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Bust Your A$$ For Spring Break: Luke Starnes

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Bust Your A$$ For Spring Break: Luke Starnes

By Luke Starnes, Account Executive. 

If you were given a stipend and a free week to go anywhere in the world, where would you go? (The University of Missouri School of Journalism would be appalled that I just lead with a question, but I’d argue it’s thought provoking enough.) Hang on, did I just follow that question up with a thought in parenthesis? Was that another question already? This is going well.


At The Marketing Arm, you may just get lucky enough to have a chance to answer that question. Amongst our many culture events and awards that give back to employees, we have a unique award better known as the “Bust Your Ass for Spring Break Award.” The story goes that our founder, Ray Clark, was asked (told) to come home for spring break in college and work rather than go away on vacation. From that point on, Ray made it a priority that his employees enjoy spring break. As a result, the entire company shuts down for at least 1 business day in the spring and we also have this award.


Every year at our State of the Agency meeting, a few lucky folks from a diverse set of capability teams are awarded a financial bonus and an extra week of vacation to go away on spring break. For some reason, I was one of the winners, and I was tasked with answering that question.


Now, being on the “Experiential” team at TMA, the pressure was on to make this a trip worth remembering. I knew I had to get out of the United States. Europe of course was on the list, but I felt like time didn’t allow for it even with the free week. Japan has always been a secret dream of mine, but at the time, Kim Jong-un was firing off missiles into the Sea of Japan and I was looking for something a little more relaxing.


As I scrolled down the bucket list, I landed on Banff, Alberta in Canada. To me, it always seemed like the most beautiful place on the earth. Naturally, I had to ask the most beautiful woman on the earth, my girlfriend Blythe, to accompany me.


We decided to stretch the trip out and hit a few spots in the Pacific Northwest that we’d always wanted to visit. The trip began with a quick 48-hour stop in Seattle. The goal there was to be as touristy as possible and we succeeded. By 10am of our first morning there, we’d already hit the original Starbucks location, Pike Place Market and ridden to the top of the Space Needle.


After Seattle, we took a quick train ride up the Pacific coastline to Vancouver. We’d heard it was one of the prettiest cities in the world and it certainly did not disappoint. We spent 3 days biking and hiking all over the city and surrounding parks. At night, we spent our time eating our bodyweight in sushi and other local cuisine.


From Vancouver, I had the bright idea to rent a car and drive the 500-mile drive to Banff through the Canadian Rockies. This would’ve been a great, scenic idea if not for the food poising Blythe received from an unfortunate run-in with the “local cuisine” at one of the restaurants. Trust me, you haven’t seen it all until you’ve seen your significant other vomit in their own shoe while driving down a highway in another country.



Beyond her wellbeing, her sudden illness was especially concerning to me because I was planning on proposing to her in Banff. Yes, I’m realizing I probably should’ve mentioned the whole proposal plan earlier. Talk about burying the lede. (See original note on shaming the University of Missouri).



Yep, on my conquest to make this trip the most unforgettable trip ever, I decided it was the perfect place on earth to get engaged. I’ll let the photos tell you the story of how the trip overall was and just tell you about the good part.


For weeks, I’d spent my days tracking down, texting, calling and Snapchatting a local photographer who would be there to capture the moment. I decided Lake Louise would be the perfect place for it to go down. We set a time and location and I somehow tricked Blythe into dressing up nicely to go sightseeing.  She saw nothing coming. And by the time I got down on one knee, I’m not sure she could see anything in general behind her tears. In the spirit of her poor judgement, she said yes.


There’s no proper way to summarize the story of the trip. It was truly an unforgettable experience that will soon be bound by law to last a lifetime (unless she finally wakes up and realizes she’s out of my league).


One of the most important chapters in my life was co-authored by the generosity of my managers, Mike and Pat, our Senior VP Ali Delzell, Michelle Palmer, Dan Belmont and of course, Ray. To all of them, and everyone else who has helped me navigate the waters so far at TMA, I say thank you for helping make an unforgettable experience happen.