Kelly Heatly, Kelly@HeatlyCustomResearch.com
Holly O’Neill Says “Yes!”
Holly O’Neill (Newport Beach, CA) and her boyfriend, Douglas Grindstaff, enjoyed a lovely vacation in Cancun over Thanksgiving week. But the big surprise wasn’t turkey and pumpkin pie – it was a beautiful diamond engagement ring. Overlooking the Caribbean Sea, under the stars, with a tropical breeze blowing, and on one knee... Douglas asked Holly, "Will you marry me?" And she said "Yes!"
Holly O’Neill and her new fiancé, Douglas Grindstaff, on vacation in Cancun.
Kristin Schwitzer’s Mother-Daughter Trip of a Lifetime!
Personal travel memoir written by Kristin Schwitzer (Annapolis, MD):
Kristin Schwitzer and daughter Kaylee in Argentina
When I became a parent, I had no idea that meant amazing perks and global travel!
Four years ago, when my oldest child, Kaylee, was 16 years old, she wrote a PowerPoint presentation to Mom and Dad on why she needed to be the first student at her private high school to study abroad for her Fall junior semester. After a personally defining experience in Alicante, Spain, where she took all her classes in Spanish, I joined her for two weeks of travels throughout Spain and Italy. Definitely a good trip, but it was nothing compared to this past December in South America. Who would have thought I would get such a great opportunity again, just four years later?!
An afternoon in the colorful La Boca neighborhood of Buenos Aires
Now a junior in college, Kaylee left in July for a second Spanish immersion experience, this time for six months in Mendoza, Argentina – the great Malbec capital of the world! Just three days into her new life in Mendoza, she landed a photojournalist internship at the Wine Republic Magazine, covering wine-related events via video, such as this charming one, photography and social media—and yes, also learning about and enjoying wine at age 20!
As she was finishing up her final exams, I landed in Buenos Aires at 10:30 a.m. With only 24 hours to spend in B.A., I quickly changed from winter clothes to a sundress given the 95-degree heat. And I hit B.A. hard! La Boca for the full afternoon with its colorful shops, pubs, street tango dancers, and the famous Boca Junior soccer stadium. Then, off to Recoleta to see Eva Peron’s grave, and stumbled on an amazing water-front jazz festival, dinner at the wonderful Sottovoce Italian restaurant (thanks to Greenbook’s Diane Liebenson for the reco!), and even an exclusive 10:00 p.m. El Rojo Tango Show. Back to my hotel at 1:00 a.m. Phew! And that was just Day One!
Off the next day to Mendoza, which included meeting Kaylee’s Argentinian family and friends, getting the tour of her local hangouts, and two especially memorable experiences: a full day of horseback riding on a beautiful estancia up in the Andes and a luxury wine tasting tour where we visited four wineries as part of a private eight-person group with a professional guide, talking/touring directly with the owners and no other visitors in sight. Just wish we could import more of the phenomenal wines we tasted and have yet to find here in the U.S.
Horseback riding in Mendoza on a beautiful estancia in the Andes
We learned that transportation in Argentina is WAY behind the U.S; getting anywhere requires going through one of two cities—Buenos Aires or Santiago, Chile—and spending a full day of travel to get anywhere. Oh, and beware of buses that do not provide toilet paper! On to more interesting stuff…
Next stop: many hours south for one day in El Calafate to see the Perito Moreno Glacier. After a full day of travel, we arrived at our hotel at midnight due to all the cancelled-without-reason flights and learned upon arrival that all tours to the glacier were sold out! A great ad-lib experience: we hired a local cab driver for the day that didn’t speak a word of English and talked a mile a minute with my daughter! We took a boat cruise up close and personal on one side, and then hiked the other side in Parque Nacional Los Glaciares. We ended the day with a massage back at the hotel that was billed as “California Spa” and was so NOT that… definitely more Latin American-style!
From there, the unpleasant bus trip and crossing the border, clearing two customs—another full day wasted. But then a turn for the better! We caught a shuttle north into the Patagonia region of Chile, and suddenly, people and buildings were no longer existent. Animals we had never seen before dominated. We checked into our “yurt” where we lived for the balance of the trip, and immediately took on progressively more difficult outdoor adventures. The first day was not that physically challenging yet quite memorable, as it was just outside the National Park, so we went an entire day without seeing another human being beyond our small group, a single car, or building of any type. Just a ton of wildlife, including guanacos (Chilean lamas) everywhere, Andean mountain cats, pumas, flamingos, and the largest land-based flying bird in the Western Hemisphere, the Andean condor; we got within ten feet of several before they flew away. On the way back (and each day after), our van got stuck waiting for a herd of sheep or cows being corralled by nomadic gauchos on horseback and their working dogs. A great start for our time in Patagonia.
After checking into their “yurt,” Kristin and Kaylee saw much wildlife including guanacos.
We kept stepping up the challenge of our full-day hikes to the final day when we did the eight-hour Torres del Paine Base Trek, a deservedly famous and highly demanding excursion, and in 70-mph winds! There were some hikers who were literally holding on to their climbing partners by their waistbands along the trail so as to not lose them over the unguarded cliff. (Yeah, that’s a big difference–absolutely NO rails, fencing, warnings, at-your-own-risk signs, etc. – everything we are accustomed to in the U.S.) The amazing view at the base of the summit was well worth the effort, with its hidden turquoise lake and three massive granite towers. On the way down and now moving with the wind, I finally realized it was easier to use my body as a “sail” and essentially run/skip down the rugged terrain than to constantly fight the wind in an attempt to slow down. Glad I’m still here to tell the story!
70mph winds didn't keep Kristin and daughter Kaylee from reaching Base Las Torres in Patagonia Chile! Pictured with Chilean tour guide and British couple they met.
My first trip to South America only whetted my appetite. Kaylee had already been to many of the places I would like to go someday, so I’ll just have to go back!
Next up: my globetrotting daughter is interning this summer in Chicago. Having never once mentioned my hometown as a place she would potentially like to live, I’m absolutely thrilled that she has chosen it on her own and will get to experience a summer in The Windy City as a 21 year old! And you bet I will be visiting her! J
In addition to the article, watch a brief video in Spanish, narrated by Kristin’s daughter, Kaylee Schwitzer:
Deborah Potts Spends the Night in McDonald’s
Next time someone asks Deborah Potts (Louisville, KY) to play the game "Tell a little known fact about yourself" or "What are two truths and a lie," she has a new one: “I once spent the night in a McDonald’s in Atlanta.”
On January 28th, Deborah was driving south on 75/85, trying to get to her airport hotel after a day of interviews north of the city. It took her five hours to drive 10 miles! When a bus did a "180" in front of her, stopping in a position perpendicular to the lanes, she knew it was time to get off the highway. She was hoping to make her way on side streets. She stopped at the nearby McDonald’s to charge her phone and get warm and found several other stranded travelers who had decided to stay put through the night.
The McDonald’s manager – a young woman with a young crew – was able to see beyond the usual modes of operation. They locked everyone in for the night, while keeping the drive-through open. All through the night, they opened their doors to others who had been on the road for hours, allowing them access to restrooms, a warm place to take refuge, and food. Deborah may have been the only one to actually get a few hours of sleep (dang those booths are hard!), probably from years of practice sleeping on planes.
Deborah left at 5:30 a.m. and gingerly made her way to the airport, in time for her flight out. McDonald’s Corporation got a very grateful letter from her the next day!
McDonald's in Atlanta where Deborah Potts spent the night, seeking refuge in the snowstorm
Mark Michelson Saves Stranded Drivers in Atlanta
Mark Michelson (Atlanta, GA) helped quite a few folks who were stuck in the recent snowstorm with rides in his Jeep. He generously offered his home to stranded friends, though the hills in his neighborhood made it difficult for one friend to take him up on his offer.
To remedy cabin fever, in between writing reports, Mark stayed active on Facebook with several groups designed to help stranded drivers. Through one of these groups, Mark volunteered to help out stranded people he had never met by driving them to their car.
The largest Facebook group is called “SnowedOutAtlanta,” which grew from 0 to 55,000+ members in two days! The lady who created the group has been featured on many news programs and in the New York Times. Her efforts spawned more localized groups like “SnowedOutRoswell,” which Mark followed closely given the proximity of his home to Roswell.
After helping out others, Mark ran into trouble himself. He was supposed to fly to Toronto to give a presentation on Mobile Research at MRIA's Net Gain Conference. After he was unable to get to the airport followed by a canceled flight, he ended up delivering the presentation virtually. A true digital mobile presentation!
Southern” snow plows you might have seen recently if you were driving in Atlanta.
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