Where would you live if you could, now that working from home is more than a remote possibility?
It's a growing trend. Remote Tulsa, for one, is offering selected members $10,000 toward the purchase of a home "to attract remote workers from across the nation to purchase a home in Tulsa (a goal often unattainable in many cities across the United States) and stay in the community for the long term."
The idea of working from home first hit me in 2004, in a remote part of northwest Oklahoma, just outside of Aline.
It was on a summertime Saturday road trip to see the Oklahoma Historical Society's Sod House Museum. There, you can learn about the hard life lived by the Marshall McCully family, who made the 1893 Cherokee Strip Land Run.
First, they lived in a dug-out, which is just what it sounds like: a hole dug out of the ground. In 1894, they moved up to a sodhouse, a house made of sod grass, roots and dirt.
I’d just finished a master’s degree in history, concentrating on American Indians in the South and Indian Territory up through the Civil War, and on the Plains afterward. Just outside Aline, the frontier spirit came over me.
The 20 years I’d (then) lived “in town” got to me, an old-fashioned farm boy: dorms and ratty apartments in Stillwater, with a semester jag in a Washington, D.C., condo; then decent apartments for a decade in Wichita Falls, Texas; finally a house in Edmond.
For five years, while covering housing and real estate in Oklahoma City and suburbs, I’d (mostly) privately scoffed at the idea of “rural” additions of “acreage” lots masquerading as “country.”
“Just calling it country doesn’t — make that don’t — make it so. But then calling the territory around Aline ‘country’ along State Highway 8, about 30 miles west of Enid, about 100 miles as the crow flies northwest of Oklahoma City, makes sense only from the perspective of the 21st century. This part of the country was country before country was a concept.”
There happened to be a house for sale in Aline, all of 168 acres, population just more than 200, down from a high of 420 in 1930. And I dreamed.
And I blurted out to She Who Is: “Dolly, we could live in Aline! With my library, all we’d need is the internet. We could find work online! Head into town for supplies once a month or so.” Too wild. This was before I even had a laptop computer. Before smart phones. She Who Is was not moved. We stayed put.
The second time the idea of working from hit me was about five years later. She’d taken an opportunity she couldn’t pass up in Boulder, Colorado, where she got a studio apartment while we tried to figure out our next step. I had no desire to find a new job. But we wanted to be together in Colorado, so we started looking for a place, but not in any rush.
Things changed before it got very far, but by then, armed with a laptop and the internet, I was convinced I could cover housing and real estate in Oklahoma City, and edit The Oklahoman’s Real Estate section, while living there, coming back every couple of weeks or so for on-the-ground observing and reporting. And I could’ve. But it never got to the point where I asked the bosses. They probably would have laughed.
That was then. The coronavirus changed perspectives. Almost all of us have been working nearly exclusively from home since March 2020, heading to the office downtown once in a while only for office supplies.
We are living and working on a digital frontier as surely as settlers on literal frontiers did with their occasional trips into town for supplies. Many of us could do our jobs from anywhere except for covering in-person meetings. But any meeting can be held online, and I’ll bet most meetings will have an online option even after the coronavirus is under control.
The third time the idea of working from home hit me was just the other day. The Grandest Child in the Known Universe turned 9 not long ago. I can count on both hands the times I’ve been able to spend more than a couple of hours with her. And because of the coronavirus, I haven’t seen her, or her mom and dad, in more than a year except for Zoom and FaceTime.
I’ve worked from their dining table just outside Houston before. I will do so again. I intend to do so more often, post pandemic. I can imagine doing it full time (with regular trips back) — not that I would want to, and not that I’m asking the bosses. Covering a news beat like real estate remotely full time is possible. But it’s not as fun. I’m ready to get back out. Got to get the vaccine. Then another shot. Then wait awhile. Then.
Now, your turn. If you could live anywhere, and work anywhere else, where would you move?
You can reach Real Estate Editor Richard Mize at email@example.com.