It’s been about a week and a half since we arrived in Whitefish, so we thought we’d give a little update of how we’re settling into the area and the digital nomad lifestyle in general:
Our apartment is adorable! It’s small, but really meets all of our needs. It’s an in-law suite above our hosts’ garage, which is semi-detached from the house. The home sits on ~20 acres and has a network of mowed trails cutting through the property – perfect for Sanchez to explore. The kitchen is functional, the bedroom comfortable, and Stephan has turned the small café table in the corner of the living area into his new “office.” There’s no door separating the bedroom from the main room, so if I’m writing or editing photos and he’s on a conference call, I either shove in my headphones and sit on the bed (last resort) or escape to our small deck.
The outdoor space has been amazing! I honestly forgot how nice it is to sit outside in summer. By morning, the deck serves as my tranquil yoga studio. In the afternoon, it turns into our co-working space (provided Stephan’s not on a call). Sanchez loves sunbathing on the patio, and we plan to have cookout for her soon on the gas grill.
The weather has been GLORIOUS!! When considering the average dew point (the most accurate measure of the uncomfortable clamminess of a location), North Carolina ranks 10th in the country on the mugginess meter. Not only did I not enjoy this insufferable humidity when merely taking Sanchez for a walk, but becoming physically sick during or after a run just wasn’t cutting it for me.
Since arriving in Montana, the daytime highs have fluctuated between the mid-60s and low-80s. I will say, the sun is exceptionally warmer than I expected, but with some shade and the lack of humidity, 84F is much more tolerable (and still 10 degrees below our previous high average). I can hike, I can run, I can do yoga outside… and all without suffering from a heat-triggered migraine or GI distress (see also: that time I shit myself on the greenway)! Moreover, the nights are cool (50F compared to 70–75F), so we can actually open the windows in the evening and enjoy the fresh, crisp air.
The days are also much longer up here. Sunrise is around 5:30 a.m., while the sun doesn’t set until around 10 p.m. – and that dusky twilight still lingers well after 10:30 p.m. It’s been great, but an adjustment – and it certainly makes me feel like I need to change my early-bird dinner schedule. As the summit snows continue to melt and more trails open up, we hope to take better advantage of the extra daylight, as Stephan’s 3 p.m. quitting time will afford us 6+ hours of sunlight for hiking.
The area is definitely a hiker’s and biker’s paradise. Many of the trails within Glacier National Park and Flathead National Forest are within about an hour’s drive, while Kootenai and Lolo National Forests are about two hours away.
Our plan has been to save longer hikes or those requiring a bit of a drive for the weekends. Because Stephan is done working around 3 p.m. (yay for keeping East Coast hours), we’ve been doing some of the shorter, more local trails on weekday afternoons. The Whitefish Trail has 10 trailheads and more than 36 miles of multi-use trails, many within 5–10 miles of our apartment. In just ten minutes, we can be at a quiet, forested trailhead for an easy 6-mile loop after work – with some including lake access.
On that note, it is so nice to have access to clean lakes and rivers. The watersheds in central NC are notoriously unclean – be it with serious pollutants from unscrupulous chemical plants, runoff from agricultural lands, algal blooms, or simply gross, muddy, silty water. If Sanchez wants to splash around here, we don’t have to yank her away as we unintelligibly explain to her of the dangers of cyanobacteria and GenX.
Things we miss:
As ready as we were to leave North Carolina, there are a number of things we miss about our convenient suburban neighborhood (and some small conveniences we miss in general):
(1) Having a grocery store within walking distance (I know… we really were spoiled with this little luxury in Cary). We now have a 15-minute drive to the nearest supermarket, while the closest general merchandise or specialty store (Walmart, Target, etc.) is in Kalispell, about 30 minutes away. I will say that our previous location in Cary was particularly convenient – one morning I was able to go to the eye doctor, pop into the grocery store, have blood drawn, and have my underarms lased all in one shopping plaza half a mile from our apartment.
(2) Having a Whole Foods around the corner. We certainly didn’t do a majority of our shopping at WF, but we did get several specialty vegan items there, as well as frequent the bulk section for beans, nuts, grains, and spices.
(3) Guaranteed high-speed internet. Any semblance of cell phone service.
(4) A dishwasher and full dish set. By the end of 8 weeks, at three meals a day, I will have hand-washed the same two spoons roughly 168 times.
(5) Sanchez misses having a full-size couch. Because the space is so small, there is only a loveseat. This clearly does not accommodate two people and a dog, so she’s still a bit miffed about that. She also has less floor space in general for rolling around on her back or perfecting her tricks. Most of the time she ends up with the entire loveseat to herself, but clearly something larger would better suit the needs of this space-sucking 27-pound former street dog.
We’ve definitely been really happy since coming out here, and are already enjoying the outdoor life as well as having a new place to discover. In just a week and a half, we’ve gone on five hikes, including two summit trails; taken one gorgeous drive to an – unfortunately and unexpectedly – impassable trail; enjoyed a cookout with a mutual friend from high school who we haven’t seen in 20 years; and checked out a few local businesses in downtown Whitefish.
Stephan’s done well with the transition to work away from the office, though he was afforded a three-month trial period as his Cary office closed with the COVID-19 pandemic. Even when he was working from home in NC, he found that he missed the daily, in-person, social interaction. Now on the road, says he now also misses having a large computer monitor. Overall, though, he’s been happy with the added flexibility and ability to explore new places.
While this time around our lifestyle requires balancing all our exploring with actual work (we were seriously spoiled in 2016), we definitely feel like we’ve regained a sense of freedom that we’d missed over the last few years. All told, we’re exceedingly excited to be beginning this next chapter… and super anxious for those higher-elevation snows to recede in the coming weeks so we can get out and explore some more trails!