This entrepreneur’s improved work-life balance might look surprising to some.
Published January 4, 2023 02:00PM EST
A growing number of people are considering van life, but sometimes not for the reasons one might think. Though the skyrocketing cost of housing may be one reason why people might downsize into something more affordable. But for many, it’s not the only one. Many people deliberately choose to transition to alternative lifestyles for various reasons—some of them include wanting to travel, experiencing more emotional and financial freedom, or living a fuller life with less stuff weighing them down. The list goes on, and ultimately, the deciding factors vary from person to person.
For Jenn Dieas, van life was an opportunity that surfaced during those early days when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit. Dieas, who is a life coach and CEO of Glowout, a salon business headquartered in Chicago, says that she finally found the time to reconsider things during that uncertain time:
“When 2020 happened, and we shut down in Chicago for three months, I had so much time to reflect. That’s all I could do—was to sit and think ‘what’s next’, ‘what’s happening’, ‘what makes sense’, ‘what feels right’. And keeping my fancy apartment in the city didn’t feel right when I had to cut a lot of expenses to save my storefront business. [..] I started watching all these van life videos, because it was the first time in my life where I could sit and think what the next season of my life was going to look like, and not have to be in ten places. I’d never had that time before.”
Van life appealed to Dieas immensely, as she loved to travel and camp, thanks to childhood summers spent camping with her grandparents in North Carolina. Her bubbly personality shines through in her beautiful renovated van, which she has nicknamed “Rosie,” and is home to her and her two small dogs.
Built out of a Ram Promaster van, Rosie features what Dieas calls a “soft and sweet” aesthetic, accentuated by lots of velvety fabrics, flowery details, and cane fabric materials, all brought together with a palette of warm-toned hues like rose and brushed gold. For Dieas, Rosie has been fashioned as a comfortable haven in what can be an uncertain world.
As Dieas explains, van life has actually helped her keep her business as a top priority:
“We are in multiple states, and I have a training program where I get to go and train other people to open up under our brand. [..] So I built this van, and now I can go do trainings anywhere I want, I don’t have to worry about booking hotels, booking flights, travel got crazy with all that’s happening in the world, and it’s just so much more relaxing to be in the van.”
Dieas loves to cook, so her kitchen is compact and functional. It has a butcher block countertop, and a sink with a pull-down faucet that can not only wash dishes but also swivel around to wash dirty feet and paws outside, after a relaxing nature hike.
Dieas also opted for the flexibility of a camping stove, a deep sink, and a mini-refrigerator.
Opposite the kitchen, Dieas has a tall closet for clothes, a pantry space for dried goods, as well as a tiled shower stall with a portable cassette toilet. Dieas says that having a bathroom in the van was essential for her, as it gives her more security and flexibility on the road.
At the rear of the van is Dieas’ convertible live-work space. During the day, the adjustable Lagun arm-mounted table is up, creating an upholstered, U-shaped bench space for Dieas to work. Above, there’s plenty of storage to be had in the overhead cabinets. Dieas admits she has more shoes and clothes than the typical van dweller (she even has a clothes steamer), but says that it’s important for her to look professional and business-like when she gives workshops.
During the night, the table goes down, and the cushions are shifted to create a comfortable bed.
The rear of the van can be sealed off with screening to create a back porch of sorts, and Dieas can store other equipment under the bed’s platform.
Dieas says that van life has not only helped her find that perfect work-life balance but has also opened up other life possibilities that she might not have considered before:
“I do believe I will be a full-time ‘snowbird’, because I love being on the road fully. In the summers, I spend a lot of time in Chicago, but [van life] is perfect, because I can leave every weekend whenever I want and go travel, so it does give me the best of both worlds. I’m not a ‘big city’ CEO anymore — that title doesn’t fit all the way. I’ve evolved and I’ve change and life has changed and this is kind of the perfect fit and I love helping people start their own businesses, so nothing felt more right than Rosie.”
Living the van life isn’t for everyone, but Dieas’ story is an inspiring one that might convince the undecided, and her parting advice is simple:
“I would tell anyone that’s on their own entrepreneurial journey to trust your gut. If your heart and soul keeps calling you and telling you that you can do something different, then do it.”
To see more, check out Dieas’ Instagram.