An American Millennial

Where are you and where are you going?
Viktor K
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Joined: Sat Jul 30, 2016 9:45 pm
Location: China
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Re: An American Millennial

Post by Viktor K » Mon Oct 22, 2018 6:04 pm

It's not as shocking to me, of course, as I've had nearly two years here now to come to understand the culture and political-social environment, as well I've got a Chinese major and that involved courses beyond just the language (history, literature, etc.). CCTV is everywhere for sure. I could see that bothering some, but I've never been too worried about government watching me, even in the US. It's actually quite helpful a lot of times with crime (I assume), but also with everyday things. For example, if you lose your dog while out on a walk, one of the first things you can do is consult the local buildings CCTV systems to see if they caught any glimpse of it. I've also heard (but can't confirm), that a lot of the cameras don't even work, but that could just be rumors.

As for the social system, I haven't seen any effects of it and probably never will. For one, it shouldn't hit in full until 2020 as far as I've heard. As well, I'm a foreigner so I don't have any rights here anyway as far as I know. A lot of the things like buying a house, opening a line of credit, etc. aren't things that I would try to do here anyway because of the normal, Chinese bureaucratic hurdles and the additional "you're-a-foreigner" difficulties and/or actual barriers. I don't think, for example, that foreigners can outright own a business in China without a Chinese partner.

Lastly, I'm in China right now, so I don't feel comfortable talking about this too much in any sort of opinion/critical way. Sorry for the somewhat canned response.

Viktor K
Posts: 356
Joined: Sat Jul 30, 2016 9:45 pm
Location: China
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Re: An American Millennial

Post by Viktor K » Wed Oct 31, 2018 8:01 am

End of October 2018

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October was a leisurely month for me. My schedule and lesson planning didn’t get any more difficult. In fact, it got a bit easier with just relying on the book more and more for my lesson plans versus trying to actually get creative. A video here, a song there, maybe a fun game, maybe not, and that’s all it really takes to make 45 minutes working out of the book tolerable.

I spent a lot of time out of the apartment playing D&D 5e or Pathfinder. And, subsequently, I also spent a lot of time making characters for the games I’m playing in or making adventures for the games I’m running.

I wasn’t as productive as I should have been with regards to studying web development. I’m working through React still on Codecademy. I finished the first series which is 3 parts. Now, I’m on the second series which is also 3 parts and handles more programming patterns and common methods. The goal is to finish this within the week and then start making some React apps.

I like this second part of the React tutorial a lot since its teaching the patterns. I think that is something that’s missing from most of the JavaScript and web development lessons that I’ve studied up until this point.

My buddy hit me up on LinkedIn earlier this month. He’s working for a traveling, rock climbing high school now and they’re in China for two months between October and December. They’re staying in Yangshuo which has world class rock climbing. My girlfriend and I plan on heading over there on the fast train later this month when we’ve got a 4 day vacation for Sports Day.



ERE graphs


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Almost cut my net worth in half since starting this journal. Funny goal to have, but it is what it is. My debt, however, is only down 30% since starting this journal. That’s what I get for changing from a let loan forgiveness kick in 20 years later strategy to a pay as much as I can every couple months strategy. I can’t wait to secure some higher pay in the US and really start making a difference.

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Goodbye RMBs and, quickly thereafter, goodbye USD. Down into the black hole of debt from where you’ll never return. I’m personifying my little bit of wealth as it flies forever away from me.



Personal


Alcohol: Went over the goal. I think the goal is still something to work towards. Especially towards the end of the month where I knowingly went over. Still, my alcohol consumption is down quite a bit since August so that feels good.

Rescues: The two strays were getting treated for skin diseases at a clinic. The vet didn’t want to give them vaccines until they finished treatment, which is a gutsy call given the number of sick dogs that cycle through there. Now they’ve got CDV and my girlfriend is running over there every day to give them as much love as possible.

Exercise: We get a bit side-tracked on this sometimes. We’re supposed to finish 3 weeks each month, plus 1 deload week. We’re closer to 3 weeks each month with no deload, and this month we’re still 3 days behind. To be fair, a lot of this has to do with our different schedules and interests. Some days I’m ready to go a little after 2 but my girlfriend is off to a clinic. Other days, she’s home and able but I’m off gaming.

Diet: Hit a lot of restaurants this month. Mostly sushi, but also the occasional street food for convenience. Just like above, our schedules make it a little more difficult to even do simple things like soak the beans, rinse the beans, cook the beans. As well, we’ve got a lousy crockpot to be honest and it takes way too long to cook things. Just for reference, at present we’ve been out of home-cooked food for 3 going on 4 days.

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Funny story. The skeleton is played by one of my new local friends. After this character was killed, the party necromancer brought him back to life. He now follows us around, much like he did before, in undeath.

China: Still can’t wait to get out of China. Part of me would love to cut the contract in the winter vacation and try my luck finding a job. I don’t think I’ll be any more prepared for a job whether its July next year or January this year. A longer deadline just makes me feel more comfortable with sacrificing a couple days to play instead of grinding through courses and projects.

There’s also a lot to say with living a transient life moving from one place to the next. Moving to and leaving Las Vegas wasn’t so bad since we were with my mom and the furniture was all hers. But, over here, for example, we can’t really spend money on anything to make our lives a little more convenient without thinking how it’s a sunk cost when we move back.

The same goes for when we move back. Living on the outside looking in, the US seems like such a shit show. Part of me worries that we'll be the unlucky souls that fall victim to some violent mugging or mass shooting. Dying from a mass shooting is probably pretty unlikely, but you can’t argue with the US’s ridiculous murder rate per capita. Of course, this fear also has to do with a change in perspective. I’ve heard once of a psychological deal where you fear what you’re not used to and accept equally risky situations that you’re accustomed to. For example, if you live in Oklahoma you may think that California is crazy because of all the earthquakes, but then you never really think much about tornadoes.

Thus, there’s a good chance after a few years in the US that we’ll want to take our accumulations and move back abroad somewhere affordable again. Do some more traveling. So many things can complicate that and so many things about that complicate life. Having kids, raising the cats, and keeping in contact with family, for example, can all complicate moving abroad. Then, moving abroad makes things like buying furnishings and developing friendships more difficult. Ultimately, one day, I have a sort of mini-dream of getting old in a medium-sized home on a piece of property close enough to a city center and a grocery store with a good community of friends. I just don’t know where or when that dream will come to fruition.


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Found out this river runs all the way from 2 blocks east of our apartment all the way down to the bay. And its paved the whole way. Makes for a nice bike ride.

Travel: I’ll be traveling the last couple months this year. First, we’ll head off to Yangshuo for a long weekend as I mentioned above. Second, we’ve got two months off for winter vacation this year. We’re thinking Thailand or Malaysia. Since both places are cheap, I’m hoping to squeeze all the vacation into my discretionary budget for the combined months of November, December, and January. That’s a budget of about ¥3000, or about $400 USD, but doesn’t include normal living expenses like food and transportation.


Professional


Recordings: Only 1 recording this month. Seems like it has cooled off. Even though everytime we go, they tell us they have a ton of papers to work through, we still don’t hear from them on any sort of regular basis. I assume there’s just a bunch of other stuff they have to do. As I mentioned, the business itself isn’t all about making recordings. It’s just one small department and even then I think it is just a project within that department, nothing more.

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Babysat this cat again, not sure if that was in the last post or not. Also pictured here is our new cat tree. It’s a beast of a tree and the cats love it. As well it helps the bigger cat reach the top of the armoire, which only the black one could reach before. As an aside, the cats started waking us up around 5:30 AM for food. So, we changed their feeding schedule. They’re still getting used to it and thus are driving me absolutely insane. Especially the white one.

Web development: I ended up saying screw WordPress and CMSs altogether and diving into React. And my mind was blown in the first few exercises. I only got through 4 of the 6 total sections (two different lessons, 3 sections each), and only blogged about the first 3 so far. I should be able to finish the next two within the next few days, make posts about them, and then I’ll start trying to build something! It’s either going to be a remake of the ab workout, or something new and likely having to do with Pathfinder.

I ran into a little of trouble this month where the beginning of the month I was spending a lot of time getting back into Pathfinder (which is a mess of a system relative to 5E) and figuring out all the floating bonuses and minuses to everything. Then, at the end of the month, when I was ready to put my nose down and grind away, ExpressVPN went down. Codecademy doesn’t work without it, and my notes are all in Google Docs. That sort of took the wind right out of me.

If I can get a project finished before the end of November, then I want to look at something else like Angular or Vue or something similar. I’m looking at Austin, TX on Indeed right now for ideas of what to study next.



Financial


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Expense tracking: Ultimately, once I saw I was going to go over my restaurants bill, I said hell with it and just aimed to stay under my overall discretionary budget of ¥1000. Total discretionary comes out to ¥993.04. Still, I’d be happy to have less eating out and more home-cooked meals. It’s just a pain. I’d say making 2-3 days of food takes a good 8 hours. Now, a lot of that time is just waiting for stuff to cook but I can’t go 8 hours without food. And if it takes time, and time gets away from you, then there’s still no daylight left when you’re done waiting for the beans to then start the rice. Meh. Somewhere we’re not being as efficient as we can here. I do love the sushi expenditure, but the 手抓并, 饺子, and 鸡排 I could do without most days. I’d much rather have some home-cooked chili instead.

Groceries included ¥300 worth of protein powder. That may end up lasting me two months, but for now I'm thinking it'll last about 6 weeks. Thus, it doesn't cost that much more to eat out versus cook at home, it's just the diet/health that really suffers.

I double paid on the internet bill on accident, so utilities will hopefully be a little less this month.

Shopping included a taxi from Shekou to bring back a used cat tree. The thing is massive and the cats love it. Other shopping was just things related to gaming like table reservations and such, as well as my monthly haircut which includes a nice face wash and head massage (¥47).

In total, I’d like to get the restaurant bill back down so that A) I won’t be accustomed to eating out when moving back to the US, B) it’ll mean my diet is healthier, and C) I can put some of that money towards other discretionary purchases like wardrobe and travel.


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The picture up top is the west campus (courtesy of my student, who also added the life-like clouds), where I have to go most days. It’s less than a 10 minute bike ride from the apartment. And we’re talking on a public, Chinese bicycle which are small and not especially fast. On Tuesdays, though, I go to this campus which is less than a 5 minute walk. It’s literally on the other side of the block. It’s a bit more green than the west campus with lots more grass and trees.

Student loans: I sent roughly 5000 USD back this month and put it all towards my loans. That payment wiped out one and cut another by more than half. I think by the time I leave next year, I should have less than 20000 USD left to pay and, if I can get a good enough salary, I hope to pay the rest of my loans off before the end of 2019.

Life insurance: I pay $58 and get back about $30 in cash value each month. This month, though, is my policy date, so the cash value went up $180. I suppose that means this thing costs me something like $150/year now or less for $50,000 death benefit. As well, it feels good that it keeps ticking up while my IRA keeps going down.


Final thoughts


Getting out for gaming made a big difference in my mental well being this month. Feeling good. I’d say Happy Halloween, but I don’t celebrate it or really any other holiday for that matter. So happy last day of October, and I hope November works out well for you all!

Scott 2
Posts: 1253
Joined: Sun Feb 12, 2012 10:34 pm

Re: An American Millennial

Post by Scott 2 » Wed Oct 31, 2018 9:33 am

Working in tech pays well, and when you are young, looking forward to the new thing is very appealing. But there is plenty of time to work 40+ hours a week. I encourage you to enjoy the full contract term in China. Even if you are open to such a flexible life later, you may find as your girlfriend moves into her late 20's, her perspective shifts.

The shooting aspect of life in the US is sensationalized by media IMO. There are dangerous areas, but leading an active lifestyle, in a tech hub like Austin, I wouldn't think twice about it.

If you wanted to live on the south side of Chicago, party every night and enjoyed picking fights, I'd have a different view.

wolf
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Location: Germany

Re: An American Millennial

Post by wolf » Wed Oct 31, 2018 12:00 pm

Thanks for answering my questions regarding CCTV in China. I like reading your journal and stories about your life in China. It must be great that you get such experiences in a young age. I guess it broadens your mind and influences your view on the world in a very positive way. Stay on track with your programming courses and on paying back debt! Once you earn a good salary back in the states, I think you'll be on a fast path to FI.

Viktor K
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Joined: Sat Jul 30, 2016 9:45 pm
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Re: An American Millennial

Post by Viktor K » Sat Nov 03, 2018 12:04 am

@Scott Very true. I don't think I would actually jump ship at the end of semester unless some extenuating circumstances came up. For example, we're actually on a probationary period for the first semester with this school, which means if they really wanted to or felt we weren't up to snuff, they could cancel the contract as per the contract in January. I don't think that's going to happen, though, and yeah, it's nice not working too hard right now. I'm still a little worried about the US, but you're probably right. I think it's just moreso that I haven't been there in a long time living there at least. I am worried about my girlfriend though. For example, jogging at night time and stuff like that isn't really advisable in the US whereas here there's not as much to fear.

@wolf By the way, I heard something the other day from my girlfriend that reminded me of your question. They're trying out some of the social rating systems in this one city, I can't remember which right now, but my girlfriend was telling me about it. Basically, for dog owners, you can have your rating hurt by not walking the dog on a leash, having a dog that barks too much or is too loud, and some other things like that which I can't really remember all that she was saying. I think it culminated though with the potential of having your dog actually taken away if you were doing too many things wrong.

I definitely think that traveling abroad and even just traveling to a different state for college really expanded my horizons and my own thoughts and views on the world. Even leaving my home-state though. When I entered into my International Affairs degree I was super conservative and realist with regards to my POV of how the world worked and how international politics should be conducted. After 4 years, I ended pretty much on the exact opposite side of the spectrum. It definitely helps to interact with people that don't have the same ideas or views as you. Even moreso when you go and live in a culture that has hardly anything in common with your own. Thanks for the generally positive comment though, felt super supportive and I appreciate it.

I just finished my React course on Codecademy. So, I'm going to start building something. They've got a link at the end of the course that's a short how-to on making a React project. There's some things in there that I don't really get what they're talking about as far as the set-up. I'm not sure how much of it I need. They're basically advising downloading and installing this sort of wire-frame for a React project. Once I can wrap my head around that, I'm going to do the wild-shape app for Pathfinder. I'm going to start simple though and only let the user enter like 1 of the 3 or 4 stats that can change when they switch to animal form. Also, I'm just going to support like 1 animal, 1 size, that's it for the first version.

Otherwise, though, I think the React course was actually pretty good. I still need to write up 3 more articles on my blog to review the last 3 parts of the course. I like doing this anyways since its really helpful for remembering everything. I don't know if I mentioned this, but, basically, by the time I finish writing an article reviewing my notes, I've processed or gone over the new information 4 or 5 times. First, I read it in the lesson. Then, I write whatever I read in a question and answer format in my notes. Then, Codecademy usually has you use whatever they just taught you, so that's a third time interacting with the new information. Then I have to read my notes to know what to write in my article, so that's 4 times. Then change the notes into a paragraph with grammar and stuff makes the 5th time interacting with the information. And, if you want to go even further, proofreading the article makes for a 6th time interacting with the material, although I don't really count that one since I'm usually just skimming for grammar and spelling, not really re-reading so much.

Still, right now, all the React stuff is just sort of brain-code-soup right now for me. But I'm excited to start working with it, using what I learned, and shooting out some new projects again. I also have like 7-8 other projects from FreeCodeCamp, as well as my ab workout app that I could all remake in React for more practice, especially if, you know, creativity doesn't hit me or something.

P.S. If any of you all are looking to pick up the web development skillset, it's really as simple as opening the Introduction to JavaScript course on Codecademy. Try to open it and Google Docs for notes once a day or when you're at your computer. Start with just 1 page/exercise/day. Or, do like I do, and commit to burning through a section/session. I like starting with JavaScript because by the time you finish, learning HTML and CSS feels like child's play. For those two, I'd suggest FreeCodeCamp. You can also learn JavaScript on FreeCodeCamp, after the HTML and CSS parts, but I found their JavaScript a little shallow in content.

Viktor K
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Re: An American Millennial

Post by Viktor K » Fri Nov 09, 2018 7:53 pm

I'm probably going to go over my discretionary budget this month (¥1000). The trip to Yangshuo will cost about ¥400 round trip on the fast train. I have my tent and backpacking stuff, so we can try to camp, otherwise hostels will be an additional cost. Then, we're looking at Thailand in January. Those tickets will probably cost about $240 USD, which is about ¥1700.

slowtraveler
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Re: An American Millennial

Post by slowtraveler » Tue Nov 13, 2018 10:52 am

Sounds like a fun trip. I've found they're worth it, especially when it's barebones since life is too short to stress out while your nw is steadily increasing.

I'm excited for you to take the next step to a kick ass income. 5-10 years and you'll be FI. You've already got half the equation solidly down while having a lifestyle you enjoy.

Where in Thailand are you planning to visit?

Viktor K
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Re: An American Millennial

Post by Viktor K » Sat Dec 01, 2018 9:43 am

slowtraveler wrote:
Tue Nov 13, 2018 10:52 am
Sounds like a fun trip...
I’m excited too but also a little nervous. I hope my social life will pan out the way I want and that I’ll still have the time and energy for hobbies. Of course, financially, assuming I land the job I want, it’s a good decision.

We’ve settled on a trip to Thailand. Aiming to travel the country north to south. Our recent trip to Yangshuo made me realize more the importance of avoiding common tourist areas where the prices are steep and the culture on display is a bit exaggerated.

It’ll be a little like Japan for us in that we don’t know a single word of the language. And I don’t really know anything about the country. But my standards pretty much max out at clean, cheap hostel, scenic hikes and/or beaches, cheap and safe food options, and safe travels, so I expect the trip to be satisfying.

Viktor K
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Joined: Sat Jul 30, 2016 9:45 pm
Location: China
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Re: An American Millennial

Post by Viktor K » Thu Dec 06, 2018 12:41 am

End of November 2018

What a rush of a month. The beginning was slow going. Most of our ERE habits were going well. We were cooking a lot, not eating out too often, drinking less than normal. Then came the 4 day weekend.

We had a great time in Yangshuo. The rest of the month flew by quite quickly and it was tough to get back on track with cooking, cleaning, laundry, all the normal things. We’re getting back in our stride now which is nice but still a little behind on some things.

Spending was higher than normal.



ERE graphs


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Saved quite a bit less this month. That came from a combination of a smaller work paycheck (since they’re not back-paying us for anything from this summer), only 2 recordings, and higher spending from the vacation and shopping.

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Asset allocation is pretty much where I want it to be. I lose about the same amount of money sending RMB home to pay for student loans as I do from student loan interest, so it’s a wash. I’m going to get a couple more months worth of RMB together again before making another payment.



Personal


Alcohol: Started off strong, then ended up spending a bit too much on vacation. Bought a hostel beer which cost as much as 3 or 4 beers, and then a couple other big bottle beers which also cost about 2x the normal cost. Then drank a little too often for my comfort the last week of the month. I suspect December to be a pretty low month with regards to spending on alcohol. Maybe under ¥80.

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My local friend took me out to eat one day. I got to try “1,000 year old egg” for the first time.

Rescues: My girlfriend is now 3 for 3 on saving dogs with puppy-killing viruses. Both of her rescues pulled through and are doing well. We heard a desperate whimper coming from a trash can in Yangshuo as we were heading back to the hostel one afternoon. I helped her dig him out. He was in a burlap sack covered in his own feces and crying, unable to move much. My girlfriend loaded him into the bike basket and we took him to the vet in Yangshuo. Poor thing didn’t make it. The vet’s diagnosis was late-stage CDV.



Exercise: The vacation messed up our schedule a little bit but we’re back on track now. Our workout days are Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday. As well, I’ve started playing football (soccer) on the East campus. Super fun. Mostly students play, but there are some other people who are a little older than me, either locals or teachers. Most times we end up getting a small field or half field pick-up game going, other times it's just a shoot and pass around.

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I have to remember to take it slow. This ankle ballooned up for about two weeks before it finally started feeling better.

The first time I went out was brutal cardio-wise for me. As well, I sprained my ankle pretty bad. I think it was due to my footwear as well as a total lack of mobility/agility work at any point in recent memory. The third time I went out, my ankle was still a little sore and I got it sandwiched pretty badly when 3 of us went for the ball at the same time. Finally took a solid week off in the middle of the month, and now everything is feeling better. I’m playing 3-4 times per week.


Diet: Diet was good until Yangshuo. After Yangshuo, it was a lot of sushi, jiaozi, and shouzhuabings. That combo did a number on my bowels, and I’m thankful to be back on track with chili in the fridge.

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This is probably the best shot we got of the river, the mountains, and the traditional bamboo rafts used here. This was taken on our first day, on the way to Moon Hill. We had to fend off a persistent old lady hawking wares and couldn’t really enjoy the scenic spot.

Upcoming vacation: We’re booking our tickets to Thailand tonight. Flying to Chiang Mai, then Bangkok, then Phuket and back to Hong Kong. A local friend who is in between jobs asked to join us and we happily agreed. I think he will find it an interesting trip with our “one daybag for 10 days” style of packing.

Yangshuo: Yangshuo was pretty cool. We finally got to get more out in nature, which was super refreshing. There was some problems with it. For one, the farmers there burn their crops, much like they do all over China, so you’re breathing pure smoke in the evenings. My vogmask broke the day before we left as well, and my girlfriend forgot hers.

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This was from our long bike ride on day two. You can take these rafts down the two rivers that flow around Yangshuo. Apparently this is a must do. However it costs too much for what I think it’s worth. In Texas, you can float down rivers for free in an inner tube. Why pay for it here? We opted for bike and moped rides along the river instead. If you could take your own raft, that would be pretty awesome, but that’s not the case.

Otherwise, we got to see my friend. It’s funny that I’ve only seen him once since college and it’s still the exact same. He was pretty busy with his high school students (an American high school that moves to a different part of the world every quarter-semester), but we got to do some acro-yoga with them and catch dinner with them one night. The next day he was off in the afternoon so we made a hike up the backside (the front side is stairs and costs ¥30 to enter, the backside is mud and is free) of a mountain right in the city and caught the sunset.

The city center is a little too touristy for my tastes. ¥60 local beers on the cheap side, and most plates cost at least ¥50. We ate noodles at a place the locals eat at a few times on our trip. The plates there only cost ¥12 each.


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These salads were expensive, but man were they good. They served as much needed sustenance in the middle of our long bike ride.

Gaming: I finally got enough players for my own game of D&D. It’s so much more fun for me to run a game than play in one. Everytime I play in one, I’m just a bit bored or I think of things I would do differently if I were running the game. As the DM, you get to pretty much play the whole time, whereas players have to wait around for other players and stuff like that sometimes. Anyways, we play once a week with a good group at a friend’s house. I made sure that we played on Mondays, since I get off at noon and don’t start until 10:25 AM the next day. We’re only 3 sessions in, but they seem to be really enjoying it, more than I expected given I haven’t run a game in over a year.


Professional


Coding: I successfully made my first React app. I didn’t worry too much about styling it since just figuring out the components, and installing node, and learning Github for the first time were a big enough challenge. React is so easy to use, honestly. It makes everything so much more organized, I really like it. I have been really “busy” with a lot of my free-time activities like vacation, exercise, soccer, and D&D.

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We rented this out for ¥50 on the last day. Unfortunately it only has a 30km range, but it made getting out to the little village we visited much easier and fun. We split driving duties 50/50 so we could both enjoy the small thrill. Whenever my girlfriend drove it was a little more “thrilling” since she randomly lost her balance a few times and nearly put us in a ditch or even off a bridge at one point! The paved path is the main one, and the little dirt trail leading up goes up the mountains into small private orchards.

I want to make another React project soon. However, ideally, I want to hook it up to a database. I’ve used a database before in my ab workout app, but I’m a little intimidated with using one with React and Github and version control since I think I actually have to install the database on to my computer rather than just use the one I get from my hosting plan… Alas, I’ll have to figure it out.

I want to make an app that can help me manage my game more and track players’ resources, experience, gear, and hit points while also helping me know which proficiencies they have and what their stats are so I don’t have to ask them, which delays the game.


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We picked a fresh mandarin orange off one of the trees. There were a lot of trails leading away from the paved path to these little orange and pomelo orchards. No farmers up there, no tourists either. Just us and the views. It was very quiet. I forgot what quiet was after all this time in Shenzhen.

University: I’m pretty much 100% improvising my first couple classes of the week everytime now, and there’s no problem with it. I made a couple changes my the last classes of the day, and then the lesson is perfect for the rest of the week. The book we use makes this really easy.

The semester for my course ends in three weeks. This week we’re finishing a chapter, next week we’re finishing the last chapter. Then the last week is their final. Then my vacation starts the week of Christmas and goes until mid-February.



Financial


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Expense tracking: So I saved ¥5000 less than the previous month. My income was about ¥3500 lower.

I spent so much more on restaurants. Some of this came from Yangshuo, but a lot came from the end of the month after our vacation. We didn’t get right back into the groove of cooking meals at home so we had to eat out or starve.

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The paved path from the village deadends into two dirt roads, or you can follow it further but have to go down stairs. So we parked the moped and headed up on foot. The hostel desk only told us to go to the village, it was up to us to explore and find this gem. It was a nice change of pace from the more popular spots. We were alone for the majority of this hike.

I also bought a lot this month. I bought soccer shoes (¥185), two pairs of jeans (¥44 each), and a new vogmask since mine broke (¥255), 3 pairs of boxers (¥88), a pair of slip-ons (¥80), and some other smaller things.

Groceries were about what they would be considering how much we ate out, travel was things like the train tickets, taxis (when we couldn’t catch public transportation), bike rentals, moped rentals, and such.

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This is where the trail ended. There were a few hidden trails leading away from the main paved path and up into small, empty orchards, but we had to get back to meet our friend, so we never found a way to the top. The waterfall was nice, though - very peaceful.

We had to get pet food this month, which I’ve amortized over the next 3 months. Hopefully it last longer. Other things are pretty small. Alcohol was a lot more than I wanted it to be due to the cost of the alcohol purchased and the amount consumed.


Setting a budget: We’re thinking about setting a budget for our trip to Thailand. While we were in Yangshuo, we just sort of splurged whenever it felt right. On our long bike ride along the Yulong river, for example, we found a small organic farm cafe/hostel. We got a pretty awesome salad and a smoothie each. That cost us each about ¥70.

The only number we’ve tossed out so far for Thailand is $600 USD, including plane tickets. This is mostly based on my savings rate each month than anything else. One of our local friends is coming with us so we’ll have to check with what he thinks too. This way, though, with a budget in place we can be more strategic with what we splurge on. Fortunately, we get full pay in January and February still, even though we’re only working the last half of February in that period.


Image
On our last evening in Yangshuo, we met up again with my friend from the US. We hiked up the backside of this mountain right in the middle of the city, and were the only ones there. Maybe everyone else took the route up the other side which had stairs, but we were “extreme”. We got the sunset all to ourselves. I will miss my friend, I hope to see him again soon.


Final thoughts


Fast month, with a lot of good packed into it... aside from the high spending. I don’t think 4-day weekend vacations are going to be the norm, but this was sort of a must-do since one of my best friends from college was randomly in the country, only a 3 hour fast train ride away from Shenzhen. As well, we’ve been wanting to see Yangshuo ever since we first heard about it, so it was too good an opportunity to pass up. The vacation in January probably won’t have such a ballooning effect on our budget. As well, I don’t foresee any big ticket shopping items.
Last edited by Viktor K on Sat Dec 08, 2018 10:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.

slowtraveler
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Re: An American Millennial

Post by slowtraveler » Thu Dec 06, 2018 5:31 am

I apologize for the delay, I've been busy with learning reading/writing lately.

Chiang Mai, Phuket, and Bangkok are the most visited towns from my experience.

Chiang Mai and Bangkok have many temples:
In Chiang Mai:Wat Umong is a nice temple with a canal, silver Temple is beautiful but males only, you'll probably visit Doi Suthep, which has a beautiful sunset if you time it right or a hike up to it if you go earlier.
I'm Bangkok, start early in the day as they close earlier than you'd expect, I think 15:00 or 17:00. The lying Buddha, emerald Buddha, and Royal palace I think are all within a short walk of each other. There's a floating market an hour or 2 by bus to the west.

Chiang Mai has tons of mountains for hiking. You can hike to Doi Suthep, Mae Rim, and there's one more big one.

I went to Krabbi in Phuket and took a boat to some beaches. Wait for a group to form at the pier to save money on the boat. Phuket has nice beaches but is expensive.

In Chiang Mai
Grab is cheap for groups, there's also a 20 baht bus around town. Let's meet for a bite or hike, I've been wanting to get a hike in lately. Lots of small food shops are good for 40-50 baht food. You can find 20-30 baht but it tends to lack flavor. South and North gate have good food after 18:00 too.

Scott 2
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Re: An American Millennial

Post by Scott 2 » Thu Dec 06, 2018 8:57 pm

Mentally converting your travel expenses to USD, I have to laugh at how much you are getting for the money. I always say this, but it's worth spending the extra couple dollars to make the most of your time over there.

Viktor K
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Re: An American Millennial

Post by Viktor K » Sat Dec 08, 2018 6:15 am

@slowtraveler

Thanks for the info. I’ll send you a PM as well. Hope everything’s going well.

@Scott 2

True. I’m not sure if I have enough time or willing to sacrifice too much of my savings rate to see all I want to see before moving back to the US. We’re going to try and do everything we want to do in Thailand. I think it will be cheap enough.

white belt
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Re: An American Millennial

Post by white belt » Sat Dec 08, 2018 11:56 am

I thoroughly enjoy this journal. I spent a total of 8 months studying Chinese on the mainland during my college years and another summer in Taiwan. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to get back since 2015.

Yangshuo is really picturesque and I enjoyed how different the smaller cities in the deep south feel compared to bigger cities in the north and east.

It's funny, I distinctly remember thinking I'm going to die riding on the back of scooter driven by a pretty girl (my experience was in Taiwan).

Viktor K
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Re: An American Millennial

Post by Viktor K » Mon Dec 10, 2018 7:03 am

@whitebelt

China is probably not as bad as I make it out to be. I’ll probabaly miss a lot about it when I move back to the US. I did the last time I moved back. As for girls driving mopeds, in general driving/riding in Asia is a bit of an adrenaline rush. Once you’re used to it, the chaos seems less so. But my girlfriend only got her driving license at 18 and only started really riding a bicycle when she first met me. A heavy moped was a big step up for her :D. I remember a lot of funny instances riding bikes with her when we first started dating when she would miss a narrow sidewalk or fail squeezing past a parked car :lol:

Viktor K
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Re: An American Millennial

Post by Viktor K » Wed Jan 16, 2019 10:37 am

End of December 2018


So this is written mid-January after my Thailand vacation which makes it a little difficult to talk about and remember feelings/what happened in December.


ERE graphs


Image

Savings finally broke the graph, so I’ll adjust the y-axis next month.

Image

I’ll probably send money home after my February paycheck, depending on how much my Thailand vacation ends up coming out to. It was pretty expensive.



Personal


Alcohol: Average alcohol spending. Had one pretty fun night out on the 30th with friends from China. Some were people we’ve worked with before, some volunteers that help with the animals with my girlfriend, and some from D&D. Went to a KTV. It was a lot of fun.

Exercise: I’ve been playing soccer as much as possible, and also keeping up with 5-3-1. We miss a day of lifting pretty much every week, so we’re not as dedicated as we could be, but we’re sitll making progress. Since the students are gone from the end of December to the end of February, I branched out using WeChat and found some foreigner football groups that play 4 or more times/week. I had time to go once before Thailand and the play was much more competitive. Unfortunately, that group is more than an hour away by metro. It also costs about $10 USD/person each time.

Diet: After enjoying the heck out of Thailand food, I don’t even want to talk about my diet in China in December.

Gaming: The D&D game has frozen up a bit with the end of the year schedules and my vacation. But it should start back up soon. Unfortuantely, my players aren’t super strategic and the last session ended in the first round of combat with two K.O.’d, and two left. One player had to cover his boss’s vacation so missed that game (we couldn’t reschedule a time that would work for everyone). We had already played for a few hours when the fight broke out. When the two went down to an AoE, we all decided, “Maybe we should stop here and wait for Player C to come back next week!” Hopefully he can save them, otherwise it’s a TPK and time for a new campaign!


Professional


Coding: I burned through 3 more React apps in December. When vacation started, I even managed to burn 8 hours on one app in a single day.

The first app I made was one to help me manage my party. I didn’t hook it up to a database, since using Github and NPM is so convenient that I didn’t want to go through the trouble.

Then I made a story dice roller which is super helpful for me. When I make adventures, I like to roll some random “story dice” to get the creative juices flowing. Unfortunately I’ve never owned a set of these dice and have always used an online random noun generator instead, which isn’t the same. I found some images of each side of the dice on Pinterest, fixed them up in Gimp to put each on a blank dice, and then made a quick React app that takes 3 of the dice and rolls them.

The last app I made for a friend which takes his level and Wisdom modifier from D&D and helps him pick his spells. I made two iterations of this. The first one I hooked up to an API for the spell information, but, unfortunately that API doesn’t have HTTPS so when I finally deployed it to Github pages the API call failed. Thus, I made another iteration of it, improved on the first, and saved the spell information to the website as a giant array of objects. Then I went on vacation.

I think next I want to remake my portfolio site. I set the first one up as a blog style, which was great for learning. However, I think something more personal and different is in order. My idea is the homepage will be a pause screen like you would find in a video game. Instead of the usual play, options, exit or whatever, it will be play, resume, portfolio or something like that. And if you press play you can really play a little game that I’ll make using the 5e ruleset. Just something quick and easy.


University: I finished up my first semester. This university, or trade-school technically, is really a great job. If it wasn’t for some of the shortcomings of life in China (air quality, food safety, expatriation, etc.), it would be such a great gig. Even at only 14 hours/week or whatever it comes out to, through, I don’t think I’ve ever been more busy in my life. I think that bodes well for my life post-ERE. Even though that is still a far ways away.


Financial


Image

Expense tracking: As almost always, progress can be made by cutting down on restaurants and alcohol. As well, my vacation cost is for the ticket alone. The rest will show up next month.


Final thoughts


Eh, it’s hard to go into too much detail about December since it’s so far off now and the memory of it is clouded by my time in Thailand. I can remember, however, that it was a bit of a rush with finals, getting ready for Thailand, football, D&D, 5-3-1, and coding.

2Birds1Stone
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Re: An American Millennial

Post by 2Birds1Stone » Wed Jan 16, 2019 12:00 pm

Let's hear more about Thailand.....

slowtraveler
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Re: An American Millennial

Post by slowtraveler » Sun Jan 20, 2019 6:03 am

A rough eyeball but it looks like the steepest increase in networth happened these last few months. Good job Viktor!

I'd also love to hear about your Thailand trip and the costs associated with the short term travel.

Viktor K
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Re: An American Millennial

Post by Viktor K » Fri Jan 25, 2019 10:36 am

I will post about Thailand but in my end of January update. You know, gotta keep with form. Plus it's a chore but I want to show some of the better pictures that we got. Total for the trip came out about $750 USD including plane ticket. My goal was around $600, but I'm happy with the $750 anyway. Less than the Japan trip at least.

And yes, the NW increase has been pretty steady. It's not necessarily the steepest, but very consistent and we're in a pretty optimal situation right now. Since we down-sized to the studio, that saved a lot of money/month. Also, this school pays close to full salary during the vacations, where as the last one didn't or paid a reduced amount or something, I can't remember.

Unfortunately, soon I'll need to start considering how much to put to my loans, and how much to leave in my savings as a buffer for when we go back to the US mid/end-of-July. My NW will probably dip around then... Anyways just wanted to chime in and reply before my update in the next week or so.

Viktor K
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Re: An American Millennial

Post by Viktor K » Sat Feb 02, 2019 8:12 am

End of January 2019


Image


Well I’m pretty much through with being low-paid, in-debt, late-20s on track to ERE in 2033 or later (mid-40s for me). As an ESL teacher, my options with regards to salary and location are pretty restrained and don’t offer much to be inspired by.

I know it was said I should finish out my contract before going back to the US. And, if it works out that way, that’s fine. I’ve started applying for jobs anyway. This has already helped me identify where my “candidate profile” if you will needs the most work.

I think at the very least, I should get practice applying for jobs, hopefully an interview eventually, and my portfolio will be tip-top shape by July this year when the contract ends. Worst case scenario, I get a job offer and have a decision to make.



ERE graphs


Image

I increased the y-axis up another $10,000 USD. I hope to reach that point in net worth by summer. The unsually steep increase will be offset next month since, for some reason, we got paid February salary real early.

Image

Lots of RMB that I need to get home.



Personal


Alcohol: I didn’t drink at all until the second third of this month. That means I didn’t drink in Thailand at all as well. Part of that was because I nearly missed Thailand with some sort of flu or strep throat that came on literally the day before we left. But then my willpower stayed strong until my girlfriend bought me beer for my birthday haha. I’ve had a couple beers a few different days since then.

Exercise: Luckily 10 days of “rest” in Thailand seems to have helped my knee and ankle injuries quite a bit. I still have a super sore hamstring after every football game, but otherwise feel great. I’m playing football 2-4x/week with a few different groups. Will get back to the gym for 5-3-1 after Chinese New Year.

Diet: Found the place across the street makes fresh fruit smoothies, although the quality varies and they’re just under $3 USD a pop. Also found a place down the street to get choose-your-own salads for around the same price and those taste pretty fresh. Paid dearly for the one order of jiaozi we got from a small shop across the street. They taste so good, just wish we could find somewhere that made them cleanly /cry.

Thailand: Overall impressions were very good. The air was much cleaner for the most part. Although, as I mentioned, I had (I think) strep throat for the first few days of the trip. But over the counter antibiotics in Chiang Mai fixed that up. Still, some days walking down the street and checking the AQI, the air quality wasn’t super good and I could feel it in Chiang Mai. I think they high though was Shenzhen’s average, so still an improvement.

We bounced around to a couple different hostels in Chiang Mai and made it to a couple different temples. For a couple days we had mopeds and made it up a nearby mountain to some more popular temple. We were also in Chiang Mai for a night market where I got a giant cup of passion fruit (just the fruit, no peel) for next to nothing. One super sad thing in Chiang Mai was that the weather forecast scared us away from the national park there which was my top thing to do. Instead we went to a water park which was super fun anyway, but obviously very different than what I wanted.

Overall, the food in Thailand was way better than what we have for similar prices in Shenzhen.

Bangkok wasn’t as neat, but we felt obligated to go there. Walking around the streets was uninspiring. Sort of the same as I felt going to Tokyo or other major cities. However, we did make great use of riding up and down the river by boat and seeing a few different temples.

The major highlight in Bangkok was a night at the Muay Thai stadium. We went ahead and splurged and got ring-side seats. It was easily one of my favorite parts of the trip. I’ve never been to any sort of fighting event before.

After three nights in Bangkok, we headed to Phuket for the last part of our trip. Phuket was very nice. Whereas the AQI in Bangkok was pretty poor (although the pollution made headlines, suggesting it wasn’t typical, unlike China), the AQI in Phuket was less than places I’ve lived in the US.

You can go to Phuket/Thailand in general and do a lot of partying and such, but that wasn’t really what we went there for and so we avoided all of that. And it was still highly rewarding. We pretty much went to the street market for fresh fruit smoothies, stir fry, and the occasional fish and then caught a ride to a local beach.

On the second or third day we purchased snorkeling gear and that pretty much became all we wanted to do for the rest of the trip. We also got a boat tour that made stops at 3 different islands and got to snorkel for about 2.5 hours total between the 3 of them.



Professional


Coding: After a bit of post-vacation rest, I snapped together a quick React app that takes various roll tables from the DMG and replaces all the rolling with the click of a button. That only took a couple hours, maybe less. I then redid one of my apps that was from freecodecamp’s curriculum and on Codepen.io. I remade it with React and uploaded it to Github along the way.

Applying for jobs: As I mentioned, I’ve started applying for jobs. Only since the last 3 days. I don’t know how much to expect in terms of people getting back to me, but my hopes aren’t too high. My goal is to apply for about 5 jobs/day and then also spend time improving my online profile.

Online profile: As soon as I started applying, I realized the need to really tackle my online presence. I knew I would need to eventually, and that’s one major benefit of looking for jobs now instead of the end of my contract. Already I’ve redone/updated my resume, and made a generic cover letter. Then I had to start going over my LinkedIn and changing it from ESL teacher and minimum-wage job tourist to web developer.

Another major issue right now is that my work is all over the place. My website is out of date as far as a blog goes and the portfolio page only has a very amateur slideshow with images of a few of my early projects and a link to my codepen.io. The rest of my code is on Github, but I only started getting on there in November.

So my goal is to get everything more or less in one place. Lately, that means remaking my codepen.io projects in React and uploading them to Github. This both increases my Github activity which I assume is important, as well as files all my work into one place. Moreover, I can update some of my more chaotic earlier work and host it in one place for a prospective employer to see.

And, as mentioned in my last update, I also want to redesign my portfolio page, but I’ve not started on that yet.



Financial


Image

Expense tracking: Very high spending month but still made progres son my NW graph because of the double pay.

Travel expenses: Total travel expenses came out to ~$770 USD. That includes airfare. Airfare was about $255 total for HK->CM->Bangkok->Phuket.

I don’t have a breakdown with regards to hostel fees, food, discretionary, transportation. In Thailand, my girlfriend did her best and wrote down nearly every purchase made, who paid, and who owed for it. So if I paid 100 for something that her and my friend needed, that would be noted. Then we added it all up in a spreadsheet when we got home.

My friend ended up paying the most out of all of us and so we both ended up owing him. However, his bank account didn’t quite agree with our numbers of how much he spent, so both because of that and I think maybe moreso because he is extremely giving and generous, he would only accept ¥500 RMB from the two of us. That, by our however accurate or not calculation, saved as a total of ¥893 RMB.

With that in mind, my total travel expenses including airfare came out to about $690 USD. Although there was probably a good $50 USD hidden in there that didn’t make our list. For example if I bought something to eat with my cash but nobody else wanted anything, then that wouldn’t have made the list.

Main spending came from lodging and food, of course. Hostels weren’t as cheap as I’d expected in Thailand. We average $10/night, with the hostel in Phuket being a bit more and the quality for $10USD/night hostels being very, very low there. So in Phuket we ended up paying $13/night average with a little higher spending ($15/night or so) the last couple nights as the prices started to increase for the high season.

Food was 400 baht on day 9 or $12 USD. That was in Phuket where food was a little more expensive.

I don’t have much else to go off. Some discretionary purchases were for things like clothing, tickets to the Muay Thai stadium, boat trip, 1 beach that had an entry fee, and a couple massages.



Final thoughts


Pretty chill January given that the first half of the month was all in Thailand or getting ready to go there. The second half was pretty much relaxing, playing football, playing D&D, and doing some coding here and there. I’d post pictures for Thailand….but it’s quite the labor posting pictures to the forum. Send from phone to computer, resize to fit the forum limits, host somewhere, copy link...

slowtraveler
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Re: An American Millennial

Post by slowtraveler » Sat Feb 02, 2019 11:11 am

Thanks for the update. I hear you on the difficulty posting pics here. I've only been to Krabbi in Phuket and unfortunately, snorkeling was nothing special there. Can I ask what beaches you went to on your trip so I have some places to go diving soon?

I've always thought of scuba as more immersive than snorkeling so I'm surprised, albeit pleasently, that much cheaper snorkeling was already addictive in itself.

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