Invited to the White House: Angie Away Goes to Washington #WHTravelBloggers

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!) 

Angie as Sarah. 2008.

Angie as Sarah. 2008.

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.

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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!

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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!

COME AWAY WITH ME!
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  • December 08, 2014

    I didn’t study abroad for the reason you listed: I didn’t want to fall into debt. Instead, I went to a local 4 year state school, lived at home, worked part time all year and saved up to travel every summer.
    I did participate in the National Student Exchange, which allows students to live in different parts of the country and enjoyed it a lot, as I am from Los Angeles and spent a semester at Umass, in Amherst, where I lived on campus ad participated in school activities for the first time.
    Have fun!!
    Rebecca recently posted..Alaska – The Last Day-ishMy Profile

  • December 08, 2014

    Very fun! As someone who studied abroad three times and who has worked for a study abroad program four times, I’m mighty curious to hear what all is said 😉
    Camels & Chocolate recently posted..My Reading List: Part XIMy Profile

  • December 08, 2014
    Amber

    I studied abroad…twice! The first time in Italy, and the second time in Australia. I agree with everything you’re saying – it changes us, it opens our eyes and doors, and makes us richer people. We see the world through different eyes, and we understand more of how the world works outside the USA. Which is such a big country that it’s easy to be centre-focused. And now I live in New Zealand, which never would have happened if I hadn’t studied abroad!

    I was lucky, because my university had exchange programmes with universities abroad, where you paid the same fees as at home, and could study abroad. The only major extra costs were the plane ticket and travel expenses! Sometimes living expenses abroad can be cheaper, depending on where you go, and for me it worked out about the same.

    I think it’s important to encourage universities to create these partnerships with universities overseas. They work in both directions, so Americans go study abroad, and someone else can have the opportunity to study in the USA!

    Keep us posted! I am curious to hear what the White House thinks about study abroad.

  • December 08, 2014
    Carson

    I live and work abroad now because of volunteer, study, and travel experiences during high school, college, and seminary. Getting the opportunity to do mission work in Belize in high school opined my eyes to new opprofinities. That led me to a winter term in London and then onto mission and study experiences in China, Indonesia, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Romania. These experiences and a missonal calling have led me to Japan. We both feel more at home due to international opportunities as students.

    What is most interesting are the international experiences my wife and I continue to have in a country that is well above 90% Japanese in our leadership of an international, English speaking worship service. My previous experiences abroad help me especially to connect with people from across the world on a deeper level as we have about their home countries and regions and I am able to empathize in my previous and current experiences as an outsider.

  • December 08, 2014

    Wow, that is fantastic news Angie on being selected and well deserved. Have a fabulous time and say hi to Caz and Craig of yTravel Blog (who’s blog I also read as well as yours).

    Great Sarah Palin impersonation. Has Tina Fey quit Saturday Night Live? There might be an opening for you? 😉
    The Guy recently posted..Little Venice And The White Windmills Of Mykonos TownMy Profile

  • December 09, 2014

    I hope you and everyone else enjoys themselves. A wonderful occasion
    Natalie recently posted..Independent Travel vs Guided Tours: Which Is the Best Way to see Turkey?My Profile

  • December 10, 2014
    Nick

    Disclosure time.

    Are you being paid?

    How did they select you?

    Who selected you?

    This seems like another case of propaganda from a government. Just like certain regimes with state media.

    No journalist would ever participate in this.

    • December 10, 2014

      Hi Nick –

      No journalist would go to a press event at the White House? I’m confused. I think similar press events happen every day?

      Disclosure time: on my site, it’s always disclosure time. I always let readers know if I’m being paid for a campaign or outreach, or if a hotel is hosting me, so since I didn’t highlight that, that means I’m not getting paid. Given the nature of the invitation, I wouldn’t have accepted if payment was offered for the exact reasons you mentioned.

      Everyone who was invited came on their own dime. Several bloggers refused to attend because there was neither payment nor free airfare. Certainly some attendees were able to secure comped accommodations, but that was not at the expense of the White House. I was hosted at Hostelling International with about 30 other bloggers.

      I can’t speak for the whole group, but I accepted the invitation because I’m passionate about travel. To be invited to share my views on how to make travel more accessible for Americans was an honor, a privilege & a way for me to give back to the country that has provided me with more opportunities and freedoms than most countries in the world offer.

      I don’t work in the White House, so I didn’t do the selecting or vetting. I couldn’t tell you how I was selected – I suspect it has something to do with my reputation as a blogger, years in the travel industry, my experience studying abroad in college and my passion for encouraging others to do the same. I believe the White House worked with Hostelling International to choose bloggers to attend.

      As for propaganda… I see little harm in promoting education and international study programs. It’s not a partisan issue. Well-traveled Americans make well-rounded employees. Is that propaganda? If so, I guess I was propagating before it was cool because this has always been my message.

      Any other questions? Happy to answer.

  • December 12, 2014

    I hope that you enjoyed every min of it. 🙂

    I haven’t study abroad but in 2010 when I finished my high school I moved to Ireland for a year to be an Au Pair, and since then every summer I have been in US with one summer exchange program. I think it’s great if those young people take some new experiences and try to do something out of their comfort zone. It’s a good way to learn something about themselves, and figure out what they would like to do with their lives. At least I think so.

    Take care!
    Kadri recently posted..What to do in December?My Profile

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