?) is deserving of an insult, as is the whole narcissistic, nauseating, “I’m a princess look at me” I work out blog. We all work out, we’ve all got our blogs but we don’t assume the world revolves around us.

        Just goes to show that people are a product of the environment. She’s travelling in China, says she looks Indian but is actually Mexican, but the fact is she’s a little princess from L.A, replete with her own counsellor and that’s the bottom line.

  12. I moved to China when I was 19 years old and thought I would only stay for 6 months but ended up staying for over 3 years. I did not think it would be the same as where I am from, however I did not have any expextations either.

    Vanessa deserves to be recognised for her eagerness for traveling and living abroad. Only this way can one learn and broaden their horizons, which seems she has. Props!
    China is a great country and I wouldn’t worry about deportation or such. As long as you have a valid visa, you will be fine.


  13. Hey! I just stumbled onto your blog and I will try to remember to check back and read some more! I’m a fan of the writing, photos, and enthusiasm! I’m a Philly girl, 21, student – when I was 19, I saved up and took a year off of school to backpack Latin America. Due to my mother’s anxiety, months before I departed, I had a work-stay at a hostel all set and planned for my first three months in Nicaragua. Much to my mother’s dismay, about three days into it I quit (the boss lady was a crazy b) and just carried on my 8-month journey with no set plans, deciding each day what I would do when I woke up. Maybe I’ll go lounge at the beach? hike the volcano? go into town? visit a museum? meet up with those australian boys from yesterday? or pack up, check out, hop on a bus and wander onward? (hehe) I had little expectations before arriving except to have an amazing experience, but I also spoke decent Spanish and had been to L.A. previously, so I wasn’t concerned with culture shock or any of the scary stuff you must be experiencing. I made some mistakes with visas but learned as I went. One thing I certainly became aware of very quickly was of my American ignorance/naivety (mostly upon meeting other non-american travelers) It’s something that I strive to work on but I’m also not beating myself up about it. After reading this comment section, I am just straight up mad at all the negativity…you should have seen my face while reading, all crinkled up and jaw-dropped. I want to flick those dickwads in the neck until they go away. Yea, so maybe we’re not as fucking worldly and informed as we might have hoped after a college education. An American education doesn’t actually cover any of that material, at least not in my experience. If i want to be informed, it’s up to me to educate myself. We are young and we are trying. I know way more people who have never left the US than those who have…and the majority of those who have are rich kids on family vacations. Vanessa is doing something truly amazing and even more amazingly, she is sharing it with the world, staying positive, and encouraging everyone to experience the world. I wish I had made the effort to document my thoughts during my travels. Vanessa is inspirational, not stupid. So all you Debbie Douchebag Downers – give her some fucking credit or get the fuck out.

    Vanessa, continue to learn, grow, and have the time of your life! You seem like my cup of tea; maybe one day we will meet up and travel together! The ocean and the sky aren’t even our limits!

  14. I was enjoying reading your blog Vanessa, until I read all the comments. I’m surprised in how people are overreacted to this post. But I want to encourage you to stay focus in your dream. You are a blogger and I’m sure you did a little research before you came to China. And for everyone, moving to another continent is never easy. It takes courage to adapt to the whole new world. Google can tell you what China is but it is a different thing when you actually explore China by yourself. So keep fighting and try to be open-minded there. China is tough! Just like other countries in Asia since I spent most of my times in Asia. I know how you feel, trusts me. I just have one question, how do you manage to finance all of these?
    You are welcome to email me to ask some question at
    I’ve lived in States and Asia. So perhaps, I can help you with little things like how to approach the cultures there and stuff.
    Enjoy your trip in China 🙂 God bless you.

    • Many of these people just said that they have moved to China from another continent. Everybody here knows what you think you know better.

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