Reflections from the Road | Vol. 23

When I first began to draft this latest Reflections from the Road post (my 23rd edition – holy cow), I thought, “Hmm, I haven’t been all that busy the past three months.” And then I looked back at my calendar and realized I may have left my mind somewhere along the way.

Despite my increasing attempts to be vigilant of taking on too much, life has been… well, typically hectic for me. The past 90 days have been filled with some memorable travels, writing assignments, TV appearances & hosting gigs, all mixed in with the added drama of planning a wedding, getting fit and trying to remain gracious, patient and sane in the face of it all. All I can say is I’m doing a whole lot of praying these days.

Here’s a recap of the past 3 months in the world of Angie Away!

En route to the Rockies

En route to the Rockies

Highs

Rockies & Smokies. I’m a beach girl first and foremost, but I love switching things up and heading for the mountains once in a while, too. In the past 90 days, I visited two of North America’s most famous mountain ranges – the Smokies and the Rockies. On behalf of Visit Sevierville and Travel Mindset, I explored Dolly Parton’s hometown, hiked to a beautiful waterfall in the rain and went whitewater rafting with a reality TV star. The next week I flew to Vancouver for my first ever visit to Canada. Onboard the Rocky Mountaineer, I choo-choo’d from the Pacific Ocean inland toward Banff and the Rocky Mountain National Park, which is every bit as stunning as promised. Much more to come on that adventure!

Puerto Rico. Jockey and the El Conquistador Resort hosted a handful of fashion & travel bloggers on a fun weekend retreat. We hiked in the rainforest, practiced sunset yoga overlooking the mountains and spent a day languishing on the resort’s private island. The best part? I got to bring RaeRae!

Beach time with RaeRae - my favorite!

Beach time with RaeRae – my favorite!

New York City. I flew to NYC for one night to attend Carnival Cruise Line’s press conference for its new social impact travel brand, Fathom. And I got to have dinner with Erin, my roomie from both college & early days in New York. What a treat!

On a mission in Jacksonville

On a mission in Jacksonville

Local mission trip. I’ve traveled to Bolivia & Kenya for mission trips in the past, so it felt rather strange to wake up in my own bed each morning for a local mission in a neighborhood just a few steps away from the one where I grew up. My strong, hot & huge-hearted fiancé and I landscaped, painted and rebuilt homes for veterans and other residents in a joint effort with Builders Care, our church — Eleven22 and several other partners. It was hard work – the heat index was 100+ all week – but I loved it nonetheless. The best part about this mission, aside from being able to work side-by-side with my guy, is the proximity. I never get to hang out with the Bolivians & Kenyans I met on past trips, but the folks I met this week are right down the street, so we can pop by for a visit anytime.

Work, work and more work. Between my guest post for Cision, a profile in First Coast Magazine, a productive visit to IPW in Orlando, multiple appearances on The Chat, work for my various PR & social media clients and keeping AngieAway.com in business, it has been a very productive 90 days in the media realm! I popped up on this list of top female travel bloggers and shared one of my most embarrassing travel tales with Yahoo Travel.

Filming for Destination America

Filming for Destination America

In very exciting TV news, I filmed a show for Destination America at Universal Orlando, so stay tuned for that hour-long special sometime in November. After walking around the parks with a crew of 30+ in 100-degree heat, I have a newfound respect for everyone who works in TV production, particularly in Central Florida in June. I’m usually on the PR side, so seeing things from a host’s perspective was really interesting, too. It’s a lot more challenging than it looks to spit out facts while smiling and not sweating your face off or flat-out fainting. All I can say is thank God I had a brilliant hair & makeup stylist!

I said yes to the dress! Eventually I came to the conclusion, after trying on many beautiful white dresses that looked perfectly lovely on me, that I just had to pick one. So I narrowed down the top choices, weighed the pros and cons and finally said yes. No pictures until the big day =)

Hallelujah! My honey got baptized at our church’s annual beach event. It was awesome. I love that guy.

All aboard the Rocky Mountaineer!

All aboard the Rocky Mountaineer!

Lows

#SilverSucks. Y’all know the majority of my blog is unicorns & rainbows about all the wonderful travel experiences I’ve had, but occasionally a company will mess up so badly that I feel a duty to share with you so you don’t have to suffer the same way. We booked the majority of our wedding flights to The Bahamas on Silver Airways several months ago, so I was confused when last week, they cancelled or drastically rescheduled every single flight we had painstakingly coordinated well in advance. First of all, I’ve never had an airline just do away with a flight I’d already booked (and we had at least 6 people on the one leg that was cancelled) and I’ve also never had an airline change the schedule of a booked itinerary so drastically.

For example, I had four relatives scheduled to arrive on Wednesday. Silver decided to change the schedule so they departed on Wednesday but didn’t arrive until Thursday, effectively stranding them in Fort Lauderdale overnight. With the cancellations and the schedule changes, no one at Silver ever offered a refund, a hotel room or to rebook on a more convenient itinerary. The general response was, “Airlines do this all the time, so deal with it.” In 44 countries and hundreds of flights with dozens of different airlines, that has never happened to me before…

There’s too much to go into here, but I am compelled to write a more detailed post on the incident in the hopes that others won’t have to go through the same process. (UPDATE: here’s the post!)

Ginnie Springs, Fla. I wrestled over whether to put this in the HIGHS or LOWS, because as much fun as it is to camp out with my family every year, the overall vibe at Ginnie Springs is really trashy. It makes me rage when people are so belligerently drunk that they don’t realize they’re knocking little kids out of the way. And the language – ugh. Call me old-fashioned, but it’s just not awesome being surrounded by filth, especially when there are little kids everywhere. I go camping to enjoy the outdoors, tube down the river and just enjoy nature, and it’s just not possible at Ginnie Springs anymore. I’m not sure I’ll be back next year.

Knee pain. No sooner did my sciatic issue finally subside after months of massage therapy than I hurt my knee and spent two weeks nursing intermittent shooting pain. I couldn’t walk up & down stairs to my apartment and there were days I was fully immobile. My fabulous masseuse came to the rescue again, thank God! I thought I’d torn my ACL, but after two intense massages on my left quad, I was good as new. Get yourself a medical masseuse if you have issues – they’re much cheaper than x-rays!

HIGH - I found the most awesome pajamas at Target.

HIGH – I found the most awesome pajamas at Target. LOW – Snapchat autocorrected jammies to Jammie’s. #annoying

Lessons

October 23. Destination wedding planning is one of the most masochistic things I’ve ever signed up for. There are parts of this process that are really so much fun, but there are also a mountain of frustrations, mostly relational, that someday will make a very funny blog post. If not for my sweetie’s desire to get married among friends and family, I am the perfect candidate for a surprise elopement. We’re halfway to the big day, which means there’s one more Reflections from the Road post before marriage. I may be in intensive therapy by then… but hey, I figured if we can get through the planning process, marriage is going to be a piece of cake. 😉

Trust your gut and stick to your guns. I’d confirmed my attendance on a press trip to a far-flung land, and then I waited and waited and waited for details of the itinerary. A week from the scheduled departure, I still didn’t know what we’d be doing, where we’d be staying or when my flight was. And at the last minute, I found out I was on the hook for getting myself to New York to catch the scheduled flight. Having coordinated trips for media for more than 10 years, these were all huge red flags for me. Disorganization on the front end shows me that the actual trip might be a disaster, and who has time to waste a week on a poorly planned trip? I also didn’t have an extra $400-$500 for an unplanned flight just lying around either. Free trips are never actually free if you’re a content creator, so without communication about expectations on the front end, it all seemed wrong to me, and my gut kept telling me to decline.

In years past, I probably would’ve sucked it up and gone anyway, hoping for the best, but I’ve learned that I have to be protective of my time and my finances – and hey, that’s progress for me! I politely declined the trip and haven’t had any regrets about it since.

Tolerance Schmolerance. I don’t write about politics – ever. I rarely discuss my very strong views unless asked in person. I post travel tips, crazy stories and videos that make you snort milk out of your nose, and that’s about it. But I’ve seen some straight-up jiggery-pokery behavior over the past couple of weeks and I’ll tell you, if social media wasn’t my job, I’d quit it altogether. Just because someone doesn’t agree, doesn’t mean they hate. I’ve read more posts from people claiming to be tolerant & inclusive saying “If you don’t agree, then you’re terrible and you can unfriend me now.” That’s the opposite of everything they’re trying to stand up for – right? There are people in every faction who suck. There are jerks and bad apples in every single race, religion and orientation. Can we all just practice being the good apples, even if we disagree on the details? And maybe not lump everyone together? GAH.

SUP in Puerto Rico

SUP in Puerto Rico

Next Steps

We can make our plans but God determines our steps. Proverbs 16:9

Buff it out. I started working out with a trainer this week, so I’m at once fired up, starving and exhausted. But I will be a buff bride, mark my words.

Bonaire, Aruba, Atlanta, Virginia Beach. I was just going to write about how I wasn’t planning to travel much between now and the wedding, and then I remembered all the fun trips I have ahead of me. Diving in Bonaire, beach time with some of my favorite bloggers in Aruba, girls’ weekend in Atlanta and another adventure in Virginia Beach. But after all those are done, I’m staying put…. (Remind me to get one of those house arrest anklets. Maybe that would keep me at home?)

Honeymoon planning. It’s time to tackle this beast. Stay tuned for a post where I hash out all our options. I’m going to need your input!

Social growth. I’m focusing on expanding my social media presence over the next few months, so if you’re not already following along on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube or hey, even Snapchat (AngieAway), I would be grateful if you would! (And leave your info in the comments – I’d love to follow you in return!)

Freediving with my fella at Ginnie Springs

Freediving with my fella at Ginnie Springs

So that’s a brain dump if I’ve ever seen one. Thanks for sticking with me for 4.5 years through all my rants, raves and musings. I really don’t know where the time has gone, though looking back on 23 editions of Reflections from the Road, I can certainly say with confidence that the time has been jam-packed, and mostly well spent!

Tell me something good in the comments… where have you been lately? Did you plan an awesome destination wedding and everything went well? Have you ever traveled on the Rocky Mountaineer? Let’s chat! 

COME AWAY WITH ME!
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