Luke Kraska - A Life of Temporary Isolation
Written by Cecilia LaFrance
Luke Kraska finished his shift at the local golf course. Most days after work, he keeps to himself until he moves his van to any multitude of dispersed camping areas for the night. His sleep and waking hours follow the natural light cycles. He reports to work daily, earns his wage and repeats the pattern for four months of the year.
Luke hasn’t looked for a place to live. “The idea of spending $800 a month for a roof over my head, that’s $800 that could be spent elsewhere.” Each summer, he saves enough money to travel for the remainder of the year.
“My usefulness here doesn’t extend beyond four months of employment.” Luke trades labor for money in a temperate climate with beautiful vistas. The remainder of the year he travels and trades money for other people’s labor in more affordable countries as he looks for his own place to eventually settle. “I just don’t feel like there’s a me-sized vacancy anywhere in the U.S. The United States is a nation of closed doors.”
Luke contrasts Latin American countries, places with more open cultures, as communities he prefers. Meanwhile, the outdoor nature of his seasonal work and accommodations suit him. And, his situation creates a challenge. “If it were an easy life, I would not have found my success.” Luke won’t wax romantic about living out of a van or not having a place of his own. But, he recognizes appreciations he may take for granted if he had a thermostat or walls: the comfort and warmth of a quality blanket or the morning songs of birds.
“It’s a privilege to come here, roughing it, like the old west, and find success in adversity.” Luke says his unconventional approach of making and saving money through “homelessness” initially was inspired through his first stay in Chaffee County five years ago.
“People here don’t really pry into your business.” In other areas Luke’s traveled, especially other small towns, locals outwardly show suspicion of visitors. In larger areas, nomadic lifestyles often get grouped under the homelessness umbrella and its associated judgements of substance abuse, mental illness and crime, among others. Chaffee County residents’ comfort with tourists, use of public lands and seasonal workforces makes it an ideal place for Luke to return to each year as a home base.
“I’m not looking for a life of isolation. But, if living one, Chaffee County is the best location.”