Former Teacher Nick Griffin Takes on #vanlife


Pictured above, former SHS teacher Nick Griffin and his wife Kimberly Griffin leap for joy atop a mesa. Nick left SHS with plans to teach at a school in Bolivia before Covid-19 hit and interrupted his plans.

Maddie Porter, Ads Manager

It is safe to say that almost everyone has fantasized about leaving everything behind and reinventing themselves with #vanlife. Nick and Kimberly Griffin did just that (although it’s more like #camperlife.) 

Nick Griffin was a teacher at SHS prior to this year, taking on a variety of classes ranging from English to History to Geography. Before viral chaos descended upon the world he was given the opportunity to teach English internationally at the Santa Cruz Cooperative School in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. The Griffins had rented out their house in Salida and signed for an apartment in their new city when the rise of COVID forced them to reconsider how they really wanted to spend the next two years of their lives. 

At the height of their questioning, Bolivia appeared less than ideal. The school was online, civil unrest was growing, and the lockdown was implemented incredibly strictly. In fact, residents were only able to leave their house for four hours a week. For the Griffins, this begged the question: “Is this the type of international lifestyle we wanted?”

When given an opportunity to dissolve his contract and stay in the states, he took it, and thus the camper life journey began. 

They pulled the inspiration for this adventure from a list of life experiences they wanted to undertake.

 “One of our desires was to get a truck and a slide-in camper, and just to live simply out of that for a while,” Nick said. The Griffins were able to sell their cars and buy their camper set up, and are now “basing out of that for a while.” “We’re pretty excited to just live life simply and have some flexibility.”

This has opened doors for opportunity in the Griffin’s life. Nick was able to work at a wilderness therapy program in Durango for two weeks, and the couple recently bike-packed the Colorado Trail. As Nick put, they are thankful that they are able to “take advantage of the days,” and “live life fully.”

A lack of jobs has of course put them on a budget, but that is not cramping their style. “It’s more about getting somewhere, parking, and just being there,” Nick said about traveling. At the time of the interview, they had been living the camper life fully for about a month and a half, spending time in Telluride, Durango, Salida,  Buena Vista, and Grand Junction.

When they aren’t biking, reading, writing, fishing, or playing guitar, in Colorado they are planning on making their way to South Dakota to spend time with Nick’s family in the Black Hills, they have discussed a stop at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and even Terlingua, Texas for the winter. “We’ve got some ideas, it’s just we are letting the time guide us in where we end up,” Nick said.

Adapting to such an unorthodox lifestyle prompted new ideas about the flow of life for Nick and Kimberly. 

“I really love being out in the middle of nowhere with everything I need to live comfortably…I’m starting to think about what do I really need to thrive?” There’s definitely a mindset shift there,” Nick said, referring to having his whole home compact and mobile. 

Despite the compelling nature of an adventurous lifestyle, the Griffins have encountered their share of struggles along the way. 

“The most challenging part for me is not having a sense of purpose each day. As a teacher, I always looked forward to connecting with students and having those teachable moments that expand a student’s perception of themselves, the world, and their place in it. I miss that connection,” Nick said, acknowledging the sacrifices that had to be made. 

 “While we’re absolutely living the dream, it hasn’t been easy. Our transition from one plan to another to another has been really tough. I was a mess in July, moving out of our house, not knowing what we were going to do. But doors opened when other doors closed, and now we just get to keep peeking around the corner to see what’s next,” Kimberly said. Despite the uncertainty, it is all worth it. “Having space and time to reflect on the things in life that are most important, the stuff that really matters, has been a tremendous gift.”