So how did the girl next door become a world-traveling lifestyle blogger?
Let’s go back to the very beginning – back to where this life of home and away juxtaposition all started. It was a stormy Friday the 13th when I dropped in on my bewildered young parents, who gave me both a proper name and a nickname at birth. My nickname Angie came from the popular Rolling Stones tune, and Angelene, what my Mom calls me when I’m being sassy, comes from the Jacksonville-born Allman Brothers. I like to think my names, one homegrown and bluesy and one from a cheeky group of British rockers, have a lot to do with how my peculiar life story has turned out so far.
Growing up in Jacksonville is a hodge-podge of experiences. I briefly attend a private prep school with the children of city elite followed by a rural public school where students wear camouflage and drive trucks with oversized tires. As a kid, I’m in church every time the doors are open. Often in the same day, you’ll find me in bars and concert venues watching my Dad jam with various bands.
I’m a competitive junior dog handler for almost a decade, I participate in scholarship pageants, Future Business Leaders of America competitions, swim team and cheerleading. I find loopholes to wriggle out of P.E. and health class in order to take more foreign language classes. After seeing the news coverage after Princess Diana’s death, I convince my history teacher to lead a school trip to London. My heart explodes with the euphoria of my first real international adventure. I realize there is so much more to life than what I can find at home and I vow to do whatever necessary to make travel a part of my life.
I begin my education at the Harvard of the South, the University of Florida. Freshman year, I decide that the International Relations career I was hoping to have in D.C. is not a lifestyle I can sustain without having a heart attack at a young age. I pursue a public relations degree in the hope of a less stressful work life. (The joke was on me – public relations is the 6th most stressful job in the U.S.)
I wrangle with my parents about studying abroad in a post-9/11 world. Ultimately, I go to Paris for one magical summer. I live with a family on Rue Daguerre, study French and photography (with actual film!), and realize I can make it on my own in a big city. There’s no turning back now.
After graduation, my PR agency career begins in Atlanta. Finding my footing is a struggle, as I combat workaholism and an acquired dependence on Diet Coke and Chick-Fil-A. I work on way too many accounts that are lifeless and dull. I learn that doing a stellar job and putting in 80 hours per week doesn’t always equal promotion and respect, and I grow disillusioned.
I participate in my first-ever mission trip with my church to Santa Cruz, Bolivia. I fall in love with a family there and begin to sponsor their youngest daughter through Compassion International.
On a whim, I audition for Season 6 of The Apprentice. After many rounds of interviews, the producers fly me to L.A. where I’m sequestered with 49 other finalists for top-secret meetings, medical tests, mental health screenings and a surprise interview with Donald Trump. In the end, my Southern manners prevented me from winning the role of “Mean Blonde.” Whew!
Miserable in my Atlanta PR agency job, I plot a move to New York City. A couple of months before I go, I am in a pinball-like car accident, where I lose consciousness, get a wicked concussion and total my cute little red car. Though painful, the timing couldn’t have been better. I use the insurance money to ship my clothes to Manhattan and write the first of many enormous rent checks.
On Day 1 in NYC, I start my first blog, Big Apple Angie, where I recount the wacky escapades of early twenty-something life in Hell’s Kitchen. I share an apartment with three other Gator grads and we paint the town and live the dream. I land the perfect job in the Travel + Lifestyle practice at Weber Shandwick, the world’s largest PR agency. I adore my colleagues, my clients and even my cubicle. Life is lovely.
My job is amazing. My largest client, The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, affords me many opportunities to travel and connect with the islands and their people – and I get to swim with sharks, pigs and stingrays on a semi-regular basis.
A new opportunity arises in the form of Queensland, Australia’s “Best Job in the World” competition. I buy my first MacBook, shoot and edit a 60-second video and submit it along with 34,000 other hopefuls. I’m selected as one of 50 finalists, and I spend months promoting myself, traveling to trade shows and learning everything I can about Hamilton Island and the Great Barrier Reef. Though I’m not chosen for the next cut, I connect with other finalists around the world and start working out how to make my way to Australia.
I experience a career highlight when my agency helped launch the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort. I hide tears of nerd joy when I receive my schedule with my name in Wizard font. I don’t sleep for a whole week, my feet nearly fall off and I regret that Daniel Radcliffe has only seen me at my 4 a.m., frizzy-haired worst, but it’s the most magical project of my life.
I experience the worst day of my career, when a journalist I’ve invited on a press trip to The Bahamas dies on the second day of our journey. I have nightmares for weeks and question if all the sacrifice that goes into a PR career is worth it. I start to realize that perhaps my job doesn’t love me as much as I love it.
Reaching such extreme highs and lows shakes me to the core. In a moment of clarity, I realize that if I want to travel and write, maybe I’d better get to it before my time is up. Through tears, I resign at Weber Shandwick, turn in the keys to Apt. 1E and embark on what’s meant to be a yearlong journey around the world. Big Apple Angie goes on hiatus and Angie Away is born.
Thanks to my savings account, I visit Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Greece, Spain, the U.K., Egypt, Kenya, South Africa, the U.K again, France and the Netherlands, blogging all along the way. AngieAway.com grows so quickly that I consider continuing past the one-year mark…
I take a few social media consulting gigs in Jordan and Germany and make my way around Europe and the Middle East for several more months. I spend a month in Kauai and round out the year in Morocco.
Home in Florida to celebrate Christmas in between adventures, I meet my brother’s smoking hot roommate at a Master Radical concert. Rick and I are gaga for each other almost immediately.
Much to my surprise, perpetual travel has smack worn me out, so I sign a lease on an apartment in Jacksonville until I decide what to do next. I freelance – writing, PR consulting, social media management, public speaking – while continuing to travel and blog.
Though I still can’t commit to a hair color, I commit to Rick. He proposes on the coldest day of the year on Fernandina Beach. Destination wedding planning begins in earnest, in the midst of traveling to Bonaire, Aruba, Puerto Rico, Canada, Las Vegas, Dallas, Atlanta, Virginia, New York and Tennessee, and launching the Wizarding World of Harry Potter’s second iteration, Diagon Alley.
The wedding week is a huge debacle, but against all odds and despite the incompetence of our venue, we end up happily married and the story, now ours, continues…
After hopping from Florida to Atlanta to New York City to a RTW adventure, I’ve done the wildest, craziest, most outlandish thing yet and bought a house in my hometown – just around the corner from where I grew up, as a matter of fact.
So when I’m not jaunting around the globe in search of stories, you’ll find me tucked into my home office in The Bold New City of the South, getting reacquainted with the biggest small town in the country and wrestling with competing desires and ideals – my love of home, husband and hearth, and my insatiable longing for the history, languages and new tastes that only hopping on a flight can provide.
I’m learning how to make my roots and wings work together. It’s a tightrope act I haven’t quite mastered, but you’ll find me here doing my best on the pages of Angie Away.
You can have roots and wings.”
I have a strong snarky side that I’m constantly trying to tamp down in favor of grace, mercy, kindness, gentleness, patience – you know, all the challenging stuff that isn’t really valued in our society.
This is not a faith blog, but you should know that God is not the top priority on my list; rather, He’s the paper I write the list on. Everything I do and say comes from a place of faith and belief. Bear with me, though. I’m a work in progress and don’t claim perfection!
I’m an extroverted introvert, and that’s part of the reason I consider myself a better blogger than an in-person person.
I speak semi-bueno Spanish and un peu de French.
I love, in no particular order, karaoke, Jeopardy, sharks and Jane Austen. I’m rather less fond of social media squabbles, politics and olives.
My brother and sister frequently appear here, and in fact, along with my husband, they’re all frequent contributors and travel companions – you’ll see them often!