You probably already know that we were invited to the White House. And to attend was going to be a massive detour from our current road trip around Australia.
But we knew if we said no, we wouldn’t be invited again and it could be that once-in-a-lifetime experience.
So we made the incredibly long flight from Perth to Washington DC via Sydney, Dallas and North Carolina to attend the travel blogger summit on Study Abroad and Global Citizenship.
I’m really glad we went.
We had a lot of fun, met some really cool people, got inspired, learned a lot of helpful things to share with you, and possibly opened a few business doors.
And perhaps we got a little closer to knowing what we want to do with our lives – you know when we grow up.
We published a post last week on what we learned in regards to study abroad and some useful programs for students interested, which you can read here.
Today’s post is just to share with you about our day at the White House (and let you see what the East Wing looks like) and the fun events surrounding it.
Pre – White House Party
Travel Massive – a meet up group for travel lovers and those in the industry – hosted an event the evening before the summit at Hotel Monaco‘s Poste Moderne Brasserie.
We attended the original Travel Massive in Sydney when we first arrived home from living in the States. It really helped us to move though reverse culture shock. We were stoked to see Alicia Smith there, one of the original founders of Travel Massive.
It was so great to finally meet many travel bloggers that we have been chatting with online for years. It was a nice ice-breaker to ease us into the next day. We also had a couple of readers turn up, which is always a thrill for us to meet.
I was happy to meet and have a chat with Rolf Potts, a well-known author and travel writer. We had only just listened to his empowering interview with Tim Ferris a few weeks before and loved it. He’s a really great guy and we hung out some more during the event the next day.
The Dress Attire
If you’ve been following our preparation and White House journey then you know choosing what to wear was a dilemma of mine.
My fashion blogger friend Nikki from Styling You put me in touch with a local Perth designer, Petra Vanessie, who designs a lot of corporate wear. She gave me this beautiful green dress and jacket for the event. I paired it with some stunning pearl jewellery from Jet Empire.
I had a lot of comments about both during the day. I also had a lot of comments from people about my white coat, which a friend lent to me for the trip. One man even stepped out of a line at an ATM to tell me how much he liked my coat!! lol
Craig went shopping in Raleigh, North Carolina and got himself a suit on sale at Macy’s. A slim cut, which I think makes him look younger and hotter. Agree?
It was fun to get dressed up for a change. We’re so used to flip flops and swimmers. But, I had a bad hair day AND my feet were killing me by the end of the day. HEELS! Yuck. I had a massive blister come up and I really missed my UGG boots.
By the evening I was walking to the bars bare foot on the cold ground. It was far more comfortable!
Breakfast at W Hotel
The W Hotel has a bit of legendary status in DC. Even though it was a wet and gloomy day outside it has killer views of the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and the White House. Thank goodness for the laws preventing high rise buildings in DC.
It would be a beautiful place to come of an evening for a drink. The bar is meant to be the place to come. We were on the top floor for our breakfast. It was a great opportunity to chat with the other attendees and pose for more pics.
Tour of the White House (East Wing)
From breakfast, we walked over to the White House for our tour. This was where my feet started their slide down hill and where I began to feel such gratitude for my usual beachwear attire.
Of course security at the White House is a big deal and we had over 100 people going in for the tour, plus there were a few other tourists hanging around. So it was a loooong hour wait in the rain and cold. I had decided not to wear stockings because they annoy the crap out of me, so I had bare frozen legs and feet.
Thankfully, Geraldine DeRuiter from The Everywhereist rescued us with her umbrella. And we got a chance to chat with her for a long time, she is a super sweet person and we adored getting to know her.
And that white jacket sure came in handy.
It was pretty special to walk through the White House with all the lovely Christmas decorations on display, and seeing portraits of former Presidents.
Originally we thought we couldn’t take any photos at all so left our DSLR in our hotel, but becasue it was the Christmas holiday season when we got inside photos were suddenly allowed.
So unfortunately all our photos from the day were taken on our Samsung Galaxy phone and are blurry and grainy. Bummer!!
It didn’t quite hit me we were in THE WHITE HOUSE until we walked into the room where Lincoln and JFK’s body was laid out after their assassinations. Whoa. There is a lot of history in this place.
The East Wing was decorated with Christmas lights and trees and it was just beautiful. We thought the Library was the prettiest room and we loved the moving portrait of JFK.
We were also stoked that Abraham Lincoln photo bombed us in the State dining room. They’d also decorated a few luggage stacks by the windows in this room in honour of us bloggers. Yay!
Unfortunately no Obama or First Lady came to say hi. I think they were perhaps out of town.
Lunch at the Press Club
Unfortunately due to the security lines at the white House, we were kind of rushed with lunch.
Hostelling International USA hosted the lunch at the infamous Press Club, which is just across the road from the White House. It was delicious and we heard a lot of the great programs the HI are putting into place to help those who wish to study abroad and travel.
Travel Summit at the Executive Building
It couldn’t be an important event without some kind of DRAMA from me!
Determined to not have to wait in security lines for so long again by being last in line, we moved quickly over to the Executive Building to get in first. By this stage my feet were killing and I was so cold and my coping mechanisms were way down.
The line moved quickly and then the guy checking my passport said, “I’ve got your birth date wrong on my manifest, it’s been switched around.”
I explained the opposite way that the States do their dates opposite to ours and he said he knew that BUT he said it should be matching on the manifest. He could not let me in until I got my White House contact to fix it.
I tried emailing and phoning our lovely host Fran but could not get in contact with her initially, and I thought she must have left us for the remainder of the day.
I couldn’t believe it.
I’d come all this way for this event and I was not going to be let in. I was already so tired that I started to get a little emotional. I had some beautiful people try to help me including Pauline Frommer from Frommer’s travel guides, who is unbelievably sweet.
Finally, I tearily pleaded with the security guy that I’d come all the way from Perth for this and I’d gotten in okay that morning through security at the East Wing.
“Oh you got in the White House and it was okay?”
“Yes.” I said trying to hold back the tears. ‘Go on then, in you go.”
I could have kissed him. I was so relieved, but that meant we were now waiting out in the cold to get through the next check point for a longer time as more people moved through!!
I was so happy once we got inside the room to just sit, with shoes off for the next three hours and listen to the speakers and panels about a topic that is very dear to my heart and inspires me to work this business every day.
Help people to travel more because it will only empower their lives into something more fulfilling and happier and to of course impact the world positively.
Again read this post for all the info.
We had a few important people come speak like the White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and the Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. Not that I really know what a Chief of Staff does but apparently it’s pretty good that he gave of his valuable time to come chat with us.
As we left the Executive Building we walked out alongside the West Wing and had a glimpse inside of Biden’ and a few other important people’s offices.
We did not see the Oval Office however. And as we were waiting for our bus, a motorcade came out of the White House with some important people in it.
There was no ambulance, which we learned meant it was not the President or Biden. They get the special treatment of course. A little over the top coming from my neck of the woods, but still very impressive!
Dinner at the Newseum
Phew. Now was the time to click of those heels and just relax.
We had an amazing dinner at the Newseum near the National Mall. The Newseum is a museum all about journalist reporting! As we were so exhausted we did not look at any exhibitions as we knew we wouldn’t take it in, but we visited the next day to check it out more. (btw I thought the Newseum displays were fantastic, but I didn’t like the majority of it at all. Stay tuned for a later post to find out why).
The dinner was a great chance to chat with some more of our friends and eat delicious food from Wolfgang Puck.
The event was hosted by Turkish Airlines, which we did not know much about, but have since discovered a raving fan base within our community. I am a raving fan of Turkey, so of course it makes sense their airline is just as good.
Turkish Airlines surprised us all with an Oprah moment at the end of the evening. Free business class tickets for all attendees to fly to Istanbul!!
Everyone squealed with that gift! It’s departing from a US gate, so we might have to try and convince them that flying from Sydney, with two kids is just as good!!
The Party Kicks On
I was ready for bed, but of course I find it difficult to say no to after parties and was kinda dragged there by Craig. A group of us went out to a nearby bar until about 1.ooam ish.
I’m really glad I went as I had a lot of fun chatting more to some really cool people like Lillie from Around the World “L”, Nathaniel from Daily Travel Podcast, Geraldine from The Everywhereist, Kate form Adventurous Kate, Rolf Potts from Vagabonding, Angie from AngieAway, Pauline Froehlich form Yahoo travel and Robert Reid from National Geographic.
Where We Stayed in Washington DC
We loved our accommodation at the Hilton Garden Inn Georgetown who kindly covered our accommodation expense.
It was the perfect location close to several Metro stations (Foggy Bottom) and with easy walking distances to many of the sites, including Georgetown and Lincoln Memorial and the National Mall.
Whole Foods (our fave supermarket) is just around the corner – yes we are die hard fans! And one night we took advantage of being “kid free” and stayed in for some yummy room service!