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Executive Diversions
Business Observer Friday, Jan. 10, 2020 2 weeks ago

Manager takes international trip by herself each year

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Chelsea Gruber has traveled the globe, from Denmark to Thailand, seeking new experiences.
by: Grier Ferguson Sarasota-Manatee Editor

Executive: Chelsea Gruber, 29. She's the marketing and business development manager for Lakewood Ranch-based commercial construction firm Halfacre Construction Co.

Diversion: Gruber takes a trip by herself each year. She's visited several countries, from Costa Rica to Morocco.

Ready for her solo: Gruber started taking a yearly international solo trip when she was 25. Her first trip was to Costa Rica. That was followed by Spain, France and Italy. Then Japan, India and Thailand. The next year was Morocco, Hungary, Sweden and Denmark. Now she’s planning a 2020 trip to Turkey and Russia.

Courtesy. Chelsea Gruber's favorite experience came in Morocco — camping in the Sahara Desert and sleeping outside on a sleeping bag.

It gets easier: Traveling alone can be intimidating, but that hasn’t stopped Gruber. On the first night of her Costa Rica trip, for example, she stayed in a treehouse in the rainforest. That night, there was a big thunderstorm, and she didn’t have any cell service. Gruber was terrified, but she made it through. “It was really scary, but every year it gets easier and easier,” she says.

Travel light: Traveling alone gives Gruber the chance to meet new people and the flexibility of having no set itinerary. “I get more of an experience visiting these places on my own,” she says. “People see me — I’ll be out to dinner or lunch by myself — and people will start talking to me and asking me where I’m from.” Then they share recommendations that aren’t in the tour books. She says, “I’ve met a lot of interesting people along the way.”

Courtesy. Chelsea Gruber traveled to Japan on one of her international trips.

Trust your gut: Gruber’s advice for other solo travelers? Listen to your instincts. “Obviously it can be dangerous, but you learn to read people in other countries,” she says. “The more I travel alone, the stronger my instincts are when I’m in certain situations.”

Sahara stars: Of all of the places she’s visited, some in particular stick out. “I think I would live in Barcelona in a heartbeat,” she says. But as far as the top place she’s visited, she’d have to choose India or Morocco. Her favorite experience came in Morocco — camping in the Sahara Desert and sleeping outside on a sleeping bag. She says, “It was the prettiest view of stars I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Comfort zone: Gruber, originally from a small town in Georgia, says traveling gives her the opportunity to expand her mind. She enjoys learning how people in different countries live. “I think the more you travel, the more you experience and then the more you want to experience because you see what’s out there,” she says. “I think I’m most comfortable when I’m not in my comfort zone. I feel like myself when I’m immersed in another culture.”

Next stop: Gruber chooses the countries she visits based on what she’s most interested in seeing. That’s the case with her planned 2020 trip to Turkey and Russia. “I’ve always had an interest in Istanbul and Russia — those were top of mind,” she says. “I thought of them one day and said, ‘Yep, that’s it.’ I started planning the next day.”

‘I think I’m the most comfortable when I’m not in my comfort zone. I feel like myself when I’m immersed in another culture.’ Chelsea Gruber, Halfacre Construction Co.

Love to run: Growing up, Gruber’s dad, Bob, was always traveling, and he’s who encouraged her to travel. Gruber also got a love of running from her dad. They’ve done triathlons and other races together since she was 9. Their first was the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta, which she did until she was 18. Her dad had cancer a few years ago, and in 2016, after his last chemo treatment, they started racing again. Gruber says they’ve done more than 10 races together since then. They even traveled to Cuba in 2019 to compete in a triathlon. “It’s a unique bonding experience,” she says. “We’ve been doing it for 20 years now. It’s just really special to be able to share that with him.”

Courtesy. Chelsea Gruber and her dad, Bob, traveled to Cuba in 2019 to compete in a triathlon.

Off the beaten path: In each place Gruber visits, she looks for an opportunity to take a run. “That’s something I also got from my dad,” she says. “Growing up, we’d be watching a movie, and he’d say, ‘I’ve run on that bridge.’ I’m not really a big souvenir collector. Whenever I go to another country, I try to go on a run. It’s a really cool way to experience a new place — and run off all the carbs I’m eating.”

Take the trip: Gruber encourages other would-be solo travelers — especially women — to go for it. “I think your 20s are for learning, for experiencing, for making the best version of yourself,” she says. “Women can do whatever they want. If I can do it, then anyone can do it.”

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