Certified Solo With Sam: Interview with Solo Road Tripper Bailey Reutzel
Introducing 'Certified Solo with Sam' a new series of interviews with women from all walks of life, who dare to travel alone.
It's important we keep inspiring one another to be chasing our travel dreams! We are releasing a series of interviews from fierce, lady travelers who have been amazing enough to share their advice and lovely stories with me. We want to express that taking the trip you've always wanted is possible. I've interviewed women from all walks of life who made travel a priority and never looked back. Our series kicks off with my first interviewee, Bailey Reutzel.
Bailey is a independent finance and tech journalist. One of my best friends, sources of inspiration, and overall bad ass, Bailey is never afraid to take a journey on her own. In January, she finished a 6-month, 48-state drive called Moneytripping (www.moneytripping.com) where she blogged about political and economic culture in the US.
Her experiences growing up in rural Southeast Missouri and also living in big cities such as New York City and London, give her a unique perspective on these things.
We sat down over a glass or two of wine to talk about her experiences.
Sam Hancock: What was your travel experience before "daring to go solo?"
BR: I got the road trip bug from my family. I remember going on a lot of road trips when I was younger; 10 hours to Texas to visit family for instance was no big deal. So really as soon as I got to college, I started doing solo road trips. Obviously I would meet people in the places I went, either at hostels or bars, but for whatever reason I was one to just get up and go where others were not.
I also traveled around Europe a bit when I was younger. Once with classmates from my Catholic high school to visit historical churches, including the Sistine Chapel in Italy. And then in college, I enrolled in a health class even though it had nothing to do with my major to go to Germany and France. Sure, I had to go with the class to visit hospitals but I also got to see a new country. It seemed like a worthwhile trade-off.
SH: What made you decide you had/needed to travel alone and why?
BR: My job allows me to work from anywhere as long as there's an internet connection. But growing up in the Midwest where most jobs aren't like that, I usually just had to travel alone.
In terms of Moneytripping, it was just my own story. I'm currently writing the Moneytripping book and while a ton of acquaintances, friends, and lovers are a part of that story, I'm focusing on weaving my own personal narrative into the broader story of America.
As scary as this sounds, I do my best writing when I’m driving. Big open spaces, a path to a destination and me alone with my chaotic mind forces me into coherence.
SH: How long did you travel for and where did you go? How did you decide on that/those destination(s)?
BR: On Moneytripping, I traveled for 6 months, spending between three and four days in contiguous states. I picked a lot of destinations based on where I have friends, friends of friends, or family of friends that would host me. But when I didn't have a place to stay, usually the biggest city or one that had something weird about it, for instance Centralia, Penn. - a town that was evacuated after a coal win caught fire. It's all overgrown now but there's a few holdouts.
SH: How did you plan?
BR: I lived in London from January through June (two months before I started Moneytripping) and was house sitting for a friend of a friend. I still had my full-time job in New York City so I was saving a lot of money.
In London, I was hanging out with a lot of anarchists and activists who inspired me to go off on my own, do what I wanted. They really fought for the little guy. They were skeptical of power structures and how those structures keep people down. And I saw that in the US there is institutional racism, sexism and classism, and I wanted to shine a light on that.
People in the UK and broader Europe tend to think more critically than people in the US for a variety of reasons that I try and cover in the blog.
But as for planning the actual road trip route, I didn't do that until like two days before I started driving. I'm a terrible planner. I just wing it most the time. And even the route I first drew on the map changed drastically as I journeyed.
(The blue was the route I intended to take and the orange was my actual route.)
SH: How much did it cost you?
BR: I started with $8000 with the plan to spend $1000 per month for 6 months. That gave me a cushion too.
But I ended up writing a couple stories for my former employer is New York when I was at a financial technology conference in Las Vegas and then also made a pretty good amount of PayPal and Bitcoin tips as I was traveling from fans of the blog. All in all, I spent a little under $13,000. I pulled back into my parent's driveway after the six months with about $300 to my name.
Money went further on the East Coast since I knew more people in that area and that driving distance was less between states.
SH: How was the support around your trip from friends, family, or colleagues?
BR: I had such wonderful support. My Dad let me use his personal car (he owns his own welding business so he has several work trucks), a 2008 Ford Escape, which I'm still driving now and still paying off. I'm real sentimental about it.
And I already mentioned the tips from fans of my writing. A lot of people would tip me $40 which was a tank of gas to keep me driving.
Also I knew that if I ran out of money, I could go back home and live with my family for a bit.
Friends, former co-workers, Twitter followers and even random people I met hooked me up with so much support. I survived on their support. It was an amazing thing to see. People really are generally good.
SH: Do you speak any other languages?
BR: Very little Spanish and a very little French.
SH: What issues did you run into as a solo female traveler?
BR: None really. In some cities I would be nervous walking around at night by myself, especially when there's no one else on the streets.
It was interesting, in West Virginia I had an older man tell me I should be careful because there's people that will tap your car with theirs and then pull you over, rob and kill you. I asked where he had heard this and he said the news. But this is the interesting thing, because of the "if it bleeds, it leads" 24-hour news cycle many people think these kinds of bad things happen all the time when in reality they're outliers. Again, people are generally good.
SH: What empowered you as a solo female traveler?
BR: I have had very good experiences while traveling. If it were the other way maybe I wouldn’t love it as much. I've been lucky too. Most people are intrigued by my solo travel and want to help, because whether or not they can do it, it inspires them.
Bad shit happens. I'm sure it'll happen to me one day. But I won't live in fear that it will. I just try and be as aware as I can when I'm alone.
SH: What was your favorite part about traveling solo?
BR: Meeting people that think or live differently than you. It opens my mind. It makes me a better person.
SH: How has your life changed since traveling?
BR: Traveling is a way of life for me now. Especially after the road trip, I have struggled with being constant and stable.
It's going to sound a little egotistical, but when you're traveling and going to see friends, the couple days you're there, it's all about you and showing you the best time. That can sometimes be challenging not to have.
Moneytripping also showed me that I can live on much less than I had. Less furniture, less clothes, less things. I was on the road with three plastic tubs of clothes and one of books. And it felt good to live in that way more simply. So when I got off the road trip, I went through a bunch of my stuff and told my parents to sell it at the next garage sale or I'd take it to Goodwill.
SH: Do you plan to travel alone again?
BR: Oh absolutely!
SH: Any advice for the solo female traveler?
BR: I encourage people to put themselves in uncomfortable social situations. Take a chance on a situation that may seem awkward. Jump into conversations, talk to people, try new things. You'd be surprised.
When we were in Bucharest together (with Me), remember that quote mural on the hostel wall? "Life begins at the end of your comfort zone." I love that.
SH: What advice would you give to your old self before you travelled solo?
BR: Don't worry whether people think you're crazy. Eccentric is charming, at least to the people I want to surround myself with.
SH: What advice do you have now that you've travelled solo?
BR: Push your limits. I can be quite cynical, but at heart, I'm an optimist, a benefit of the doubt giver, a silver lining kind of person and that's a happy place to be.
SH: In one word, what would be biggest character trait you gained from solo travel?
SH: What are your favorite travel websites, bloggers or magazines?
BR: On Instagram I follow people who live out of Airstreams. The tag digital nomad really gets me going...
Chanel Cartell and Stevo Dirnberger (howfarfromhome on Instagram) are a South African couple who quit their cush jobs to travel. They wrote this blog about the struggles of that lifestyle--cleaning toilets and other dirty jobs for room and board, etc. It's nice when you're honest with your audience. It's not only beautiful selfies and magnificent landscapes.
SH: What are you favorite travel products, accessories and/or wardrobe?
BR: I have a beanie baby buffalo named Roam. I take him everywhere.
Cash is also always good to have on hand to support local businesses as much as possible.
SH: How do you use technology when you travel?
BR: To connect with my audience. I just shamelessly promote my adventures and work on social media.
SH: Any must-have apps when you travel?
BR: Hostelworld. Mobile banking apps. OneNote or Google Docs. ♦
Thank you, Bailey! Be sure to keep with her on social media.
Instagram: // @blurredworld
Twitter: // @BLR13
Blog: // www.moneytripping.com
If you or anyone you know would like to be a part of our interview series please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org