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The Morning Routine of Calligrapher & Bus Life Dweller, Kalen Rivers

Hey, I’m Kalen! I’m an artist living on the road in a 1995 school bus that my husband and I converted into a tiny home. I’m a self-taught calligrapher, designer, illustrator, photographer, and storyteller. 
 
I used to spend the majority of my days neck-deep in designing and illustrating wedding signage and stationery for beautiful brides all across the U.S + beyond, but 2021 was/is my last wedding season. I’ll continue to pursue the many avenues of my art career but weddings will no longer be a part of it. 
 
Recently I’ve been taking full advantage of my less than packed wedding schedule to be outside. Fully and intentionally, outside, in nature, reconnecting with the world around me. It’s been such a gift, one that I don’t plan on giving up no matter how my business pivots in the next chapter. 

What time do you wake up in the morning, and how do you wake up? 

The best days start when I’m able to wake up with the sun and walk out to watch the sunrise over the mountain or the ocean or the desert. But, such as life living in a moving home, that’s not always the case. Sometimes we wake up in Walmart parking lots and sometimes we sleep in past 9 a.m because we drove into a different time zone and our sleep schedule is off. Typically though, the sweet spot is around 7 a.m.

How do you like your coffee?

Hand-ground medium roast, french pressed, blended with collagen peptides, grass-fed butter, and Malk oat milk + cinnamon. Coffee is non-negotiable. Coffee is JOY in a cup and my day would not be complete without it. 

What’s on your bedside table?

I have a small ledge next to my side of the bed that acts as a bedside “table”.
 
In the mornings you’ll find a teacup from the night before and hanging on the wall, I keep my nighttime skincare routine products. We don’t technically have a bathroom on the bus so I do my nighttime skincare routine while we watch a show before bed. 

Do you prepare for your mornings the night before? If so, how?

The truth is when you live on a bus each morning is different from the one before. If we know the following day is a travel day or we have plans to do chores we’ll typically talk about it the night before so we can be on the same page when we wake up. Communication is our preparation. We’ve learned that when you spend 24/7 together in a tiny space it’s ESSENTIAL to communicate even the tiniest details.

What are your skincare/body care rituals?

Sunshine is the foundation of my skincare. Over the past year and a half, I’ve come to learn how essential sunlight is for overall wellness. I rarely wear make-up, I don’t use sunscreen and I spend as much time as I possibly and safely can, letting the sun hit my bare skin. I know, I know, everyone and their mother is out there saying that the sun causes cancer but I like to challenge that narrative. Is it sunlight, THE sunlight that we literally would not exist without, that’s causing cancer? Or is it the toxic sunscreen that we’ve been told we need to slather all over our bodies to “protect” us from the very thing that is LIFE giving? Safe sun exposure is important, but sun exposure without sunscreen is essential for optimal wellness. Something to think about.
 
On the contrary, I’m a pretty serious product snob when it comes to my nighttime routine. I use a combination of Tata Harper’s Clarifying Cleanser + Moisturizer, Cocokind’s Glow Essence duo and to seal it all in I use By Achilles Skincare Sunshine Elixir.
 
I used to shower daily and was super strict with my skincare routine each morning before work. Now, I shower 2-4 times PER WEEK, wash my hair once every seven days or so, and rarely wear make-up. It’s not that I’m some dirty hippie (and so what if I was) who doesn’t shower, it’s just that I’ve realized I don’t need to as much. Most humans don’t. 

What does your morning routine flow look like? 

Once my eyes open I spend a few minutes loving on my miniature dachshund, Cake, before I get up and make the bed. While I’m doing that my husband, Kyle, tidies the kitchen and makes my morning “water”. My morning drink consists of warm water, ACV, cold-pressed ginger juice, a squeeze of lemon, and a dash of cinnamon + cayenne. I can not start my day without it. I prefer to take it outside with me to watch the sunrise barefoot. It’s the benefit trifecta. The sun’s early morning light to keep my circadian rhythm in check, bare feet on the earth for grounding, and my tonic to get my digestion fired up and moving. 
 
 
Depending on where we are I spend about 15-30 minutes here. I take a moment to appreciate the stillness. I find gratitude in the birds singing or the waves crashing or the sky changing colors. Sunrise is my favorite part of the day.
 
After that, I head back on the bus to make my coffee + breakfast.
 
Some days I spend time writing while I sip my coffee. Other days I get right into emails, editing, or current projects. When we’re busy, traveling mornings can look like long drives to the next destination or a sunrise soak in a hot spring after a 2-mile hike. Each day is different which has its own advantages + disadvantages but I won’t lie, I live for the chaos of it. 

When do you kick off your workday? And do you have any starting-work rituals?

I don’t have a set time I “need” to start working by. I’ve realized that for myself and my go-with-the-flow attitude, setting a strict time schedule for myself only makes me feel like a failure if something else comes up or I feel called to focus on another project or task. 

 

How does your morning routine change on the weekends?

The non-negotiable like making the bed, my water, sunlight + grounding stay consistent. Often times though, on the weekends my husband and I will make breakfast together, go out for coffee, or since those are his days off from his remote corporate job, we’ll take advantage of the extra freedom to get outside, off Wi-Fi, together.

What does your mindset look like at the beginning of the day? Do you have any tips or tools for getting in a good mindset?

Gratitude. Always gratitude. There is a never-ending list of things to be grateful for and I find that when you set aside, even just 5-10 minutes for yourself to get still and think about or write down what you are grateful for it changes the entire trajectory of your day. The abundance mindset instills the habit of paying attention and making note of all the things you have to be grateful for throughout the day.

What’s non-negotiable vs. what does an extra-luxurious morning look like?

Non-negotiable is washing my face and making sure I have deodorant on before we go out in public. Extra-luxurious is a morning shower where I wash my hair AND shave my legs. 

What would you like to improve with your mornings?

In certain seasons we’re driving a lot and when we’re spending long stretches of the morning driving I often neglect eating until late which sets my entire day up for dysregulated blood sugar levels aka mood swings. Which isn’t fun for myself or my husband. 

What’s your #1 recommendation to others who struggle with mornings?

Create a morning that’s for you, and no one else. Ignore what social media says you should do or what your friends or colleges are doing or what the latest trend says is working. Figure out a morning routine that works and FEELS good for you. It doesn’t have to make sense to anyone else.