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. 

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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.   

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A great post.... I think it's importnat for everyone to travel, but especially parents. One of the greatest gifts I give my son is exposing him to as many different people and places as I can. Not only does it teach him tolerance, curiousity, adventure, etc, but it helps him understand my job in the hotel industry and gives us something to bond over. I think going to all 50 states is a great goal (and visiting every continent, if you are able!)

Thank you for sharing Mr. Marriott. My fondest memories are from our road trips when I was a child. My three sisters and I before the break of dawn in the back seat of the wagon all sleeping shoulder to shoulder. The best part was when you woke up and tried to figure which state was in our view. I appreciate you bringing that wonderful memory front of mind for me. I do the same with my son and we love our road trips to Florida and beyond! I truly love working for our company because it always feels like home...

Nancy Ross

Thank you for your stories. It is true memories last forever like families they are comforting to have in the back of your mind when you are alone or need solace.


Mr. Marriott, I say exactly the same thing, but since I have visited all 50 states and most of the US possessions, I say "go places internationally." So, we just returned from visiting Rapa Nui and then staying in the Santiago, Chile Marriott. I always stay in Marriott properties, but the number of them keeps rising so steeply, I can't stay at all of them in one lifetime!

Life is certainly short. I like to travel to places that are not touristy. My husband and I drove all over Georgia and South Carolina, staying in Marriott(s) of course, and got a taste of how poor some parts of our country are. It was heart-breaking to see the 'other side of America' that seemed poorer than some parts of India. The way I choose places to travel, is by interesting newspaper articles about incidents in various non-touristy places. I decided on interior Georgia since I had read people sell boiled peanuts in 3 cauldrons (Spicy, non-spicy and cajun) on roadsides. When I went there to experience eating these delicious peanuts and interviewing these small business owners - I realized sadly that these peanuts are actually grown in China. These interior roads in Georgia are so deserted that these business owners are actually losing money. Unfortunately, their math was not good and it is going to take them a long time to realize their little business is actually making them poorer. Peace Corps volunteers are needed right here in our country.
My recent travel was to Southern Nevada, that has changed a lot in the last few years. It has become very upscale to my pleasant surprise. The Marriott Towne Place here has really good service. Kudos to the staff here.
Love your blogs Mr.Bill.

Indu Jayakumar
San Jose, California

Thanks, Bartell! I hope you get to do it - it truly is AMAZING all the US has to offer!

I would like to see all fifty states with my family. I believe that is extremely important. Go Gonce's!