Moving to Montana: How and Why We Did It + Tips to Convince Your Boss to Let you Work Remotely

Austin are officially Montana residents! Well…not officially. Officially, I never moved out of my parents house because I’ve been avoiding changing my permanent address for about 8 years.


We live in Montana!

And it was not an easy feat to get here.

Let’s start with why we moved

The most common assumption is that we were moving to Montana to get away from the crowds and Covid-19 of Chicago. While it’s undoubtedly an added bonus that Montana is one of the states with the lowest amount of cases, that’s not why we moved.

In fact, we made the decision to move out here before we even knew what Covid was. Ah…the simpler times.

It’s rather simple, actually. Austin decided to finish out his chemical engineering degree at Montana State University. After the shocking news of this decision, it hit me – WHY NOT GO WITH?!

It just so happens that my 9-5 job is pretty flexible when it comes to location. That was a tremendous help.

To be completely transparent, I hate saying I’m the girl that “followed her boyfriend,” but come on. We had been off and on long distance for over two years. I think thought it was high time we get to consistently see each other AND I never say no to a new adventure!

So, we made this decision around August of 2019. Austin came to Montana for his Spring Semester in 2020 and I stayed in Chicago. Then, he came back to Chicago to stay with me for a couple months when his school went remote.

And now, here we are: over 1,000 miles away from anywhere I’ve ever called home.

Montana mountain hike

How I got my job to be so flexible

Remember how breezed over the fact that my job doesn’t really care where I live? It wasn’t that easy. They weren’t always crazy about me moving to Montana.

Here’s what I did to ease them into this transition for anyone that is thinking about trying to work from home for their job:

  1. I planted the seed a long, long time ago. About a year and a half ago, I asked what they would think if I ever moved somewhere away from Chicago. I don’t think anyone had ever brought this up before, so they didn’t really know how to respond at first. In the end, they said they’d be open to it, but we’ll talk more when it comes up. That was good enough for me!
  2. I worked my butt off. I knew that I’d have to be an asset to the company. Businesses don’t just bend over backwards for mediocre employees. They bend over backwards for employees they don’t want to lose.
  3. I suggested a trial run. Austin did an internship down in Texas during the Fall of 2019. I pitched this as an opportunity to see how things go with me working remotely. So, I went down south for four months and didn’t skip a beat. I made sure to eliminate any inconveniences with me being gone. This included over communicating what I was doing with the team, getting a LOT of work done, and showing up on video when I couldn’t be there in person.

After all this effort,

I had proven that I wouldn’t slack off when working from home. In fact, I got even MORE done because I wasn’t constantly being interrupted like you generally are in an open office setting.

So, I pitched the idea of moving to Montana and the answer I got was “sure.” Not an excited “yes!” but they were more than happy to do what it took to keep me on board.

Then Covid hit and everyone started working from home. So, I think they’re going to start being more flexible moving forward, anyway.

If remote working is something you’re interested in or doing right now, check out this PDF I put together when Covid first started that has some awesome tips to stay productive and motivated:

How we found out apartment in Bozeman

We knew we’d be moving to Montana in June, so we started looking for apartments when it was quite possibly the worst time to look for apartments – right when everything started shutting down due to Covid-19.

Our original plan was to fly out to visit Austin for a weekend and to tour a couple places. We had a short list of apartments that allow huskies (a husky pup is in our future!), so we were going to visit about two or three buildings and then decide from there.

Welllll, Austin ended up coming back to Chicago to finish out his semester remotely, so we didn’t have a chance to actually tour any of them!

Luckily, the building manager at our top choice was super helpful.

She sent us photos of the two available apartments, handled all of our questions over the phone, and let us sign the lease and pay everything we needed to online. It was actually super easy and seamless!

So, the first time we ever saw our new place was when we moved in and honestly, we got lucky! We couldn’t be happier with the space.

Montana mountains

Moving from Chicago to Montana ain’t easy

We are happy Montanans now, but it wasn’t that way for the first few days! There were definitely some MAJOR bumps in the road.

First, was the cost. Neither of us have ever moved a significant amount of items across the country. It’s not cheap! It seemed like things just kept coming up that we had to pay for. Here’s a breakdown of the actual cost:

  • Movers to help load the truck: $350
  • 16ft box truck with a car trailer (from Budget Truck): $2,800
  • Movers to help unload the truck: $500
  • Gas and miscellaneous items along the way: $300
  • Two hotel stays along the way: $200

We did NOT expect it to cost this much when we were first planning, but I wanted to outline what the actual costs were for anyone thinking about moving to Montana (or just relatively far) with a lot of stuff!

Aside from the cost of the move which we finally accepted, we hit another major obstacle the morning of the actually move date.

The morning we were set to move,

Austin woke up sick as a dog. I mean sick. We assumed it was food poisoning.

This just skyrocketed my anxiety because now I’d have to do most of the work and take lead now that he was out of commission.

Luckily, we had already hired movers in Chicago (using Hire A Helper – they were great!), we we didn’t have to do a lot of literal “heavy lifting.” They started at about 10am and we left Chicago around 2pm. As soon as we got on the road, Austin was feeling better driving.

Then, the second day hit and he got sick again in the morning. This time, he was also having trouble breathing and he had a fever. What’s your first reaction tell you? That’s right. Covid.

He was showing all the signs Covid-19, but it’s not like we had anywhere to stop for him to get better. We knew we had to keep going and we knew that we just had to make it to Bozeman and he could rest for as long as he needed.

The symptoms never let up. My anxiety never let up.

When we arrived in Bozeman

One of Austin’s friends had planned to help us unload the truck, so we had to call him and tell him.

He hesitated, but said that since our belongings had sat in the truck for a couple days, him and his wife would unload everything for us, but they didn’t want us to be around and spreading it.

So, they showed up in masks, gloves, and clothes head to toe and unloaded everything while Austin and I went to urgent care. We could not thank them enough. There was no way Austin could move heavy furniture in his state and there’s not way I could have unloaded that truck by myself.

Thank God good people like that still exist.

A couple days later, Austin’s test results came back negative. He just had a VERY intense flu at a crazy time. Relieved, we both vowed to get flu shots every year.

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Montana mountain hike

Montana Life So Far

I can speak for the both of us when I say we absolutely adore Montana. Anywhere we drive, there are mountains on every side.

The people are great. I was actually a little worried about transitioning from a very liberal area (Chicago) to what I assumed was a very conservative area (Montana). However, Bozeman is actually relatively liberal considering it’s a college town.

At the risk of politicizing the pandemic (I know I’m not the first to do that), most people are wearing masks in stores and are taking it seriously, so that is comforting.

The biggest change is the daylight hours! I didn’t know this before we came, but I guess the further north you go, the more extreme daylight hours you have.

So, right now, the sun is up when we wake up and when we go to bed. I literally haven’t seen it dark outside since we’ve been here! However, in the winter, the daylight hours will be significantly shorter.

We’ve been thoroughly enjoying the Montana way of life so far – we even went on a 2.5 mile hike together this past weekend which is a first for me!

Our plan for the next few years

Austin and I have got some BIG goals that we are starting to work toward. We already got through step one: moving to Montana. The plan for the next two years is for Austin to graduate college and get a job wherever we decide we want to live.

As I type this, we are looking to buy a truck within the next week or two because when Austin is done with school, our big goal is to build a house!

We plan to buy a 5th wheel trailer to park on the land that we’re building on. We’ll live in that while we build the new house.

Who knows where we’ll be geographically, but I can tell you that so far, I’m LOVING Montana!

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Leave a Comment

The Comments

  • Sharon
    July 8, 2020

    Good for you! What a brave thing to do, moving during this chaotic time. So many companies have now gone to working remotely, so that’s a big plus when you’re making a move!

    • saraharnstein
      > Sharon
      July 9, 2020

      Thank you! It was quite interesting to make that big of a move at a time like this, but we’re so happy we did!

  • Cathy
    July 8, 2020

    I love Montana! And your photos are beautiful!! You both will have the best time!! 🙂

  • Ale
    July 9, 2020

    I love this post! I’m another “girl that followed her boyfriend” and it’s been the best thing I’ve ever done. I hear Montana is one of those well kept secrets that not very many people know about yet!

    • saraharnstein
      > Ale
      July 9, 2020

      Haha love it! Where did you move to? And yes, there aren’t very many people here, but it’s so so beautiful!

  • Patti
    July 9, 2020

    I really want to actually move OUT of the country and work remotely! HAHA

    • saraharnstein
      > Patti
      July 9, 2020

      That might be a goal of mine in the future, too! 😉 Good luck! If you currently have a 9-5 job, some of the tips in this post might still be able to help with that.

  • Cass
    July 10, 2020

    So many great tips here. – especially setting the seeds in advance. Montana looks great too.

  • Patty
    July 8, 2021

    I am moving there too as a hairstylist I’m scared Building clientele etc but I’m really good experienced etc

    • saraharnstein
      > Patty
      July 12, 2021

      You will love it here. Depending on where you’re coming from, it may take some getting used to, but it’s the best decision I’ve made!

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