Photo: Gabby Petito | Instagram
Trigger warning for sensitive content surrounding a missing person's case.

As you may or may not be aware, a young 22 year old by the name of Gabby Petito has been reported missing after she was unable to get a hold of after her cross country road trip. This is what we know of so far from her posts online. 

What we know about Petito’s trip

Petito documented her trip on Instagram, which many people do these days, unaware that it can later help them should they be reported missing like Petito’s case. Petito was reported missing approximately one week after her last phone call with her mother via Facetime. Before reported missing, Petito was sharing her cross country road trip with her friends and followers online through popular social media app Instagram. She and her fiancé documented the van trip, which is helping authorities understand her disappearance and where she was before she was missing.

This news is incredibly sensitive and hard to hear about, especially because nobody expects a harmless road trip to turn so serious. As a recap of the timeline, Gabby Petito and her fiancé Brian Laundrie, who has since been named as a person of interest, began dating in 2019 and live together in Florida. Based off her social media posts, it looks as if Petito and Laundrie became engaged in July of 2020. From this, they decided to travel cross country in a van in the upcoming months. Though as mentioned, the two lived in Florida, Petito’s mother, Nicole Schmidt, reported that they departed from Buffalo, New York after leaving from Petito’s brother’s graduation.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CQ7YTHwFtnn/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet

Embarking on their trip, Petito documented the beginning on Instagram. In one sweet Instagram post, Petito says “There’s no place like the tiny home we built.” This photo was posted in Monument Rocks Natural Landmark in Grove County. From there, she posted photos of Colorado and her van from July 8th-July 11th. She notes “Turning this Ford Transit essentially into a camper was such an adventure in itself, but I couldn’t love the way it turned out more! All the places its brought us so far have been amazing!”

https://www.instagram.com/p/CQ7SNHUFJAD/?utm_source=ig_embed&ig_rid=6c754374-55c2-49e9-8d31-749abc77b9dc

Equally important, travelling across country in a van turned into a home has become increasingly popular. According to Better Internet Initiative, 61% of Hispanic Americans and 44% of Black Americans have experienced wage losses compared to 38% of White Americans during 2021 year. Not everyone is able to afford hopping into a van and travelling the country.

https://www.instagram.com/gabspetito/?utm_source=ig_embed&ig_rid=728f17c9-613c-4571-a501-0cd4b590c296

According to Insider, the couple made their way to camping at Zion National Park in Utah where they experienced a starry night getaway, which she posted online as well. They also travelled 72 miles North to Canyon National Park in Utah. From there, there was a twelve day gap where Petito did not post anything else about their trip until she shared that she was with her fiance at the bottom of Arches National Park. She also shared the inside and outside of her van, but this time with no location attached.

What We Know About Petito’s Disappearance

Where a lot of people are focusing is that the couple launched their YouTube channel titled “Nomadic Static” on August 19th. The channel features an eight minute video and highlights their “van life.” Petito talks to the camera about their trip in a blue tank top and black shorts which are the same outfits from her posts on July 30th and July 31st. At the end of August, the couple posts that they had left Salt Lake City on August 24th, this time with no location as well.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CRe5oCPlJ7X/?utm_source=ig_embed&ig_rid=94eb3ff9-efa6-4b7b-96dc-085e86de2750

The family stopped receiving text messages on August 30th and the fiancé, Laundrie, had returned on an unknown date without Petito. On September 11th, Petito’s mother reported her missing. Petito’s family reports that “Brian is refusing to tell Gabby’s family where he last saw her. Brian is also refusing to explain why he left Gabby all alone and drove her van to Florida.” This statement was made to Inside through their attorney Richard Stafford.

Many on Twitter were perplexed about this case. On Twitter, one person noted that it was “strange that Brian is always wearing this necklace in Instagram photos… but then in 7/29, the necklace is suddenly gone and his Instagram captions go from short and sweet to long and rambling. So what changed?” Another person noted “Am i the only one obsessing over this Gabby Petito story? The boyfriend not speaking is driving me insane and his lawyer barely handles criminal defense cases.”