Hello Travel on Point(s), Let Me Introduce Myself
Hello, and good morning everyone out there in ToP world! This was supposed to be my first post on the site but Chase decided to dump some bad news on our doorstep so I had to run that first. I figure that some of you may know me already, but many of you do not, and a proper introduction was in need. It is always weird writing about yourself but I'll give it my best college try. Here we go!
My name is Mark Ostermann (Facebook friend requests) and I come to you via the Metro Detroit area in Michigan. I moved around a lot as a kid, living on both coasts during my life (what up Portland and Jersey!), but Michigan is where home always was. My family is all from here and I spent a majority of my life living in this great state. I've lived all over the state too, from east to west and even up north too. Not all the way to the U.P. up north though, what us Michiganders call the Upper Peninsula, aka pretty much Wisconsin. You could say I have been around the block a bit though.
I have a wife and two kids. My wife, Kirsten, and I were high school sweethearts and got married young, celebrating 17 years of marriage this past summer. It is a bit weird when your marriage can almost vote, but that is where we are at right now. My kids, Connor and Charlotte, just turned 11 and 9 a few months back as well. I tend to bring all of them into my writing so you'll get to know them a bit over our time together.
My Background In Miles & Points
I first got into miles & points after my son was born. At the time I was a regional manager at an industrial linen company, overseeing half of the Michigan territory. It was a long and grueling job that had burned me out over the previous 6 years. We had wanted one parent to stay home when the kids were young so I jumped at the opportunity. I knew if I was the one working I would never have time with them, essentially working 6 days a week at the time. My wife's job was more flexible and had better hours so we decided to give it a try.
When my son was a newborn, and napping big chunks of the day, I would spend time on the internet. I started looking at ways to make money from home etc. and that is how I stumbled into credit card rewards. Up until then I had always used one card for my purchases and would get a free flight or two every year. Let me tell you, I thought I was pretty slick with that. I realized how foolish that really was after spending a few hours reading some blogs though.
At first I focused on getting welcome offers for the cash back value. Yes, I did cash out my Chase Sapphire Preferred bonus for $500 cash. The horror, I know! This was back when 50,000 points was a massive offer and no one dreamed of 100K+ offers. As I started looking for more and more cards I started digging into the travel aspect of it all, and realized you can get a much better return using your points for travel. That is when I really went to work and spent hours daily reading articles, chat groups and searching every blog I could find. This was years before the first miles and points Facebook Group launched so we had to do all the dirty work ourselves. The obsession kind of grew from there.
About this time is when my wife started thinking we were having money troubles because I was getting so many credit cards. She still thinks I will get arrested at some point in the future for all of this. That doesn't stop here from going on all of the trips though!
My Travel Pattern
I guess I should dive a little bit into my travels and what my travel pattern is like. You could say that I am a master of the short weekend trip, or at least that is what I do a lot of. Many of my trips are of the shorter variety where I fly out Friday night and come back Sunday afternoon. It seems foolish to people outside of the miles & points space, but for us, we can do it for a few dollars, so why not? I do this mainly because of work schedules, the kids school schedule and just our overall time limitations. I try to mix it up a bit and do a trip with each member of our family, just me and them. We also do family trips, of course, and then I do a few trips with my friends every year too. This equates to 1-2 trips every month, which gets a bit exhausting for sure.
I try to mix in one or two international trips each year too but my wife's vacation time limits what we can do a bit here. As the kids are getting older I think I may do some trips overseas with just the three of us more and more. That is if the new bosses don't crack the whip too hard (oh, hi Derrick & Sarah).
During the summer I am pretty Michigan bound though. From mid June until the end of August there isn't a ton of movement outside of the mitten state for us. Michigan is pretty special during the summer, and we suffered all winter for it, so of course we have to enjoy it! We purchased a small cottage a few years back and we spend as much time as we can there in the summer. I usually spend half the week at the cottage with the kids and my wife comes up on the weekends. It is a few blocks off of Lake Huron and it is probably our favorite place on earth. If you haven't seen one of the Great Lakes before then you are missing out. Tt will blow your mind for sure, it is like an ocean of fresh water!
My Dive Into Working In Miles & Points
Once my daughter came along my hands were pretty full. I didn't come up for air for a few years there. Two kids in diapers at the same time is no fun! Once the kids started getting a bit older, and my son started up with pre-school and kindergarten, I decided to look for something more to do with my time. That is when I started writing at Miles to Memories.
Miles to Memories, or MtM, is one of the larger independently owned miles and points sites. I started there as a contributor, writing five or so articles a week. Over time that role expanded and I became the managing editor of the site. I did that role for the next 3-4 years, up until a few days ago.
Why ToP & What Are My Goals Here?
Now for the million dollar question, why did I decide to come to ToP? Easy, I love the people here. I have been friends with the entire ToP team for years now and I knew Sarah & Derrick were looking to expand the site to compliment the amazing Facebook Group. I figured working with some of your best friends was too good to pass up and I was ready for a new challenge.
My goal here at ToP is to bring you actionable information all while, hopefully, making it fun and entertaining. I like to bring pop culture references into my writing (as you can tell from the headline) and have fun with everything I do. I also have a sarcastic sense of humor, so you have been warned!
My plan for the site is to expand a bit of what is covered in the Facebook Group. The site will mainly be miles and points focused but I'll bring in some money saving opportunities, deals and a little bit of finance stuff into the mix. Hopefully, that gives everyone something that they find interesting.
I guess I should wrap this up, I think I have typed enough about myself already. One last thing I will say is that my favorite thing about miles and points has been making friends all over the world. This community is special and allows us to have someone to grab a meal with wherever we may be traveling that particular week. Take advantage of that if you can. I look forward to the chance to get to know all of you over the years, whether it be on the site, in the Facebook Group or at a meetups / socials. My world revolves around people, hearing their stories and I look forward to hearing yours!
Happy new year everyone. Let's make 2023 the best ever!