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Local woman talks impact of Gabby Petito case on van life community

Posted at 7:48 AM, Sep 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-30 07:48:20-04

INDIANAPOLIS — When 22-year-old Gabby Petitio went missing the search for her took the social media world by storm.

It especially impacted the van life community, because Petito and her boyfriend Brian Laundrie were traveling cross country living the van life themselves.

Van life represents a group of people who've given up traditional living to live in vehicles that have been turned into tiny houses. We spoke to an Indianapolis-based woman who’s been living the lifestyle for four years.

She said the Petitio case hits close to home.

“All the people that I've talked to who live in vans just find this piece of themselves in Gabby,” Sydney Ferbrache said.

Ferbrache has lived in her van for four years, working remote jobs while traveling the country, now posting about it on social media is her full-time job.

“If you're involved in the community, we are really, really tight and we don't all know each other because it's gotten so big but, you know, it's when you pull into a parking lot and you see another van with solar panels you always are like 'Ok I'm parking next to you because I trust you,'” Ferbrache said.

She said the case of Petito hits close to home because Petito was the same age as her when she started her van life lifestyle.

“To see someone in that position she is at the forefront she, you know, the world is at her fingertips," Ferbrache said. "She’s a huge opportunity and adventure in front of her and to see that taken away is heartbreaking."

Ferbrache said the tragic ending of Petitio’s life has made her think about her lifestyle.

“A lot of people right now are kind of pointing fingers to the van life community saying you know ‘See, see we knew it wasn't safe we told you guys it wasn't safe,” Ferbrache said. “A lot of people always said I was at the most risk because I was by myself as a woman and I've thought a lot about that since this whole thing with Gabby this tragedy and I just thought about the fact that she would have been safer had she been a solo female.”

Ferbrache said she is now working on resources to give out within the van life community on getting out of an abusive relationship if you are in one. She reiterates the van life isn’t unsafe being stuck and isolated with an abuser is.


If you need help you can call the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence’s 24-hour statewide hotline at 1-800-332-7385. You can learn more about the ICADV here or The Julian Center by clicking here.

You can also call the national domestic violence hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or go to

You can also dial 211 to be connected with resources in your area.


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