MGU 283 | Travelers Gone Missing

How prepared can you be when traveling? In this episode, Whitney Lauritsen and Jason Wrobel discuss statistics and stories of travelers gone missing. Whitney shares with Jason how she went to Grand Teton a few days before Gabby Petito was reported missing in that area. It’s interesting to be somewhere where something mysterious happens because you feel connected to it yet completely helpless. Join in the conversation to learn useful protective measures. The best advice? Follow your intuition and make sure you’re paying attention to your surroundings. If you feel afraid and unsafe, this episode’s for you. Tune in!

Listen to the podcast here:

Travelers Gone Missing: Tips On How To Prepare Yourself And Stay Safe

My background looks a little bit different and that’s because I am at my parent’s home in Massachusetts. I finished a cross-country road trip, which I did in 2020. We did a few episodes on my big cross-country trip in 2020. It’s interesting to be back here because we weren’t doing video at that time. You couldn’t see where I was. Jason was saying how it looks like. I’m like in a cozy cabin. My parents live in a home that’s old.

I could have sworn that I had a conversation with them long ago where they told me it was eighteen something. I might be totally off on that but it sounds about right.

It’s an old house and that’s why it looks very cozy. I’m in this little room that is a closet but I have converted it into my workroom, my desk area. It is very hot in here at the moment so it’s not fully comfortable, which is odd given that it’s fall but we have had wonderful weather. I digressed. I did this big trip. It was wonderful. I feel like I still haven’t fully reflected on it, which is interesting.

I remember during the trip feeling like I was experiencing it. It was wonderful but my brain couldn’t fully process that it was happening. I also remember right before I started the trip, thinking something similarly, “Am I about to do this trip?” One of the big things that made this trip different is that I drove by myself. In 2020, I did the trip with my mutual friend, Leanne and she was in one of the episodes.

When Leanne and I had talked about driving cross-country, I was very excited about the idea but also nervous about it. In 2021, I was immensely excited to do the trip again. I could not wait because there’s this very specific feeling that I get when I’m traveling. Something about road trips deeply resonated with me. I was looking forward to it but I started to feel anxious as I’ve got closer to the date. I had these moments where I’m like, “I want to do this but a part of me doesn’t know if I should.”

That psychological journey is interesting when you are about to do something big because it feels a bit like a risk. Driving long distances is risky. Funny enough, one of the audiobooks that I listened to was talking about how versus our big fears about flying, for example, which is very common for people. You have a much higher risk of death or a major accident in your car and here I am driving down the road 80 miles per hour listening to this. I feel safer driving because flying gives me a lot of anxiety, COVID, and the tension I feel being on this plane with all these strangers and all the things. It feels chaotic flying, whereas I feel so much peace driving.

I’ve got the confidence to drive cross-country by myself because in 2020, after Leanne and I drove to the East Coast and when I drove back to Los Angeles, I couldn’t find anyone to drive with me. I was left with no choice but to do it by myself. I talked about this in 2020, too. There’s another episode in which I shared how many people were concerned about me doing that trip by myself. It was interesting because I felt like I wasn’t that fearful until other people brought it to my attention. Just like when I heard the statistic on the audiobook, I wasn’t that afraid to drive. I wasn’t thinking how risky it was and here are the statistics.

MGU 283 | Travelers Gone Missing

The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things (Revised)

In 2020, many people were concerned about a woman traveling by herself. I found that fascinating. I did some research. The best advice was to follow your intuition and make sure that you are paying attention to your surroundings. I was doing all those things and I didn’t have any trouble. It was lovely. The same thing was true with the trip that I just finished.

I felt hyper-aware of this time though. I wanted to be ultra-prepared for anything. I ended up buying bear spray when I was in Montana because I have never been to Montana before. I was going into Glacier National Park where there are grizzly bears. They are very common there. It was remarkable how frank people were. They were like, “There are bears here. You could get hurt.”

It’s very matter of fact. It clearly happens frequently. My friends told me, I didn’t need bear spray because I wasn’t going on any of the trails but that ended up changing so I bought some. When I bought it, the guys that sold it to me said, “The good news is, if you don’t use it on a bear, you could use it to protect yourself from people, too.”

I have this big can of bear spray that I’m carrying in my car to either use on the human being, a bear or any other animal. I thought, “This is so interesting.” My friends were like, “Do you have a gun?” I was like, “I don’t even know how to shoot a gun. Should I learn how to shoot a gun? Should I carry one?” I don’t know how I feel about that.

There’s a story that starts this to become interesting. It’s something, Jason, I doubt that you heard about but I’m curious if you have. It’s very timely. By the time this episode comes out, this information is going to change. At least I hope. There’s a 90% chance that there will be new information out about it but it’s also possible there won’t be. This is the case of this couple that went traveling across the country and one of them is missing.

It was a young couple. I know the girl. Her name is Gabby Petito. She is 22 years old. She and her boyfriend who she had been living within Florida decided to get a van and travel around the country. We have talked a bit about van life before and a lot about road tripping. It’s something that’s become a big trend. For me, I wasn’t in a van. I was in a car and by myself this time.

The story is interesting as it’s developing because a lot of people assume that if you are with someone else, you are safer. If you are a woman and you are with a guy, you are even safer than if you are with another woman. This case is interesting because this girl was with a fairly long-term boyfriend and people are suspecting that he might have been involved in her disappearance. They do not know what’s happened to her.

The reason this hits close to home for me is the last time they heard from her was a few days before I’ve got to the very area where she disappeared. I didn’t hear about this. The news broke on September 11th of 2021. I remember hearing about it from my mom and thinking, “It’s probably fine. Maybe it’s some fear-mongering story that the media was putting out.” Many people are talking about this case. It’s building up into this disturbing story and I don’t know what’s going to happen. We will follow up in the future episode but it’s interesting to do in advance because, by the time someone is reading, you are going to have different details if you have been following the story.

Follow your intuition and make sure you're paying attention to your surroundings. Click To Tweet

It brought up some things for me. She disappeared in Grand Teton National Park. The last time they heard from her was the last week of August 2021. I left Los Angeles on the 28th of August, 2021 so I might have been on Grand Teton either on the 29th or 30th of August, 2021, I suppose. It’s so eerie to look back. I’m like, “What if I crossed paths with this couple? Could I have done something to help? Had I known the story? Could I have looked for them?”

It’s so interesting to be somewhere where something mysterious happens because you feel connected to it and yet, completely helpless. Also they are making their way to Yellowstone. That’s another part of the story that’s fascinating to me. I went to Yellowstone from Grand Teton. It’s almost thinking about like, “This could have been me.” What if everybody is right about it being unsafe to travel as a woman?

Jason, remember this episode that we did talking about how I felt frustrated that people were so afraid for women to travel? We did this in 2020 after I returned from the trip. There was part of me thinking like, “This is so ridiculous.” I don’t want all this fear to stop people like me from fully experiencing life. There are so many things that are risky in life.

I thought about this on my trip. I’m like, “Let’s say something awful happened to me. Would I regret that trip?” If I had the opportunity to regret it, depending on what happened. “Would my family and friends be upset that I took this trip?” I’m curious as the story evolves with Gabby. Fingers crossed, she’s still alive. If they find her, is she going to regret doing this trip? What led up to this if she’s able to tell that story?

I also felt similar things reading this story, Jason. I started to see on TikTok, given that I will, commonly through the algorithm, see women posting about their travels. I have started to notice in the comment section people were saying, “Be careful. Did you hear what happened to Gabby?” This story has caused this ripple effect of fear where young women are fearful about traveling, seeing the country, and doing something that supposedly brings so much joy. They are afraid again.

I’m like, “It’s such a shame that these things happen but it’s also a shame that they impact people in this way.” It’s not just about Gabby anymore. It’s about other people wondering, “Could I end up like Gabby?” I have a lot of mixed feelings on it that I want to explore but for us, Jason, I’m curious if you looked it up while I was talking. What are some of your initial reactions or questions as you hear about this?

I have briefly heard about the case through social media but truth be told, I haven’t gone and done any substantive research. What did come up for me? This is tangential but related. Whitney, it has been going around social media because I first saw this on Facebook or Instagram. I have been trying to track down the origin of this statistic but the statistic is that someone walks past a murderer an average of 36 times in their life, which was very eye-opening. My literal reaction was like the emoji of whoa.

MGU 283 | Travelers Gone Missing

Travelers Gone Missing: It’s interesting to be somewhere where something mysterious happens because you feel connected to it yet completely helpless.

 

It is interesting to think about how many unsolved cases there are of people going missing like Gabby, murdered, bodies that are never recovered, especially if you live in a densely populated city as we reside in Los Angeles. I have lived in New York City, Chicago and Detroit. That hit home for me. It made me think, “I wonder if I have lived in a neighborhood with someone who’s murdered someone.” Surely, walking down the streets of New York City, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and LA, chances are you and I have probably walked next to someone who has killed someone.

I don’t know the origin of this statistic. You always have to question everything I try to on social media and take it with a grain of salt. There is an article on LeozQin.me, a website that I found. This person tries to statistically break down the probability, if this statistic is correct. It’s some pretty interesting logarithmic distributions, quintiles and math. It did make me think of not only in our lives but on your travels, campgrounds and strangers you talk to.

I’m not bringing this up to sow the seeds of distrust when we meet a stranger on our travels thinking, “I wonder if they have ever killed someone.” It is interesting to consider the possibility that we have encountered those people and they may be out there. I’m not bringing this up to color your experience, Whitney or try and inject any fear. I don’t know why. You describing your travels and this situation with Gabby made me think of that. I’m bringing it up because as someone who identifies as male, I think back to my solo cross country trips and how woefully unprepared I was to protect myself.

I remember driving cross-country, the first time I moved from Detroit to Los Angeles. It was years ago when I moved to Los Angeles from Detroit. I packed up everything in my Honda Prelude. I had a huge garage sale at my mom’s house and sold a ton of stuff. Whatever I didn’t need, I left at my mom’s house in Detroit and whatever I needed, I had stuffed to the gills in my Prelude and drove cross-country.

I didn’t have a gun, bear spray, pepper spray or flares in case I was in a ditch at the side of the road. I look back on how ridiculously unprepared I was years ago. I would have a completely different level of preparation. Also, shout-out to you because you were so excited to share with me all of the gadgets, tools, accessories, and things that you packed on your road trip. I thought that you were fantastically prepared. I don’t know about in the defense category per se but in all the other categories, props to you. You did a fantastic job preparing for this.

What’s interesting about this is how prepared can you be? Those were all the different thoughts that went through my head with other people’s heads. I was trying not to let other people’s fears get in the way. Thank goodness, I didn’t know about what happened to Gabby. Considering how close that happened to when I passed through that very area, it’s possible that we cross paths. I don’t know the exact timeline but given where she was traveling, it’s possible. She was in Utah before she went there and I was in Utah before I went there. Who knows? Can you imagine what would have gone through my head had I heard the news while I was there?

What would you have done? I’m curious. If you had known about that prior to going into the park, how do you think that would have colored your experience?

There’s part of me that’s like, “It would have been nice to go out and look for her. Talk to people and see.” It would be interesting to see what people have been doing in that park, Yellowstone, and all the places where she was last seen or where she was going. I don’t know how they have been handling it. Are there rescue crews going out? That would be interesting to look up.

You always have to question everything on social media and take things with a grain of salt. Click To Tweet

Grand Teton felt pretty intimate. It was fairly large but there was an intimacy that I experienced while I was there. I ended up meeting people and ran into them multiple times. Interestingly enough, there’s one thing that happened that I was being mindful of. On the very first night, I camped at an RV park. For those that don’t know, I sleep in my car on these trips because my car has a special camp mode in it. I have a mattress in it. It’s awesome. Shout-out to TESMAT who makes this Tesla mattress memory foam. I have all this gear. I felt so excited the first night that I was there and very prepared.

Right before I’ve got to the RV park though, I was charging my car up for the last time of the day. It was a stop before that. I noticed a red Tesla parked next to mine. Somehow it stood out to me. I later found out there were two men in the car but one of them I noticed was sleeping or something. I’m trying to pay attention to my surroundings so I noticed their car. At the next Tesla stop I went to that night and the last one of the day, they were there again. I noticed the same car and I was like, “That’s interesting.”

That happened before when Jason and I did a trip in 2019. It’s fairly common that you will run into people if they are on the same route as you, especially in the middle of nowhere as I was. There’s only so many Tesla charging stations. If you are going to charge a certain amount, chances are the person is going to go the same distance as you to charge again. The guy started talking to me. I remember feeling a bit vulnerable and they are very nice.

Before my trip, I watched a show on Netflix called The Serpent, which is a very disturbing but interesting Netflix show. The premise is this guy who drugs people and does awful things. I’m not going to spoil it but it’s based on a true story. It was in the ‘70s. Part of it was that this guy was so charming, nice, all these people trusted him, and then they ended up in bad situations. That movie was in my head. These two guys come up to me. They seem nice but apparently, Ted Bundy was nice to people and look what happened there.

It brings up that feeling of you can’t trust strangers, which also sucks. It’s such a sad reality but I would rather not trust somebody and be safe than trust somebody and potentially not be safe. I talked to these guys a bit and I was trying to be very nice. I was interested in who they are but also not trying to seem super interested. I didn’t want to give them the wrong idea or get wrapped up in anything.

That evening, I went to the RV park, slept and forgot about it. The next day is when I’ve got to the Grand Teton area. There’s a town called Jackson. It was one of my favorite charging stations because it was by this incredible Whole Foods. It was one of the best Whole Foods I have ever been to. It was so well laid out and they have great products. I was like, “This is awesome.”

There I am charging my car and these guys roll up again. I’m like, “What the hell?” It’s the third time that I have seen them and it’s a completely different day. I’m on my own schedule taking my time. How is it that they were there? That’s when I started to feel a little nervous. I haven’t seen these guys all day. They have a red Tesla. Haven’t they can hide, I would have noticed their car but it’s such an odd coincidence. I started to feel uncomfortable about it.

MGU 283 | Travelers Gone Missing

Travelers Gone Missing: It’s better not to trust somebody and be safe than trust somebody and potentially be unsafe.

 

I was trying to act normal around them. We were talking about Grand Teton. The night before, we were also talking about Grand Teton. I asked them which campground they were staying in just to make a conversation and they mentioned it. It wasn’t the same campground as me. I was like, “Cool. I will probably not go see these guys again.”

This third time outside the Whole Foods, they go, “By the way, we looked up at our reservation. It turns out that we are staying at the same campground as you.” Suddenly, I was like, “Oh-oh.” Did they change their plans? The chances of them being able to book a spot at this campground are slim because it’s hard to book campgrounds in these national parks. They are completely full.

I had to spend weeks checking the website to try to get into the specific campground. I’m like, “They are probably not lying. They seem a little scatterbrain. I guess they just forgot that they are staying there.” They mentioned what campsite they are at. Jason, I had to keep a straight face because you are not going to believe it. Their campsite was right next to mine.

I didn’t tell them where I was. I told them about the campground but there were 100 campsites there. I know for a fact that I went out of my way not to mention what campsite I was at. They happened to mention it. I don’t know why. I was like, “Are you serious?” I have run into these guys three times and they happen to have the campsite right next to mine. I didn’t tell them though because I was like, “This is starting to feel creepy. I don’t think they planned this.” These are the type of things that would happen in a movie. It’s like that movie Scary Movie, the parody of Scream.

I’m thinking, “Maybe the campsites are spread out and they won’t notice me there. I’m going to play it cool.” Luckily, they arrived at the charging station right as I was leaving. I pulled out of there and I’m like, “At least we are not in sync time-wise. I can go into the park and do my thing. Maybe they won’t notice me at the campsite. We won’t run into each other again.” At this point too, they were starting to become a little flirtatious. I was trying to do everything I could not to make them think that I was interested. It’s that vulnerability.

For you, Jason, maybe as a guy, that would seem exciting but for me as a woman, I’m like, “They are being flirtatious.” I keep running into them. I was feeling uncomfortable. As a result of that, one of the most upsetting things that happened to me on my trip happened at that moment. It’s so silly in hindsight but it upset me at the time.

In the 2020 road trip, I’ve got these special screen shades for my car, which Jason helped me with. This company makes it for any car but they have some specifically for the Tesla to block the window out so less heat gets in the car. They are great for privacy. The downside is you have to put them in the window in an interesting way at the Tesla. They are awkward. Every time you open up the Tesla door, the shade will fall out. You have to pick it up and put it back in.

Be extra aware of what you're doing and saying. Click To Tweet

When I was getting in my car, I opened up the door, put some things in there as I was talking to the guys. I was feeling distracted and a little bit nervous then drove off. I found out later on that I drove off and the sunshade was left behind there. I was so upset about it, Jason. It was the second day of my trip. I was bummed. That’s a whole other story. I recorded a video on that because I was like, “Why am I so upset about losing the sunshade?” It bothered me.

My point is I was distracted by these guys showing up that I lost something. I was like, “Whitney, you have to be aware.” This is a good point. Maybe people become vulnerable when they are afraid and not able to fully pay attention or function the way that they normally would. In hindsight, I’m like, “I’ve got to be extra aware of what I’m doing, what I’m saying and all of these things.” If you are not, you can easily mess up and lose something or do something that you weren’t planning on doing.

I go on to the park. I drive through Grand Teton. It was great. I didn’t see the guys. Lo and behold, I’m pulling into the campground and who’s directly in front of me? This car. The timing was impeccable. This time, I was behind them. I’m like, “They are going to see me.” I can’t do anything. I’m driving right behind them. They pull up to their campsite and park but they didn’t seem to notice me, even though I’m right next to them.

There were a few trees in between us but you could easily see the campgrounds. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t say a word to them but then I felt bad because I was like, “At some point, they are going to realize that I’m there. Are they going to think that I plan to be there?” It was so awkward for me. Finally, I’m like, “There’s only one thing I can do. I’ve got to go say hi but act like I’m not interested.” It was so awkward.

Unfortunately, when I went over there, one of the guys took it as I was interested in him because I walked over to their campsite. They invited me to hang out with them. I was like, “No. I’ve got to go to bed and wake up early,” which is true. I went back to my car, Jason. A few minutes later, he came by and knocked on my window.

What did he say?

I told him how I was staying in my car. They had a tent. I was like, “I’m camping in my car.” I was telling them about my setup and he came over. He was like, “I wanted to see your setup.” I was like, “That’s why you came.” I was on the phone so that was awkward. I was like, “I’m on the phone now.” He said something else like, “Come and hang out with us.” I was like, “No, thanks.” I’m sleeping the whole night hoping that they don’t come to disturb me again, which is silly.

MGU 283 | Travelers Gone Missing

Travelers Gone Missing: If your intuition gives you a signal or a nudge, don’t ignore it.

 

Ultimately, it was an innocent story because deep down intuitively, Jason, I didn’t think that they were going to do anything. When I was reading about all these stories of women talking about their experiences, the biggest takeaway was women typically have an intuitive hit but then I started to wonder, “Is that true?” That goes back to the story about Gabby. Did she have an intuition that something was going to happen? We don’t know what happened but everybody is suspecting that it’s the boyfriend.

If you will read the story, he went back to Florida without her and drove the car back there two weeks went by before the story broke. He got a lawyer. He hasn’t said a word and won’t even tell Gabby’s family any details so they can better look for her. The public is all invested in the story thinking, “Obviously he did it because why wouldn’t he say anything? Wouldn’t he want to be involved?” It’s a heart-wrenching story to follow.

There’s this weird part of me, which I feel strange saying it but she’s gained so much social media attention. I’m like, “Did they create this whole story to blow up her social media account?” I’m hoping that’s not true because that would be awful. Speaking of intuition, I have a sinking feeling that she’s no longer alive, which is a very disturbing feeling to have.

This brings up an interesting question about intuition. How much do you trust your intuition, Whitney? In the sense that if you reflect back on situations where perhaps your intuition was giving you a signal, a nudge or some information and you chose to ignore it, only maybe to find later you are like, “My intuition was right on.” It’s in the context of what we are talking about, which is you, a single, female, solo traveler going cross-country with your dog.

We asked this question to Amber Fortier of Embody Me in her episode. I remember asking her, “What is the difference between intuition and past trauma?” I’m curious. Do you feel like you have a good relationship with trusting your intuition in general or is it something that sometimes you still question, depending on the context?

I don’t feel like I know. I feel a little out of touch. I have a deep knowing and a deep trust but a surface level insecurity or something if that makes sense. Going back to those guys, deep down, I felt like they were harmless and nice guys but on a surface level, I was like, “What if they are not nice and do something weird in the middle of the night? What if they put a tracker on my car?” That didn’t occur to me but it’s like, “How is this all happening? This is too much of a coincidence.” I start to hear the voices of other people.

This is where the struggle is of like, “What would somebody else think?” In that particular case, it’s interesting versus another time when I was in Glacier National Park. I ran into this guy and we started talking. He was so nice but over time as the conversation evolved, I was like, “This guy might be starting to be interested in me.” He invited me to come to have a drink with him. I’m like, “There’s the signal. He’s probably hitting on me.”

When traveling, bring protective measures with you and make the best choices you can. Click To Tweet

I never had an intuitive hit beyond that. It was just like, “This guy is probably putting the fillers out.” I could have been wrong about that too but that was my experience. Compared to the other guys, I never had a red flag. There are so many different circumstances because if I look at those guys in hindsight, was it because there were two of them? Was it because I saw them multiple times? Was it because there are too many coincidences versus the other guy? He was by himself. We met so randomly and started talking.

There was another time, Jason, where my intuition got thrown off. The very last place I camped was in Wisconsin on the border of Illinois at this cool farm. I found it on this website called Hipcamp, which a lot of people don’t know about. I highly recommend looking into it. I had already known about it but Leanne was a big advocate for it because she had used it once in 2020. We used it a few times on our trip.

We had a similar experience where we went somewhere. I remember thinking, “I feel vulnerable here.” We are at some random person’s listing because it’s like an Airbnb. In 2021 in Wisconsin, I remember getting there and feeling vulnerable because it was private property. There was no one there versus the campgrounds, which are run by professionals. This is just some random person who listed it on a website. I remember feeling like, “It feels a little risky but she had good reviews. She’s on this verified website so I hope that they do their research.”

You start to go through in your head and then tune in to your intuition. I told myself before I’ve got there that I would feel it out, see if I felt any red flags and I didn’t. I’ve got on the phone with my family to check in with them and my family was like, “What if she is some crazy woman who’s going to come out and do something nuts to you while you are sleeping?” They start laughing about it but I could tell they were also serious about it. In my head, I’m like, “Great.” Here I was feeling all safe from my intuition but somebody else is coming along telling me to be afraid of something that I wasn’t afraid of.

A book that I wanted to reference that I was listening to on the road trip is called The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things. The book goes through all these different examples of how Americans get hooked on stories, especially from the media that don’t necessarily have much basis in reality or are rare things but are positioned by the media as if they are more common than they are. It was an enlightening book to listen to because it helped me understand why I might be afraid but why others are afraid, too.

That was the book that was talking about airplanes versus cars and how the media will tell all these stories about plane crashes when they are very rare and car crashes happen more frequently. We are generally much more afraid of flying than we are driving. If it bleeds, it leads stuff. That’s why when I heard about the Gabby Petito story, I was like, “Why is the media sharing this? Why are people so interested and invested in the story?”

I believe it was also in that book that was talking about the cases of JonBenét Ramsey and Casey Anthony. I remember when the Casey Anthony story was going on, I was glued to it. I could not get enough of it. I felt the same way around 9/11, although that was a little different because I feel like there was deep trauma that the whole world was experiencing.

I was trying to work through my trauma by immersing myself in the stories versus the Casey Anthony story. I didn’t feel that connection as a person but I was so deeply fascinated by it. I wanted to know what was going to happen. I’m seeing a similar reaction with Gabby’s story. I am constantly seeing people post about Gabby. All these people are speculating about it and sharing the details. In the comments, they are so obsessed. People want to solve the case, predict what’s going to happen or be upset about it and tell other people to be afraid.

MGU 283 | Travelers Gone Missing

Travelers Gone Missing: Fear division fuels the media.

 

We all get caught up in these stories, which in a way is very disturbing. This book about The Culture of Fear is tapping into the psychological elements of it but also how news programs, the media, and the government tend to benefit from us being so fearful. Are we being manipulated in our stories like this being overblown in order to keep us in a state of fear?

Isn’t that an interesting parallel to the entire COVID situation? Depending on what you believe, some people purport that the statistics are overblown based on how they are tracking COVID cases or how COVID cases are being reported from hospitals, caregivers to the CDC. I saw an interesting article comparing the daily death rates of heart disease, heart attacks and cancer versus COVID.

I want to go on record to say, I’m not a COVID denier. You can hold off on those messages whose ever reading. It is interesting as a parallel, Whitney, to what you are talking about, how there is a cultural epidemic of fear around plane crashes yet statistically, people die at a much higher clip in their automobiles.

The reason I’m saying this is people die at a much higher rate of heart disease and cancer in this country, as opposed to the recorded COVID deaths yet what is going on in the media? The media is going fucking bonkers for COVID because to your point, if it bleeds, it leads. Terror, fear, and division are what’s fueling the media. If they wanted to inspire fear in people, they would be talking a lot more about heart disease, cancer, and what may or may not cause it but they are not talking about that.

One of the things is like, “There’s this thing.” I want to go on record. I believe COVID is real and it’s a serious thing but if they wanted to “save lives,” they would also be talking about how to prevent heart disease, how to eat better, moving your body, positive thinking, meditation, healing your relationships but that doesn’t make front-page news. Front-page news is, “This virus is going to kill everyone.” No. Heart disease and cancer are killing everyone if you want to statistically be correct about it. It is interesting you bring that up, Whitney, because I feel like the COVID situation, in my mind, is a perfect parallel to what you are describing.

We need to remember that we can’t trust everything that we see on the news. Unfortunately, a lot of people use the news as their main source of information. Another book I listened to on my road trip was called The Death of Expertise. It’s an interesting in-depth book about how we perceive experts, who we believe, who we don’t believe, and how many people think that they are experts when they are not.

We have talked about this at length on the show, which is part of the reason I read it. It’s great. It leads me to this mindset of feeling like, “We are in a time of major confusion.” We have so many people claiming to be experts. We have many avenues through which people can share their information and their opinions, on and on. It’s like, “Who do you trust? What do you believe? Does that lead us to a place where we are feeling better or worse about things?”

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I found a quote from The Culture of Fear. The writer said, “Disproportionate coverage in the news media has facts.” A professor at Hunter College did some interviews with women in New York City about their fears of crime. Women would often say, “I saw it in the news.” The interviewees identified the news media as both the source of the fear and the reason they believe the fear. When they were asked about why they believe the country has a serious crime problem, this big poll said that 76% of people cited stories had seen in the media and only 22% cited personal experience.

My point is I had this experience driving cross-country by myself as a woman. I have been fine. I have done it twice completely by myself. I’m going to do it a third time on my way home. I have done it with other people, including you, Jason. I have had good experiences traveling and going to national parks. If I hadn’t had those experiences and paid attention to the news coverage about Gabby, I would probably believe that it was incredibly unsafe but I have been to several, if not many of the places that Gabby traveled and felt safe there.

Granted my story of those two guys aside, I didn’t feel this big sense of unsafe. I felt this heightened sense of awareness because of them but it wasn’t that deep intuitive hit. I haven’t even had a close call with an accident, knock on wood. All these trips I have had have gone so well. Also to your point, Jason, I have been prepared. On this trip, I became even more prepared. I brought a special tire repair kit in case I’ve got a nail in my tire.

In 2020, I had some issues with my car so I was a little bit more aware. I’ve got new tires put on. I went through this whole checklist, read all these articles and vetted out every place that I stayed. I did feel very prepared. Each time I do this trip, I become more experienced and aware. That does help. We talked about this horrible story. The woman was in London or somewhere in the UK who had been murdered, which is a word I feel uncomfortable saying but that’s the truth. Sadly, I forget her name.

We brought up the story because it was this example of women feeling unsafe and often being blamed for not being prepared enough. Women are often said, “Where were you? Did you put yourself in that position? What were you wearing?” In that case, the story was interesting because she wasn’t in an unsafe situation if I remember correctly.

It was Sarah Everard. She was walking home from work and was murdered by a British police officer.

That story was bringing up this idea of it can happen anywhere at any time but then again, does that make us feel even safer? It’s like, “I will never be prepared enough.” That was also what came up for me on this trip. I knew that I was doing the best that I could. I also knew that I was doing that trip to be present, experience joy, and seeing new places. It was risky even walking around Montana because of bears. Sure I have the bear spray but that doesn’t mean that I was fully protected. There were plenty of things that could have gone wrong on that trip. If I’ve got so focused on them, I wouldn’t have done it.

MGU 283 | Travelers Gone Missing

Travelers Gone Missing: Each person has to explore and question mortality for themselves.

 

The other thing that kept coming up in this Gabby Petito story was one woman was like, “Glad I’m single. I can’t trust men. I can’t even trust my boyfriend. This gives me more motivation to stay single.” You see it like, “Maybe I was safer traveling by myself.” You could justify that, too. Who knows what the person next to you is going to do? How well do you know the person you are traveling with? This is the thing.

My big point is it’s sad. I have my fingers crossed that there’s some miraculous positive outcome for Gabby that she’s found safe and there’s an explanation for it. I also hope that myself and others don’t get too afraid when they hear these stories. You stay prepared, tune into your intuition, bring some protective measures with you and make the best choices you can. As we concluded the last time we dug into this, Jason, there’s only so much that we can do to protect ourselves from life.

If we have the choice between doing something like a great road trip versus staying home to be on the safe side, personally, I’m choosing the road trip because that’s what brings me joy. There are plenty of things looking back that maybe I did that could have put me in a compromised situation but I didn’t think they were at the time. I was doing the best I could. I’m glad that I did it. Hopefully, I say the same thing when I drive back to LA.

In life, there’s a certain amount of psychological compartmentalization that we do regarding risk. We have talked about risk versus reward in a previous episode. Not to be morose about it but there’s a CBS News article. Do we trust it? We don’t know. This is an old article. I couldn’t find a more recent one. CBS News said one person commits suicide every 40 seconds, one person is murdered every 60 seconds and one person dies in armed conflict every 100 seconds the World Health Organization reports.

You could think about that, feel afraid and terrified. Someone commits suicide every 40 seconds. Someone gets murdered every 60 seconds on the planet. Someone is also being born now. Someone is dying or murdered in this literal moment. It’s to say preparation, awareness, practicing the trusting of one’s intuition, and being mindful are all important things but it brings up an existential conversation about the fact that we will die someday.

Do we know how we are going to die? Absolutely not. If you sink too deep into that, it can freak you out but I also think that most of the time of our day, whether I’m on a walk with my dog in my neighborhood, I don’t live in the greatest neighborhood in LA, God bless it, it’s not the best ever, something could happen to me on my walk with my dog. Something could happen to you while you are driving. We don’t know.

Even though we know death is happening on the planet again and again, and over and over, somehow our brains have adapted to be aware of that. We know that that’s happening, Whitney, but we compartmentalize it in a certain way psychologically to function. If we ruminate on it like, “Someone is dying now. Someone is getting murdered. In another 100 seconds, someone is dying in an armed conflict,” we wouldn’t even be able to do anything if we succumb to that terror and that fear.

It’s like, “We know we are going to pass. We don’t know how. Death is a part of life but how do we function and live a good life being aware of our impending mortality and the fact that we have no idea how we are going to die?” I don’t know. Some days I feel like I’m better able to manage that stark-cold reality better than others. Some days I ruminate on my death may be too much but then other days I’m like, “I’m going to die. I need to go get bread. Bye.”

MGU 283 | Travelers Gone Missing

Travelers Gone Missing: Allow yourself that ignorance is bliss experience.

 

Each person has to tune in, explore it for themselves and question things. That’s the big thing that we keep coming back to. One of the reasons I enjoy reading so much, especially non-fiction, is gathering information and looking at different perspectives. This perspective of don’t trust everything that you see in the media is an incredibly important one, even the news. Cross check your sources.

One of the books I read was referencing that tidbit of it’s helpful for us to read and watch things that go against our beliefs because it shows us a different viewpoint. Maybe it’s helpful to have people concerned about my safety when I’m traveling. What’s interesting too is right before I went on this trip, there was a case of two women who were killed in Utah while camping. I had this friend reach out to me and she was like, “Are you going to be okay? Do you have something protective?”

I had that story in my head. I’m like, “Are people going to target me because I’m driving by myself in a Tesla from California? Are people going to judge me?” It’s all these what-if things. That story, if you look into it, I feel like someone was targeted not for their lifestyle. I’m not going to get into the detail of that story but from my perspective, it was like a hate crime. I don’t know if that’s true or not but it’s like, “What am I going to do to protect myself, worry about all these what-ifs, and become paralyzed with fear?”

I did look up the timeline though, which is fascinating. The last time that Gabby’s mother heard from her, they spoke on the phone on August 25th, 2021 while she was near Grand Teton. I’ve got to Grand Teton on the 29th of August, 2021. What’s also interesting about that is the mother said that she wasn’t getting responses from her. She believed that she was in a place with no service, which was true.

I planned out my trip knowing that there were going to be places that I wasn’t going to have cell phone service. One protective measure I took, was I turned on location tracking. I sent that to you, Jason and my parents, my sister, some other close people in my life and tell like, “Any time you need to, you can go see on the map where I’m at or where I last was.”

I would check in with people each night to let them know I’ve got to places safely and check in the next morning, let them know I woke up. There was one time when I’ve got to Glacier that my mom texted me and called me as well. She was concerned. She’s like, “I haven’t been able to reach you all day.” I was offline for several days. I might have had service a few short, brief moments throughout those few days. It did feel vulnerable and frustrating at times but it was also relieving.

That’s what I mean with the two sides of the story. There was one side where like, “Do you feel scared and vulnerable when you can’t reach people and they can’t reach you?” On the same side, Jason, it felt nice to not be reachable, not be able to watch TV, scroll through social media or check my email. I couldn’t do anything. I’ve got tired and went to bed. I wasn’t doing my usual screen time, communication, and seeing what other people were doing. I didn’t use TikTok for a week, which is a lot for me.

I remember scrolling through TikTok and I was like, “Remember what it was like when I couldn’t do this?” I felt perfectly fine being disconnected. Here I am going through social media, reading about Gabby and all these other horrible things. Is that good for my mental health? On one side, it feels nice to know what’s going on in the world but on the other side, you wonder, “Do you need to know what’s going on in the world?”

The ultimate question at the end of this episode is, “How much of that information that you do know is even real or just use to manipulate you?” That’s food for thought for you. Fingers crossed. Here we are from the past speaking to the future. I am holding out a lot of hope that Gabby makes it home, is found safe and that there’s some explanation for what happened there. That will remain to be seen. If it makes sense, we will bring it up in another episode but there’s only so much we can do.

Let’s say all of that was happening when I was there at the same time. I didn’t know that it was happening. That’s part of it too, Jason. I hear about something that corresponded with where I was but I didn’t know about it so I couldn’t do anything about it. Maybe that’s part of the lesson. I have so much sympathy and compassion. I feel helpless and sad that these things happen in the world.

At the same time, in that present moment of not even knowing that it’s happening, allowed me to have that ignorance is a bliss experience. I don’t say that from a selfish perspective but it’s almost like a metaphor. To your point, Jason, horrific things are happening as we are talking that we will never know about because they are not shared in the media.

There are sadness, horrific crimes, and awful things happening all the time but we do not have the capacity to know about all of those awful things because we could not possibly function. This is why we talked about compassion fade and compassion fatigue because we are not equipped to handle all the sadness but we seem to have an immense capacity for happiness and bliss. Perhaps that’s why ignorance is an important thing in our life. There’s not an easy answer or experience. It’s just something that happens.

With that, we are always curious to hear from you dear readers, your thoughts about intuition, the state of the world, whether you trust what you see in the media and how media feeds into any kind of fear response as we have. We always like to hear what your thoughts are as you reflect on these episodes with Whitney and me. You can always email us. It’s H[email protected]. Whitney and I get your emails. I’m a little behind on emails to be quite honest. That’s on my to-do list. If you email us, I will get to you and get back to you. You can always shoot us a DM.

We are also at Wellevatr.com and @Wellevatr is our handle on all of the social media platforms. Until next time. Whitney, I’m glad you are safe and sound with your family. It’s great to see you again in your cozy cabin show space. We will be back with another episode soon. Thanks for reading and supporting. We love you!

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