Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Vanessa Menchaca and I’m the owner of Wanderonwards.org! I’m an Indian-looking Mexican who is working and studying Chinese in China. It’s very confusing.
Where are your current stomping grounds?
I live in Beijing, China and there’s nowhere else in the world I rather be at the moment!
Any place you recommend for future travelers who are visiting?
Don’t be afraid to stay in hostels! China hostels are amazing! Everyone speaks English, there are common rooms/spaces everywhere so it’s easy to make friends. You don’t need to shell out a lot of money to have a great time in China.
You’re well-traveled – why China?
China is the next frontier so it was either Beijing or space. (哈哈) I’ve always been extremely adventurous and I frequently like to throw myself into developing countries as a personal experiment. Will I sink? Will I swim? Will I contract Malaria?
What’s something you’ve found in China that you can’t find in other countries you’ve been?
The ex-pat community here is stronger than most family units. We all network and support one another unconditionally. This place is tough and foreigners have somewhat limited rights, so we all get that it’s a group effort and that we’re stronger united than apart.
It’s clear you’ve influenced several people to do something big and make a change – what is your biggest success?
My biggest success is establishing a successful lifestyle in a system that’s designed for people to fail. I came to China without a plan. I had a shady teaching program that I was a part of, but I didn’t know anyone, I had never been to China, and I didn’t speak any Chinese. The only reason I’ve “made it” in Beijing is because I hustle as hard as I can, 24/7, even when no one is looking.
There are no shortcuts here. Now, I work full time at a luxury spa and retreat, I study Chinese full-time at UIBE, and I have a wonderful life with my hedgehog, Harold. Money can get tight sometimes (because I pay for my own tuition), but I live comfortably and I get to CrossFit all the time, so I’m pretty much living the dream.
What pro’s has China provided you as an entrepreneur and expat?
You are who you say you are in China. Very few people can cross-reference your credentials (nor do they care to do so) so if you want to do something amazing, you can. There are SO MANY gaps in the society here that entrepreneurs can easily come in and do something amazing with very few resources. Chinese culture doesn’t inspire creativity easily, for that reason, if you see a need – go for it. No one else will.
And the cons?
Bureaucracy, man. The “Man” is tough to deal with and things easily get lost amongst the paperwork. You definitely have to bribe people to get anything done and/or have a big event. Don’t even get me started on work visas…
What were your intentions for your blog? Did you anticipate its growth?
My intentions for my blog were simple: it was suppose to be a place for my “feelings”. Haha. Now, it’s a resource for others who are struggling abroad or in their mother country. I wanted to humanize the “young professional” experience and all that it comes with. So that includes anxiety about dating, finding a job, moving away from home, paying bills, etc. I am tired of being criticized as “just another millennial” when I’m doing all this cool stuff abroad that most “adults” don’t have the guts to even try. Wanderonwards.org will always celebrate honesty, adventure, and crossfit.
What does the term “This is China” mean to you?
It means that something fell apart for no reason other than “This is China.” It’s a popular phrase among all ex-pats in China, regardless of which city they’re located in (which I think is hilarious). It speaks to the frustration we all feel on a regular basis, but we can do nothing about. However, there’s something calming about it too because you know that you have no control over it. It’s about letting go and enjoying the ride.
Any future master plans you want to share with us?
Eventually I want to go to England and pursue a Masters in Economics with an emphasis in developing countries. I want to make international business “trendy” for Chinese and foreigners alike; specifically when it comes to natural resources, such as wood, grains, or water. If I can make conservation and green energy “hip,” I could make a real impact on pollution emissions or food shortages around the world. I also love wearing suits. I plan to continue my Chinese studies for the next decade (in one aspect or another) because I want to focus on Asia specifically and, let’s face it, China has a blank check.
Can you give some advice for future entrepreneurs who are looking to branch out from China?
You NEED to be on the ground of whatever city/country you want to work in. Everything is done by word-of-mouth and we rarely trust outsiders who don’t have onsite experience. But it’s going to be tough! Moving is always difficult and it’s even harder to break into certain social circles “naturally,” but there’s no way an email-introduction is ever going to get someone to notice you. Your reputation is EVERYTHING! Hustle hard even when no one is looking. Don’t cheat, steal, or make-out with your friend’s significant other. Create your own “personal brand” early on in the game and focus on make it clear and easily accessible.
Follow Vanessa’s adventures in travel, entrepreneurship, and health on Wanderonwards.org!