Happy Autumn, friends! And by Autumn, I mean, it’s still hot as the 7th layer of Hades in Florida so bring a swimsuit if you’re coming over. The pool will be open for the foreseeable future.
In other news, I’m 36 and this is Reflections from the Road Vol. 36. What a happy coincidence! I don’t know how in the world I’m up to 36 of these, but time flies when you’re busy as a bee.
Interesting to note, the next time this happens won’t be until… oh, well, the next edition, when I’ll be 37. But after that, forget it. It’s like a solar eclipse, y’all. Only… it doesn’t really matter to anyone but me.
Oh well, if you’re at a casino, put some money on 36 on the roulette table in my honor.
TRAVEL BLOGGER LIFE
September was the craziest month we’ve had in a long time! Agreeing to speak at two conferences back-to-back seemed like a good idea a few months ago, but in practice it was a whole lot at once. I spoke at my 6th TBEX (with Alex in Wanderland & Hippie in Heels about the power of outsourcing) and the first ever TravelCon (with Camels & Chocolate about attracting and sustaining long term brand partnerships), and despite it being a ton of effort and pure insanity from a planning perspective, I had more fun than I have in ages. When you’re a content-creating communicator, there’s nothing more fun than TALKING ABOUT THAT for days on end with other people who are equally as passionate.
As much as the introvert inside me would love to stay home and squirrel myself away behind a screen, I really do love conferences and the insane amount of business they bring my way. Would you believe we are almost completely booked for 2019?!
And the best part of it all? I got to hang out with so many dear friends, some who I haven’t seen since I kicked off my RTW adventure and this whole Angie Away blog-that-became-a-career. There’s not much I miss about having a *real* job, but I do miss the water cooler camaraderie. I have the warm fuzzies now after hugging so many of my people and I tell you what, I haven’t felt this encouraged or hopeful about this industry in a long time.
ROAD TRIPS WITH RAE-RAE
In the past 90 days, Rachel and I have flown in a helicopter over Niagara Falls, crossed the border into Canada, visited Chip & Joanna’s Magnolia Table in Waco, Texas, had an absolutely terrifying experience in Mississippi’s most haunted house, quoted The Office all over Scranton, Pennsylvania, ate all the tacos in Austin and tried goat yoga in New York. (I was the lucky recipient of the first goat poo on my yoga mat, so I won a goat-shaped bar of goat soap. Not baaaaaad, right?)
And this: I don’t know how I ever survived without my No. 2! Can you believe we’ve been working together full-time for a year already?!
THE JET SISTERS ARE UNIVERSAL
Speaking of RaeRae, remember the video we shot at Universal Orlando way back in January?! It went live! If you haven’t seen it (or even if you have – more views are always nice!), or if you just have questions about planning a trip to Universal, take a look here and tell us what you think.
London is one of the places I still get really, really pumped to visit, so when Virgin Atlantic gave me two Upper Class tickets to Heathrow, I could not wait to plan my umpteenth trip. Rick and I had the most wonderful time. Everything that went wrong (canceled flight) turned into a great blessing (spending the night in NYC with Rick’s mom and brother), and we just had fun together. After London, we took a train up to the Cotswolds for a few days and just wandered the countryside. We had a run-in with some aggressive cows near the Fish Hotel (seriously, why do we always have drama with farm animals in the British isles?), but other than that everything was a dream.
Planning a trip to London? Read this first!
So much has been wonderful in the past 90 days, it’s easy to forget that Rick and I have been through the ringer this summer. He had his worst bout with kidney stones yet, and my recurring pain has lead me from test to test and doctor to doctor. I’ve spent a lot of time on hold and a lot of time drinking barium. The good news is, it’s probably not cancer. If it was, I’d surely be expired by now because it’s taking so long to get to the bottom of things.
My best guess after the mountain of tests I’ve had done so far is that I have some sort of autoimmune condition. I am hopeful that I am on the right track as far as figuring it out, but I’ve got another couple of doctors, another couple of tests and another few thousand dollars to spend before I’m done.
Having experienced a nasty taste of hurricanes the past two years, I shouldn’t be surprised that when Florence started making her way toward us, I panicked. I filled the pantry with non-perishable foods and made speedy use of the hurricane supplies list I published earlier this year. And then I had to pack up, leave Rick and the family and head to New York for a conference, not knowing if Flo would hit or not. Stressed is an understatement.
Living through a natural disaster changes you, even if everyone is technically ok, and I didn’t realize how much last year in particular had affected me until I thought I might be facing it all over again. It has given me so much more empathy for survivors – of disasters, assaults, combat. You never know what internal battle someone is facing or why they react the way they do.
WE CAN’T DO THIS ALONE
Rae and I are feeling the pinch of ever-changing algorithms. From day-to-day, we never know if Instagram is going to show our photo to you or hide it from your feed. Same goes for our blog posts and everything shared on Facebook. It’s so disappointing to work hard on a project only to have it disappear into obscurity because no one liked it. (Liking shows Facebook/Instagram that the content is good and worth showing to others!)
No matter how good our writing is, or how pretty our photos are, or how funny our videos are, none of it matters if our friends and readers don’t engage. The brands we work with want to see that our content resonates with you. If you happen upon our stuff when you’re out there scrolling on the World Wide Web, please give us a thumbs up or a fire emoji or my favorite, a question or comment. Every single action you take helps us out, so thank you for continuing to support us.
UPPER CLASS IS WORTH IT
Long flights take a toll on my body but I’m not sure I ever knew how much until I flew Virgin Upper Class. I’ve never felt rested after a transatlantic flight before. In fact, I usually feel like I’ve been punched in the right butt-cheek and neck for eight hours. After our Virgin flight, I was ready to take on London with no need for downtime. No wonder people pay thousands of dollars for first & business class! Unless we win the lotto, I don’t see me flying in the front seat much more often, but I would be glad to work with Virgin Atlantic again anytime they ask.
SHUSHING THE INNER CRITIC
Self-employment is an interesting thing, y’all. I go months at a time with no feedback on my work other than the voice in my head. She tends to be critical, a perfectionist and not always reasonable with timelines and workload.
But TBEX and TravelCon encouraged me in such unexpected ways. Seeing how the travel blog industry has evolved from when I started in 2006 tells me that we few dozen O.G.s left standing are doing something right. It’s been a slow burn to get to this point, where content creators are sought out and paid for their work, but the fact that compensation for content now the norm tells me all the polite emails educating the brands who ask for content, photography and video for free are finally moving the needle.
It was also encouraging to be reminded that shouting into a megaphone aimed at readers is not the only way to get a message across. I’d been discouraged to see so much of the content creation world heading either toward derivative photography or pot-stirring political punditry. Bikinis and controversy get likes and engagement in the short term, but storytelling is always going to be king. It’s easy to forget because those who shout loudest naturally seem to reach more people. Conference season reminded me that there’s room for everyone, and those who insist otherwise are welcome to shout elsewhere.
TOOT YOUR OWN HORN
It seems the most successful folks in the world are the ones who are not afraid to toot their own horns. Contrary to what my inner critic says, I am actually doing a lot right, but I am not good at publicly patting myself on the back or recognizing every win. Instead, I quickly move on because I’m usually on to strategizing the next endeavor. I blame my PR roots! We never had time to toast ourselves because we were always planning for the next big launch.
Even after all these years of success, my default setting is the feeling of imminent collapse. Failure is always right around the corner… only, that’s not true at all. God has heaped favor and blessings in my path and being in conference land reminded me just how far I’ve come as a writer, photographer, blogger, consultant, TV person and just general business-owning bada$$. I honor other women when they go for their dreams, but never give myself the same credit. I want to change that! Any suggestions?
The Next Steps
We can make our plans but God determines our steps. Proverbs 16:9
THE JET SISTERS VIDEO SERIES
We’re doing it, you guys! Shooting some full episodes and mini-ones, too. Subscribe to our YouTube channel to catch the launch, hopefully in the next 90 days.
Say goodbye to gluten, mis amigos! Oh, and legumes, grains, dairy, soy, nuts, nightshades, eggs, sugar and booze. I only eat steak now. In the absence of a diagnosis so far, and with all signs pointing to an inflammatory condition, I’m hopping on the autoimmune protocol (AIP) train. Destination: a life without pain. I promise I’ll share more about this in the future, but today, Oct. 1, is the day I’m going to try to fix myself with diet AND stress reduction (lol). Pray for me, I do so love things made with gluten, and I do so thrive on stress.
My schedule for the next 90 days is as crazy as ever with our 3rd wedding anniversary, a few video shoots for The Jet Sisters, one last campaign in Mississippi, Thanksgiving, Christmas and a possible trip to Costa Rica. But the main thing is that in 10 days, Rae and I are going to see Hamilton, finally!
So prepare yourselves for the Orth sisters to become the Schuyler sisters. Work!