Welcome to the very special 25th edition of my Reflections from the Road* series!
Yesterday marked 5 years since I flew to Fiji on New Year’s Eve to embark on my RTW solo trip. There I was — a single, 29-year-old brunette with a one-way ticket and an empty journal waiting to be filled up with travel memories. I bawled the whole first flight from Jacksonville to Atlanta… what was I getting myself into?!
In the 1,825 days that have passed since I left, everything has changed. Just looking back at where I was, mentally, spiritually and physically in 2010 – well, it goes to show how much can happen in a very short time, and how much capacity we have as human beings to constantly reevaluate our plans, reinvent ourselves, make room in our hearts for others and update our hair colors.
Standing on the edge of a new year is always a melodramatic time of introspection in my world, so bear with me in this super-sized navel-gazing edition of Reflections from the Road. Between traveling, working and wedding planning, 2015 was a blur! Read on for the highs, lows, lessons of the past 90 days, and predictions on where we’re going in 2016.
Naturally, the biggest news in the last 90 days – I’m a married woman! Rick and I were joined by a few dozen of our nearest and dearest on a beach in The Bahamas for what turned out to be, against all odds, a beautiful wedding ceremony. We had nearly perfect weather that day and though there were 10,000 hiccups and a shockingly incompetent wedding venue, in the end we were joined in holy matrimony.
I could write a whole Reflections post just on the ups and downs of wedding week, but I won’t – instead, I’m saving up all the details for a book. Meeep! I’ve written a ton about the fun details that made our day unique, including some DIY tutorials, and of course a hefty treatise on consumer fraud protection and deleted TripAdvisor reviews. But back to the good news – we’re married!
Because getting married and being married are two very different creatures, I’m happy to report that two months into this new adventure, I LOVE it! It was a real mental struggle at times to wrap my independent head around sharing my life with someone else, but now that we’ve crossed over, nothing else makes sense like we do.
Adjusting to each other’s quirks and idiosyncrasies has been hilarious. Rick spearheaded the campaign for my family to buy me socks for Christmas since I am always stealing his, and we’ve had to make compromises already on how things are done now that it’s “our” place and not just mine. Even in the midst of adjustment, I’m just excited to wake up with my hot best friend every single day. (Even if his alarm goes off at an unholy 5 a.m.)
I have mixed feelings about our honeymoon, but mostly it’s because I was still so stressed about the wedding disaster. Nonetheless, it was fun showing Rick around Exuma, an island I’ve loved for many years, and just spending quality time calling each other “Husband” and “Wife” while our butler served us Kalik by the pool. That part was definitely awesome.
We checked out the swimming pigs with 4C’s Adventures, rented a car (and hit every pothole on the island – whoops), explored Chat ‘n’ Chill and Rick went on an introductory resort scuba dive. It was pleasant, if not the Bora Bora overwater bungalow of our dreams. We’ll get there.
TRAVELOCITY / DALLAS
A few weeks after the wedding I flew to Dallas for a meeting at Travelocity headquarters because, ta-dah! I’ve been selected as a Travelocity Gnational Gnomad for 2016. I’ll share more about this ambassador program soon, but for now, keep an eye out on my social platforms for occasional appearances from my new colleague, The Roaming Gnome. (And I got to hang out with my bestie, LJ, at her gorgeous house. YAY!)
Blessed to have this group of super troopers with us to help make a terrible wedding week manageable
THE WEDDING WEEK FROM HELL
Remember in my last Reflections from the Road edition, I promised to go back to being a “normal” blogger who didn’t bemoan all the “little” inconveniences of wedding planning? Remember when I thought all the wedding drama would end once our nuptials were in the rear-view mirror? I couldn’t have been more wrong. There’s no way around it – our wedding week was predominantly awful. (You can read the details here. And here. And here in the Florida Times-Union. And watch me on The Chat talking about it here.)
There were some good times, like the 6 hours of wedding and reception, but that has everything to do with the fact that I was surrounded by the people who love me the most and nothing at all to do with the venue. They picked me up and dusted me off when I was getting royally hosed by a wealthy hotelier and kept me from losing my mind as it began to sink in that this was not an accidental situation, but something rather premeditated.
I plan to turn this spectacular failure into an even more magnificent success eventually, but at the moment I’m still pretty sad about the whole thing. We spent so much time and so much money to have this simple beach wedding with our loved ones, it just guts me that it went so wrong. There’s nothing that eats away at me more than wasted money and wasted time, and we just threw a lot of both down the drain.
Just before I walked down the aisle – hysteria with my maid of honor!
SOMETIMES, THE BULLY WINS
Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how good a job you do, how meticulous your spreadsheets are or how many times you double and triple check to make sure everything is just right. I learned this lesson many years ago in an early PR agency job, but have really been reminded of the lesson during this whole wedding debacle aftermath. There are wicked people in the world and sometimes, they bully you, lie to you and steal from you and there’s no logical explanation. And sometimes, they win. But I believe what goes around comes around, and sometimes you just have to be satisfied with that.
DON’T READ THE COMMENTS
My blood pressure has reached new heights since the wedding, y’all. I’m not usually a huge complainer. I hear all too often that I’m too nice and I let folks off the hook (for bad behavior, bad service, whatever) way too easily. Those of you who’ve been around the Angie Away world for a long time know that if I’m saying something is bad, it is really, truly, heinously bad.
Since I don’t write many negative articles, I’m not used to getting a ton of negative comments, so I was taken aback at some of the vindictive notes I received after the Wedding Week post. People who clearly didn’t read the story had a lot to say about how I’m racist, I’m trying to bring a whole country down, I should’ve paid more and then I would’ve deserved a nice wedding, and I’m just a privileged white lady who is making a stink over nothing.
Those comments were few and far between, but they still riled me up! I constantly had to refocus my attention on the kind offers from dozens and dozens of Bahamians who chimed in to invite me to their hotels, homes, etc. to show me the real Bahamas. Thank you, Lauren, for the best birthday present – a keychain that reminds me, “Don’t read the comments!”
CONTRACTS AND CLIENTS
I’ve learned that I overestimate my capacity and underestimate how long a project will take. Now I’m learning to factor in more time than I think I need for every project – whether it’s for a PR or social media client or even just blog posts here on Angie Away. For every hour I think a project will take, now I add an extra 15 minutes to my calendar to complete it. If I finish early, that’s great… but I almost never do, and I appreciate the wiggle room so I’m not constantly setting myself up for failure. That to-do list… it just never shrinks!
DIET IS EVERYTHING
I tried the Whole30 diet the month before the wedding. It was the best I’ve felt in as long as I can remember! I didn’t have any afternoon fogginess, my body hurt less and I slept better than I ever have – all needed side effects in the weeks leading up to the BIG DAY.
Since I’ve been off Whole30 and eating everything I can get my hands on in this post-wedding slump, I’ve felt sluggish, achy and exhausted. I am starting another round next week and I have never been this excited about a diet before. Probably because most diets are about weight loss and deprivation, and this one is just about clean, healthy eating.
THE WHEAT AND THE CHAFF
One unexpected benefit of getting married and planning a wedding – you quickly learn who is on this journey with you and who is just hitchhiking when it benefits them. In 2016, for the first time ever, I’m starting fresh with a real concept of who really has my back. Rick and I were so blessed by everyone who showed up – either in person or just via email and Skype or a nice card – to give us great advice, encouragement, prayers and prezzies during our engagement and wedding season. Some friends and family who I thought were on the A-Team were nowhere to be found in the entire process, and it was baffling. At first, my feelings were hurt by some of the glaring absences, but now I see it as a blessing because I can focus my attention on those who are as invested in me as I am in them.
Snorkel day with Brendal in the Abacos
We can make our plans but God determines our steps. Proverbs 16:9
ADVOCATING FOR THE UNDERDOG
Yes, sometimes the bully wins. (See Lessons, above.) But as a professional traveler and blogger, I have an obligation to warn others not to fall in the same holes I’ve fallen in. We will spend 2016 writing, appearing on TV and pursuing every possible avenue to ensure no one else ever spends their wedding week crying in paradise. We may never get a refund or even an apology from Bahama Beach Club, but I never want anyone to go through what we’ve gone through.
Normally I don’t subject y’all to swimsuit shots, especially not from this angle, but HOW AWESOME IS MY SHARK BATHING SUIT?
NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS
I have resolved to lose weight every January since I was about 8-years-old. (Body image issues are no joke.) Since then, I’ve probably only met my goal once or twice, before putting all the weight and more back on again. So this year, for the first time since I can remember, I’m not resolving to lose weight. I’m resolving to eat healthier, incorporating Whole30 practices into my life all year. I’m not going to feel good or bad about myself based on what the scale says.
In 2016, if it’s not a magnificent opportunity that I’m pumped to pursue, I’m not doing it. If I’m not getting paid for my work, I’m not doing it. This year marks 10 years that I’ve been a blogger, and 5 since I’ve been blogging professionally, so I’ve said it before and I’ll probably have to say it 10,000 more times – I don’t work for exposure! My calendar for next year is already full of great projects, so that will make saying “no” to mediocre opportunities much easier. But what if even more awesome stuff comes up? 2016 is going to be b-a-n-a-n-a-s!
Being a wife is fun but also… who has the time to be an entrepreneur and an awesome wife? I’m shaking up my schedule and priorities to incorporate not just a new client or project, but a husband. Our to-do list is crazy… find somewhere to live… buy a new vehicle… hang out with each other… eat food several times a day. Laundry – oh, the laundry! It’s all so much fun, and sometimes I just want to wife 24/7 and forget everything else. I can’t emphasize enough what a huge adjustment it has been. I love it, and it’s worth it, and that’s a good thing because this is a lifetime contract! Thanks for humoring me while I navigate this bizarre new world.
As much as I went to spend all my time at home being domesticated with new husband, duty calls! This year is shaping up to be busier than ever… big surprise, right? I predict I’ll work harder than I ever have, since I’ve yet to slow down since I quit my job five years ago with the intent of slowing down. Tentative 2016 trips include Costa Rica, Hawaii, Iceland, Europe and the Caribbean. I know better than to expect any of that to go according to plan, so I’m throwing my hands up now and saying, “Lord, your will be done!”
I’M GETTING A FACELIFT
Ok, not me exactly – but AngieAway.com is getting a hot, fabulous makeover and you are going to love it! I’m going to be very busy in the next few months bringing it to life, so stay tuned. There will also be a HUGE trip giveaway to kick it all off so you won’t want to miss the launch.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for coming along on this journey for the past 5 years. I’d just be talking to myself without all your comments, support, views and likes, so please know how much I appreciate the time you spend with me. Every share is a gift, so thank you for always being such a huge part of Angie Away!
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*If you ever wonder how I made it to where I am now, the RfrR series is the best place to start.