American Airlines American Airlines AAdvantage Loyalty Traveler personal reflections

I am AAdvantage Gold–FFP elite again after 5 years

I just checked my American Airlines AAdvantage account to see how many miles I have for a flight award.

To my surprise I saw this on my account page:


Surely Gold is not too exciting for on-the-go frequent flyers, but AAdvantage Gold elite is a significant milestone for this loyalty traveler.

The Loyalty Traveler Saga

I quit my job as a frequent flyer analyst for a publishing company in March 2007. That was my fifth job in four years following my decision to leave elementary school classroom teaching as a profession. I was promoted once, laid off twice and quit jobs twice due to low pay (motivated me to launch Loyalty Traveler) and top-down aggravation and oversight (motivated me to go back to Loyalty Traveler self-employment).

I had status through butt-in-seat miles with all three alliances OneWorld, SkyTeam and Star Alliance in 2007. I vacationed in Singapore, Amsterdam, Alaska, Dresden, Prague, Buenos Aires, Argentina and Colonia, Uruguay in 2006-2007. I bought a marble penguin in Chile that sits on my fireplace mantel. I stayed in Atlanta, D.C. and New York (actually Newark, New Jersey for lower priced hotels) several times while I made a couple of trips to South America on Delta $500 business class mistake fares.

I started Loyalty Traveler blog in 2007. Loyalty Traveler as a business started in 2006, but within three months I was hired to write frequent flyer books. I used to be quite proficient at ITA and ExpertFlyer and finding loads of cheap airline fares to travel the world on mileage runs and mini-vacations. The experience of seeing how continual changes in frequent flyer programs  outdated books I was writing within weeks led me to move into blogging.

So why no elite airline status in 5 years?

No income for the first year of Loyalty Traveler from mid-2007 to mid-2008. Then projects started rolling in again. My travel started up again in late 2008.

Then 2009 rolled around. The economy went to shit. And so did our household in January 2009.

My wife went in for a routine medical exam to discover she had rectal cancer.

One day everything was falling into place and the next day everything fell apart again.

The doctor told her she could not work for 9 months and she would have immediate surgery followed by six months of regular chemotherapy with six weeks of radiation treatment.

We lost most of our income for the year. We spent our money on gas and prescription medicines, food and hotel rooms to take advantage of the most incredible hotel deals of the decade and give Kelley a break from staring at the walls of the living room and bedroom at home for weeks on end.

My days were filled with driving 150 miles roundtrip to take Kelley to the hospital in San Jose and during summer 2009 we drove 180 miles daily for a 15-minute hospital radiation treatment in Santa Clara. Kelley rested when she could and I did everything else. I look back over those months on Loyalty Traveler blog now and see I was posting fewer than half the days of the month.

Kelley finished her treatments in late September 2009. We have our fingers crossed she is cancer free when her three year check-up comes in the next couple of weeks.

2010 and 2011 I primarily drove around the western states in my car for travel. My car is a business deduction. Air travel is also a business deduction, but one that takes more out-of-pocket spending.

And Loyalty Traveler grew in readership over the years.

Hotel companies started contacting me for meetings and events and projects.

2012 is my Golden Year

Earning American AAdvantage Gold Elite in 2012 for miles flown holds a special significance for me. I might even reach Platinum elite with the remaining trips I have planned for 2012. I also have flown United, US Airways and Spirit this year.

Perhaps I will even go back to writing about frequent flyer programs on Loyalty Traveler.

A person commented to me at TBEX Girona, Spain that she was surprised to read that I had not been to Europe in five years.

Another travel blogger wrote the other day that most travel bloggers do not travel all that much. I do not travel as much as I would like, but I still have 50 nights or more in hotels each year.

The meaning of travel is relative to each person’s travel experience.

For some people travel means leaving the country and being on the road or in the air for months at a time or even all the time. For some people travel means being in a hostel or a tent or a luxury resort or in the homes of friends and family for holidays.

I decided thirty years ago, after backpacking on the road for months in the northeast U.S and across Canada, that I wanted a true companion to share the travel adventures with me. My wife Kelley has been with me for 30 years. We live about 500 yards from where we first met in Monterey in college.

People who meet me often ask, “Do you travel all the time?”

I tell them I like to travel away from home about every six weeks.

Frequent travelers wonder why I don’t travel more. My response is typically something like:

I live in Monterey, California. I like to travel, but I have no desire to travel all the time to other places. Monterey is a fine place to be. And my home in Monterey is filled with cats and my wife who all love me and miss my companionship when I am away.

And now the frequent flyer elite status is a Loyalty Traveler milestone.

Being American Airlines AAdvantage Gold feels good.


  • JettyBoy October 10, 2012

    Best wishes to you both for the upcoming check up. Love the blog – a breath of fresh air compared to other “travel” blogs.

  • Laura October 10, 2012

    Ric, your openness and honesty is touching and I wish all the best to Kelley and you for a long and healthy time together. Here’s looking at travels for your 35th/40th and other big milestone anniversaries!!

  • Haloastro October 10, 2012

    It was so refreshing to read this wonderful post this morning about your journey! Thank you, Ric.

  • MidTierStatus October 10, 2012

    Best of luck to the both of you. Great post! Started reading your blog a year ago and never stopped. Keep up the excellent writing and analysis.

  • BothofUs2 October 10, 2012

    What an inspirational post- best wishes to you and your wife for health and happiness in the future. Your situation is a great example of how this miles and points collecting hobby can provide different things to different people, at different times in their lives. Its not all about the status, its about making it all come together and work best for you and your family.

  • aadvantagegeek October 10, 2012

    I wish all the best to you and Kelley.

  • Lively October 10, 2012

    I appreciated your blog and look at it everyday. Best wishes to you and your wife!

  • reeder October 10, 2012

    Good Luck to Kelley! Plenty of SF Bay residents go to Monterey to have a quick no-fly vacation and it is indeed a fine place to be. I like the posts where you visit around home because it is gorgeous there and really, a whole lot prettier than the walls of my cube or the airplane seat near the bathroom…

  • karung99 October 10, 2012

    Ric, I enjoyed your down to earth blog, best luck to Kelly.
    Hope to see you both soon!

  • RedHat October 10, 2012

    I have been reading your post since early 2010. Great and inspirational post. All the best for Kelley upcoming check-up. Keep us posted and congrats on your Gold status. Glad those cloudy days are behind you now.

  • R. October 10, 2012

    Best wishes to you and Kelly.

  • Charles October 10, 2012

    Best luck to both your wife and you. I follow you blog regularly, thank you very much.

  • snuggliestbear October 10, 2012

    A very touching post – all the best to both of you.

  • Skwok October 10, 2012

    Best of luck to both you and your wife. I have only started reading your blog via boarding area but will keep my eye out for your posts.

    You have traveled plenty, more than most people their entire life. It is not about traveling often but making the most of it. It seemed as if you have made the most of it, especially with someone you care about.

    After all these years of traveling, I too just made AA Gold. For some like me, you can travel too much.

  • gluedtothewindow October 10, 2012

    Amazing story, and thanks for sharing it with us. Sending warm wishes to you and Kelley for a truly Golden rest of 2012 and beyond. And from one AA GLD to another, welcome (back) to the club. Perhaps we’ll bump into each other on the road.

  • JettyBoy October 10, 2012

    It is posts like these that make me wish you had CC referral links (so we could “reward” you in some fashion). Maybe you can consider an approach like Frequent Miler has taken (discreet way of having these links, and not letting them drive the content)?

  • David October 10, 2012

    Good luck on your wife checkup, I wil pray for her that everything will be ok.

    Somehow reading this blog is like reading what I wanted to do,-be able to write about travelling blog without to travel that much. I dont know if that is possible.

  • Kc October 10, 2012

    I just had to comment. I was diagnosed with rectal cancer last year. I finished treatment in May and my husband and I are with the same financial issues you and your wife had. You don’t know how much I needed to read this. I wish you both the best of luck going forward. Thank you for sharing-it made my day.

  • Yas October 10, 2012

    sending thoughts and warm aloha to you and your wife. And oh yeah, congrats on the GOLD status!

  • Carolyn T October 10, 2012

    I always appreciate your thorough analysis of whatever you’re writing about. I’ve been reading you for about 3 years regularly. Good luck on the next round of check-ups.
    Hope to see you again at Chicago this weekend.

  • greek2me October 10, 2012

    Touching post. All the best to you both for good news at upcoming checkup.

  • Planetshakers October 10, 2012

    All the best on the checkup! This post made my day!

  • rapach October 10, 2012

    Such an amazing story. This post is pure awesomeness! Thanks for sharing.

  • Jackie October 10, 2012

    How touching! My best to you and your family. I hope your travels and your blog continue to take you where you want to go. It’s all about doing what’s right for you and your family.

  • Lark October 10, 2012

    I appreciate your ‘local’ posts from home… Monterey is such a beautiful place to live (or visit)!

    And congrats on crossing the 50,000 mile milestone!

  • Steelsnow October 10, 2012

    Best wishes to you both – some things are even bigger than travel and it sounds like you both are to each other. Here’s to health to both of you and anyone else who commented here touched by cancer or illness.

  • Hobo13 October 11, 2012

    Wow. The classiest travel blogger I know.

  • PH October 11, 2012

    Inspiring. Life experiences can really give you perspective.

  • Bob October 11, 2012

    Dear Ric and Kelley,

    Thanks so much for sharing your heart with us through your story. You’ve long been my favorite travel blog, the only one I recommend all the time.
    Like you, I enjoy travel AND I am also grateful to live in a beautiful part of the world. It’s a great combo.
    Many blessings to both of you for a continued wonderful life together – wherever you are.

  • gpapadop October 11, 2012

    Thanks for the personal and touching post. My best wishes to you and your wife!

  • chemist661 October 11, 2012

    When your wife had cancer, did you have Kaiser Permanente for your health insurance? I am curious because my wife had breast cancer in 2006 and she had Kaiser for her health insurer. We got married in Sept 2006 and she would have to drive a ways (we live in Long Beach & at the time, Kaiser was past Downtown LA @Sunset/Vermont which is a terrible drive with traffic). The radiation treatments started in early 2007 and I was able to switch to Blue Cross HMO (Anthem) so her radiation treatments would be in our city.

    Now I have Stage 4 Cancer (head/neck cancer that started in the tongue & spread into the neck–Surgery Dec 2011) with most recently suspect spots in my rt lung). I been back to work full time since May 2012 and my biopsy of the lung is next week.

    I read your blog and enjoy using your information to get deals on hotels, etc. We enjoy using the PC Pointbreaks for deals in addition to all the other deals.

    Your blog is very helpful & I always look forward to reading it evey day.

  • Christel October 11, 2012

    That was a very moving post. Your blog is one I have visited almost daily this past year and I had no idea about this side of your story. Thanks for all the help you’ve given to your readers. I wish you and Kelley all the best.

  • Andy F. October 11, 2012

    Second @JettyBoy, maybe you can have some CC referral links so we could “reward” you in some fashion. Best of luck to both of you guys.

  • Ric Garrido October 12, 2012

    Thanks everyone for the kind comments.

    @chemist661 – Sounds like you have someone with you to help you through the tougher times. Wishing you the best.
    Thankfully we have KP insurance coverage. The cancer treatment required a lot of driving due to the nearest clinic being 45 miles away in the next county and the main hospitals 75 and 90 miles away.

    Treatments cost gas money, time and about $2,000 in out-of-pocket expenses.

    The HMO plan to use the hospital two miles down the road would have cost in my estimates over $50,000 for treatment. The alternative employer provided plans are not very good plans compared to Kaiser. They have high copays.

  • rich (arizona) October 12, 2012

    Best wishes. Health issues are so scary.

    Good luck with everything.

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