Wednesday, September 28, 2022


The Gabby Petito murder and what it means to a road tripper

By this point you’re probably familiar with the disappearance, and now confirmed murder, of Gabby Petito. This week, instead of focusing on little-known escapes along the road, I thought I would share some thoughts about what it has felt like as a road tripper to watch this tragic story unfold.

Many of us know the places that have been featured on the news in the last week. The national parks in particular, with your Instagram-ready, sweeping vistas and spectacular rock formations. The forests and the fields. The sacred lands and unspoiled terrains that truly give us pause.

Then there are the little out-of-the-way diners and roadside cafés. Places where you pull up and fill up. Places where you pause and take stock of the journey. We’ve seen so many of them in the last week. We know so many of those places because we’ve been there ourselves. We can feel them. And now, here is this highly publicized story, by no means the only tragic story along the road but, for a variety of reasons, the one that is garnering a lot of attention. All of a sudden, the road doesn’t seem as friendly and welcoming as it usually does.

For me, I start thinking about the details of the road. What do we pay attention to? What do we remember? Incredibly, a legion of fellow travelers has become integral to helping unlock the secrets of this case. On-the-road videos, social media posts and personally generated content have revealed telltale clues that, in one case at least, seem to have helped locate the body of Gabby Petito.

We all know how technology is changing the road. Navigation has never been easier or more interesting. Documenting the experiences of the road has also become a natural and seamless part of the experience. But I don’t think I’ll ever take another road trip without paying closer attention to every mile. A parked car along the side of the road, a nomadic hitchhiker, an over-heated conversation overheard in some small diner. What were once largely forgettable little blips along the path now seem to loom larger in the wake of this unfolding tragedy. People are combing their hard drives in the hope that perhaps they captured some fragment of a second that might help authorities figure things out.

What about you? Do any of these details have the power to affect how you now travel along the road? Are your senses any more heightened in the midst of this? Do you think you’ll become more aware of any anomalies that at one time you would have easily forgotten? I love writing about the road and I love photographing special places that I get to visit. I also love sharing those things both in book and magazine form, on social media, and in columns like this one. But there’s just something about this case that I truly think it’s going to affect how I deal with the miles from this point on.

Would love to know your thoughts.

Read more from Chris Epting here

Chris Epting is an author, award-winning journalist/photographer and dedicated road tripper. His best-selling books including James Dean Died Here (the locations of America’s pop culture landmarks), Roadside Baseball, and The Birthplace Book, along with many others that remain popular with many travelers and RVers throughout the country and world. He is excited to be contributing to and looks forward to helping to lead you places you may not have discovered otherwise. You may learn more about Chris at his author’s site,



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Uncle Swags
11 months ago

Nope. Born in a large city and learned to look out for myself so an overhyped story as this will have no impact on how I go about life.

11 months ago

Situational awareness is the most important thing in self defense situations, but also important any time of the day or night. Any info you absorb throughout your day, can help you, but also be helpful to others around you or authorities in an investigation of an incident. Keep your eyes & ears open to all of your surroundings, not buried in your phone or plugged with ear buds.

Mike Schwab
11 months ago

Given his training and location, his hideout strategy will probably be similar to , the Atlanta Olympics bomber who hid out in the southern Appalachian mountains until a cop stumbled upon him dumpster diving.

11 months ago

As some have pointed out, this case seems sadly more about an interpersonal relationship than anything to do with traveling. Of course, it’s important to be sure to be vigilant while traveling.

Seemed that the author is asking folks to keep eyes and ears open for signs of potential domestic violence. We all tend to avert our eyes and move on. Lots of stories of bystanders who ‘heard’ or ‘saw’ something but did nothing and told no one until after a murder. It’s certainly easier to ‘move on’. Thankfully, we not only have eyes and ears, but our devices do too.

Now, what do we do with them? I guess gauge a situation carefully, and if there’s a heated argument, maybe gently ask, ‘Y’all ok?’ Likely, we’ll be told to ‘mind your own F%&!n business!’ But maybe, there may be an opening to save a life, or at least give a hopeless individual notice that there are people out there willing to help.

Donna Roberts
11 months ago

I have always been a hyper vigilant observer of people around me. All the more reason to continue to do so…

The Lazy Q
11 months ago

This tragedy was not some random act of murder, not due to her lack of vigilance, not because she was out and about in unknown territory. She was with her fiancé who by all appearances by his actions killed her.
Yes, we should always be vigilant in our daily lives, head on a swivel, don’t let your guard down. All it takes is one little lapse of judgement to become a statistic.
Was her fiancé abusive prior to this trip or was she unaware of his tendencies and this tragically, was her last trip.
I hope the killer is found and justice is served.

11 months ago

You are correct, Chris. I know that I will be more vigilant. Things that I notice, things that I hear and gut-feelings —-I have always made written notations on my paper map or else in a little notebook when we travel. Mostly, in the past, these notations have been about places or sights that I wanted to remember. Now, I will also note things that “strike me”. One never knows what might be helpful down the road. Good article.

11 months ago

Personally speaking, we should always be cautious and observant, safety first. From an RVing standpoint, I see minimal effect. This seems more an interpersonal relationship issue than an RV issue.

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