An Exclusive Club for Certain Remote Workers

It’s not easy to get in, but members are glad they did.

rocking chair and view of ocean

“Can you do better than this?” somebody posted on LinkedIn. There was an image of a beach, and text about going out to surf in the morning before starting work at a home office.

“Sure, I can,” I wrote. “How about this?”

… and then I clicked away to find exactly the right previous post from this blog, intending to add a link to it. Surely, many times I have written about my custom of signing off and shutting down at 3 PM to go for a hike in the nearby national forest.

I couldn’t find what I was looking for, and by clicking away from his post, I lost it and could not complete my reply. Oh, well.

The sun was beaming through the window over my shoulder, moving slowly down toward the back side of the ridge. I noticed that it was about 3 PM.

These heavenly mild autumn days will not last forever, I said to myself. I signed off from LinkedIn, shut down, called the dog, and headed outdoors.

The aspen are going out in a blaze of color, the same hue as the stripe down the middle of the highway, the leaves like fragments of the sun quaking in the breeze. Out there, my worries slip away.

“Work From Home is more accurately titled Work From Anywhere,” wrote Jocelyn Kung in Entrepeneur, “a cafe, a beach, a different country. People can choose where they live based on their desired quality of life without sacrificing career opportunities.”

The pandemic has made this option ever more obvious and appealing. Survey after survey has shown that a large majority of the people allowed (or forced) to work from home want to continue doing so.

And many of them are reconsidering where “home” is going to be. If they don’t need to go into headquarters, then why must they live nearby?

“The allure of the city has been eroded by technology,” wrote remote-work advocate Chris Herd on LinkedIn, listing observations based on his recent survey of about 1,000 companies. “You can easily spend time there without living there … Cost of living has made [cities] irrational.”

Under the heading “Rural living” he added that “world-class people will move to smaller cities, have a lower cost of living & higher quality of life.”

These advantages came up in conversation a few weeks ago, during the first online meetup sponsored by Wind River Remote Works, our new organization dedicated to promoting remote work in this area. But with a local population that tops out at about 3,000 in the height of summer, Dubois is hardly what he would call a “small city.”

Downtown Dubois, Wyoming

How can we ever hope to attract new residents if we don’t (yet, at least) provide the amenities so many remote workers expect from urban life, like microbreweries and communal work spaces?

The remote workers who live here already offered some fresh ideas at the meetup.

We should “own” our lifestyle differences, suggested one.

Make the challenge of finding and living in Dubois an advantage, agreed another. (He had just been contending that it was not much of an inconvenience to drive 80 miles to the airport.)

“It’s not an easy place to live,” he added, “and if you live here, you’re in the club.”

He’s one of countless residents who, once he got to know this out-of-the-way village, couldn’t get Dubois out of his mind. He and his family moved here two months ago.

I was one of those as well. But I’ve lived here so long now that the special-ness of achieving that goal has faded. I’d never thought to describe living in Dubois from his perspective, as a community of independent spirits who can recognize a diamond in the rough and then embrace isolation and inconvenience in order to obtain it.

He’s very right: Dubois is an exclusive club. Those of us who live here do recognize that, even if we don’t describe it as such.

The membership criteria include first understanding and then embracing our unique culture and our lifestyle. This goes far beyond the mere pleasures of effortless access to beautiful wilderness.

But how can we ever convey that elusive reality to others–deliver to them such a vision of an authentic Western village (quite different from so many “tourist traps”) that they will be compelled at least to visit and begin to discover it? That’s our challenge now.

“It is too bad … that America knows the West from the roadside,” wrote the great chronicler of the West, Wallace Stegner, in The Rocky Mountain West, “for the roadside is the hoked-up West, the dude West, the tourist West ….”

“I have taken to traveling whenever possible by the back roads, and giving up the comforts along with the billboards,” he went on. “That is one way of getting behind the West’s roadside face.”

“Another is to live in some part of it for a while, sample it as a human dwelling place, as the formative stage of a unique civilization, as a place to go to, not through.”

(Digital nomads: Are you listening?)

© Lois Wingerson, 2020

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Author: LivingDubois

I am a retired science journalist, devoted to enjoying and recording the many pleasures of life in the Wyoming's Upper Wind River Valley.

8 thoughts on “An Exclusive Club for Certain Remote Workers”

  1. Hi Lois-
    What a remarkable club! Variety is the spice of life and we have em all!
    Thank you once again for “refreshing my page “on our community.
    This has been a remarkable summer here at the Fork.

  2. Brining urban “amenities” to the true rural west, in my mind, pollutes the “West-ness” of the community. The very small town/village I grew up in (NE Montana) made up for what it lacked in city-conveniences with community oneness and pride. People choose to live in the West because it is the West; please do not try to make it something else. Natural progress is going to happen; but forcing the culture to be like somewhere else is wrong in my mind. My family, when I was 12, moved from Texas to Montana; we did not seek to make Montana Texas-north, we became Montanans.

    1. Thank you so much for your very valuable comment. I agree completely.

      I believe others in this community would agree wholeheartedly with your statement that “forcing the culture to be like somewhere else is wrong.” In fact, it generally doesn’t work. I have found that people who try to do so here are generally either ignored or overruled. The culture is a large part of what defines us, and therefore we justifiably resist changing it.

  3. Interesting. tell u san dshow us inside the bilding where the mayor plays out doors. on his piano. Its cold here in KS. we looked to indian artifacts yesterday… our crik, to city ppl its CREEK. lol Have fun doing the next Living Dubois…….julie in KS>

    1. That isn’t the mayor, Julie, it’s the owner of that store. Unfortunately unless my eyes deceive me, the piano is gone. He told me it finally failed, and I guess he hasn’t found another good one yet. Keep cool down there in Kansas, if you can!

      1. Actually, he did find a new piano. He’s been playing it in recent days. Monte said he actually found it left out on the street in a residential area of town. Sounds really good!

  4. Hi Lois!

    I have visited your blog a handful of times since moving to Dubois several months ago, but today I blasted through nearly a dozen of your posts in one sitting! I just wanted to say that I love hearing about our lovely town from a long-term resident, and it especially tickled me that I noticed each and every one of the changes around town that you mentioned in one of your latest posts. It makes me feel like I am starting to belong, that fresh signage and new businesses popping up already stand out to me from the quiet “norm” I have come to recognize. I have been sharing pictures and my own experiences in Dubois on a blog as well, and it has been a real treat to hear your perspective on this beautiful location. You are a talented writer and I am so glad that I found your site! Enjoy the newly-green trees along the river! 🙂

    1. Hi, and thanks for your great comments. I looked at your blog, which is delightful. When I get a moment, I’ll add it to the recommended sites on mine. I hope we get to meet someday soon. Enjoy this fantastic weather …

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