11/25/2014 02:00 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Life Is Short. Go Places

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.

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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