Gabby’s Road Trip Part I
As many of you already know, I went on an incredible solo adventure this summer. I was able to travel to all 48 contiguous states in the span on two and a half months. Summing up a journey like that feels nearly impossible. I made my road trip very public before and throughout, however I have found it difficult to share my journey in its conclusion.
What many may not understand is that for me, this trip was not merely a vacation. There are so many different facets to it, and when asked questions, I find myself at a loss of how to answer on the spot. So, because I want to share the rest of this journey with you, I have compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions I receive. Here, I will be able to put some thought into my answers and respond with what I feel is my truth – meaning many of these answers aren’t simple.
Note: I blogged about various experiences on my personal page. I have some links throughout here if you’d like to read more in depth about some of these answers. Also, scroll down for a few pictures!
- What was your favorite part?
This is by far the most common question I receive. Nearly every person I encounter asks this first. Believe it or not, it’s the most difficult question for me to answer. I have found that every time I am asked, I answer differently. As I mentioned above, there were many facets to this journey – the people with whom I connected, the breathtaking places I encountered, the newly gained insight and self-awareness that led to tremendous growth, the actual process of traveling. So, in what way do I answer? Moreover, how do I choose a favorite? I found so much value in every single day of the trip for many different reasons, and choosing one over another does not feel right. It’s like being asked to choose a favorite child out of your 72 children (one for every day of my trip). Every day brought something new for me, and I cherish every day the same – the bad days, the good days, the in between days.
- What was your favorite place?
Similar to my previous answer, I tend to answer this differently with every person who asks. I do have a handful of favorites, but I cannot choose one. In no particular order, here are some of my favorite places:
Sedona, Arizona. The energy here took my breath away. It felt magical – like I was in some spiritual dream. I am sure part of this is because Sedona was the very first stop on my journey. I am also confident that Sedona would be magical regardless of what point I stopped here on the trip. If you’d like more detail on my Sedona experience, read this blog.
Colorado. I’m a mountain and forest girl. Put those two together and I’m in heaven. I spent a few days in Colorado and had many adventures here, all of which were exhilarating and easily made the top of my list. I drove up Pike’s Peak where it was covered in snow, I had my first intense caving experience, and I went on the scariest ride attraction I believe to exist. Click here to read more about my Colorado adventures.
Hot Springs, Arkansas. This was a semi-impromptu visit. I saw it on the map in my planning stages and, having no idea what this place was about, I fit it into my schedule. Hot Springs is a charming town with a rich history. It’s known for its natural hot spring mineral water that has been used for its healing property for centuries. This town felt like it had a bit of pixie dust sprinkled all throughout.
Boston, Massachusetts. This was a deeply meaningful visit for me, as I visited alone when I was 11 years old and fell in love with the city. I planned my life around Boston when I was a child. Visiting here was more than just visiting Boston, it was a re-visit to my childhood. Here’s a separate blog on my experience in Boston.
Acadia National Park, Maine. One of the most beautiful sights I have ever laid my eyes on. It was covered in dense fog at times, which made it seem so surreal.
Glacier National Park, Montana. I now understand what all the hype is about Glacier. It’s one of those places you need to see and experience firsthand to understand. I never wanted to leave the park. The hikes, the wildlife, the turquoise water, the picturesque mountains, the sight of the milky way visible to the naked eye… What more can I say?
Washington. I can easily see myself living in Washington. Seattle was upbeat, unique, and full of life. The mountains and forests in Washington were among the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. I could’ve spent the whole summer there exploring.
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon. The gorge itself is unbelievably gorgeous. However, my favorite part was the Eagle Creek Trail. I hiked about 10 miles total and could’ve went much farther if it weren’t for the closure due to wildfires. It leads to several waterfalls and gorgeous scenery. Some of the hike is done on a thin trail with a cliffedge of 120 foot drop. This made it scary, but absolutely exhilarating.
- Did you really hit all the states?
I stand by my ground, I only hit 48 states. Unfortunately my car couldn’t make it to Hawaii, and I’ve saved Alaska for a special future road trip. But yes, I did hit every single one of the 48 states. Some of them twice.
- You really did it alone?
Yes, I did it alone. My sister and mother did visit for a few days at the same time that I met up with one of my best friends in Florida. I also met up with a best friend in Washington D.C. for about 5 days (during 4th of July). Other than that, my entire journey was solo, and this was purposeful.
- How many miles did you put on your car?
Almost exactly 18,000 miles. I had an average of about 25 miles per gallon, which resulted in 5 oil changes during the trip.
- That sounds like a lot of gas!
Yes, I spent a lot on gas. I had to fill up every single day, usually more than once a day. Luckily, majority of the country has MUCH cheaper gas prices than California. I was so spoiled that I started feeling like $2.20 was expensive for gas. Cheapest gas I got was $1.98, and I was able to get this price several times throughout the trip.
- What kind of car do you drive? How did it hold up?
I drive a 2011 Jeep Patriot. I gained so much appreciation and respect for my car during and after this trip. It held up so incredibly well; better than I imagined it could. I drove on some pretty rough terrain and never once had a flat tire. My battery never died. I never had engine problems. I drove up countless high altitude mountains and it never overheated. The worst thing to happen was a cracked windshield, and that wasn’t the car’s fault. A giant rock hit the bottom middle of my windshield, which led to 4 cracks that spanned the entire windshield. I was able to get it fixed easily about two weeks after it cracked.
- Were you scared? What was the scariest part?
I really wasn’t scared. I recognized at some points on the journey that being alone led to increased vulnerability (in many ways). But I never let fear lead me or prevent me from anything. In moments in which I knew my safety was at risk in any way, I just prepared myself. I carried pepper spray and a switchblade knife, put on my toughest face, and I made sure I was extra cautious of my surroundings. It made me feel strong, not scared.
The scariest part had to be Memphis. I had gotten the sense that I was in the most danger when I was here (which is ironic considering I had raccoons attack my tent, camped in the middle of active bear territory, and camped during severe thunderstorms prior to this). I had several unfortunate interactions with the homeless before I went to camp at a Bass Pro Shops. A police officer in the area took a great concern in me. He heard out my story and gave me his perspective on the dangers of Memphis (this is at almost 10pm). He spent half an hour with me convincing me not to camp in Memphis, warning me of the great danger I’d be in. He called RV resorts for me and looked up hotels in areas that weren’t as dangerous. He even offered to drive me to a hotel. So, while this was the scariest moment on my trip, I also felt extremely protected. (I did stay in a hotel that night that the officer recommended).
- Did you stay in hotels or camp?
I camped 85% of time. In the beginning of the trip, I did extremely primitive camping for free; no reservations, no potable water, no toilets or portapotties, certainly no showers, zero electricity, and usually minimal cell reception. I roughed it. I slept in my car most of this time as it would get very chilly at night. As the trip progressed and summer was in full swing, I found it difficult to nab these free spots, which resulted in a couple last-minute hotel stays. I learned my lesson and reserved paid campsites throughout the rest of my trip, which felt like glamping as many of them had plumbing and potable water. After about three weeks of the trip, I strictly stayed in my tent as the humidity and heat made my car far too hot at night. Throughout the trip, I reserved some Airbnbs in some of the more city-areas I’d be staying in where camping wasn’t a viable option. Believe it or not, I felt most in my element in the primitive camping areas.
- What was the hardest part?
I’d say the hardest part all boils down to being strategic about surviving. When we are sheltered by having our homes nearby, hospitals a short drive away, always having reliable cell phone reception, food around every corner, and literally always being surrounded by people, we don’t have to take as much accountability for maintaining our survival. Being alone in desolate areas made me quickly realize how important maintaining my survival was.
I never knew when I’d have cell reception. Some campsites had it, some had spotty connection, and some had none at all for miles. This didn’t bother me in the sense that I couldn’t talk to people back home, but it did increase my caution in case an emergency happened as I knew I had no easy way out. I did my best to send my mom the location of my campsite or near my campsite every day so someone knew where to look in case something horrible happened. On the drive before every campsite, I counted the miles I had until reception and noted which road I was on in case I had to walk that far to call someone in an emergency. I constantly checked my tire air pressure to make sure I knew if I was going to get a flat tire. I had to strategically charge my phone because I had limited sources to keep the battery alive. Hydration, hydration, hydration. I was constantly making sure I wasn’t dehydrated, sometimes stopping on the side of the road during long drives to refill my water. Paying attention to the nutrients I was receiving through my food. What I was putting in my body became infinitely important, as I had no one to take care of me and no time to waste if I became sick. Bug repellent. Bugs galore. Bugs everywhere. Do you know some flies bite worse than mosquitos and spiders combined? Of course the bugs bothered me, but what was more important to me was making sure I wasn’t leaving myself vulnerable to the diseases they carry. Hiking alone put me in a very vulnerable position, as I never ever had reception as I hiked and I usually hiked in places that had minimal people around. I had to be very strategic about what I packed in my backpack (a whistle to call for help, a portable battery charger, a utility knife, pepper spray, my phone (for emergency only), several protein bars, and ample water. I also had to limit how far and where I hiked. I’d love to go backcountry hiking or really push myself physically, but I had to sacrifice these things as I knew it wasn’t safe. I gained an acute sense of areas that were sketchy in any way and made quick judgment calls on whether to risk it or opt out. I also had to follow my intuition about who to trust. I always had to be on top of the weather. Many of the places I went to had extreme heat waves. Many of the places I traveled to had relentless thunderstorms (sometimes while driving, in which everyone turned on their hazards and went 10mph on a 70mph freeway). I was constantly checking tornado watches, making sure I wasn’t stuck in a tricky situation. These are all the things that I did on a daily basis, and all were strictly to ensure my safety and survival. That was the hardest part.
- Were you lonely?
I’ll be completely honest… no I was not. I really thought I would be. I have rarely truly felt lonely before, and I thought that 3 months of aloneness would do the trick. But as the trip progressed and loneliness never hit, I realized something.
Maybe I’m just not cut out for loneliness. I see a difference between physical loneliness and emotional/spiritual loneliness. Physical aloneness has never bothered me; I actually cherish it. I have never been the type to crave human touch or affection. I feel in my element when I am completely independent of everyone else.
I looked back on the one time in my life I truly felt lonely… I realized I felt that way because I lacked emotional support and lost touch with my spirituality. That was many many years ago, and since then I have built an incredibly strong support system and I have realized my connection with the universe. It is because I have this sense of a greater purpose, as well as an unshakable support system, that I never truly feel lonely. Leaving for this trip meant I lost a physical connection, but it never meant I lost my emotional or spiritual one. In fact, it strengthened my spiritual connection. And I always knew I had a support system just a call or text away. It reaffirmed just how much love I have in my life.
So the answer is no, I never felt lonely. I have too many people who care about me and I have this incredible connection to a greater force that prevents me from ever feeling this way.
Thank you for reading! I will be doing Part II of this blog in our next newsletter. If you have any more questions you’re curious about, please email email@example.com and I will do my best to answer them in the next post!