Member Stories

How Two Sons Fulfilled Their Father’s Dream of Hiking Patagonia

Brothers Eric and Ryan flank Dale Tietz in Patagonia, a place he was able to visit with his sons for his 66th birthday. (Photo courtesy of Ryan Tietz)

Ryan Tietz is always up for a good adventure, so when he found out his father’s bucket list included a trek to Patagonia, the graphic designer from Austin started planning a trip.

“Adventure is in my blood,” says Tietz, who spends any chance he gets hiking, snowboarding, camping, cycling and surfing — although that last pursuit is tough given his landlocked location in Texas.

Ryan and his brother Eric, who lives in Atlanta, both inherited the athletic gene from their father Dale, who turned 66 last year.

Inspired by the 2010 documentary “180 Degrees South,” which chronicled a Californian’s trip to Patagonia that included surfing, sailing and climbing, the Tietz brothers, both in their 30s, cashed in their Marriott Rewards points to take their dad to South America around the Thanksgiving holiday last year.

Travel can turn anyone into a storyteller, and with its You Are Here campaign, Marriott Traveler and Marriott Rewards are exploring how being a member has enabled individuals like the Tietz brothers and father to enrich their lives with memorable experiences and live in the moment.

After a pit stop in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the Tietz family landed in Buenos Aires, Argentina, first before taking a flight to El Calafate, in the southwest part of the Argentine province of Santa Cruz. From there it was a three-hour bus ride to El Chaten, a small mountain village that overlooks the Los Glaciares National Park.

They ended up venturing as far below the equator as Patagonia for a bit of hiking and bonding in the rugged Fitz Roy mountain region near the border of Argentina and Chile.

(From left to right) Eric, Dale and Ryan Tietz in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo courtesy of Ryan Tietz)
(From left to right) Eric, Dale and Ryan Tietz in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo courtesy of Ryan Tietz)
Ryan and Dale Tietz about to hang glide in Rio. (Photo courtesy of Ryan Tietz)
Ryan and Dale Tietz about to hang glide in Rio. (Photo courtesy of Ryan Tietz)

Once they arrived at their final destination, there were several day-hike options. Considering their dad’s limitations, they picked the easiest, the Laguna Torre trail, which was still a six-to-seven-hour trek.

“My had had some troubles, but we just went at his pace, and kept prodding him,” Ryan recalls.

The three left in shorts, but the temperature dropped to about 30 degrees overlooking Lago del Toro and the wind began to howl.

“We could only stay there for about five minutes before turning around,” Ryan says.

Bonding Time

It was a trip their dad, who is a fan of the Discovery Channel, had always wanted to take but held off on booking because knee problems had hampered his mobility.

Although their father’s knee problems affected their usual pace, the bonding of three dominant males remained intact.

“There was a lot of joking around,” says Ryan.. “Without my mother or my sister there, we didn’t have any reservations about what we were saying.”

As for libations, Patagonia proved perfect since Argentina and Chile are known for their viticulture, and Mr. Tietz senior’s drink of choice is red wine.

“Every night we’d go treat ourselves to local meals and a big bottle of red wine and just let loose,” says the younger Tietz.

Those meals usually involved hunks of beef, the protein of choice in these hinterlands, and local, organic produce.

“I like to try different things,” Ryan says, “and they had a lot of meals with goat down there. My dad is completely opposed to goat so it was a problem trying to egg him on to try it.”

Tietz brothers Eric, left, and Ryan, right, exploring the mountains of Patagonia. (Photos courtesy of Ryan Tietz)
Tietz brothers Eric, left, and Ryan, right, exploring the mountains of Patagonia. (Photos courtesy of Ryan Tietz)

Eric Tietz in Patagoinia

Eric Tietz in Patagonia

Always Seeking Out the Next Adventure

Ryan Tietz travels often. A couple of years ago he took an ambitious solo tour from Western Europe through Eastern Europe. And before the end of 2016, he’ll visit Sweden, taking advantage of lower airfare during the cold months. He’s also planning a trip to Australia after scoring a round-trip flight for $400, and is destined to run a half marathon in Vancouver in August.

He says he’s always looking out the window to where I can travel to next.” In the spirit of Robert Frost, he prefers “the path less traveled.” “Locations that are new or dangerous inspire me,” Ryan adds.

He says his brother initially turned him on to Marriott Rewards’ points program.

“It’s really nice staying in those hotels and enjoying the upgrades,” Ryan says. “The service through Marriott exceeded my opinion of the other chains.”

As for Patagonia, would he do it again? He might not have a choice.

“My father just got his knee replaced and now wants to go back,” Ryan says.


Marriott Rewards wants to send more people on vacation, offering a chance to win one of 30 unforgettable travel experiences across Marriott’s new portfolio of 30 hotel brands across the world.

Are you a Marriott Rewards member with a great story to tell? Email us at marriott.traveler@gmail.com and we may feature you on Marriott Traveler.