Housing Series: An Unexpected Adventure: the art of living and balancing work and play

In Magazine, May 2018 by Jane SaleeLeave a Comment

I’m not a hardcore outdoor adventurer.

I haven’t yet figured out how to live solely off of my website, and I love where I call home here in Carbondale just as much as I enjoy being on the road. As far as the “hip” van lifer goes, I’m not your typical suspect.

Contributor photo

I’m Jane, and I’ve been living in the Roaring Fork Valley for nine years, the last two and a half of which have been spent in a van. Some of you might recognize Teeg cruising around town. Others of you I know have never seen my van and ask me frequently where I park, which means I’m doing something right because I’ve been around for awhile.

Many of you might know me from a number of places around the valley. I’ve worked a lot of random jobs over the years, from Natural Grocers to the Vapor Caves in Glenwood and Dos Gringos and Beer Works here in Carbondale. I’ve lived from Glenwood to Basalt to Marble and probably rented from a few of you. We all know the price we pay to live in such a beautiful place, and for years I’ve worked multiple jobs to pay the bills and also be able to travel. It was exhausting, and I know a whole lot of you can relate.

Three years ago my partner at the time had an idea. He bought a camper van, and we moved into it and took off for the winter, zig-zagging across the desert. When we returned to Carbondale in the spring to replenish our bank accounts, neither of us were interested in signing a lease and getting on that train again. So we didn’t. We had both started our own businesses and wanted to continue with the freedom of time and money that living in a van afforded us. That was two and a half years ago, and I haven’t paid rent since.

Photo, Catherine Aeppel

A lot of people find it curious that I live in a van.

“In late January I celebrated my 27th birthday by buying myself a new home…on wheels of course… a 1989 Tiger conversion camper van, right here in our town just waiting for me.” J. Salee, 2017

I’m in one place, though. Don’t get me wrong. I go on adventures—I just spent three months in Australia van hopping—but I don’t live “on the road”. I live in Carbondale. This is my home. I don’t think many of you would argue with me in saying that a massive part of what makes this town so great is the community. You are what always brings me back after traveling. You guys are my medicine and my grounding when I need it. You are my laughter and you feed my creativity. You make me weirder and you love me and I love you. You are my people. And you also make it pretty easy to live in a van in your town.

Okay, but why? I get asked that a lot too. Why do I continue to live in a van when I’m here in Carbondale for an extended amount of time? First of all, not being tied to a lease or a mortgage means I can take off whenever I want, which is great because the world is huge and I have a lot of places to go. The number one reason why I continue to live in a van is that it gives me control and freedom over my time and money, while allowing me to live in this beautiful place. I don’t have to work full time if I don’t want to; this opens up my time to focus on my passions and projects more than I ever have.

” If a year and a half of living in a van has taught me anything it is just that: it’s okay to not have a perfect plan. Just take things day by day with an open mind and see what happens. Life is not that serious. ” J. Salee

It gives me peace of mind and mental stability because I’m not working my ass off all the time for someone else. I have started my own business, am in the process of creating a sustainable clothing line, and have finally pursued creative writing as more than just a hobby. This town fuels my creativity. The inspiration and motivation that I get from the landscape and the people here, combined with the free time that living in a van has given me, allows me to create a beautiful, fulfilling lifestyle for myself. And to be honest I’m addicted. I’m happier than I’ve ever been and accomplishing more personal goals than ever.

 One of my passion projects is my website, Rock Meets Soil.

I share stories, interviews and creations from folks all over the world, inspiring others to live the life they see for themselves through authenticity and honesty. Everyone has a story, and it’s incredibly empowering to share them and show others on a similar path that we are never alone on this wild ride. The stories I curate and share on the site are inspiration for me just as much as they are for you. The site also has a shop where I sell my film photography as prints and postcards, a bit of Rock Meets Soil and van life apparel, and stickers and pins. I have some ideas brewing for the shop that I’ll be executing this summer to create a community space, similar to the style of the blog, where any artist, traveler or creator can post their goods to the site. But that’s another story.

When I started Rock Meets Soil a few years ago, I had no idea what I was doing or what direction the site would go. I’ve always thought blogging about myself was vain and who cares about everything I’m doing and thinking, so Jane.com was out of the question. I wanted to create a space where people who wanted to share things—writings, poetry, artwork, photography, videos, anything at all—could do so and have an audience. I knew a ton of creatives in Carbondale, and that’s where I started recruiting stories. I had no idea how it all would evolve. Almost three years later, Rock Meets Soil is now featuring stories from across the globe with focus categories being Stories, Life, Tiny Living, Interviews, Art/Photo, Travel and Video. I recently started a new Tiny Living series, but still encourage people to contribute stories that are unrelated to van life so as to continue sharing the creations and variety of perceptions that make Rock Meets Soil what it is.

I’m not here to tell you to sell your house and move into a van.

Sopris…Elbert…Photo, Lyn Sweet

That’s not the point. But I do think it’s important to keep an open mind when it comes to the art of living and balancing work and play. It was never my plan to live in a camper van for a number of years, and that’s a point in itself. The answer usually isn’t in the plan; it’s found in the unexpected events, experiences and people that the plan leads us to. It makes sense for me right now to live this way. I’m incredibly grateful for the support and acceptance of my lifestyle choice in Carbondale because I sure wouldn’t want to be stuck anywhere else but at the base of Mt. Sopris.

Photo, Heather Bailey