My Favorite Stranger: Traci

That was it. I decided I was booking a flight to Arizona and no one was stopping me. I’d go it alone this time, because, quite frankly, I was sick of people… (and trust me, that never happens). After serving rude customers, and receiving SnapChats for every moment I didn’t care about, I figured some things are best done alone including the hot air balloon ride I committed to last minute.

We waited at the Deer Valley Airport north of Phoenix on a chilly Tuesday morning at 5:45 AM. By “we” I mean all of the couples who were experiencing this bucketlist adventure together… and me. We signed our lives away and were off to the promised land of blue skies and zero legal recourse. After rocking the basket, the natural gas finally lifted its 9 passengers and balloon pilot off the ground, including Traci and her husband.


She took a deep breath and conquered her fears as we drifted away with the balloon, overlooking Arizona’s dusty desert floor. Typically, Traci didn’t manage well above the ground, but four kids and half a lifetime later meant is was time. What better time to conquer fear than on a 25th anniversary trip with her husband, traveling from Portland, Oregon, to the beautiful desert north of Phoenix?

In light of their anniversary, the balloon became a forum for marriage advice. When asked, Traci admitted the secret to marriage is getting away for a day. “You need to plan runaway days to remember who you are (without children). Who you are individually… and as a couple.” But she also shared some of the best advice she had been given from another couple. “‘The secret to marriage is to sleep butt to butt every night…,’” she grinned. It ensures no matter how mad you are, you’re still close enough to touch at the end of the night. You’ll never let go.

Butt to Butt (2)

As we sat down to enjoy our breakfast and champagne after a successful (and surprisingly safe) balloon ride, Traci shared her new life motto. “F*** fear,” she whispered.

This mother of four (who looked half her age) had not only shared wisdom with me, she had inspired me. Why wait until its too late to face your fears?

Almost as fate, before leaving the “Grand Canyon State,” I received a message that coincided with the one Traci had inspired in me on my trip. I opened my fortune a mere 24 hours later and found a reminder of what this beautiful woman had taught me:


Loving Traci? Read about Becky, Carrie, Angelique, Jeff and his coworkers, the Schiavo family and friends, and the Arizona boys—my other favorite strangers.

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