Given my current status as a travel + lifestyle blogger, freelance writer and publicist, it may surprise you to know that 18-year-old Angie’s Plan A went like this: attend Georgetown University, join the Foreign Service after graduation and eventually become a suit-wearing senator, a superhero-like Secretary of Defense or perhaps a stylish ambassador to somewhere sunny & fabulous.
Washington, D.C., was my ultimate dream and everyone knew it. I was so set on that plan, my classmates voted me Most Likely to Become President. (The closest I’ve come to that honor was my short stint as a Sarah Palin lookalike back in Election Year 2008. I’m a maverick!)
Since the world now knows me as @AngieAway and not as Madame President, it’s pretty clear that my plans changed direction early on. Instead of Georgetown, I attended the University of Florida, and after my freshman International Relations class sent me into mild panic attacks over the Mutually Assured Destruction doctrine, I decided perhaps to pursue a less intense major: public relations.
(Even now my naivety astounds me! Sure, the fate of the world doesn’t rest on my shoulders like it would as leader of the free world… but PR? To avoid stress? Oh, 18-year-old, Angie. You’re so adorable, you big idiot.)
A Washington Dream Come True
I tell you all this backstory about D.C. and my dreams of working in politics because GUESS WHAT? In a manner both circuitous and fortuitous, it’s all happening now! Don’t get excited — I haven’t been elected to office (yet), but I think perhaps this honor is more my speed.
So here’s the big news: I’ve been invited to the first ever White House Travel Blogger Summit on Study Abroad and Global Citizenship. The National Security Council is hosting 100 of the most influential travel bloggers and digital media outlets to chat about government initiatives and strategies for encouraging American students to study, volunteer and work abroad. The summit will feature panels of experts and high ranking government officials focused on current efforts around studying, volunteering, and working abroad.
I sure am curious to hear what The White House has to say about study abroad & global citizenship! And beyond that, I’m just honored to be included among respected friends and some of the online influencers I’ve always held in such high esteem. This is such a treat, I can’t even tell you!
Why I Do What I Do
I started AngieAway.com four years ago because I already knew that travel has the power to transform in a way nothing else can. When I decided to travel around the world by myself, I knew it wouldn’t mean as much if I couldn’t distill the lessons I learned and share them with the world.
How did I know travel was so transformative? In 2003, my college study abroad experience changed me at the cellular level. It made me more confident, more outgoing, more open to new adventures and fluent in a third language. That summer changed my life’s trajectory. Rather than sticking around in one place for the rest of my life, finding any old job and getting on with the business of putting in 40-hour work weeks, that one educational experience pointed me toward a lifetime of something bigger and better and different than the status quo. It was the first yellow brick in a long shining road of travel.
Years later, quitting my fun, steady NYC PR job (which became Plan B, after my political aspirations fizzled out) to attempt to become a successful travel blogger (Plan C. SO MANY PLANS.) wasn’t an easy decision, and I didn’t make it lightly, but I hoped the rewards ultimately would be worth the risk. Your letters over the years have shown me time and again that I made the right choice.
How to Start a Cultural Revolution
Fewer than 10 percent of American students choose to study abroad. I consider myself fortunate to be in that minority, but back then I couldn’t afford it on my own & neither could my parents. Eleven years after returning from Paris, I’m STILL slowly paying off the student loan I had to get to go on the trip.
Was it worth it? Yup, every red penny.
I didn’t know how much studying abroad would change my life when I signed up, but I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to make it happen, even with that occasionally crippling student loan debt. Not everyone has the resources (and blind faith in future job prospects) that I did. Not everyone realizes that one international adventure offers more valuable life experience than a whole year of traditional schooling back home.
But I know it and I believe in it! And I wish every young American could step outside our curious bubble to connect with people outside our sphere. I’m convinced it would start a revolution.
So how can we work together to encourage more students to get out there & become global citizens?
That’s a question I’m hoping to help answer this week.
Angie Away Goes to Washington
To say I’m over the moon about this opportunity doesn’t even begin to cover it. No matter what side of the partisan aisle you land on, an invitation to The White House is just exciting.
I always thought my feisty political ambitions would land me in Washington, or perhaps I’d serve as a Chief of Staff putting all my PR experience to work. It’s ironic and really special to me how travel blogging, out of all my career choices, brought me right to my 18-year-old dream. Travel truly opens doors!
Follow the Summit
Since I’ve been grouped with these 99 other digital influencers, you can bet we’ll be lighting up the Internet with news from The White House Travel Blogger Summit. Follow along in real time using the hashtag #WHTravelBloggers. I’ll be actively posting to both Twitter & Instagram, and I’d love you to join in & ask questions on Tuesday!
And away we go… I’m bound for The White House to talk travel, and I’m hoping to take some of your feedback & study abroad tales with me.
- Did you study abroad? Why or why not?
- If you did study abroad, where did you go? How did the experience change you?
Wish me luck!