Work Hard, Play Harder: A February 2021 Update

by Sasha Savinov

As promised in the last post, we’re bringing you another monthly update. Thankfully this second one is way more timely than the first! Don’t worry – we’ll have a mix of other content between this one and the next. For now, it’s time to take a look back at the tornado that was the month of February, or as Rachel calls it, her “birthday month!”

Table of Contents

Work

Last month I started with the life updates as there were some big ones. This month I’m going to get the boring work stuff out of the way first!

Teaching Double & Triple Time

Since we started teaching English online with VIPKID, we’ve been digital nomads in Latin America.

That doesn’t exactly leave you with the best schedule. We have to either get up before the roosters, stay in on the weekends, or both. As night owls and social creatures, we don’t particularly like any of those options.

The way we’ve managed to make it work is by loading up hours when our students are on vacation. They usually get a month off for Chinese New Year, which fell on February 12 this year.

Flashback to CNY in 2015 in Yunnan!

I actually started opening up evening times in the last few weeks of January that got booked. As a result, I was pulling double duty for almost six weeks. Plus, during my Dry January, I often stayed home and worked all weekend.

As for Rachel, she waited until February to open extra times with VIPKID. She opened four times in the morning and four more in the evening from Monday-Thursday, as well as Friday morning.

Instead of just doing double duty, she went full send and kept teaching Langu classes from Monday to Friday. She had anywhere from 3-4 hours of classes every day with them as well, usually between the hours of 10-2. 

As you can imagine, it was a pretty exhausting month. Sure we took the weekends off, but they weren’t exactly relaxing (more on that later). The good news is that it ended up being our best month income-wise since last May.

Teaching from the roof. At least the view was nice!

Oh yeah – I almost forgot to mention that our power was out for about 24 hours at one point. I guess the automatic payment the owners had set up didn’t work for some reason and they shut us off.

Not ideal for digital nomads!

I ended up teaching my classes on the rooftop that night and the following morning at 5 AM. Thankfully there’s a router up there and some bright lights! We also have awesome neighbors and one of them let Rachel in his apartment, even at that ungodly hour, to teach her classes.

Publishing a Feature Story

As I mentioned in the last update, my work as a freelance travel writer basically disappeared due to COVID. It was a bummer to lose my well-paying, fulfilling gigs with a few other blogs, but hopefully, they’ll come back one day.

Thankfully I was contacted by Live & Invest Overseas to write another feature story for their e-magazine. I wrote one back in 2019 about the digital nomad movement and they wanted an update on how it’s going during the pandemic.

Back when we were locked down in Medellin…

After a few years of nomading, we have a pretty big network of friends. I reached out to about a dozen of them and conducted some interviews to get a broad perspective for the article.

The result was a beast of an article that clocked in at over 6,500 words. While I wrote most of it in January, I was still finishing it in February and waiting for it to get published.

I’m happy to say that it turned out great and that they even paid me several weeks early for it! I also did a webinar with their editor to answer some questions and several people tuned in, so that was fun.

There are already talks of bringing me on for more stories throughout the year, so I’m excited to see where that goes. 

A Slow Month for the Blog

As you may have noticed, we didn’t publish much content in February. It’s tough to write and edit videos when you’re teaching 5-7 hours a day!

Once our classes and workouts are finished, we’re usually ready to sit by the pool for a bit. 

That being said, we managed to get a few new posts out there. I wrote about the trip to Thailand and Laos that changed our lives a decade ago. Rachel penned a guide to teaching with Gogokid which is a great option for aspiring online teachers.

I’ve been trying to dedicate more attention to our YouTube channel. For one, I went to school for video production and love it. That’s not the only motivation, though.

Getting creative in downtown PV.

We’ve made some videographer friends here in PV and have gotten a lot of encouragement from them. Not only that, but we’ve met people around town who know us from our videos. It’s exciting to hear positive feedback and it motivates me to put more time and energy into videos.

For the month of February, I focused on videos showing some of our favorite things to do in Puerto Vallarta. I edited one about the hike from Boca de Tomatlan to Las Animas and another about our trip to the Marietas Islands.





With the arrival of Chinese New Year comes nostalgia for our time there. That’s why we sat down to record a little throwback video about our time spending the holiday in a village. It was lots of fun to look back on that experience and something we plan to do more of in the future.

If you enjoy our videos, please make sure to head over to our YouTube channel and hit that subscribe button. You can also hit that bell to get notifications of new videos.

Busy Bee Course Creator

Rachel is still going full-throttle with her course about teaching English online. She has been working tirelessly to update the content, which is tough because the online ESL world is always changing.

Despite teaching 5-7 hours most days, she still put in several more hours a day on her course. She shot some new videos and has created a bunch of new lessons. This lady is seriously crushing it, so give her a virtual clap!

The most exciting news work-wise came with Rachel’s first private client. She has a new student who is going to receive a bunch of one-on-one coaching from her in addition to being a member of her course. I’m so proud of her for absolutely crushing it!

If you’re interested in learning more about Rachel’s Teaching for Freedom course, click here to join the waitlist and you’ll be the first to know when she reopens the doors.

Teaching online allows us to live here!

Life

Despite working our tails off in February, we still managed to have quite a bit of fun. Here’s what we got up to in our free time:

Work Hard, Play Harder

After my Dry January, I guess you could say I was ready for a “Wet February.” My first weekend back off the wagon was a big one. We even came up with a new phrase for our party-hardy friends here – under the wagon!

That was the weekend of Super Bowl Sunday, which involved a few house parties with friends including a very late night at ours. The actual game day was a gluttonous feast at our favorite bar.

The next weekend was Chinese New Year, so we started with some dumplings and noodles at one of our favorite places. There was live music, another house party, and the 6-year anniversary bash of another favorite bar. 

It was more of the same the third weekend with visits to our Holy Trinity of bars (El Soñador, Bar la Playa, and Barcito). We mixed it up on Sunday Funday by going up to Bucerias for a beach day with friends. 

One friend was feeling frisky and kept ordering tequila shots. Before you knew it we had a small band and a rapping kid at our table. Viva Mexico! 

Sunday Funday with the gang!

The last weekend of February was so big it needs its own subheading…

Double Birthday Boat Bash

When we found out that a good friend’s birthday is the day before Rachel’s and that this year was his 40th and her 35th, we knew we had to go big.

We decided to rent an entire party boat from Chica Locca tours. It came with a staff of bartenders/servers and was all-inclusive. The tequila was flowing and the fajitas were delicious!

The birthday boy and girl.

The boat also has hammocks, lounge chairs, bean bags, and a kind of trampoline/net thing at the front for relaxing on. Oh yeah, and kayaks, SUPs, a diving board, and a waterslide. It’s pretty freaking epic!

We had always wanted to go on one of their tours, but not by ourselves with a big group of strangers. Being able to rent the entire boat with our friends and play our own music made it such a good time. 

We’re on a boat!

A bunch of friends have birthdays in April and we’re already talking about renting the boat again. It was that much fun!

For the rest of Rachel’s birthday weekend, we went all around town hanging out with friends and being ridiculous. There was a massive dim sum brunch at one of our favorite restaurants in town – Bonito Kitchen. 

Since leaving Asia, dumplings have become our comfort food. We really miss eating them all the time! This dim sum brunch didn’t disappoint, with lobster dumplings, siu mai, pho dumplings, and much more. Rachel got to wear her “You win some, you dim sum” hat!

What else did we get up that weekend? The memories are a bit fuzzy for some reason… Oh yeah, there was a beach day, a late-night Sublime dance party, and a bunch of live music. Which brings us to the next point…

Lots of Live Music

If you know us at all, then you know how passionate we are about live music. The lack of it this past year has left a big hole in our souls that has been impossible to fill.

Thankfully we have some musician friends down here and they’ve been getting tons of gigs lately. It’s not the same as seeing Phish at the Gorge or anything, but having live music to look forward to every weekend has been so refreshing. 

One friend has a kickass band called Bobbi & the Others that plays country and rock songs. They have several gigs a week and we usually make it to at least one. Definitely check them out if you come to PV!

A brother-sister duo named Eva and Mau often play acoustic sets together, which are usually full of nostalgic 90s jams that have the whole bar singing along. They even inspired me to pick up my guitar and start playing more often. I mean, PV sure could use a Grateful Dead cover band…

Having Friends is Nice

After bouncing around a lot the past few years, we’ve found nomad life to be quite lonely at times. 

When we lived in Beijing, Kunming, and Bali, we had a group of friends that we always hung out with. That’s pretty impossible when you’re a digital nomad moving around every week or month. 

Over the years, we’ve added more and more friends to our circle here in PV. I mean, we were able to rent an entire party boat just with people we know personally. 

As Puerto Vallarta starts to attract a younger crowd of digital nomads and musicians, we’re loving this town more and more. Now if only we could get a few more hippies and jambands to move down, we might never leave!

Had to get this picture in the update!

Attempting to Stay Fit

With all that working, eating, and partying, February was a tough month to stay fit in. 

Rachel finished up a round of Ripped30 and took a week off where she just used the rooftop gym for cardio. She got right back on it but hasn’t been able to do it consistently because life’s been so hectic.

As for me, I’ve been doing different workout videos and using the gym to run or elliptical. I usually do a 20-minute no equipment workout from a channel like Bully Juice or Pop Sugar and then a Yoga with Adrienne video. 

After crushing it with running the month before, February was a bit more of a struggle. It turns out that running while hungover and tired is a lot tougher!

Since we were so busy working and had classes at night, we lost motivation to go shopping and cook. Thankfully we have a few chef friends here who do deliveries of amazing home-cooked food.

There was gumbo from our friend Sean for Mardi Gras, Shepherds pies and pot roasts from Igor, and curry and naan from a new Indian food service we found. Rachel gives me a hard time and says I like to undo all the good work she does exercising with the food we order, but at least we’re well-fed!

Despite all the chaos of February and the busy schedules, I think we managed to stay pretty fit. Hopefully it gets easier this month with a lighter workload.

Travel

Sadly, there’s basically nothing new to add to the travel section this month. The furthest we went from home all month was an hour up the road to Bucerias! There’s just been one question nagging us…

Stay or Go?

Mexico is very generous in giving us 180 days here as tourists. Time flies when you’re having fun, though, and our days are almost up!

We’ve been thinking about taking a quick trip to SoCal to visit my sister as she has an Airbnb there for the winter. We also tossed around the idea of going to see the Disco Biscuits do some socially-distanced concerts in Tennessee.

Should we stay or should we go now?

While we love a good excuse to travel, we’re just not feeling it right now. We’re super comfortable in our nice apartment here in PV. Life is busy enough as it is right now without adding a tiring international trip to our list.

At the moment we’re looking into our options for just extending our stay here. If we decide to make a quick trip it’ll be this month, so you’ll find out in the next update.

Final Thoughts

Whatever we decide to do this month, we’re still planning on heading back to the US in May when our lease is up. Some of our favorite bands are starting to roll out tour dates with drive-ins and pod shows, so that’s promising.

We’re hoping we can get the vaccine sooner than later and start to make some travel plans. For now we’re just trying to go with the flow a bit and enjoy our time here in PV. If the last few months are any indication, the next few will fly by as well!

Thanks for reading our monthly update. If you have any questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you!


 

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