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Expat Profile: Vanessa Menchaca of Wander Onwards

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Name: Vanessa Menchaca
Job: Travel Blogger at Wander Onwards

Hi Vanessa! Can you tell us a bit about your background and what made you decide to move to Beijing?

I studied English Literature and Art at Boston College because I’m an unofficial space cadet and I needed a way to express my important opinions and feelings through a variety of mediums. However, my unofficial degree was in Overseas Exploration and Crisis Management. Every year since I was 16, I have been taking off to different countries around the world (sometimes alone) and diving head first into the culture, lifestyle, and language. While people often refer to me as a “Travel Blogger,” in reality I’m a Lifestyle Blogger who just happens to be abroad; a perpetual ex-pat, if you will.

I came to Beijing because I was bored. After I had graduated from college, I decided against going to law school and I wasn’t too keen on going straight into the corporate world so I just took off as per usual. I wanted to put myself in the most difficult situation imaginable (in my opinion) to challenge myself.

What kind of opportunities do you see for young professionals in China/wanting to come to China?

There’s a huge market for middlemen. People who can be the liaison for western companies who are trying to break into the Chinese market or vice-versa. Chinese business is often unpredictable and western companies need people who really understand how the market works to deal with all the trouble that comes with the ever-changing market.

What are the biggest differences between working in America and working in China?

However, the most noticeable difference is the lack of social programs or benefits for ex-pats and Chinese employees working in China. Healthcare? 401k? Paid-vacation? What are these things that you speak of! Living in the wild wild east has definitely shaped my opinions about the necessity of social program and work benefits just to live a normal, balanced lifestyle.

What do you consider the most significant accomplishment of your career?

I essentially invented my career out of thin air. I mean what is a “Blogger” anyways? Essentially a “Blogger” is a writer, photographer, art director, and publicist all at once. There are a variety of types of bloggers now too; such as fashion, travel, and health just to name a few. My philosophy is: “Good bloggers post regularly, great bloggers make you think regularly.” When my blog went viral in January 2014, I got 5.2 million hits in two days! While a lot of this was based on luck, it was awesome to know that I expressed an opinion that mattered, in a way that was accessible to the masses. While I’m sure I’ll never see those kinds of numbers again, it jumped started my career into a field that has a lot of “grey area” to work with. I love grey area.

Here’s the link to that article.

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What advice would you give people about working in China?

Don’t. China is for people without common sense so they take on the Dragon to occupy their spare time. The pay is crap, the hours are crap, and I wish I could say the benefits were crap, but usually there are no benefits.   If you still INSIST on coming to China, study the language before hand at a university in China for at least a semester full-time and then enter the work force. Language skills can open doors easily.

You run Wander Onwards, a successful blog. What inspired you to start the blog and did you ever expect the blog to blow up the way it did?

I started Wander Onwards so my family and friends could checkup on me every so often to confirm that I was still alive. I was really excited when it first started to see that I had 200 likes on Facebook within the first month of writing because that meant 200 people cared about what I had to say about the world. Then I went viral and now over 25,000 people care about what I say and it’s strange. All my life I’ve been told to stop talking so much… and now I get paid to share my really important feelings on the Internet. It’s crazy!

What are a few of your favourite places in Beijing?

I’m a die-hard TRIBE girl. I can be found at TRIBE 3-4 times a week doing work from 10am-6pm because my full-time job has TERRIBLE internet connection… and TRIBE is filled with delicious health-nut food that is difficult to find in Beijing. I spend a lot of time working out at Middle Kingdom Fitness (and I mean a lot) and it has some of the best Olympic Lifting coaching that I’ve seen on this planet.   In terms of partying, I don’t go out too much because I don’t drink and people get less and less interesting than my bed as time goes on, but I can be found at Migas and 4corners every so often.

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