Life is short. Go places

November 23, 2014

This is a story about the Gonce family, who live in Oak Grove, Mississippi.  They are discoverers.  Daughters, Lauren and Leslie started out on a trip to Chicago to visit The American Girl store.  Their mom and dad, Chris and Leslie, took some detours along the way.  This is how adventures begin, taking the road less traveled, the blue highways. 

image from

For the past seven summers, the Gonce’s, along with Chris’ parents, have traveled to different regions of the United States for their family vacations.  When they returned this summer, they had visited all fifty states.

Leslie Gonce wrote some notes when the local paper, The Lamar Times, called for an interview.  Her story illustrates the power of travel:

 “Chris began planning our driving route - and decided there was much more to see on the way to Chicago. I think this would probably be the point at which he had the vision to show Lauren & Ashley their country – every one of the 50 states. And, he put a time limit on it.  His idea was to complete it by the time L & A were out of high school. (Which he has accomplished, by the way! Lauren will graduate in 2016.) But, as much as it was about actually experiencing all 50 states, it has been more about our family.  The time we've spent together has made us richer.  The memories we've made cannot be taken from any of us. Any day of the week, I can wander through memories and slow the years that seem to have passed by so quickly.

We completed our grand quest this summer when we traveled to Hawaii.  We were able to explore Oahu, Maui, the Big Island, and Moloka'i. So, our journey culminated with seeing the 50th of the United States!”

This story came to my attention through our customer service team because the Gonce’s always stayed in Marriott hotels along the way.  (I assume and hope they’re Rewards members.) Their trips took them “from sea to shining sea.”  Favorite places included: Mt. McKinley in Alaska, Alcatraz, 9/11 Memorial, Pearl Harbor, and sunrises and sunsets from all over the States. 

Most summers, when my children were young, Donna and I piled them in to the car and headed up to New Hampshire. A road trip with family is indeed memorable.  It’s even more memorable when you see our entire country one state at a time, stopping to smell the roses.  I can tell that the Gonce’s are a very close family.

The Gonce’s live by a few sayings – “collect memories, not things.” Leslie wrote this saying after finishing the fifty-state sojourn:

"Life is short. Go all the places." – Leslie Gonce

Sounds like a good tagline for a hotel company.  Congratulations on a memorable achievement.

I’m Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the Move.   

The Lizard and the Boy

November 16, 2014
If you’ve ever loved something special, you know how upsetting it can be to have it lost. Over the years, our youngest guests have left behind (or lost) toys, books, balls, you name it… But not until recently has someone lost a lizard. I received a letter from the Marco...

Staking Our Reputation on Customer Service

November 9, 2014
When my father started his business in 1927, he had one original goal: “good food and good service at a fair price.” He staked his reputation on superior customer service. Not much has changed today. Our dedication to the customer is apparent in everything we do… right down to the...

Healthy Employees = Healthy Company

November 2, 2014
My father believed from the day he and my mother opened their first Hot Shoppe in 1927 that you must put your employees first. He treated every employee as an extended family member including making sure they had proper medical care. This was revolutionary. Our country hadn’t established child labor...

From Comic Books to Content Studios

October 26, 2014
1967 comic book featuring instructions on how to make a jello mold. It all began in the late 1960’s when we published comic books for customers to read in our Hot Shoppes restaurants. We had celebrity articles on personalities like Sally Field, who was starring in “The Flying Nun.” You...

Thanks for Thank-You Notes

October 19, 2014
Listen to blog Dear Thank-You Note, Reports of your death have been greatly exaggerated. I wrote over 700 hundred thank-you notes last year, but we octogenarians can’t keep carrying the torch of proper etiquette. (Maybe torch is the wrong word when referring to notepaper.) I worry most about the Millennials....

Into the Details

October 12, 2014
When my father asked our Board of Directors to elect me president of our company in 1964, he wrote me a very thoughtful letter describing how I should develop my management style to be an effective executive. In a recent interview, I was asked, which item on my father’s list...

Why Ask Why

October 4, 2014
In their book Double Down, Mark Halperin & John Heilemann briefly mentioned President George W. Bush’s lack of curiosity as one reason why the last half of his second term was not as successful as it could have been. As I ponder why some people are successful in business and...

The End of an Era

September 27, 2014
My father, who founded our company with a nine-stool root beer stand in 1927, came from a family of eight children. Dad had four sisters and three brothers. Woodrow was the youngest member of the family and he died in 2005. His widow, Judy Cannon Marriott, passed away on August...

Taking Care of Guests, From A to Z

September 20, 2014
Our core value at Marriott is to take good care of our associates, and they will take good care of our guests. Recently I had the privilege of presenting the 50-year of service pin and certificate to Miss Frances Holland. Ms. Frances, as everyone calls her, joined our company when...

My Rules for Tipping

September 16, 2014
To celebrate International Housekeeping Week, we are placing tip envelopes in 160,000+ rooms. Most people are not sure who to tip and who not to tip when they receive good service. I try to tip everyone from the pizza deliveryman to the parking attendant to the waiter and bellman. I...