Meet: Gail Grycel

Name & Age: Gail Grycel, 58

Where's home? Westminster, Vermont, USA

What was/is your last/current trip? Nine months into a year long US journey, without vehicle.

What got you started? 1981. Japan. Three weeks.

How do you pay the way? I rent out my house, which has no debt. I have access to whatever funds are left over after I pay a property manager and expenses. Once I return, I plan to sell some things, work a much as possible and save some. I have skill sets that can  be used in work exchanges as I travel.

What’s the last thing that blew your mind? Camping in the Yosemite National Park backcountry when, in the middle of the night, a bear (I assume, and it was not a Grizzly) was snorting and sniffing at my tent. It was scary, but I knew that I could scare it away by making noise, and other tents were close enough to hear me if I did. Amazing to be in the wild and have that happen.

What's always on your packing list? Backpacking gear (tent, bag, mat, etc), iPad mini w/bluetooth keyboard, camera, solar charger, dancing shoes, safety, flexibility and a smile.

By land, by sea, or by air? not by sea.....

Hotel or hostel? Camp or Couchsurf? Couchsurf, hostel, camp

What's your travel pet peeve? When people ask  me where my husband is, as if there is something wrong about a woman just traveling because she wants to and she can.

How do people react to you as a solo female traveler? Surprise, awe, validation, inspiration.

What scares you? I won't be able to find a safe, cheap place to sleep.

CALIFORNIA - Del Norte Campground, Santa Cruz Island, Channel Islands National Park, CA

CALIFORNIA - Del Norte Campground, Santa Cruz Island, Channel Islands National Park, CA

How do you overcome fear / anxiety / doubt? Trust intuition, and err on the side of safety.

Worst memory: I got a ride to a CS host in New Orleans without understanding the area. Once there, without vehicle, I was told I couldn't walk alone in the neighborhood. I made sure I got a ride with my host when he left, and didn't stay alone in the house. Then, I made other plans, and left the area. I learned to ask better questions about the area before I arrived there, just in case.

One unforgettable memory: I just came out of backpacking in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and was in a bad way: I had brought poison oak over with me on the backs of my legs, my back got sunburned snorkeling, I had blisters on my feet from walking around for days previously in my sandals in the rain, and I fell on the old lava hiking out and sliced open my arm. I stood on the side of the road hitching up to a nearby campground to recuperate for a few days when a local woman picked me up for the ride. Once she found out I'm a cabinetmaker, she offered to bring me home with her so I could advise her on how to fix a broken chair. I spent three days at her home, fixed her chair,slept on a bed, shared her wonderful meals and wine, met her friends, saw her town, and made a lifelong friend! The unforgettable memories are about the kindness and generosity of people embracing a stranger along the road.

Bravest memory: Climbing up to the top of Bell Rock in Sedona, AZ with my Couchsurfing host Peter and three others. I have  a grave fear of heights, and I was petrified all the way up and down. I wept and shook, but kept telling myself that I can "do this", and then I somehow did.  It's a metaphor for my life now.

Culture shock moment: In the early 1980's, I was in Tokyo taking the subway when I saw a child looking at me as if I was an alien. She stood behind her mother for a safe place to explore her curiosity. Back in the US, I had gone to school all along with other kids of diverse ethnic background, so I didn't think of myself as looking different. But the look on the child's face reminded me that I was clearly not from there.

Best reason to talk to strangers: To connect. We all have a longing for connection in all kinds of ways. And I find that the simplest of hellos can open into incredible conversations, serendipitous invitations for visits, local information, rides, shared food, and protection. For example, I hadn't planned on helping out with feeding 35 llamas in Nevada County, CA, or going to a fundraising music festival in San Marcos Texas, or making a new dancing friend who would scoop me up daily to show me his culture around the Cajun Bayou in Louisiana.

CALIFORNIA - Accepted an invite from a new friend to visit and help on a Llama Ranch.

CALIFORNIA - Accepted an invite from a new friend to visit and help on a Llama Ranch.

How are you different while traveling? Over years of familiarity in a community, people expect me to be a certain way, which is only one part of who I am. While traveling, I don't feel limited to being boxed in that way. I'm able to open up more expansively to all that I am, and learn more about the less expected parts of how I respond to my experiences.

Three things you learned on the road: 

  1. How to ship boxes to myself General Delivery (in the U.S.) so I don't have to carry everything all the time. Since I haven't been traveling with a vehicle, everything I want access to is usually on my back, including backpacking gear and dancing shoes.
  2. People are fundamentally kind and generous, especially my Couchsurfing hosts who pick me up, drop me off and invite me to share in area activities that I couldn't easily get to on my own.
  3. We, individually, are the best gift we can give to another. Whomever I am, as long as I am being authentic and open, is enough and I am celebrated.
CALIFORNIA - Hike into Sespe Wilderness with my Couchsurfing host.

CALIFORNIA - Hike into Sespe Wilderness with my Couchsurfing host.

Is it harder to leave or to stay put? Because of other priorities in life, for a long time it was harder to leave. Once those parts of my life ran their course, it became increasingly harder to stay put.

What would you be doing if you’d never left home? Working too hard, with a bad attitude, and saying, "I'm tired of the same life over and over again!"

What keeps you going? At 58, I know that I'm on the other side of the halfway point in life, and life keeps getting shorter. I want to experience everything I can know.

What's next? Continue on for three more months. Now in Portland, Oregon, then back to California and Yosemite National Park again before I start to head back east through Colorado...

What advice do you have for wanna-be Wild Hearts? Work with the resources you have, celebrate the experiences that you can even if those experiences weren't in the original plan, be open to all kinds of people,  and let go of what doesn't flow easily.

Last question: What would make you stop traveling? Bad health that made it impossible or agonizing, or death.

Follow Gail:

TEXAS - On the road in Big Bend National Park.

TEXAS - On the road in Big Bend National Park.