Friday, August 11, 2017

BRB, going 2 China

Team Wilkie is blasting off again! We’re moving to Beijing, China, around the end of this year, and will be living and working there for the next 3 years (give or take a bit). Yes, for reals. This is not a test.

Even though we have a wide and diverse array of friends, we suspect your general reactions will fall into one of two camps:

  • “What the hell?!? Where did this come from? China? Are you guys INSANE?!?”
  • “So what? The Wilkies are always doing something crazy like this. See you in a few years!”

For those in the latter camp, we appreciate your confidence in our ability to succeed in what are often at first glance, poorly-planned and ill-advised adventures/disasters. Even though we’re freaking out internally, we can state with a high degree of sincerity that your lack of surprise at our craziness gives us added confidence that we can pull this off. We’ll see you in a few years, or later, or sooner! For those in the former camp, we’ve provided a few details below that might make you feel a little less confused/shocked/questioning our sanity.


Natalie was approached by Universal Studios to help with the design and construction of their new Beijing park. They made us an offer that was hard to refuse: they’d fly us there and back, move a good chunk of our stuff, set us up with someplace to live, provide a translator, etc. We’ve been seriously contemplating moving overseas, temporarily or permanently, since sometime around sunrise on November 9th, 2016. The thing that was stopping us was the enormity of it all: the expense, finding new jobs, the paperwork, etc., etc. This offer takes care of a lot of that, and gives us a chance to test whether we can adapt and be happy in a foreign country for longer than a normal two week vacation.


When we were making our list of countries we might want to try living in, it’s true that China was not near the top. The language barrier is enormous, the social policies aren’t really in harmony with our politics, and in general, the difficulty level of acclimating is up in the highest extremes of anywhere on earth we could possibly imagine living. But…

Beijing is a massive city, and we’re both city people, through and through. It’s also very near a whole region of the world we want to explore. We’ve been to Thailand, but want to see a lot more of it. We’ve only visited an airport in Japan, but want to spend some time seeing that country too. That’s not even mentioning Australia, Taiwan, New Zealand, South Korea, Mongolia, the Philippines, Vietnam… The food and culture and sights will be utterly new, and we love exploring a new city and making it home.

But it’s true that moving to China is still the equivalent of diving into the rapids as your first swimming lesson. It’s just a really, really bad idea to use China as our test of whether we can live abroad. But we actually have a pretty decent track record with bad ideas. You’ve probably heard the story of how our relationship was a “bad idea” from the start, but somehow, impossibly, worked out great. You might have heard the story of how our big motorcycle trip a few years ago was way too long with way too little experience, about how we were terrified every day and almost crashed (or much worse) at least once or twice during the trip. But somehow that worked out great too. For a long time, our secret motto has been that if something sounds like a bad idea, or scary, or ill-advised, maybe we should give it a second look, because sometimes those are signs that it might also be an incredible, challenging, life-altering experience. Or maybe it’s just a very, very, profoundly bad idea.

Maybe China will be amazing, and we’ll return in 3ish years speaking fluent Mandarin, with tons of great stories and plans to move somewhere else overseas someday. Maybe China will be horrible, and we’ll return in 3ish months, miserable and disappointed, vowing to never leave Seattle again. But either way, it will be an adventure, and if we don’t give it a shot, we’ll wonder “what if we had?” for a long time to come.


Over the next few months, we’ll be madly packing our lives up, figuring out logistics, etc. Natalie will be disappearing for a week or two at a time to fly to various places, and I might be doing the same to a lesser extent. For bargain hunters, keep an eye out! We’re not selling off all our worldly possessions, but there might be stuff we need to get rid of. For everyone else, stay tuned! Once Geek Fortress is fully set up in Beijing, we’ll make sure everyone has our new contact info.

We’re not sure we really know what we’re doing, and we’re not sure whether this adventure is profoundly stupid or just moderately stupid. Whichever school of thought you might be in right now though, know that we have locked in our course and are heading East, so wish us luck. We’re gonna need it.