We simply float, hovering through the air. We caress the treetops, watching the people go by. It almost feels like floating in a body of water. The globe is like life: you know where you came from, but you do not always know where you will end up.
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina ꟷ My wife Leticia and I got married on a hot air balloon. Balloon flight has always been a fundamental part of our relationship. When we met, we each had children and grandchildren, plus we shared a love of ballooning.
We loved it so much that when we exchanged our vows, Leticia threw the bouquet and we immediately soared off into the sky. In Argentina, Leticia and I hold the honor of being the first two instructors in the sport who are also a couple.
I came into ballooning first, 20 years ago, when I experienced my inaugural hot air balloon trip during the filming of a television series. A pilot friend asked a colleague to take me up for a spin. I immediately fell in love with being in the air. When the ride ended and my feet touched the ground, my heart rate rose and I knew I needed to do this forever. Life feels different floating up there.
After falling in love with hot air balloons, I became a commercial pilot and instructor. In all my years teaching, one person stands out as my best student ever: my wife Leticia. She went on to become a commercial aerostat pilot. Then, in early 2020, Leticia achieved something amazing! She became the first woman to hold multiple world records for duration and distance in a Solar Globe – a balloon that floats in the sky without fuel.
The aircraft ascends solely from the heat of the sun beaming on the nylon. It lands on the ground after the balloon cools by releasing hot air through its vents. Leticia had an out-of-this-world experience. Up there, you feel total ecstasy and joy. With complete focus, you admire all that surrounds you.
My wife soared 320 meters above sea level with no type of fuel or motor on the Salinas Grandes of Jujuy. The silence of that moment, watching her in the sky, felt like an important milestone. Watching her brought a smile to my face and after she landed, she proudly said, “”I would do it again!”
I see my wife as brave for being the first licensed female pilot to take on such a goal. As a result, she automatically holds multiple word records including highest height, longest distance, and longest time. Thirty-two records in total exist under her name. While the records may be broken, no one can take away the fact that she was the first.
Together, Leticia and I have traveled through Ecuador, Paraguay, and Colombia in hot air balloons, but the greatest adventure of our lives has yet to begin. In our retirement, we are setting out on a new journey: to tour all of Argentina in our truck, RV, and hot air balloon.
We do not know how long the trip will last but plan to travel from town to town without any thought of time. Each day, we will go where we decide that morning. We will have no ultimate destination. Rather, we will enjoy the people, places, and flights along the way.
This trip in front of us required significant planning and work. We adapted our Toyota SUV to transport the balloon, and designed our own RV. Our dream is tour each town, getting to know its people and culture. Leticia calls it the beginning of our new life.
Throughout the trip, we get to do what we love – being on top of the world in a hot air balloon. We look forward to enjoying the place that takes your breath away and calms your mind. Up there, we have almost no technology. We simply float, hovering through the air. We caress the treetops, watching the people go by. It almost feels like floating in a body of water. The globe is like life: you know where you came from, but you do not always know where you will end up.
You choose, more or less, where to go but the balloon takes you along paths you could not foresee. It’s a liberating experience.
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