Monica-Wong-Travel-Blogger-Guides

I have a confession to make. I’m the world’s slowest travel blogger.

I set sail on my backpacking adventure late 2014, covering South East Asia (excluding Thailand), Singapore and New Zealand. When my journey of cosmic wanderlust ended in 2015, I quickly ran into full-time work and found it impossible to publish every incredible place I visited. Well, better late than never. As a newbie freelancer, who has more time to dedicate to a little space on the net, I will finalise my ‘ProjectM’ series which will start in Australia and end in Thailand.

Err, Mon, what is this ‘ProjectM’? Good question. I like you already.

In 2014, I decided to quit my job to live my dream of travelling around the world, which I can wholeheartedly say was the best decision of my life. Subsequently, throughout my blog, I encourage you to run for your dreams. My blog originally launched as a style diary. During my backpacking adventure, I released a travel category. I named my experience ‘ProjectM’. In 2016, I changed my blog name to The Wong Blog, but I kept the name of my travels.

I want you guys to be able to have travel guides ready for when you visit, so I have added sub-tabs to my travel section. It’s at the top of this page, is super swishy and looks like this:

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Each country will have a digestible travel guide. The cities within those countries will have my more detailed experience.

Oh, and if you’re on Instagram, my backpacking adventures are tagged: #ProjectMCambodia, #ProjectMThailand, #ProjectMLaos, #ProjectMVietnam, #ProjectMSingapore, #ProjectMNewZealand & #ProjectMOZ.

I’m looking forward to being with you throughout our travels. If you have any questions or need recommendations, you can comment on my blog below, Instagram or Tweet me.

Location: Zi world

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I can’t tell you how excited I am to write this post. If you’re dreaming about dropping out of the hamster-cage-daily-grind, I’ve written this article for you.

On a cold, September morning, I slinked into the office. I’d been doing this, at 9 am, every day, for five years. On this day, I looked around at my other peers. I didn’t relate to any of them. I knew I was different. Most worked furiously on their laptops, stimulated. Others were like me, lifeless & dreaming of a different life. Deep down, I realised I was in the wrong place.

There are gazillions of articles out there telling you how to earn money without holding down a so-called “real job.” From an ex-employee, I want to give you an honest guide to freelancing without the bull. I’ll go through the emotional truth including dealing with doubt, lack of motivation and the implications on your social life.

Bare in mind that I wholeheartedly endorse this life decision. It’s been a dream so far, and I would encourage any potential entrepreneur who has the passion, capacity and capability to do it.

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Should you take the leap?

Honest question. Do you love what you do? Do you wake up in the morning, invigorated or do you wake up with fear & terror?

If it’s the latter, then I have a quote for you, “there’s no reason to do sh*t you hate. None.”

Freelancing isn’t for everyone. You need to be smart, have great work ethic & real passion. You need the motivation & emotional drive to push you to achieve your dreams.

Security

Okay, so I would love to tell you to pack up your stuff, tell your boss that you’re off, throw your papers in the air, fist-pump your colleagues and quit today. I highly recommend that you save a significant amount of money before you do. Every business needs capital. You need backup funds to pay for periods of the unknown. Sell everything you have. I’m deadly serious. My friends make fun of me because I eBay everything but excess possessions are counterproductive in a remote lifestyle. There are a million handbags in the world; life experiences happen once. Make a cuppa, sit down & write down the costs of your outgoings and how much you’ll need to make each month.

Tax & admin

You’ll need to register as self-employed with HMRC. Once registered, you’ll receive your unique tax payers reference number. HMRC will nudge you to submit your tax return each year. You can file it yourself or hire an accountant. It’s my first one this year, and I’m hoping that I won’t find it too taxing (hehe, get it?). Remember, you won’t have to pay tax on the personal allowance (currently at £11.5k for everyone) every fiscal year. Keep all of your invoices, remittances & receipts as you can offset and expense any payments like travel & website costs from your earnings.

Where to find freelance work?

Depending on the field that you want to enter, the most successful freelancers are represented by an agency. You have dedicated agents finding work for you on a regular basis.

Alternatively, freelance recruitment agencies can find contracts for you. Contractors can earn a minimum of £250 – £500 a day. If you set up a limited company, you can pay less tax (I think it’s 12.5% but do not quote me on this) on earnings.

Otherwise, you’ll need to build up your client base directly. The best sites for freelancers are PeoplePerHour, Upwork & Fiverr. Every highest earner from those sites has a story on Forbes. Read and be inspired by their stories.

Doing all three at the same time is possible.

Doubt, motivation & social life

To be a successful entrepreneur, you need to have the confidence to take risks. The old saying goes, “If you don’t ask, you do not receive”. Your most powerful asset will be fear. It will present you with the commitment that you need to succeed. My post on improving your confidence is here.

You already have the motivation to wake up and go to work every day. With freelancing, there is no safety blanket. If you don’t work, you don’t earn. The harder I work, the more I profit, instantly. That’s the beauty of it.

The disadvantage is working crazy, unsociable hours. Your friends will want to meet up weekday evenings and weekends, lols, that never works on a freelance schedule. Freelancers don’t get paid leave. I can’t plan holidays anymore because a job could come up the day before. This will annoy some of the people in your life. You will become flakey AF.

Closing remarks

I quit my secure, permanent job late last year. I want to reassure you that it’s okay to want change. Initially, I was angry. I desperately wanted to fall head over heels in love with the corporate life. As a kid, all I ever wanted to be was a ‘business lady’ at a big company.

Don’t get me wrong; I’ve loved some of the permanent jobs I’ve had. I’ve learnt so much from each role. Who knows? Maybe I’ll change my mind about freelancing. At this present time, it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

I’ll love to hear your experiences and whether you’re looking to take the plunge. Either option, I’ll be with you all the way.

And if you’re a freelancer, my butterfly, what does it feel like to be free?

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Location: Holland Park, London

Photographer: Brendan Donnelly (Insta here)

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I was doing my usual online scrolling spree, and I noticed that Facebook has a shiny search innovation that predicts what you’re about to type.

The results appear in order, Google style. The first thing I thought was, “Ooooh this must be new” (I worked in Digital Marketing for four years, I’m a special geek when it comes to this stuff).

Now, you may think this search bar is an innocent feature, but two things sprang to my mind, A) why are strangers names appearing? B) what can people see when they search for me?

I was right to be cautious. Test it for yourself.

1. Click on the search bar (you know that thing you type into to find your next stalking victim).

2. Type in [‘Name Photos’], e.g., Joe Blogs Photos (do this with someone you’re not friends with).

You can see Every. Single. Photo. In one place. Technically Facebook hasn’t done anything wrong because these images are set to public. That person can thank their mates for that. The issue here is that you can see into a strangers life without even being friends with them.

This sh*t is creepy AF.

The aim of this post is to prevent any Tom, Dick & Harry from seeing your old drunken pics from say, 2013.

Okay, so what is the solution to saving your last bit of dignity?

Go to your ‘activity log’ > click photos (left hand side) > change ‘shared with’ to ‘public’. All of these pictures are what strangers can see.

I untagged myself from a total of forty embarrassing photos from 2006 – present. I’ll give you some insight; the worst image involved significant pouting and gun fingers. No potential employer/client ever needs to see that.

Oh, and btw, it doesn’t stop there. You can also search for what people are liking: Type in [‘photos liked *insert friends name*.’] To see what photos other people are liking, it’s that easy. Be mindful of what you like, that is set as ‘public’.

Before I give you my tips, I want to show you the sort of messages that I get on the daily:

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I’m super cautious of how I use Facebook. I know that’s ironic as I use Social Media to promote myself as my brand. The downside of being an ‘influencer’ is receiving the dodgiest messages. As a result, I’ve learnt how to be vigilant. (BTW I’m not whinging, I’m very lucky to call this my job, and I choose to put myself out on the WebSphere. Creepers are a symptom of my choice).

Your Guide to a Complete Digital Cleanse

Friend Audit

Okay, this is the most common practice. It’s important not to be friends with someone who you’ve never met. If you don’t know them, you don’t know what they’re capable of knowing and doing. Facebook has more personal data about you than you realise. I never accept people I don’t know. Delete anyone you don’t know, right now.

Your ‘About Me’ section

Set all of your personal information like your DOB, where you work, your schools & contact details to private and never public. You don’t want anyone to be able to see this. I’ve had a few friends become a target of fraud as a result.

Image audit

I had photos albums from 2006 called “R U DIZZY BLAD BEST DAY OUT”. Yeah. The pictures in those albums are hilarious, but I’m not sure I want the new people in my life browsing through them. I’ve set the majority of my photo albums to private so that I’m the only person to look back at the blossoming chav that I was.

Tagging

Be mindful of tagging yourself at locations if you’re alone and potentially placing yourself at risk. I never post Instagram pictures in real-time.

Limit past posts

In your younger years, you may have posted a witty status or photo & set it public. You wanted everyone to know how funny you were. I don’t blame you. You were a baby cub, audacious and exploring life. My friends, do not fear; at a click of a button you can revert all of these posts, look for a function called ‘limit past posts’. I like this feature because strangers can’t see who comments on my public profile pics.

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Ah, Facebook. It’s nothing more than what we deserve – we made it our own. We gave it our data, used it to store our memories, communicate with our loved ones, organised our events and spent too many hours wasting our absent-minded afternoon lust by watching cat videos. There is no doubt that FB has revolutionised the way we communicate.

All it’s doing is responding to our desire, to turn a profit.

I just wish it didn’t make me feel like such a creep.

Location: Napland, London

Laptop Case (get 20% off with code: monicawong20) | Glasses | Top | Shorts | Duvet Cover & Pillow Cases Set |

As a teen, I wasn’t confident. Bullied during my school years, I always knew I was different. I was weird (I still am) and I had a drive that no one else had. People would ask me questions, and I would be too shy to answer them. I was an easy target.

Today, I’m confident, the happiest I’ve ever been, and I don’t apologise for it. Why should I? A journey with insecurities and low self-esteem is extremely hard to overcome. I believe that confidence is something we should celebrate.

The other day, a friend asked me how I developed confidence, and as a result, I’m going to share this personal post with you.

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Being who you are inside & out – loving yourself

You need to accept who you are, inside and out. Never try to be someone else or someone you’re not. You will be forever searching for comfort when all along, it’s within (PS I’m fully aware of how cringeworthy I sound, but it’s all true).

Fall in love with the strengths of your personality. Appreciate your: witty, smart, graceful, happy, motivated, assertive, organised and/or caring self. Dance, sing, speak: do the things that make you feel confident. It’s about being aware of makes you feel insecure and what makes you feel confident. I’ve been in situations where I could feel my confidence deteriorate, so I got up and removed myself. Surround yourself with people who ignite your positive attributes.

Fall in love with the flaws of your physical body. Accept it for what it is. If you’re unhappy with your body, do not whinge or compare yourself to someone else. Fall in love with your body. When someone tells you how beautiful you are, believe them.

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Risks

I see so much potential in my some of my friends that they cannot recognise in themselves because they lack the self-esteem to go and get what they want. Hate to break it to you folks; nothing will ever come to you on a white horse. Smart people do things directly or indirectly to get what they want:

Here are some examples:

Friend A wants to land their dream job, but they don’t think they’re good enough to apply. As Richard Branson said: “If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity, but you are not sure if you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later”. I hesitated for a long time not to quit my secure job to go freelance, simply because I didn’t believe that I could do it. Since then, I’ve had incredible opportunities that I wouldn’t have known if I didn’t take the leap. Weigh the risks, and be aware of what your gut is telling you.

Friend B wants to fall in love, have amazing sex and relationship. They lack the confidence to leave the miserable one they’re currently in, or if single, they don’t think they’re good enough to communicate with that potential partner who could turn out to be ‘the one’. You get one shot at this life. As the saying goes, you don’t ask; you don’t get.

Friend C wants to have a fit, banging body to feel comfortable in, but they’re self-conscious and is scared of people staring at them in the gym. It’s a catch 22. I’ll be honest; no one gives a flying f*ck about what you look like because they’re thinking about themselves. That’s the truth. Do what you want to do without the need to seek approval from others.

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Learning to stop giving a f*ck about other people think

Aslong as it’s not a situation where your friend is trying to get you out of danger with their advice, then do not give a flying what people think. If people don’t like it, they can back off. You’re in your situation, not them. You do what you want because it’s what you wanted to do, at the time.

I’ve elaborated on this in my goals post but here’s a refresher.

  • Those who are confident in business are successful because they’re content with failure
  • Those who are trusting in their social lives are sure because they’re comfortable with rejection
  • Those who are self-sufficient in their relationships are trusting because they’re healthy enough to bear the risk of getting hurt

Be comfortable with the bad, to reap the good.

People who attack your self-esteem and confidence are well aware of your potential, even if you’re not. Once you’ve developed confidence, you will notice that you eat, sleep, and feel better.

I hope this post has inspired you to be more confident. Believe in yourself, believe that you can go for what you want and that you deserve it.

Location: Holland Park, London

Photographer: Brendan Donnelly (Insta here)

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Before we tuck in and dive into my personal experience with Chinese heritage; I have a new restaurant recommendation.

It’s a fancy-pants one. Discreetly nestled on the 5th floor of Harrods, I’ve partnered up with Chai Wu to discuss delicious and authentic Chinese food with you.

Craving lavish lunch bites or got a special celebration coming up? Love your classics with a naughty twist? Then this is the place. I’m telling you, if you took your loved ones here, you would score major brownie points.

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The interior is divine and #decorgoals. Chai Wu’s design incorporates the five elements of Chinese philosophy: wood, metal, water, earth and fire. I’m going to section up this post to discuss my personal experience with Chinese heritage and how food plays a major part in this.

Earth

If you haven’t read my blog before, I’m Monica Wong. I name my creative outlet ‘The Wong Blog’ as it’s a play on the ‘wrong’ words, *wink*. I’m British, Chinese & Vietnamese. I’m very lucky to have the best of many worlds regarding culture & heritage. I love food. I always have. I believe that if you have a good relationship with food, you’ll live a happier life.

Metal

Food is a showcase of love, and this is especially prominent within Asian communities. Culturally, Chinese parents often struggle to express and communicate their emotions to their children (in comparison to the Western culture). Enjoying food with our loved ones is important, it’s how we communicate our love for one another.

Wood

Chinese food has a diverse and complex history. With recipes and secret cooking techniques fed down generation to generation, each ingredient symbolises an experience.

Fire

In Chinese culture, red is a lucky colour. At Chinese New Year, we celebrate with a special feast. Traditionally, we eat lobster for luck, dumplings (symbolising pieces of gold) for wealth, fish provides prosperity and vegetables are for health. I learnt to fall in love with my heritage by appreciating, enjoying and spending quality with my family (a traditional Chinese dinner is bowls of rice for each member with shared dishes at the table) — we made sure we never missed dinner together as a family.

Water

We always drink soup (bone broth) or Chinese green tea to wash down our food. This is to aid metabolism and to learn to appreciate your every bite.

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The Food

Okay, so when you visit Chai Wu, I recommend ordering the following dishes above. Brace yourself. My guest & I went a bit overboard with the food. And I have hungry eyes.

The most popular dish is the Beijing Duck. It’s pricey, but it comes with a duck chef and a bonus dish of lettuce wrap or duck fried rice.

If you’re craving a steaming basket of dumplings, we opted for the lobster topped with beluga caviar and prawns with black truffle. Omfg, the Popcorn Shrimp with creamy, spicy dressing is the best thing you’ll ever taste. You can never go wrong with a side of salt & pepper squid.

We couldn’t be happier when the ice steam display came with the mixed sashimi platter. I’ve never seen anything like it; the other sushi restaurants need to up their game.

For mains, if you’re into a cocktail of tangy flavours, then go for the Sea Bass with three flavoured sauce. The sweet and sour chicken served with a dragon fruit is most Instagrammble’ of dishes: it’s pink, fruity and cheerful. Veg-wise, we ordered Gai Lan (Chinese Broccoli) with Oyster Sauce, BTW you’re not a meat-eater, they have a vegetarian menu.

I recently wrote a post on my favourite high teas in London; did you know that Chai Wu offer service this too? You can get ahead of me and book a slot on my funky widget at the bottom of this post.

Be sure to add Chai Wu on your shopping list the next time you’re at Harrods.

Location: Chai Wu, Knightsbridge, London

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