2019: From Beijing to Tahiti

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019: From Beijing to Tahiti

The cookie crumbled.

So, 2019, that was…fun.

I haven’t really talked about where I’ve been since China out of fear of jinxing myself. After moving from Paris to Beijing in February, I left China in May on a one-way ticket, fleeing a job that ended up being a total bust. It was a bait-and-switch sort of job. I entered Beijing thinking I’d be a travel editor. I ended up editing mostly political propaganda. As a journalist, I couldn’t look myself in the mirror.

Well at least we saw some stuff...

So I did what I had to do. I ate as many dumplings as I could and I left.

But to where? I had no prospects, so I did what any self-respecting millennial would do I and headed home to my parents.

Back to Philly...

That was the first half of 2019. I began in Paris, moved to Beijing, and settled into Philadelphia all within six months. Three cities. Three beds. Three cultures. Three very different takes on Chinese food.

Living at home was just a step, however, and I rolled the die, moving to New York, subletting two apartments (very fortunately!) while freelancing and sending out resumes like crazy. I managed to nab a teaching gig at NYU for the fall semester, so I wasn't wasting my time too much. But my hopes were dimming.

“Bryan,” I said to myself, “you have until December to get yourself together or else you’re going back to Paris.” Hardly a brutal ultimatum, but once I get an idea in my head, it becomes an obsession. 

Made it to NYC...

By the end of the summer, hundreds of resumes landed me a few interviews but no results, and I was looking at flights to France. I’d go back, be a tour guide again, freelance a little, and embrace the precarity that was my life. Somewhere between dreaming about baguettes and dreading the incessant secondhand smoke, finally, in the fall, I got a call. It was from a tourism marketing agency that I interviewed with and liked quite a bit.

“We’d like to offer you the job.” 

It's not Beijing, but hey...

I could hear, nay, feel the gears clicking as life began to rev up in my favor. A job in Manhattan. Health insurance. A new Brooklyn apartment with the most ideal of roommates. It was all falling into place.

By November, I settled into the job. I ran my fastest marathon to date in Philadelphia. I ate a real American Thanksgiving. And then, as if to add a little cherry on top, I visited the most beautiful place on the planet during a work trip to Tahiti. It was all very metaphorical, as if the smog over Beijing parted and clear skies emerged, with a few palm trees thrown in for good measure. 

Tahiti: Definitely OK with this.
Yes, very OK.

From a vagabond at the beginning of the year to someone who now owns a bed for the first time in his life and has his own desk, I’ve definitely ridden the roller coaster that is 2019. As my Tahitian tan fades and we enter 2020, I’m hoping for a slightly calmer new year, with just as many dumplings, and, hopefully, as many Polynesian beaches.


  1. Great to hear that you found a job you love in an honest environment---even a genre such as travel journalism/writing needs to exist in an environment where truth is revered. Looking forward to hearing about the rest of your adventures in 2020!(Love Teddy, btw---I'm now tempted to take my old Fuzzy Bear on my next trip!)

    ---Tatiana Harkiolakis (the student you graciously took some time to talk with earlier this Fall)

  2. I hope this new year will bring you unforgettable moments and a rewarding, productive job that appeals to the very essence of your m├ętier and your values.

  3. Thanks for sharing Bryan, what an inspiring story of hope and persistence! Have fun in 2020!