Jane's Story

Where I come from and where I've been.

About nine months ago [Update: it’s now been over a year] I wrote my last rent check and moved into a camper van with my boyfriend. We live in the mountains in western Colorado and took the van on the road for four months this winter chasing warm weather. About the same time, I started this website with plans to share our travels in the van, but the idea quickly evolved into something more than just my own words and adventures. I wanted to create a place where anyone can share. Everyone has a story to tell, and more often than not, many people can relate to it and will be inspired by the honest accounts of others. Whether it’s a serious weight off your shoulders, a work of art that expresses who you are, or a funny recollection of your latest adventure, it's a story, and no one can tell it like you can. So with a sincere welcome to Rock Meets Soil, I invite you to go exploring and see what kind of inspiration you can find in these stories. And if you feel compelled to share yours, reach out to me.

I am a coffee roaster for a local craft roaster and cafe in Carbondale, Colorado. Before getting into the roasting aspect of coffee, I was a barista for ten years, so it would be an understatement to say that I have an interest in coffee. My aunt owned a bakery and coffee shop when I was young, and she gave me my first job after I got my work permit at 14. I learned how to use an espresso machine from her. After that, I traveled for many years and my go-to job was always in cafes where I could walk in with a resume full of coffee shops and almost always get handed the job. Three years ago, while barista-ing, I befriended a local coffee roaster and landed myself a job as an apprentice for him. Now I am the production roaster for Bonfire Coffee, and I love my job. I also have really great bosses who understand the importance (and necessity) of travel, and they allowed me to check out for the winter season with my job waiting for me in the spring. I am so grateful to work for and with such good people.

Home for me is a 1995 Ford Sportsmobile campervan that I have lived in with my boyfriend, Casey since November of 2015. We figured six months on the road living in a van together would be a great test to see if we could continue the lifestyle once we returned home. Turns out, we absolutely love it and have no intentions of signing a lease anytime soon. Casey and I find the van life very easy and love continuously getting rid of stuff, dwindling down to just the essentials.

We are home-based out of the Roaring Fork Valley in western Colorado. At one end of the valley is Aspen, and for 44 miles “down valley” are great little mountain towns every ten miles, one of which is Carbondale. I did not grow up here, but I have called this state home for seven years and counting and honestly, I have never felt more at home than when I am in the mountains. Throughout these seven years I have lived in different parts of the state and left a few times for extended trips, but I always end up coming back. They say there is an old Ute Indian curse on the land here and that those who leave will always return, especially if you do not take some red dirt with you. I can’t say I don’t believe this…

I grew up in a very different part of the country though. I was born in Madison, Wisconsin and my family moved to northern Indiana when I was four to be closer to more family. We lived in a small farming town with an abundance of cornfields and Amish. Although I don’t see myself returning to live in this area, I am thankful for the time I spent so close to family and know that my appreciation and curiosity for the big, big world would not be so great had I not grown up in such a small town.

At seventeen I left the midwest to be an exchange student in a town outside of Sevilla in southern Spain. This was one of the most important and influential times of my life as my eyes were opened to all of the magic and diversity of the world, and I began the life-long journey of self-discovery and wanderlust.

After spending that first year abroad I was addicted to everything foreign and, instead of going straight to college after graduation like everyone else I knew, I spent all of my money on a plane ticket to Norway and a three-month stay with a friend I had made in Spain.

Upon returning to northern Indiana a second time from Europe, I lasted about four months before I knew I had to get out of there. I took the first opportunity that presented itself in the form of a boyfriend moving cross-country to Colorado Springs. We stayed with his grandma for a few weeks before finding our first apartment…which didn’t last long. I kicked him out not contributing, and turned my sights toward finding more of a “mountain town” to live in. Along came another opportunity to move to Glenwood Springs with a coworker into a tiny cabin on the Roaring Fork River. The following summer was one of best of my life. I had a few friends from home that lived in the area and they helped me find a job, and I quickly fell in step with the fun-loving community that is the Roaring Fork Valley. It was around this time that my dad passed along his old camera to me and for years after I documented my adventures through the beauty of film.

During my first years in glenwood I befriended a wonderful human who became a very close friend of mine, and we traveled together, first on a six-day road trip in my VW Bug around the west, and then down to Costa Rica for three months where we could almost get away with saying we did nothing but beach bum our days away in paradise.

After this trip the two of us ended up in Breckenridge after a friend got a job on the mountain and we all decided to live together. This was a turbulent, life-changing time for me, as I (irrationally) decided to move from the equator to 10,000 feet above sea level and spend a year there. I do believe that everything happens for a reason and so in retrospect I have focused on the positive that came out of my time in Summit County, but all in all it was one of the most difficult years of my life that I struggled to understand for two years after leaving. I got very lost and spiraled into a depressive state fueled by booze for some time. Sometimes when we lie to ourselves and tell ourselves we’ve got it all figured out, the universe has to shake us to our foundations in order to get our attention and put us back on the right path. My heart has always had a very loud voice that I can’t ignore, no matter how hard I may have tried, and I slowly began to make the courageous changes that my life, my being, needed so badly. For a different look at some of my story and how I learned to overcome some of these harder times, check out the feature I shared with The LYP Project, a crew that focuses on reminding us to love our pieces. This story can be found on their blog by clicking here.

Just before my 23rd birthday, with about $200 to my name, I moved down to the suburbs of Denver and rented a room in a house with some random people and found two jobs right off the bat. I had always wanted to check out Denver, but once I got down there I quickly realized that I am so much more comfortable in the mountains than in the city. After just six weeks I was honest with my bosses and told them I wasn’t feeling the city, and they surprisingly were very understanding, wishing me good luck with my travels. I packed up my truck again and headed back to the Roaring Fork Valley where the old Indian curse was calling me back.

Again with almost nothing to my name, I was able to snatch up a room on the Crystal River in a house with some really neat people, immediately feeling every level of my body and my conscience seeming to relax into a feeling of home. I still felt lost, but for the first time in over a year I felt in my heart that I was back on track, making the right choices for my personal legend. I was offered every job that I pursued and had to end up choosing which ones I wanted. I worked at a local coffee shop in the mornings and bartended at one of Carbondale’s breweries at night. Unbeknownst to me at the time, it was the beginning of another wildly influential period of my life.

During my first summer back in the valley I met some guys who would turn out to be my closest and craziest friends to date, who I would trust with my life, though maybe not my burrito. One is a pro skater, one is a base jumper, one is a ginger, and one is a sexy beast that I get to call my man. We had many wild and fun adventures, while I served everyone hot coffee and cold beers all summer. Come winter, a few of us got a place together on Main Street and continued our shenanigans.

And then I had a very important sort of epiphany. I made a wise and incredibly courageous decision to cut alcohol out of my life for awhile and simultaneously quit smoking cigarettes after seven years. This was another one of the more difficult years of my life as I struggled to reinforce my strength and my will against my own self. I needed to change a lot of habits and learn to manage my time more wisely if I was going to create the life I wanted for myself. In some of my lowest hours, the guys were there for me, and what started out as a platonic friendship with Casey amazingly turned into this genuine love for each other. In addition to the love, I turned my attention toward tackling more outdoor adventures, which are plentiful in Colorado. I began hiking mountains and summited my first 14er, which turned into a healthy addiction (Colorado has 58 peaks over 14,000 feet, many of which are hikeable). When leases ended after summer we found a great home to rent with some friends up in the hills, away from town, and this was an important step in getting my shit together.

Throughout the year that we rented this home, I focused so much of my energy on creating the life that I envisioned myself living. The beginning of this called for a major refocus of the way that I treated my body on all levels. I began to manifest healthier and more balanced habits and slowed everything down, becoming more mindful of my words and my decisions. I was much more involved with my job at the coffee roaster and was filling my work week with a second job at a recreational and medical marijuana dispensary, putting away cash for the trip Casey and I were planning for the winter. And then the winter arrived in November, and we moved out of our home and into the van, preparing to leave by the first snow. This occurred on 11-11 and off we went!

Throughout all of winter we criss-crossed through New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, California, Oregon, and Nevada, with a three-week trip down to Costa Rica in February. We purchased a National Parks pass and visited every park and monument we could find in the southwestern states and through California, exploring and familiarizing ourselves with a corner of this huge country. There are numerous posts on Rockmeetssoil here that share our travels and experiences on the road.

While down in Costa Rica, my boss and coffee roasting partner reached out to me about wanting to buy some plane tickets to Europe for the end of the ski season. This would require us to return to Colorado slightly earlier than we had planned so I could take things over at the roaster. Since I was indebted to my boss for allowing me to leave for so long, we decided we would be back in the valley by the middle of March. A month later we took a shorter trip up through Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho visiting a few more National Parks, and now we are back in Carbondale replenishing our bank accounts. Of course, I never want the road trip to end, but we love where we live, and we know that the adventure certainly never ends around here.

What’s your story?
If you ever want to share, reach out to me and I would be happy to feature it.

StoriesJane SaleeComment