An Interview with Jewel star
"As you know, I approached your community in hopes of finding a community garden and animals. I believe animals add to the health of human beings. They help to lower our heart rates and they teach us things. They give us an opportunity to love and they provide a lot of humor and laughter." - Jewel Star
I missed meeting Jewel and her partner, Warren Talbot, when they recently came out to City of the Sun Foundation to look around. Good timing on a trip to the Village allowed me to find them at home in their 18 wheeler which I spied from a distance. Thinking, “that must be them”, I gave it a go and drove over. That visit began cultivating a serious interest in their general setup and what makes them pursue the lifestyle they are now living.
Most people at the Foundation are either living or have lived an unconventional lifestyle and are not too surprised about a home on the road nor converting a tractor trailer rig into one. Yet, depicting the quality of Star and Tal’s existence is compelling. Life for them does not appear to have been set up to struggle or to simply retreat. Rather, it seems to afford them a setting which enhances creativity with an apparent gusto.
It was a pleasure to interview Jewel three years into the experience. I'm sure you will enjoy reading her. Don't miss her list of titles, travel blogs and great photos by Tal. - Alima McMillan
Newsletter: Mil gracias, Jewel, for agreeing to be interviewed. Would you give a little background about how a vision developed to live as you do and the moment when you knew you were going for it?
Star: Before I moved in with Tal, I lived in a plush apartment in Las Vegas, Nevada. I had a nice car, jewelry, beautiful clothing, and worked for a top-end real estate company. However, my passion was to write books. Working 12 to 16 hour days to pay living expenses, left no time to live that passion. At sixty-four years old I was winding down in my ability to keep up with the younger and more energetic competition. I was looking for the formula that would allow me to be an author and not worry about paying rent and making car payments. I knew I loved to travel, and I could write from anywhere. I met Tal and the answer lay before me. When I walked into his wood-planked floor freight trailer, I knew I was looking at my future. Interestingly, Tal and I are doing this for different reasons. He is more the survivalist prepper, while I have always enjoyed travel and nature. Our common bond is that we both love being on the road and out in the wilderness. I also have prepper tendencies in that I have always enjoyed the art of food storage, canning, and growing gardens.
Newsletter: You’ve published a book within the last year: OFF GRID LIVING REVEALED: The First 100 Days. Please tell us something of what it was like during the first 100 days juxtaposed with how it is now.
Star: The first 100 days was the adjustment period to living "Off Grid" and on the road. I had to find places to put the downsized 4,000 pounds of stuff I brought with me. I was eager to make the bachelor living quarters into a comfy home and had an extensive “to do” list. It was also about letting go of the societal rules about how often one changes clothes. This may seem like an odd consideration, but if it comes down to hand washing or going to a laundry mat,I prefer the laundry mat. I had to slow down my clean clothes consumption. In that 100 day time frame, life became very basic. I did change clothes less often. Making wholesome meals became the challenge of the day, and where to park was of the utmost importance. The first year we only had a wood stove for cooking. If the weather was hot, I cooked our midday meal on the morning fire and then we ate it cold in the afternoon. We didn’t have any refrigeration. Our money was very limited and that kept our travel to a minimum. This summer it will be three years that I’ve been living this lifestyle, five years for Tal. The adjustments have been many, and the everyday necessities are based on basic survival. I have grown in ways I never thought about before. I’m getting my priorities straight, and I couldn’t be happier.
Newsletter: Given the sheer tonnage of your rig, your equipment and set-up, how do you determine where you are going and an estimation of how long you might stay in a location? It is easy enough to see that one has to logistically consider any move at all.
Star: Tal is really great about taking charge of all our moves. He checks weather, road conditions, mileage, etc. We consider ourselves snowbirds in that we travel with the weather. We can keep warm with the woodstove down to the low 40s. However, if it gets colder we can’t stay warm enough, and if it gets down into the 20s our pipes freeze. We don’t have air conditioning. When it starts pushing 90 plus degrees in the trailer we have to move to higher ground. I like to stay in the same location until we have explored
everything and hiked in every direction. If it is exceptionally beautiful, I like to stay as long as we can. The longest we have stayed in any one area is four months. After that we were both ready to hit the road. We call ourselves PRWOGs (rhymes with frogs). We are: Prepper Road Warriors Off Grid.
Newsletter: You’ve mentioned in your bio materials and, also, in speaking with Members at the Foundation, that gardening is important to you. How do you accommodate that if you are moving about often? Do you find areas and communities where you pitch in with their own garden projects?
Star: Unfortunately, our attempts at a traveling garden have been discouraging, but I’m sure we’ll happen on the right formula eventually. We had the opportunity to caretake ten acres the summer before last in north eastern California. I planted a limited garden, zucchini, basil, tomatoes, chives, parsley, and lots of flowers. Fruit trees were also on the property. I’ve looked into aquaponics and other alternative growing options on board. Space for plant height and the depth of dirt needed for gardening are a real deterrent to a successful traveling garden. I have helped with other people’s gardens when the opportunity presented itself. So far, we have not come across a community garden where we could park. As you know, I approached your community in hopes of finding a community garden and community animals. I believe animals add to the health of human beings. They help to lower our heart rates and they teach us things. They give us an opportunity to love and they provide a lot of humor and laughter. Right now we have a cat and talk about the possibility of other traveling critters.
Image below is an aerial view of Luna County and of the 18 wheeler home captured by Tal's drone; Tres Hermanas range left background with the Florida Mts. far right background. The drone is quite something!
Newsletter: What would you add or redesign to enhance or amplify your interests?
Star: We are completely set up for Off Grid Living. We have enough solar to run a household, all of our computers, and my only kitchen appliance, a blender. Tal also cuts a lot of wood to size with a skill saw, and we make our own colloidal silver. We have a lot of water storage on board. What we would redesign is to be fully insulated. Right now we are insulated from the wood stove to the front of the trailer. Underneath the floor is not insulated and to live in cooler weather that would be a necessary fix. Tal has talked about creating another home in a different trailer and we would insulate that one completely.
Newsletter: Have you given yourselves a period of time in which to live as you are? In other words, do have plans in the future to live differently and how would that be?
Star: We are interested in a plot of land. Even though I enjoy moving around, it would be nice to have a home base. We have decided that we like New Mexico as a place of consideration. It would give us an opportunity to do repairs, have a place for storage, and time enough to restock and order necessary items. Collecting mail is perhaps the greatest hassle of this lifestyle.
Newsletter: How does privacy work out for you? Is your creativity dependent on being isolated, or are you comfortable sharing space while you are working on a project, articles or a new book?
Star: Tal and I coexist really well. We both have our personal interests we work on. Internet is a big part of our lives, and he has done a great job maintaining our network and personal Cloud. Another plus to our setup is having two rooms. We have the main room and our bedroom has a desk and monitor set up as a workspace. We can get away from each other if we need to. That is rarely the case, though, and nothing we consciously think about.
Newsletter: What would you like to write about next?
Star: The next book I’m going to write: OFF GRID LIVING EXPOSED will be about our continuing journey and will address our life after the adjustment period. It will cover how we have improved our living situation, what I did about my passion to write, how our relationship has developed, and what we have learned during our travels. I want to subset the emotional growth that comes with living this lifestyle.
Newsletter: What are the primary elements involved in pursuing a lifestyle that will allow people to thrive, remain creative and loyal to their world views?
Star: You have to have a dream that works for who you are. Then you have to work towards it. Money is always an issue for most of us, so you have to start out small and do something toward your dream every day. It might be researching an article online, taking a class, or buying an extra $20 worth of food for the pantry. I believe all things are possible, but that is so easy to say and so hard to live. Faith is huge in acquiring our dreams. You have to see yourself living what it is you think you want. What kind of land would you buy and where? What kind of vehicle do you need to have? What would you do once you arrive where you want to go? The fun part iswhen
your dream does come true. It is never exactly as you perceived it. Usually, it’s better! Think of the basics. We need food, water, shelter and security. Those can come in all manner of ways. It’s going to be a different expression for everyone. I think that most of us have the same world views. All people of all colors and nationalities want to raise their families in joyful and peaceful surroundings. Whether you want to live on the road, in a city, or in the country, you have to do what resonates within you.
Newsletter: I am aware that you have a strong background in marketing. I want to say that I am impressed with the designs for your book covers. Many strike me as primarily d'avant-garde yet slipping up on tabloid sensationalism. First of all, I should ask if you are the designer? Second, is this a marketing approach or would you say a strong element characterizing something of yourself?
Star: Yes, I design the covers as I do for all of my publications. Working for one of the largest direct-marketing companies in the country was a great foundation for my work. If you want someone to read your work you have to grab their attention. If I had the title OFF GRID LIVING and nothing else, no one would much care. But if I’m “revealing” something, then that could peak interest. Fortunately, I am a bit artistic and that helps a lot. Covers can make or break a book. I am also working on building our brand so that I can capture a larger audience for our blog. Tal and I are the only ones living in a semi-truck trailer year-round that we know of. That comes with its own set of adventures. For financial reasons if no other, people are considering alternative lifestyles; this might be one to consider. This one is working for us and I’m glad to share our journey.
Jewel Star's website and entry into her travel blogs with photos by Warren Talbot.