Live from Blogville in sunny Bologna, Italy, it’s Reflections from the Road! It probably won’t surprise anyone, but about 30 seconds after committing to plans in my last Reflections from the Road post on Feb. 1, everything changed and I booked an immediate flight back to the USA for a couple of weeks.
Game-time decisions and general indecision have characterized 2012 so far, and mostly that’s been a good thing. I ended up at the Blogville apartment because of a snap decision and it turned out to be a great one!
But not everything has been rosy. I don’t know how to describe this year other than to say it’s been a bizarre run with a lot more tough times than I’m used to sprinkled with some wonderful, shining moments. Here we go…
Times Square with the very tall @RachelDanae of @TheJetSisters
- After months of praying & planning, I finally launched the Adopt-a-Slum program, my plan to help 30 families in Kenya change the course of their lives. As of today, we’ve raised almost $400, so there’s only $2,600 more to go. I would be forever in your debt if you’d donate… even $5 is helpful!
- My impromptu flight back to the US required a layover in Dallas and I didn’t mind a bit because the lovely La La La Lauren met me at the airport for an overdue catch-up. Aside from my family, LJ is my anchor to normal life back home, and I just couldn’t do without her bulleted emails and funny HeyTell messages to keep me going.
- I spent a gorgeous week in NYC with my baby sister. She had a huge (HUGE HUGE HUGE) audition so of course I wanted to be there for moral support. When she wasn’t auditioning, we tried to get rush tickets to Once, the smash hit Broadway show which church friend (AND JUST ANNOUNCED TONY NOMINEE – AHHHHHH!) Elizabeth stars in, but it wasn’t meant to be. Instead, we watched the Hunger Games on opening weekend (May the odds be ever in your favor!) and had lots of dinners and coffees with former Weber Shandwick colleagues, roommates and church buddies. I love NYC and I miss it and I might live there again one day. There, I said it.
- While I dreaded attending the Travel Bloggers Unite conference in Umbria, Italy, because I’ve just spent a bit too much time dissecting the blogosphere this year, the whole event ended up being a blast. Avatars came to life (sounds creepier than it is) and I finally put faces with Twitter handles and websites to folks I’d been following for years. I learned a ton from speakers The Planet D, Career Break Secrets, The Aussie Nomad, Inside the Travel Lab, Legal Nomads, Ken Kaminesky, Aviators and a Camera and so many more that I can’t begin to remember. It was such a treat to chat with other folks who completely understand the ups and downs of long-term travel and to learn tips about running this show as a business more effectively in the future. There are so many interesting, talented travel bloggers out there and I just felt like TBU was a big group hug and a sigh of understanding from people who totally get me. It was an altogether exhausting week, but also such a refreshing time!
- Check out some of these folks: The Road Forks, Two Oregonians, Budget Traveller, Fevered Mutterings, Virtual Wayfarer, The Travel Hack, Time Travel Turtle… oy, the list goes on. Start here and when you’ve read them all, I’ve got about 50 more friends to tell you about!
- FWIW, it’s a good thing we stayed up late dancing several nights in a row; that was the only way to burn off the never-ending buffet of pasta, gelato and other Italian delights. I’m thinking of changing my site to AngieWeighs.
- Before the conference, I was invited to explore Rome like a local with HouseTrip.com. From a late night Vespa race through Roman ruins to Viator’s Gladiator school to food tours with Context Travel and more gelato than you need to know about, I can say I spent 48 hours doing Rome the way it should be done. And the HouseTrip apartment where we stayed? Best view in Rome, hands-down. I could’ve hit the Colosseum with a rock from my bedroom window, real talk.
- Between my social media consulting gig with the wonderful folks at Berlin Tourism and TBU in Italy, I had several weeks to kill and all of Europe to see. Eurail.com hooked me up with a flexible global pass, so I’ve been choosing destinations as my whims allow, traveling from Berlin (so much history) to Prague (my new favorite!) to Vienna (so grand!) to Bratislava (mehhh) to Venice (oh the romance!) to Rome (VESPAS!) to Bologna (so refreshing). Train travel is much easier and more fun than I expected – why can’t it be like this everywhere?! I have four more journeys left on my pass, so keep an eye on Angie Away on Facebook for more photos from the journey.
Living “Roman Holiday” with HouseTrip in Rome
- All this jet-setting and subsequent story telling might make my life look glossy and shiny and without problems, but this year has been pretty emotional behind the scenes. I’m admittedly not great at sharing the stuff going on in my heart, but Reflections from the Road is where I deviate from that… so thanks for bearing with me as I share the fire alarms and freakouts from the past few months. Obviously we dealt with my brother accidentally setting himself ablaze in January (he’s doing so much better now!) and me feeling rather ill in Jerusalem/Amman/London. Since that, my grandparents had a small house fire and lost one of their dogs to complications from smoke inhalation. A close family friend committed suicide. The headmaster at my school in Jacksonville was murdered on campus by a just-fired teacher. My aunt was diagnosed with skin cancer. My dad came down with pneumonia.
- And my dog died. Sheila was a rescue pup we got from Jacksonville Sheltie Rescue. She was estimated to be about 2 years old when we got her, and we’ve had her 15 years, so she was a sweet old girl. She lived a wonderful life once we adopted her, overcoming a fear of men and a scaredy-cat nature to become a happy-go-lucky country dog who loved us all very much. I’d just spent a few weeks at home in Florida so I did get to spend some quality time with her just before she passed. And I was fortunate to be snuggled up in bed with Rae in NYC when we got the call that Sheila had died peacefully and with mom by her side, so we cried together.
Sheila Marie Orth
- God is still working even when I’m not paying attention. I’ve been so blessed over the past few days to find common ground with fellow travel bloggers and to strengthen friendships that have come together over thousands of miles and splotchy WiFi connections.
- Skip the US Passport Office. I can confirm that adding extra pages to the passport is not fun when done stateside. Despite making an appointment, I spent several hours in the NYC office just waiting, waiting, waiting, and then I had to do the same thing the next day to pick up the new inserts. It was a hot mess. If I hadn’t been so nervous about my lack of pages (I only had a few stamp spots left) I would’ve just visited the US Consulate in Berlin, but I didn’t want to get myself into trouble.
- Expect the unexpected. With four rocky months of 2012 behind me, I’m praying the rest of the year smoothes out a bit!
Gelato overload in Italy with Kash
We can make our plans but God determines our steps. Proverbs 16:9
- The next 60 days are going to be packed as I wrap up my Eurail adventure with visits to Switzerland, Croatia, Slovenia, Spain and a last grand hurrah in London, my home away from home. Once I get back to Florida, I’ll be in full-on sister support mode as Rachel graduates from high school. Cue panic attack. She’s still a 4-year-old curly-headed kid in my mind!
- This summer, I’ll be transitioning from full-time to part-time travel, spending more time in my own hemisphere as I pursue public relations, social media and blogger freelance projects, speaking engagements and partnerships. Travel will still be my focus, I’ll just be doing it more strategically!
- Gelato detox. I’m not eating anything once I get back to the US.
So what do you think? Has 2012 been crazy for you, too? Is there any other country in Europe I should visit before I depart?
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