Bozeman is our new home.
Back in 2011, I read an article in Outside magazine about the 100 best places to work in the U.S.
Near the top of the list was a marketing agency located in Bozeman, Montana. Over the years, I had pondered and daydreamed about living and working in a beautiful natural environment and the state of Montana conjured up images of big skies, mountains and crystal clear rivers. Visions of horses, bison and fly fishing like I watched in "A river runs through it". I imagined my family living in a rustic cabin-like lodge like in the "Legends of the Fall" and as a native son from Southern California, I longed to experience the seasons.
I recall researching everything I could search for on the city of Bozeman. It consistently was listed as one of the best places to live with populations under 100,000. Bozeman is located in Western Montana, about 90 miles from Yellowstone Park. Its home to Montana State University. It is the fastest growing city in Montana. The average home costs around $430K and unemployment is 2.3%. The average age is 26.
Creating a life I didn't need a vacation from was a mission for me. As an outdoor enthusiast, photographer, the lifestyle described in the magazine article matched perfectly with what I really wanted. Montana was a place I usually would plan a trip to for a few days of hiking, fishing, rafting or a family vacation to escape the big city life. The idea of being able to live and work there was a fantasy to me.
At the time of my initial research, I was running a small strategic marketing and creative agency and making an above average income. I wrote to the president of the marketing agency in Bozeman and asked him if they could use a project manager or creative director. He requested my resume and salary requirements and based on his silence, I concluded that I was a little (a lot) over their budget. I felt discouraged and after further research I learned that the average income in Montana was drastically lower than California. In fact, it ranks as the second lowest in the nation, behind Mississippi. The median household income is $46,422. Now I understood it was more than just the long winters that kept people away from this large beautiful state. It's the 4th largest state geographically, but ranks 46th in population (just over 1,000,000).
My excitement dimmed as I realized I couldn't afford to move to Montana, only because I couldn't earn a high enough income to maintain the lifestyle and needs of my family (five kids at the time). But, I never forgot. I realized I had to bring my own economy with me.
In late 2015, after driving two hours in LA traffic, just to go 17 miles for about the tenth time in a month, I realized that I hated living in Southern California. I was bored with everything. I was tired of pretentious people, high gas prices, high sales tax (9%), people (too many goddamn people everywhere) crime and frankly, I was even bored with perfect weather. To me, global warming was accelerating, especially there. 85 to 90 degree weather in February and a 4 year drought that didn't permit me to water my lawn without guilt.
In January, I booked a flight from Long Beach to Bozeman for the very first time, there was several feet of snow on the ground and it was glorious. The elementary school let the kids ice skate at recess on the playground. I found an awesome house that was half of the price it would be in California. I took pictures and videos and shared them with my wife. She was also wanting a change and had grown bored with our life in California and without ever coming here in person even once, she joyfully agreed to make the move to Bozeman.
On March 1st, we packed up everything we owned, including my office in Long Beach and we drove 1100 miles and started a new chapter in our lives. We did it. We really did it and we are so happy. The company didn't skip a beat and the pure focus I feel now, combined with a renewed vigor for life is having a positive effect on every aspect of my life. I actually hope to hire some local talent at higher than average wages. Spring is here and everything is turning green.