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Libby learns life lessons through simple living

Every morning Libby Kahler, a Berea College junior, gathers her books and hiking backpack and heads off from her yurt to school.

Libby's Yurt

A yurt is a circular hut or teepee, originally used by nomads in Turkey and Mongolia. Instead of selecting the conventional dormitory experience for her college career, Libby has opted for a more nontraditional living arrangement, and lives in her yurt out in the woods.

She has decided to try this unique living experience while she pursues her Pre-Architecture independent major in Building Design through the Berea SENS program. Her yurt, which was constructed with the help of a few of her friends, is modeled in a contemporary style of Ghengis Khanís Mongolian ďger."

But simple outdoor living is something that Libby has grown used to for some time. ďWell Iíve lived in them for a while,Ē she shares. ďTheyíre easier to live in than a teepee because they have straight walls. I kind of also just needed some adventure in my daily life, and living in a beige-on-beige apartment did not do it.Ē

We sat down with Libby one day, before she made her afternoon excursion home, to find out more about this unique living experience and how it has shaped her educational experience as a nontraditional student.

BCNOW: What is it like living in a yurt?

Libby: (smiles and shivers) Right now itís cold. Itís interesting. To me, round spaces are just so much more alive, as in youíre able to interact with them better. On the other hand itís very difficult to decorate a round space without just setting your furniture around it. [The yurt] is also 15 feet across, so itís pretty small. But I love it. Actually, my social life is kind of hurting right now because I just run right home after classes are done because itís so peaceful [here]. Itís stuck out in the middle of the woods. My neighbors are few and far between. And Ė (sighs and smiles) itís wonderful.

The walls are made out of 2x4s ripped into eight pieces and then bolted together so they make a series of diamonds. So Iíve just painted them to make a design. Iíve also just started insulating. So thatís been tricky. I basically use really thick, industrial aluminum foil, and now Iím putting fabric on top of that so you canít see it. Iím also buying furniture, and I built a loft inside so that I have more usable spaces.

BCNOW: Where did the yurt come from?

Libby: I got it from a company called Laurel Nest Yurts in North Carolina. They were really excited that I wanted to live in one, so they gave me different pieces of yurts that they had sitting around at a discount. With the platform, it was about $2,500. With the insulation and the wood stove and everything that I can take with me, it was probably about $3,000 total.Ē

BCNOW: Have you encountered any bugs?

Libby: Oh yeah, the BUGS! Yeah, so I found out Kentucky has scorpions Ė as they came in through my many cracks this summer and stung me several times Ė and various large spiders Ė really huge spiders Ė like hand-sized spiders. Also one evening, I heard some rustling outside and there was a beetle, seriously, like 5 or 6 inches long Ė and four inches wide . Even my cat refused to chase it down and bite it, which he normally likes to do.

BCNOW: Do you cook in your yurt?

Libby: Mmhm, I actually have a four-burner propane stove that I stole out of the truck camper that I was living in. So thatís pretty sweet!

BCNOW: How has living in the yurt impacted your experience at Berea?

Libby: Iím much happier here. Itís so wonderful to be able to leave [for the day] and not be a student at my house Ė and to have the privacy and the isolation to do work. Itís really made it so much easier to be here. And itís made being here more exciting. I also think, in some ways, itís made more of my professors likely to believe that I can accomplish something. So Iím looking into doing some design and building projects around campus next year and I think thatís kind of helped to improve what people think Iím capable of.

BCNOW: What is the experience teaching you on a more personal level?

Libby: I feel like Iím finding a happy medium between my minimum requirements and what Iím told that I know Ė house, car, dog sort of thing. So thatís really good for me, because Iíve been kind of likeÖ well, for a summer I just took a tarp and lived under that when it rained and [I] tried to get down to the very, very minimum [of what I need] and now Iím coming back up out of that without going overboard. So thatís what I kind of feel Iím learning about. As a non-hippie, actual adult, [Iím learning] what I really need, versus what do I want and what makes me happy. Iím not a hippie though. I just would like to clarify thatÖ.

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