Being an avid RVer and a professional voice actor, I was intrigued when I heard there was a voice actor roaming around the country in her RV doing voiceovers full-time from the road. As far as I know, she is the first voice talent to ever accomplish this feat; so naturally, I wanted to know more about this pioneering woman, Karen Saltus.
Karen Saltus was living in her home in Arizona, complete with a broadcast quality home studio setup when she got an overwhelming urge to roam. It wasnít the first time that wanderlust struck her--when she was 20 years old, she went cross-country in her van and at age 32, she did it by bike--but this time, she wanted to take her work along with her. While sheís done the auditions and gigs in hotel rooms that all voice actors know well--the ones where you hide beneath a pillow and blanket pile while thanking your lucky stars that your room is not near the pool or elevators and hope for the best--that wasnít going to cut it for this amazing journey. This time she planned to work in style by outfitting her 1992 Tioga Class C motorhome with its very own customized Gretch-Ken sound booth in the back.
So far, Karen has been on the road for 10 months and when sheís not running, cycling, doing yoga or meditating, she can be found in her Voxmobile lending her vocal talents to clients all over the globe. While the experience so far has been quite an adventure, Karen has discovered that the RV lifestyle adds a unique set of challenges to her line of work. "I do a lot of long-form narration," she says, "and if I book a session, I often have to wonder if the campers next to me are going to fire up their diesel engine." In fact, many sounds at the next campsite can show up on her audio files. That is where Karenís people skills come into play. "One time, a large motor coach parked next to me turned on their AC unit and left it on all day while they went to the beach." When the couple returned, Karen brought over a bottle of wine, hung out for a while, and shared what she did for a living. "After that, they never kept it on if they left the campground." Other factors come into play as well, including trains, planes, wind and rain. "Itís been a remarkable lesson realizing what I do and donít have control over," says Karen. When she encounters times that she canít do her work due to factors out of her control, she hops on her bike and explores the area she is visiting.
Another issue she contends with is whether or not the Internet connection will suffice at each campground she visits. "You never really know until you get there just how good it is," she explains. "Sometimes I feel like Iím chasing the Internet." That is why Karen decided before the trip that she was going to make sure there were as many things in place that she could control. "I have backup for everything," she laughs. "I have two mics, three audio interfaces, two headphones, a PC and a laptop. My cellphone is on AT&T and my iPad is on the Verizon network. Iíve covered myself in as many ways as possible." She also tries to stay at a campground for at least a month at a time so that she can stay as connected as possible to her clients.
While some of the technical challenges might sound daunting, Karen admits that she has plenty of miracle sessions when a client calls in and there are no planes, trains, automobiles or forces of nature that interrupt her session. Plus, she has come to the realization after talking with a number of audio engineers that even in some of the best recording studios around, sounds from the outside world make it into voiceover sessions. The best thing to do? "Take a sip of water, wait it out, and continue on," says Karen.
Karen finds that while solo RVing can feel isolating at times, being a full-time working voiceover talent with another person onboard could be challenging. "They would have to really watch every move they made if I was in session," she states, "or just go out for the day."
This sojourn of Karenís isnít just so that she can do voice work all over the country; itís also a chance for her to rediscover places that nourish her. "I wasnít feeling inspired by Arizona anymore," she reflects. But a place that is working for her is New England. "While Iím not quite sure where I belong," she explains, "I do know that New England feeds my soul."
One of her favorite parts about the journey is the feeling of freedom this lifestyle affords her. "I have all this stuff flying around in my head about places that I want to visit," she says. "I love that I donít need to make any decisions until I absolutely have to."
Eventually, she wants to have a cottage by the ocean that has a big enough driveway to park her RV. "I could spend a few months on the road each year and not miss a day of work," she says.
Until then, sheíll spend her time exploring the country as the first full-time RVing voice actor and delight in those miracle sessions when they happen.
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