Even before jerrycoin put up his great post about some of the Insider gatherings he’s had over the years, I had been looking back over the last year, reflecting on meeting many Marriott Rewards Insiders face to face. As we near the end of another year, I wanted to recall all the online friends I got to see in person, and look ahead to next year with the hopes of meeting more. As a side note, I met jerrycoin in May 2014, so while it didn't occur during the past 12 months, it wasn't terribly long ago (Re: bejacob & jerrycoin relax in STL!). In many ways I can thank him for starting me down this path.
Forgive me if I jump back to the end of 2014 because while it was not first time I met another Insider, it did begin the journey of the past 12 months. On November 7, 2014, erc, pluto77, and I gathered at the Edgar Bar inside the Mayflower Hotel in Washington D.C. as VIP guests courtesy of our very own community manager (Re: Insiders Get Together - Mayflower Hotel). From that simple meeting, my travels in 2015 focused almost as much on meeting other Insiders as it did on my county collecting hobby.
Left to right: Mr pluto77, communitymanager, pluto77, bejacob, erc, and Mrs. erc.
In March, while visiting 35 counties in central California, I had the pleasure of joining pluto77 and her husband for dinner again, this time in her home base in Fresno. Amazingly, neither of us thought to take photographs to document the meeting, so you’ll just have to take our word that it happened. As you might imagine, we discussed several Marriott related topics (MR, credit cards, favorite properties) as well as frequent flier programs and upcoming travels plans. Funny thing about this trip is that I originally considered flying to Houston to visit IAHFLYR. It turned out to be his week on the Oregon coast, so I put off my visit to east Texas for another time.
In April, my travels took me into the mountains of Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and northeastern Georgia for 61 more counties. Though I had already visited foxglove’s hometown of Athens, I decided a slight detour would be worth another Insider get together. (If ever in doubt, take the time to visit Insiders ). After checking into the SHS Athens, foxglove stopped by and we headed off for dinner and a guided tour of town. I highly encourage all Insiders to make a trek to this part of the country to visit one of the nicest Insiders you’ll ever meet (Another Insider meet up (bejacob and foxglove) ).
July 31st found me in Niagara Falls, Ontario for the sole purpose of meeting brightlybob. He had been posting about his month-long trip to North America, so after exchanging a few messages, we settled on a meeting at the Fallsview Marriott (what a view from the CL Re: Insiders meet at Niagara Falls (brightlybob and bejacob) ). I had already visited all the counties in the area, so the 5-hour drive to Buffalo and beyond was merely a social call. Anyone visiting the UK should have a pint with this fine fellow and former Featured Insider. If you're lucky, he'll wear one of his outrageous shirts (Insiders with Outrageous Shirts ).
For much of the year, I had been planning the big trip of the year—Hawaii. By the time September arrived, I was ready. The nearly two-week trip required multiple blog posts (see below) and included a visit with our island expert, kharada46 and his wife (Insiders meet in Honolulu). As with all Insider visits, this one proved too short. The only advantage we have that through this forum, many of us already know each other, so we can jump right to topics of interest. In this case, plans for the islands, aviation geek speak, and of course, Marriott. The trip also included 3 of the 4 county seats in Hawaii, so a future trip is already being planned (Feb/Mar 2017?).
For the curious who missed the Hawaii blog posts here are the links (forgive the shameless plug )
Looking back, 2015 has been a great year of meeting wonderful people. It’s hard to imagine how next year could be better. (IAHFLYR if I make to Houston, these Insiders have set a high standard to achieve ) There are a lot more Insiders to meet for the first time and others to see again. I’m not sure yet where my travels will take me in 2016. One thing this past year has taught me. If a stop includes a get together with another Insider, it’s sure to be memorable.
With weekend trips to DC and central Florida still ahead in December, maybe there will be one more Insider meeting this year. If so, look for an addendum to this post.