Meet O Mag Insider – Annita Stokes Thomas!

Age: 61

Occupation: On-Air Host – Radio Show – Travel Bags With Annita

What did you want to be when you were a little girl?

As a little girl, I always wanted to own a business. I saw myself growing up to be a business woman.

What are some different jobs you’ve had in your life?

My first job was working with a beauty company. The owner was a great mentor, and I feel his guidance helped me develop self-esteem and confidence at an early age.

My career with Pan American World Airways has been the highlight of my careers. It is the job which has influenced all of my careers and jobs which came later in life. While working for Pan Am, I was a flight attendant for 13 years. I was promoted to lead flight attendant (on Pan Am we were called Pursers) after six months of flying. I had the chance with Pan American to travel to over 90 countries. I learned about culture, people, and had a chance to try different foods. I worked in the training department for Pan Am where I developed training materials for flight attendants and in-flight managers. I traveled to India, Brazil, Israel, Germany, London, and Kenya training flight attendants and pursers.

Also during my time with Pan Am, I was a representative for the company for the annual ASTA (American Society of Travel Agents) Conferences. After Pan Am went out of business, I worked as the campaign fundraiser for Justice Leah Ward Sears (her name at the time was Justice Leah Sears Collins). I traveled around the state of Georgia helping her raise money for her campaign. I had also worked on the campaigns of Mayor/Ambassador Andrew Young (his campaign for Governor of GA), Mayor Maynard Jackson, and Mayor Bill Campbell.

Shortly after working with Justice Ward Sears, I started working with the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau as the manager of Visitor Services. I worked there during the time of the 1996 Olympics, the first World Series, and the first Super Bowl in Atlanta. I managed a team of 1500 volunteers and staff during the games.

After the Olympics, I moved on to work with Rosenbluth International where I created and designed a training program for new leaders. Those who do their job really well, so it is assumed they can also lead a team of their counterparts. I designed a leadership development program to help them with managing the performance of their staff. I took this program around the world for the company, training new leaders in London, Ireland, Scotland, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Africa, Sweden, and the U.S. (South Dakota became my new home, with a call center in several of their cities). We assisted many of the online travel companies as start-ups – training staff for companies like Hotwire and EBookers. With the devastating day of 9/11 we were directly affected by the many flight cancellations, and the training consultants were released from their contracts.

I started working with other companies as a consultant, training in various countries and in the U.S. When attending a workshop to encourage managers and leaders to get involved in the non-profit organizations in their community, I met the Business Development Manager for the radio station WDUN – a station with broadcast signals in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, North Georgia, and Metro Atlanta. He had always wanted a travel radio show and asked if I would like to work with them and produce one. With shaky legs and no experience, I said yes.

Now, I have a syndicated show working not only with WDUN but also with WMLB in the metro Atlanta market. My show is on each Saturday from 1-2pm where I interview guests with travel-related information, and tourism boards from around the world. I provide travel tips and advice on everything from traveling with your pet, to how to pack, to traveling safe and secure. I also review travel gear for gifts as well as gear to help the traveler plan, prepare, and enjoy the best vacation they can.

I also started a vacation rental business with my husband on Sapelo Island, a pristine barrier island off the coast of Georgia. This beautiful island has 35 people who live on it as permanent residents, and the island is the size of Manhattan. We have five accommodations for visitors to the island. People love to visit the island which is accessible only by ferry boat. We have been offering vacation rentals for six years. It was developed as a project to help preserve the Gullah – Geechee culture on the island. The residents on the island are the descendants of the slaves who worked the cotton and sugar cane plantations on the island. Most of them are the 9th or 10th generation to live on their ancestral land. We employ young people who want to remain on the island to work and live.

We have also worked with the University of Georgia and Clemson University to bring back heritage plants, such as a small red pea which was brought over on the slave ships and has not been modified and also Purple Ribbon Sugar Cane which was grown and processed on the island. Sapelo was the first place where sugar was processed on the east coast. My husband and his partner have worked with Clemson to successfully bring this sugar cane back, and the celebrity chefs are loving it – buying it all to make delicious items on their menu.

What do you work toward in your spare time?

In my spare time I love to visit the ocean, relax, reflect and enjoy the time with my husband Bill and our three chocolate labs. We visit Sapelo Island, a barrier island off the coast of Georgia, at least once a month. And, it always helps me refuel until the next visit.

Are you a morning person or a night owl?

I am definitely a night owl. But, I am the mom of three chocolate labs, and they have “trained” me to be up early and ready for the day. I have adjusted…. yes, I have, but at heart I am still a night owl.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of the work my husband and I do on Sapelo Island to help preserve the Gullah/Geechee culture on the island. And, to reintroduce heritage plants, creating economic development on the island and encouraging farmers to grow plants and crops their ancestors grew during slavery and afterwards too.

What are you known for?

People know me as the travel girl. My friends and family all come to me with travel questions. Everything from when is the best time to purchase airline tickets, to what are the trending destinations and places to go. My friends all think I have been to every destination because of my time flying and traveling the world with Pan American World Airways. I have been to around 100 countries and everyone asks about the destinations of their next vacation. I like being considered a travel expert; it keeps me current on trends in different destinations because things do change from time to time and many destinations which I traveled to 20 years ago are very different today.

What inspires you?

I am inspired by the actions of others – when I see someone being kind to a stranger, or a young person helps an older person across the street. I feel fulfilled when I see humanity presented in a way that looks past the outside and focuses on the inside. We all have the same wants, desires, and needs – to be loved, appreciated, and valued. When I see that happening, I feel lifted in my own spirit and I feel more inspired. But I am also inspired by strong women. Those who step forward and take the lead without trying to control the lives of others. But, offers guidance in a kinder and more relaxed manner. I feel inspired by the accomplishments of friends and family. When I see someone I love reach a goal or realize a dream – I am inspired to go for my dreams too.

Tell me something about you that most people don’t know.

I love horses. When I was a little girl I wanted to own a horse ranch and groom horses. I will go out of my way to take a look at horses grazing in the field or stop to watch as they walk by.

Why did you apply to be an O Mag Insider?

I have been an admirer of Oprah and her journey. She is definitely an inspiration and role model for success and motivation. I wanted the opportunity to work closely with the magazine – the brand which so positively inspires others – both men and women.

How do you live your best life?

I seek to reach my goals and dreams with each decision I make. I want to make it a positive one. My best life is lived by including loved ones in my life. They are the strength and foundation of my life. Their support as I go out and seek adventure has sustained me and made me feel that I can decide to what feels best for me. The adventures I continue to take, traveling the world, are definitely a way I live my best life, but if life has taught me anything, it has taught me the importance of those in your life who support and guide you. Those who lift you up and want to see you reach your highest potential. My best life is lived by making sure I spend time with them, showing them love and kindness, and ensuring they know they have a very important and valuable place in my life.

What are you reading now?

At this time I enjoy audio books. They help me on long drives down to the coast of Georgia. Right now most of the audio books I’m listening to are around starting my podcast – Quarter Miles, which will be all about visiting the U.S.A. being inspired by a little quarter in your pocket. The U.S. Mint State Quarters each has a diagram on the back, highlighting something unique, historic or culturally important. We feature places to see and things to do in each state, based on that quarter. We have featured this Quarter Miles on our show for the last year, and now we are moving it to its own podcast. And, I am reading about podcasts and how they are similar to what I do, but also how I can make it a well-received guide for travelers.

What’s a day in the life of Annita Stokes Thomas like?

I’m up early and ready to feed my three fur babies: Jack, Jill, and JoJo. They are up early and ready to have a little time with mom (I’m one of those dog moms). We spend a little time together before they are off for a nap, and I start outlining what I need to do for the day. This time of the morning has become very special to me. It’s the perfect time to start writing and creating the script for my show or an article for my website. With the dogs sleeping at my feet and a hot beverage, I ease into the day. One day of each week I am on the Morning Drive show with a travel segment where I share travel trends, tips, and upcoming local events. As the day starts to come alive, emails, telephone calls and texts start to come in for both my radio show, brands I partner with, and also for the Sapelo Island Birdhouses, our vacation Rental Company. I work, along with my assistant, to ensure potential and future guests are taken care of and ready to visit Sapelo for a getaway.

With radio show planning, I am choosing music, researching info, writing scripts, editing interviews I conducted while on press trips, and selecting photos to accompany any reference to the show on social media or a blog post on the website. The interviews I have conducted while on press trips are mixed with audio I record in the radio studio of myself, guests, and co-hosts Olivia or Doc Bill. These recordings are prepared and ready to be mixed with audio to create the show which will air the following weekend. After recording the show in the radio studio, I usually have a meeting with my assistant to plan the next recordings at our other radio station. I am always preparing or recording for the next show. It’s a continuous preparation of context, working with guests, and building relationships with travel-related businesses. As the evening comes alive, I feed the puppies and we take a walk. When my hubby Bill arrives home, we sit and talk about the day, share stories and make plans. Dinner is prepared usually by my husband, who has spent some of his down time during the day, thinking of recipes and delicious meals. Other times we go out and share dinner and enjoy each other’s company.

Check out Annita’s website at Travel Bags With Annita

You can also follow her on Twitter and Instagram

 

This is part of an ongoing series, introducing you to the dynamic individuals who make up O, The Oprah Magazine’s Brand Ambassadors known as the O Mag Insiders. For more information on the program or to apply, click HERE.

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