I live in one of the most remote towns in the lower 48 states. My office window is about 100 yards from the only highway that runs through the area. I find the sporadic traffic noise to be comforting, not disturbing. Sometimes I see bicyclists on a cross-country trek laboring up the hill toward the pass.
The open-plan house is built of huge lodgepole pines, so above my computer screen I see logs and chinking. Across the loft space, out the window beside my husband’s desk, I can see up the valley to the mountains. I don’t look that way too much. I’m glad not to have that distraction.
I have a big L-shaped desk. It’s usually a mess because I’m always working on several projects at once. Above my desk is a painting of the old brick farmhouse where I spent summers as a child, and the framed New York Times review of my first book. I don’t look up much, except at the printed monthly calendar hanging from the beam. Mostly I’m looking at this screen.
Why I’m Remote Where I’m Remote
Like many people in Dubois, we began coming here years ago for vacation and just couldn’t stop coming, so eventually we bought property. For 8 years, I telecommuted from both Wyoming and New York City, living here about half the time. I would also work via broadband from the passenger seat while my husband drove the Interstate on that 4-day “commute” twice a year. My coworkers didn’t know or care where I was. The Internet service here was vastly more reliable than that in NYC.
We eventually we got tired of NYC and of the long drive back and forth. We moved to Wyoming full-time about a year ago. I have gradually discovered that I’m part of a growing community of remote workers in this truly remote town. We don’t “network” as such; we relate as neighbors.
A few days ago I attended a seminar at which local residents had the opportunity to explain why they are drawn to Dubois. The reasons are always the same: The incredible variety of the Western landscape, verging from high alpine forest to red-rock badlands. The ability to share a huge “coworking space” with real wildlife, like deer, wolves, coyotes, moose, elk, bluebirds, and hawks. The huge sky. The mild climate (we’re in the “banana belt” of Wyoming). The welcoming nature of the community, a manageable-sized village of folks with very diverse experiences who are self-reliant and independent but also trustworthy and, in a crisis, cohesive. Also, the cost of living is quite low and Wyoming has no state income tax.
I worked for an international company for 8 years. Headquarters were in Connecticut, a 2-hour commute from my home in NYC and thousands of miles from Wyoming. I would go to the office about once a month when we were in NYC (about half of the year) and not at all when we were in Wyoming. I earned the privilege of working remotely after commuting two hours each way every day from NYC to Connecticut for several months, after which I was allowed to telecommute for one day a week. Because I had proved a reliable employee, after my boss on the project for which I was hired relocated to California, I was allowed to work from home full-time. After that, they didn’t seem to care where I was.
Now that I’m a consultant, I work from home. Again, nobody seems to care where I am, although I do work closely with a team in this town on one project, and see them as often as I need. I also work with a team distributed around the large county, and we see each other in person about once every two months.
My Thoughts on Pets
We have a dog, but he’s not an “office pet.” He’s our dog.
Lack of time wasted in commuting.
What Challenges Do Remote Workers Face?
Out of sight is out of mind. It’s difficult to appear relevant when you’re not present in person.
My Best Remote Work Advice
Keep your eyes on the prize. Don’t get distracted. Do everything you can to prove you’re a reliable worker intent on your company’s or your customer’s goals. Maintain polite but steady communication with your team, contractors or supervisors. Make sure your work comes first, during work hours. Then shut down and leave it behind for the evening or weekend.
When I’m Not Working
This is Monday. I had a busy weekend and didn’t drive the ATV up on the dirt roads high on the mountain pass, as I’d intended. I have no immediate deadlines so we went up this morning instead. The sky was profoundly blue. The fragrance of the pine trees was heady. I got stunning pictures of carpets of wild flowers. My head cleared and I regained some perspective. I felt like I was on a little vacation. Somebody once said that we live in a postcard here. As a remote worker, I have the privilege of working where other people come to get away.
I got back to my desk at lunchtime. I’ll make up the work during evenings later this week. I love to hike in this incredible environment. I also play musical instruments and sometimes join jam sessions.