It’s hard to say who really won this contest…
Is it Louise Orr, the Finalist inspired by her submission‘s inclusion in the top 10 to pick up her pen again, after setting it aside to do everything from performing in plays to chairing a charity in Panama to following her love of Renaissance art to Florence?
Or is it all of us members of The Ambler travel community, who got a chance to meet this incredible woman and read her unbelievable life story (so far)?
Louise has been richly layering her life in unique experiences since she was old enough to vote, and it shows. She’s a resilient and vibrant person, a true diamond-in-the-rough who has shone brilliantly on The Ambler throughout the Life-Changing Travel Contest.
At 19 she dropped out of college and headed to San Francisco to join the anti-war movement. She spent the next two decades in Frisco – “I reveled in that wonderful city and its environs,” says Louise – and in that time tried her hand at a number of different things, including working for a filmmaker and a political lobbyist. In 1981 Louise graduated summa cum laude from Sonoma State University with a degree in Italian Renaissance Art History. “WHAT?” Louise laughs. “Yes, I fell in love with Italian art and moved to Florence to pursue my passion.”
After a couple years abroad, Louise returned to California to work for a prestigious family-owned winery, De Loach Vineyards of the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County. “Heady times were those days,” Louise says. “The wine boom was on in the US, and my marketing skills were utilized and challenged. I was a natural salesperson, with boundless energy and confidence in the product I knew so well and loved. Lots of public speaking to clients and training of distributors; too many nights on the road; commuting from California to my territory in the American Southeast… I know I kept Delta Airlines afloat!”
As the winery grew and prospered, Louise had the opportunity to relocate to Charleston, South Carolina in 1996. Louise was captivated from the start by this historic city, with its architectural majesty, its gardens, its past colored by wars and wild weather. “I was in love with this place; still am,” she says.
2003 is a year that Louise has a hard time talking about. This period does not get the eloquent treatment of other times in her life. She captures it all in just a few words: “Ovarian cancer. Me? Healthy me? Yes, scary and real. I survived; the rest is history, as they say…”
Emerging from one of the most difficult trials of her life, Louise felt a need to start fresh. “I started to research a place outside the USA where I might begin a new chapter of my life, maybe retire early and take up new challenges, a new language, a new culture… Panama kept popping up, in particular a mountain town in the western highlands called Boquete.”
Within a short time, Louise had become completely acclimated to life in Boquete’s dynamic expatriate community – she learned to speak something close to conversational Spanish, started performing in plays with the local live theater association, the Boquete Community Players, and acting as chairperson for a local charity, Buenos Vecinos de Boquete. (Buenos Vecinos is a non-profit that feeds the needy, handicapped, and elderly residents of the area, many of them of indigenous people with little recourse to ameliorate their poverty.)
These days, Louise’s active life in Boquete keeps her pretty busy… but we are unspeakably glad she found the time to submit her soulful story about Africa to our Life-Changing Travel Contest – and what’s more, she spent a considerable amount of time during the two-week voting period answering questions and offering her experience to members of The Ambler travel community. Her story and stewardship truly realized our aspirations to get people talking about meaningful travel.
This contest itself has been something of a life-changing moment for Louise. She attests to enjoying “the opportunity to WRITE again, and without inhibition, with memories of Africa stirred by your competition. It has inspired me to continue my writing, for both pleasure and possible travel journal publication. It has brought discipline to my busy daily routine, compelling me to make time, every day, to better my writing skills. It would be wonderful to parlay this competition into a dialogue to promote eco-friendly, politically-aware, and adventuresome travel.”
We couldn’t have hoped for a better candidate to shine our spotlight on. From all of us at Amble Resorts, we wish you well, and we’ll be on the lookout for your riveting travel writing!