I get a lot of questions about what my life looks like these days. Most of them go something like “Wait, where do you live?” I get it, my life is a little bit complicated these days. It doesn’t fit into a nice pretty social media package that I can tie a bow on.
During the week, I am a teacher at a rural high school about 40 miles from Ridgway. I have a rental house in that town so I don’t have to commute back and forth everyday; it’ll be worth it from my house but paying Ridgway rents + commuting is just too much! I lease the house with a roommate that is also a teacher at my school. We have another roommate for the winter that teaches skiing at Telluride. Since we’re all sharing the house, this brings costs way down for all of us. We’re all busy with work and traveling on our weekends so it all works out. Sprocket really likes having more people around to love.
During the week, I try to keep up my workout routine, stay on top of grading since I’m a failure at doing it over the weekends, do my laundry, and get enough sleep. I don’t have internet at my house so I’ve been a little bit better about reading books and a little bit worse at running up my cellphone data.
On Thursdays, I pack up the Jeep so that we can leave directly after school on Friday. Friday is the only day of the week that I drive to school; the rest of the week I walk the half mile each way. I hit the road at 3:30 and head for Ouray. I usually have time to make a quick pit stop at the post office in Ridgway and take Sprocket for a quick walk before I start work at 5pm.
Friday and Saturday night routines are similar: I close the shop, go home to the shed and feed Sprocket. Depending on how tired I am, sometimes I will go visit a local establishment for a drink before I retire to the shed.
Saturday and Sunday mornings have gotten a bit more difficult in the winter. I want to make sure Sprocket gets some activity and time to move around since he’s so cooped up while I’m working all the time but it’s also been really cold! I’m taking my cross-country skis back down to Ridgway this weekend so I’m hoping to get in some exercise with him more frequently before I go to work at noon on Saturday and Sunday.
Sunday, after we close up the shop, I head back to the town where I teach to do it all over again.
Crazy the things we do in order to make dreams happen, huh?
Maryanne and her husband welcomed me into their home for Thanksgiving again this year. I’m so delighted that this has become a tradition and that I get to be Aunty Beth to their two children in addition to my three nephews. <3
There was lots of Sprocket bossing around by a two year old:
A few baby cuddles, although he really wasn’t too sure about that stranger in his house.
There was lots of food and a sweet sunset hike.
People used to mistake Maryanne and I for sisters, and I suppose with sunglasses on, they still might.
Last New Years Day I drove back from Ridgway to De Beque. The two and a half hour drive home was hard. I walked in the door, made myself a pot of coffee and promptly burst into tears.
And cried some more.
Everything felt so up in the air. I just wanted to be home but teaching positions wouldn’t start being posted for a few months. I realized that I had spent too much and even if I did find myself back in the San Juans I had dug myself a pretty significant hole that I would have to climb out of before I was able to think about building a house. I’d just left a party full of friends and neighbors and now, despite Sprocket’s willingness to let me snot into his fur, I felt alone.
Finally, totally unable to pull myself together, I picked up the phone and called a friend. I tried to explain how I felt so untethered and sad and overwhelmed by the too blank future. After they tried to offer platitudes to calm me down and once I just felt silly for being so unhinged I hung up.
I started to make a plan. I would make a plan to get out of debt. I applied for multiple jobs in Grand Junction that very afternoon. (Fortunately none of them worked out and I wound up starting at Provisions in March, strengthening my connection to Ridgway.) I decided while I was open to staying in De Beque another year that I would chase jobs in the San Juans and that I would chase them hard.
My phone went off: “You will be fine. You’ve got Sprocket. You’ve got Ruth. You have land. You are beautiful.” I have forgotten and remembered this line so many times and I have held it close.
My friends, 2016 has been a debacle in so many ways. I have cried in frustration with my life, with politics, for not climbing more mountains, and out of sheer exhaustion. I’ve had more than a few moments of self consciousness when someone asks me where I live knowing that both the shed, my constant working, and the bouncing back and forth between Norwood and Ridgway is hard to do in an elevator speech.
I’m still here. I know I haven’t posted about a hike, a run, or even a Sunday Sermon in weeks. I’ve been sprinting towards both Thanksgiving Break (yay! it’s here!) and towards actually breaking ground on a house in the spring. The funny thing about being stubborn and wanting to do everything yourself is that you actually have to do everything yourself.
I’ve had just a couple days off since I went exploring in Utah over Labor Day weekend and I can feel it. I hiked Saturday and am still feeling it a little bit on Monday morning (of course it didn’t help that Sprocket and I averaged 19 minute miles for 16 miles on that hike…). Despite trying to keep up a regular running schedule, I’ve had to forsake that much needed run more that I would like to keep up on grading, driving to Ridgway to meet with potential builders, on top of working at the day job (teaching) and being a barista (at Mouse’s).
One of the hardest parts of being an adult is finding balance. Whether that is work-life balance, balance in your workouts (flexiblity? strength? cardio?), sleep-good book balance, or anything else you can think of it’s hard. There are only so many hours in the day and only so much energy in the tank. I know that working out spiced with hikes is key to my happiness but I also know that stressing about where to live in a mountain town also takes a toll. I’m on a path to where that would be less of a concern in the future and that’s probably a great sacrifice to make but it also just sucks when you’re just tired.
I headed out for Saturday’s hike later than I’d like (more on that soon) but I needed to move along the trail quickly. I needed to feel the elevation straining my lungs (which, even though we made it up over 11,000′ wasn’t too bad). I needed to feel my quads and my glutes burn. I needed very desperately to remember that I’m someone who loves hiking and exploring. So we went and we went fast.
But that’s all there was in the tank. Week after week of working 7 days a week caught up with me and yesterday I was tired. So we drove a lot yesterday. We drove roads new to me and just were. Thankfully, the weather gave me a bit of an “out” today and I’m sitting in a coffee ship in Tucson blogging, writing, planning future trips, and shopping for appliances.
Tomorrow I’ll set out on another hike, perhaps taking it a bit slower, looking around and drinking in the scenery.
I’m sure we all know that there are never enough dollars, hours in the day, miles hiked, glasses of rosé consumed, and cuddle piles with friends in life.
Since there’s not enough dollars in my teaching contract to make up some ground on debt and move towards a house, it’s necessitated spending a ton of my hours working instead of playing outside. There’s not enough housing in this town and I need a nice stable place to call mine. It’s been a long time since I had that. Sprocket and I have managed okay although we both have missed our time in the mountains. He’s still oblivious to what’s coming down the pipe, although I’m really psyched about my progress this summer towards the big financial goals in my life.
On the other hand, it has been a summer that has reaffirmed my choice of place. Although work has limited them, there have been a few glorious nights spent watching the mountains turn to alpenglow crowded on outdoor couches with great people and amazing conversation. There have been Thursdays at concerts in the park with picnic dinners and dancing. My shed has been complemented with a patio and garden beds. I’ve woken up in my cozy shed bed to the sun rising behind the Cimarrons.
I go back to school tomorrow and my students will join me next week. It hasn’t been a #summitsummer but it’s been an important summer all the same: it’s been one that is making me incredibly excited for my next steps.
You might think you’re a loyal reader and that you’ve been checking things out for awhile. You know about my goals and my adventures and that’s awesome.
But today is my very best, most loyal readers’ 90th Birthday.
Happy birthday, Nons.
You never fail to make my day when you talk about how much you love reading my blog posts and tell me about how beautiful my photos are. I couldn’t ask for anyone to be more supportive of my dreams: I’m pretty sure there is no one else in this world as invested as me in seeing a home built in Ridgway and you never fail to ask when I’m going to have more travels to post about (I’m sorry there have been so few lately!). I don’t know many 90 year olds that are avid blog readers; at least of their granddaughter’s blog!
Thank you for always being interested in what I’m doing, teaching me the art of Norwegian Cookie making, feeding me, and being one of my biggest fans. Chatting on the phone every other week or so is a poor substitute for being back in town but I look forward to it.
I’m sorry I can’t be there with you in Tacoma to celebrate today. I love you so much.
I’ve been working like a madwoman lately which has made for a quiet summer here on the blog but I did recently make time for an interview with Kam of Campfire Chic. Kam isn’t a dog owner herself but wanted some of my thoughts about traveling with a pup. Basically I preach my views on putting your dog first: go check it out!
Kam describes herself as a “crafty micro-adventurer and chronic beginner;” not so shocking that we’d be internet pals, huh?
Um. Hi? How is it already more than a week into June? The last few weeks have passed in a blur of washing dishes, waiting tables, mowing lawns, and working around the shed. While this isn’t quite a crazy adventurous live-in-the-Jeep-and-climb-mountains-all-the-time summer, so far I’m happy as a clam being home in little old Ridgway and Making Stuff Happen.
#shedlife is treating me quite well. Summer in Colorado has arrived which means upper 40s and low 50s sleeping temperatures in Ridgway; with a big old cuddly dog that’s about perfect! Friends have been super kind about offering up showers and laundry. Thanks to my #vanlife background whipping up a meal on the two burner is no big deal (plus I eat at the restaurant when I work a lot). Between work, the library, and the park, bathrooms have been no big deal.
Mostly, it’s good to feel like I’m home.
I’m going to have to splurge on a lantern of some kind for evening reading. After a long day of working and on rare occasion, hiking, after a half hour or so I’m usually nodding off but it’d probably be helpful to not be propping my flashlight up on my shoulder. I’m eyeing either Goal Zero’s Lighthouse or Lighthouse Mini… I’ll probably be pulling the trigger on something in the next couple of days so if you have thoughts about these two or something else, give me a shout soon!
In addition to everything else, I’ve been moving some dirt around and making things happen in the garden; update on that coming really soon. Sprocket has really taken to his property he stays but sits and intently observes anyone walking past us.
One step at a time, things are happening and I feel really great about what’s happening. Just please, remind me of this in October when I am very sad about my low hiking level this summer. Sprocket tries to guilt me everyday.
A few weeks ago, I had a comment on the blog that asked me why I don’t find a job that includes my passions. The commenter seemed to think that I was set to miss out on something by settling into a more “normal” life with property and a future house. A little offended, I almost didn’t publish the comment. It seemed to imply somehow that I was a “faker” and not a into outdoor stuff as I claim to be. It kinda got under my skin. I’m not a pro-athlete. I’m not even a cool amateur living in my van chasing the dream. I’m a teacher who’s biggest dream right now is saddling myself with a mortgage.
I lived the #vanlife (or camper life, etc. as I detailed yesterday). It was amazing in so many ways but I honestly found it really isolating. Since we paid for a Jetpack, I had some internet connection to friends and family but mostly, it was just me and my ex-partner (and Sprocket).
The travel was exciting but after awhile, I needed a friend to share a glass of wine with and talk about our lives. It isn’t even a comfort thing, I spent last summer living out of my FSJ and this summer I’m living out of the XJ (and the shed). I needed a place that was mine where I had roots. I needed that place where I could go for a walk and find myself waving to nearly every car going down the road. I needed more independence to do things on my own. I also am a planner and a goal setter: I needed more stability than a cobbled together job on the road.
Is travel in my make up? Absolutely. I love my weekends and summers wandering around Colorado and the larger West. I am growing my life so that I can do this. The alternation between home and travel is sustaining to me. Teaching fits me for many reasons, one of which is the summer and vacation schedule. Spring Break in Mexico? Sounds great! Roadtrips? ALWAYS.
I actually feel a little bit bad that I was bothered by that comment. I adventure a lot. Not always as much as I like but I think I do a pretty good job prioritizing it! In fact, I am writing this blog post from a Starbucks while out on a multi-day adventure.
To those of you hoping to live the vanlife soon: cheers. If you take a hard-pass on mobile living all together: just don’t forget to adventure and you’ll be just fine. To those of you who have tried it and gone back to “the real world” because of money: it is still there. To those, who like me, tried it and found it lacking: it’s okay; you’re still an adventurer in my eyes.
It’s finally summer and I could not be more ready. Last summer, I made Francis (my FSJ) my home while I explored all over Colorado feeling free (and saving a bit of rent money in the process!). Since I’m moving again this year, I’ll be rocking a similar low-budget, high-adventure sort of lifestyle utilizing Ruth XJ and my storage shed.
This year, I’ve made the shed a bit more comfortable with an actual mattress, more consistent cooking area and better thought out storage of the things that I might want during the summer. It’s definitely not set up the way I would have it if I were living it full time since it is also doubling as a storage shed for someone who is eventually planning on having a house (albeit a smallish one).
Ruth is also a huge gas mileage upgrade from Francis (although I have sacrificed a bit in the space department) which will be great for chasing some more county highpoints this summer.
This summer is going to be one filled with working (yay, Provisions!), peakbagging, friends, adventures, gardening, dreaming, and long drives.