Author: Amanda R

Guest Post – How To Travel On A Budget And Make Money While Traveling by Lysha Rohan

Guest Post – How To Travel On A Budget And Make Money While Traveling by Lysha Rohan

Before you decide to spend the rest of your life in one comfy place and do the same things every day, why not invest in travel? Whether it’s for a much-needed vacation or in pursuit of knowledge, traveling to foreign, exotic places is indeed fulfilling. But there’s a better way to improve your lifestyle while reaping the rewards of a great adventure — making money while traveling.

You’ve probably heard a lot about people quitting their regular jobs to find another source of income. Others have tried traveling while still earning money with a nine-to-five desk job. If you belong to the latter category and want to keep your regular job, yet still earn extra moolah while on a trip, here are some tips on how to travel on a budget and make money while traveling.

  1. Start a travel blog.

This is the common route for a lot of people whenever they think of making money from their travels. Although it doesn’t really guarantee an instant, stable flow of income, starting a travel blog can help boost your earning potential. For one, featuring sponsored content on your blog is usually where most of the profits come from. Once big organizations take notice of your content, they may actually start paying you to travel and blog for them.

You don’t even have to restrict yourself to a written blog or a vlog. You can do both! Plus, launching — and maintaining — your blog is a great way to build up your experience AND portfolio. If you’re dedicated to it, you will soon establish a good rep and solid footing as an online travel journalist.

  1. Sell your travel photos.

One of the many joys that come with traveling is taking photos of your adventures. To add to the previous point, photography also means big business for bloggers. You can post your photos on Instagram or any social networking site to promote your work, so you can eventually sell them as stock images and prints for big organizations.

Another freelance platform that you can consider selling your travel photos in Upwork. Turning your pictures into cash cows can be a great source of passive income while focusing on other matters. If you want to get another source of extra income, Upwork offers a variety of online opportunities such as video production, game development, virtual assistant work, and a lot more. With that, you can work anytime and anywhere while still having the money and time to travel.

  1. Find or make products you can sell on eBay.

Another option is selling retail travel items on eBay, provided that you’re credible enough to do so. eBay is usually the best place to sell exotic items you’ve purchased abroad. If you’re the artsy type, you can craft your own products based on your travels (e.g. the brush paintings you’ve seen in China) and sell them in online art stores such as Etsy.

  1. Rent out your space.

Say you’re traveling to the United States and leaving your flat in China behind for a few days or a week. Turn that into an opportunity to earn some money while traveling — rent out your space! You can sign up to be a host at AirBnB (though it comes with a registration fee), but you can get that investment back when somebody rents out your space. Be sure to take attractive photos your place, describe it accurately, and have someone to check on stuff while you’re gone, especially if it’s your first time to rent it out.

You can also check out other sites for listing your space, such as Craigslist and Apartments.com.

About the Author

Lysha works at Lalco Residency – Hotel Mumbai and she loves her job. Helping clients and monitoring the progress of business strategies along with her leadership skills makes her a perfect fit for hospitality services. You can catch up with Lysha at Lalco Residency in Mumbai.

Indie-pendence Blog Hop & Giveaway

Indie-pendence Blog Hop & Giveaway

Welcome to the Indie-pendence Blog Hop & Giveaway, hosted by Love Kissed Book Bargains!

For those of you new to my blog, I am Amanda Roberts. I am an American but I have been living in China since 2010. I write historical fiction and cookbooks. 

For the hop, I’m giving away a $20 Amazon Gift Card and 5 paperback copies of my new release, Murder in the Forbidden City

Winners will be chosen at random. Giveaway is open from 12pm EST on 7/14 until 11:59pm EST on 7/28.

The next stop on the hop is Leigh Anderson To enter to win her prize, please visit her blog here http://leighandersonromance.com/2017/07/indie-pendence-blog-hop-giveaway/.

Don’t forget to visit http://lovekissedbookbargains.com/2017/07/12/indie-pendence-blog-hop-giveaway/ to enter the Grand Prize Giveaway to win a FREE Kindle!

Click here to view this promotion.
Plan Ahead to Keep Travel Disasters at Bay – Guest Post by Jane Moore

Plan Ahead to Keep Travel Disasters at Bay – Guest Post by Jane Moore

There’s a reason people travel when they have time off. Taking a vacation is supposed to be relaxing and rejuvenating. It’s a chance to explore different places, take in the scenery, and even broaden your horizons. Just getting out of the house and office for a weekend can do wonders for your mood and mind.

That is unless you face a travel disaster. What if something happens to your home or even your pet while you’re traveling? And how relaxing will that trip be if you are stressed before you even get on a plane?

First, you don’t even need to consider these problems “disasters.” They are problems to be sure, but there are ways you can prepare for them.

Image Source: Pixabay

Flight Delays and Overbookings

What are your rights when it comes to overbooking and bumping? Here’s what you need to know and plan for to make your travel experience more relaxing.

As Money magazine explains, most airlines overbook their flights on purpose. That’s because there are some people that never show up for their flight. When everyone actually does show up, the airline has to bump (or remove) someone from that flight. But you do have the right to compensation if they cannot get you on a flight that arrives within one hour of your original arrival. That ranges from twice the cost to $1350.

What happens if a flight is delayed or canceled? You have fewer rights since these situations are often not the airline’s fault. You are entitled to a refund if the delay is severe. Check out this WIRED article for more information, such as dealing with lost luggage or big delays.

Damage or Theft Back Home

Having a nice, relaxing flight to your vacation destination can feel unimportant if you discover problems at home as soon as you arrive. You can feel powerless if your home is damaged or robbed when you’re so many miles away. As with flights, some planning and knowledge can help reduce your risk.

Home thefts occur more often when you’re out of town. No thief wants to catch you at home. Here are a few tips to help make your home less attractive to would-be criminals:

  • Make sure your door locks are strong and locked before leaving.
  • Do the same for all windows and sliding glass doors.
  • Set lights on a timer.
  • Put a temporary hold on your mail.
  • Hire someone to cut your grass, pick up any newspaper, or even shovel your driveway.
  • Consider hiring a house sitter.

Besides thefts, one big problem that can hit during travel is water damage. Leave one window open during a storm can really cause problems. USA Today recommends making sure your gutters, sump pump, and pipes are all maintained and clean.

When Pets Stay Home

Hopefully, your pet dog or cat won’t create any damage while you’re away! But that can happen when you leave a pet home while you travel. Pets get bored, and when they do, they can damage your property just so they have something to do.

PetPlus has a few tips for helping keep good care of your pets, including hiring a pet sitter, boarding your pet, or leaving your pet with a trusted friend until you get back. Just knowing there’s someone feeding and playing with your furry friends can take a lot off your mind.

You Can Handle This

Again, going on a vacation should be relaxing. By knowing your rights for air travel, taking precautions to keep your home safe, and taking care of pets staying behind, you can enjoy your vacation much more easily and avoid some common traveling disasters.

3 Defectors – Memoirs from North Korea

3 Defectors – Memoirs from North Korea

Even though my main focus is China, I’m also very interested in what is going on in North Korea. I know that for most Americans, North Korea isn’t really on their radar, but here in China, the “hermit kingdom” can’t be ignored. Even though I mostly review books on this site that specifically deal with China, almost all North Korean defectors pass through China. In fact, North Korea wouldn’t exist today if it wasn’t for China’s support. So here are reviews for three defector memoirs I have read in the past couple of months.

  1. A Thousand Miles to Freedom by Eunsun Kim.
    Kim’s story is of the type you expect to read. Her family suffered greatly during the great famine of the 1990s that left millions of North Koreans dead. After many of her family members died, Kim’s mother made the decision to flee to China with her two young daughters. It was a harrowing and terrifying journey that took them nine years to complete. The time they spent in the countryside when her mother is trafficked to marry a Chinese villager is especially poignant. Countless North Korean women are trafficked as “brides” into Northern China every year. Most of them will never escape or have the chance to tell their story.
    Of the three books in this post, this is the one I would recommend the most if you are interested in learning just a bit about North Korean defectors and the challenges they face in North Korea, China, and in South Korea.
  2. The Girl with Seven Names by Hyeonseo Lee.
    This is a different kind of defector story, one that didn’t happen because the author chose to leave or was forced to by starvation. Lee was born into an elite class of North Koreans, so even though she is the same age as Kim and lived through the great famine, she was never hungry. She was never homeless. She lived in Northern North Korea and barely even saw the death that surrounded her. She was extremely sheltered and protected.
    Her defection was an accident. When she was seventeen she simply wanted to slip across the Yalu River and enjoy a Ferris Bueller type day off in forbidden China. But she was never able to return.
    Her story is less harrowing than Kim’s, but it gives a different viewpoint, one of a person who didn’t suffer in North Korea and if given the choice between leaving and staying, she would have stayed in her home country.
  3. Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden (Story of Shin Dong-hyuk).
    If you have any interest in North Korea, this is the book you have probably heard of. When Shin’s story broke in the US in 2008, he became an instant celebrity, the poster child for North Korean horrors. His story was shocking, and still is despite controversy.
    I have mixed feelings about this book. I don’t really care about the supposed discrepancies between the 2012 version and the updated 2015 version, because even the least horrifying version of his story is shocking. My issues are with the way the story is told. Even though Shin spent his whole life in a maximum security camp and lived to tell the tale, this book is the shortest of the memoirs I’ve read (only 210 pages), and half of that is not Shin’s story. For every paragraph that talks about Shin’s life, Blane adds a paragraph of exposition about what was going in North Korea or other parts of the world at the time. I suppose he gives this information as context, but most of this context has scant little to do with Shin. While some context is important, it shouldn’t be equal to the story itself.
    I really don’t know why this memoir is the most popular when there are so many other better-written ones available.
    I wouldn’t go so far as to say “don’t read this book,” but if you only read one North Korean defector memoir, pick another one.

Of course there are many other defector memoirs out there to choose from. These are only the ones I have read lately. Next on my list is In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom by Yeonmi Park. You can see a speech she gave in 2014 about her experience below.

Have you read any North Korean defector memoirs? Which would you recommend?

Two Great Contests

Two Great Contests

Hi everyone,

here are two great contests you might want to consider entering. These are fun ways to get to know some new authors and maybe win som great swag!

 

34 romance authors have come together to reward our loyal readers with some serious swag, signed books, and gifts.

Check out the FIVE packages we’ve assembled.

Then be sure to enter to win.

**Please note: this giveaway is for residents of the continental US. Shipping out of the country is insanely expensive. Oh, and the customs forms are zero fun too.**

Enter here: http://lovekissedbookbargains.com/2017/06/21/sun-sational-reader-rewards-giveaway/

Follow new authors on your favorite social media outlet to learn more about them and get notified of new releases!

Enter here: http://www.genrecrave.com/june-kindle-fire-giveaway/

There and Back Again – Going Full Circle

There and Back Again – Going Full Circle

I mentioned in a previous post that big changes were coming (as if bringing our daughter home only six months ago wasn’t a big enough change!). So today I can finally announce that…

We are moving to Yangshuo!

 

Our China journey began nearly seven years ago in Yangshuo in Guangxi province. We came to China with Buckland Education Group, which was headquartered in the tiny town. We loved Yangshuo and thought it was one of the most beautiful places in the world. Even though we have traveled extensively since then, our opinion on that front hasn’t changed much.

In April, my husband’s job at a game company came to an end, and instead of looking for another grinding office job, he decided to take a job working from home. It is a lot less money, but he is spending a lot more time with our daughter. In fact, he is transitioning to being her primary caregiver so I can focus more on my work.

Last year, I rage quit my job at the Shenzhen Daily (which I just now realized I haven’t written about on here, so I’ll share that story soon). I also decided to work from home instead of looking for another office job. I’ve been a full-time freelance editor since then, but I’m transitioning to full-time writer.

So since we both now work from home, it didn’t make financial sense to stay in Shenzhen, a city where just our rent is more than we were paying back in the US, not to mention the high cost of living for everything else.

This week we went back to Yangshuo and found an apartment. We found something that was twice the size of our current place with three (huge) bedrooms and all new decor and appliances for about a third of the price. It was so cheap, in fact, that we were able to prepay the rent for the whole year. Talk about eliminating stress!

My husband is so in love with the new apartment he couldn’t wait to share it with the world, so he took a video. Feel free to check it out if you want to know what you can rent in a small town in China for only US$365 a month, or about $4,400 a year.

 

But check out that view!

Of course, being Yangshuo, that was not the most beautiful view we saw all weekend. Check out this shot from a house in the countryside we looked at that our friend Cherith took.

It feels as though our life in China has come full-circle, and we are back to the beginning, but a lot has changed as well. Not every part of our China journey has been easy, but it has all been amazing, and our baby girl makes every hardship worth it. One of the things we are most excited about is raising our daughter(s) in the country, with good people, fresh air, and an easy life.

Be sure to subscribe to our mailing list so you never miss a post about life in China!

A Chat with Cherith Vaughan, Cover Designer for Murder in the Forbidden City

A Chat with Cherith Vaughan, Cover Designer for Murder in the Forbidden City

Today I am so excited to share the cover for my new novel Murder in the Forbidden City!

Aren’t they just gorgeous! I am so excited for this novel. Check out the blurb:

Peking, 1867

When one of the Empress’s ladies-in-waiting is killed in the Forbidden City, she orders Inspector Gong to find the killer. Unfortunately, as a man, he is forbidden from entering the Inner Court. How is he supposed to solve a murder when he cannot visit the scene of the crime or talk to the women in the victim’s life? He won’t be able to solve this crime alone.

The widowed Lady Li is devastated when she finds out about the murder of her sister-in-law, who was serving as the Empress’s lady-in-waiting. She is determined to discover who killed her, even if it means assisting the rude and obnoxious Inspector Gong and going undercover in the Forbidden City.

Together, will Lady Li and Inspector Gong be able to find the murderer before he – or she – strikes again?

Be sure to add the book to your shelf on Goodreads! The book will be available for preorder on June 20th!

I am going to be talking a lot about this novel over the coming weeks, but I wanted to give my cover designer Cherith Vaughan a chance to talk a bit about what went into creating this cover. I honestly did not think she would be able to pull this one off, at least not in this way. She designs all of my covers and while I am happy with all of them, this one was one of my most difficult requests. “I want it to look like a movie or TV poster,” I said. “You know with the floating heads over the city?” But when it comes to stock images, Asian faces are so hard to find, which she mentions in her interview below. So when I saw the mockup, I just was just in awe of how beautiful the cover was and that it was exactly what I was looking for. I’ll let her tell you more.

Interview with Cherith Vaughan, Cover Designer

I have always loved looking at book covers, but for most of my life I never thought about the work that goes into creating one. To me, they were simply something that sold the story behind the cover.  (No matter how many times we’re told not to judge a book by its cover, we all do it!)

It wasn’t until about 5 years ago, when Amanda asked me to create a book cover for her, that it dawned on me how much work can go into making a good cover. I still remember how much my heart raced, the thrill… the terror of starting something new but wanting it to turn out well, especially for such an great friend. Looking back now, I have to laugh at how bad the cover is (I’ll probably think the same when I look back at covers now in a few months), but it was this humble beginning that pushed me to where I am today and into a career path I truly love.

I’ve learned – and am still learning – so much about cover art creation over the months. While I love learning and love working on covers, it’s not always the easiest task. Here are a few of my observations about cover art creation: Where are all the Asians?! I work on a lot of Asian themed books and, even with 1/3 of the population being Asian, almost half of the “Asian” images feature other ethnicities or are poor quality.

  • Where are all the Asians?! I work on a lot of Asian themed books and, even with 1/3 of the population being Asian, almost half of the “Asian” images feature other ethnicities or are poor quality.
  • Most of the popular Asian themed books use stereotypical Asian elements to portray the story such as fans, tea cups, etc. While this is fine, I’m a little shocked that almost every other category has at least a good mix of abstract vs. concrete concepts.
  • It’s always better to include multiple mockups. At least one or two with the author’s ideas incorporated as much as possible, and at least one or two of your own inspiring.
  • The more we know the better, as much as your ideas inspired your story, they inspire us. Details are extremely important, and can often inspire us when we’re looking for a new way to portray your story in cover form.
  • A good cover is not as expensive as it seems. Most quality custom covers go for about $250+ when not on sale. This includes hours upon hours hunting down, editing, drawing, and designing the final product. It’s sometimes hard to forget when we just see the final product, but  a good custom cover is a true labor of love.
  • A  good cover will, in a single moment, convey the mood, characters, summary of the book while still being able to draw in potential readers using just a teeny tiny thumbnail image… and to think that this split second of judgment took hours, days even weeks to make!
  • To me, a cover is a representation of myself and my work. I don’t want to put out a product that I can’t be proud of, and I want my authors to feel proud of their covers as well.

And finally, please, for the love of all things good, find a good cover designer! No more boxed out images (lesson learned), no more weird cropping, no more rainbow arch font in times new roman. Let’s be the start of something amazing… Let the good cover art revolution begin! 😛

If you are looking for a cover designer, you can see Cherith’s portfolio and contact her through her website, Shredded Potato. You can also purchase her premades at Empress Author Solutions (more premades coming soon!)

Home Six Months!

Home Six Months!

It’s hard to believe that six months ago, we were still just a couple. But Monday will be the sixth month anniversary of bringing our kiddo home! This is typically a time when parents post before and after photos of their kids to show how much children can improve in such a short period of time when they are in a loving family environment and are receiving the care they need. For parents, it can sometimes be hard to see the improvements our kids are making when we see them every day. So looking back can be a good reminder of just how far our kids have come.

On the left, baby girl had only been home a couple of weeks; on the right, a picture I took today.

She’s getting stronger and learning new things every day. I’m not going to lie and say it has been easy or that everything (anything?) has gone according to plan. What has really surprised me the most is how hard it has been, even in such an advanced modern city like Shenzhen, to find doctors who can meet her needs. We’ve met some really great doctors, but we’ve met some really awful ones as well. I could do a whole post about that.

But overall we are so happy to have our little girl home and are so blessed to be able to help her grow up the best she can. If you want to learn more about adoption, you can check out our agency’s website, CCAI. You can also email me or hit me up on Facebook. I’m always happy to answer questions about adoption or our life in China in general.

Happy Anniversary, Sweet Girl!

Hiring a Housekeeper in China

Hiring a Housekeeper in China

Long time readers of this blog might remember one of my more popular posts from a couple of years ago about my Housekeeper from Hell, Annie. Long story short, Annie came across some very personal photos of mine while cleaning and shared them on WeChat, China’s most popular social network, and called me a prostitute. It was a very shocking incident as Annie was well known in the Shenzhen expat community (so many of our friends saw the photos) and had worked with me for about a year and a half. I fired her immediately, changed the locks on our apartment, and shared my experience widely to help protect other expat families.

Li Ayi helping our little girl practice walking.

I wasn’t sure I would be able to trust another ayi (what we call housekeepers here). I still get upset when I think about what happened. I fired her about a month before we went to America for holiday and after we got back I still didn’t hire anyone for a couple of months, but at the time I was working full time and had a two-hour commute every day and was ramping up my writing career. I simply couldn’t keep up. Also, one of the reasons I live overseas is so that I can afford certain perks, such as hiring people to do the things I don’t want or have time to do. So after talking to other expat residents in my building, I finally hired a new ayi. And she changed my life for the better.

When I hired Li Ayi, I did something I had not done before, I also hired her to cook. This was the best thing I ever did for myself, my family, and my career. I read an article recently about the mental burden that women carry. Even in families where men and women share housework and childcare, the mental work that goes into running a household still tends to fall on women. I didn’t realize until I hired someone else to cook how much of my daily mental capacity was being spent on meal preparation. This is especially true in China, where a lack of processed foods and climate controlled kitchens means that you have to go to the store to buy food fresh almost every day. I was spending a ton of time planning meals, going shopping, cooking, and cleaning every single day.

After I hired Ayi to cook and clean six days a week, I finally was able to finish my first novel, Threads of Silk.

She has always been wonderful with my dog, Vash, who is a handful, and she is so great with the new kiddo. She isn’t responsible for any childcare, but she does play with her and sometimes even take her outside to play.

So what is it really like having a housekeeper in China?

It’s great. I am always telling my friends over here that they should hire an ayi to help them out. Our ayi eats dinner with us every night. She cleans the kitchen, does the laundry, sweeps and mops the floors, and generally straightens up every day. She can’t really do anything about clutter because we are always bringing new stuff home and leaving stuff laying around and if she moves stuff it will get lost. She also doesn’t do any deep cleaning like scrubbing the bathtub or cleaning out the cabinets. So I still have to do some housekeeping every week, but only a fraction of what I had to do before.

While we really appreciate our ayi and are friendly, I try not to consider her a friend. I think of her like an employee. But I certainly want to be a good employer and know that my employee is happy working for me. I’m in a Hong Kong moms group and the way ayis are treated in Hong Kong is horrifying. I can’t imagine treating someone who cooks your food, takes care of your kids, and is in your home every day like garbage.

How much does it cost?

The cost of a housekeeper in China can fluctuate depending on a number of factors. Where you live and whether or not she cooks being the two big questions. Also, nannies will cost more. But just to give you an example, here in Shenzhen, for an ayi to cook and clean six days a week is 2,000RMB per month. That’s about $300.

How to find an ayi.

If you are interested in hiring an ayi, the best way is to ask around. Ask fellow expats or the people in your building. There is also an app you can download to help you find an ayi, but I haven’t use it yet. I don’t know if it is good for finding a permenant ayi or if it is just for one-time help. It is called Ayi Bang (阿姨帮) and you can download it here https://appsto.re/us/OehWO.i.

Li Ayi has been with us for over two years now and has been a wonderful part of our lives. I decided I better share a little about her and our life with an ayi because some big changes are coming soon and she probably won’t be with us by the end of the summer. We will certainly miss her, but we are excited to start this new chapter of our lives (I can’t wait to share the changes with you!) and I am so thankful to ayi for helping me trust again.

Do you have an ayi? Share your experience in the comments.

Killing Roaches Naturally

Killing Roaches Naturally

Surprisingly, we never had any pest problems during our time in China until about two years ago. Even when we lived over one of Shenzhen’s most popular (and filthy) food streets, we never had issues with roaches and our pets never had fleas. It wasn’t until we moved into a fancy (for us) apartment building in a new development that we suddenly had roaches and the pets got fleas.

The roach infestation was horrendous. They were absolutely everywhere. We tried everything to get rid of them. RAID, bombs, exterminator quality poisons, traps. Nothing worked. And when we moved to another apartment, the little monsters traveled with us and were even worse! Walking into the kitchen at night was like walking into a den of nightmares. Remember the scene from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom where Billy lifts her lantern to discover she is SURROUNDED by bugs? Yeah, it was kind of like that.

So I was of course desperate to get rid of the bugs, but nothing had worked and I didn’t like using so much poison anyway. I have a very small dog and cat and a new baby, so since the chemical poisons weren’t working anyway, I wondered if there was a natural alternative.

And there was! I discovered boric acid. Boric acid is a naturally occurring substance from volcanic regions. The look and texture of boric acid is very similar to baking soda.

While boric acid can cause some mild irritation to humans and pets, it is not toxic, so it is safe to use. Just wash your hands after use. Boric acid works as a sort of stomach poison to the roaches. Even better, they don’t die instantly, but crawl back to the nest to die where the other roaches cannibalize them, thus poisoning the nest-mates as well.

If you plan to use boric acid, be patient! The roaches will not die instantly. You will still see roaches the next day, and probably the next, but over time, the roach numbers will dwindle until one day you say, “Hey, I haven’t seen any roaches lately.” You should notice a significant decrease in the number of roaches you see within a few days and they should be nearly gone in about a week or two.

While there are several “recipes” out there for using boric acid as a bait and poison (like mixing the boric acid with powdered sugar), I have found this to be totally unnecessary. I simply sprinkle a light dusting wherever the roaches seem to travel, like along the back of the counters, behind the microwave, or around the refrigerator. You don’t want to create piles of powder as the roaches will simply walk around it.

Boric acid can also work on other small pests like ants, termites, and silverfish.

If you live in the US, you can easily find boric acid on Amazon. If you are in China, you can find boric acid (硼酸) on Taobao.

Have you tried boric acid or another natural way of dealing with pests? Let me know in the comments!

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