Advantages, disadvantages, culture, nature, fire season

  • Eugenia H. is a 45-year-old jeweler who moved to Bozeman, Montana from Massachusetts.
  • She and her husband, Russell, have found great jobs and love the many outdoor activities.
  • They are still adjusting to less diversity, wildfire season and a demoralizing housing market.

This narrated essay is based on a conversation with 45-year-old Eugenia H., who recently moved to Bozeman, Montana from western Massachusetts. She asked that her last name not be used for privacy reasons.

Her story is part of “Moving Truck Diaries,” an Insider series sharing the stories of Americans who have moved states since the pandemic began. It has been edited for length and clarity.

I entered the jewelry industry when I was in my mid-twenties. Before moving to the Berkshires in western Massachusetts, I lived in Brooklyn, New York, for about 13 years. My husband, Russell, and I lived in the Flatbush neighborhood, where we purchased a co-op apartment. I commuted to midtown Manhattan and worked in the Diamond District, and my husband worked in paint apartments on Long Island.

In 2014, I ended up quitting my job. I was a jeweler in the Diamond District for 11 years. Russell and I had talked about leaving New York and going somewhere with more hiking and skiing, and that job popped up in the Berkshires.

The area was so beautiful. It was scenic – lots of trees and really pretty views, plus small ski resorts within 20 minutes of the house. We thought we would stay there indefinitely.

Fall foliage in the Berkshires region of western Massachusetts

The Berkshires region of western Massachusetts where the couple lived.

Denis Tangney Jr./Getty Images

In October 2019, I was fired from my job.

Then my father passed away in December 2020 and I was laid off again from another job in January.

At first, I tried so hard to stay in the area where we were in Massachusetts. No one was hiring – everyone was affected by the pandemic. Then I had to start thinking, “Do I go back to New York or do we move to another state?”

I just thought, “I did New York. I don’t want to go back there. So I started to broaden my search. I was looking all over the United States, and this job in Bozeman, Montana came up. We talked about it and joked about it. I was like, “Oh, I’m just going to apply.” And the ball just started rolling from there. But it was a really, really tough decision.

We had gone skiing in Big Sky, Montana, about two years earlier. Jewelers do bench tests, so we thought, “OK, we’re both going to do my bench test, smell it again, and see if we like it a second time.”

An aerial view of downtown Bozeman, Montana with mountains in the background during summer.

An aerial view of downtown Bozeman during the summer.

Jacob Boomsma/Getty Images

Bozeman is magnificent.

Bozeman is interesting because you have this city feel – it’s funky and has shops, restaurants and this bustling downtown. Then, literally a minute away, there’s this walking trail called Peets Hill that you can climb, and you get this scenic view of the Rocky Mountains. And it’s right in the middle of downtown.

All these walking trails that pass through here are so beautiful. It is very pedestrian friendly.

We were kind of, “OK, like, are we doing this? Let’s do this.” It was almost like jumping off a cliff. It was early June and we practically moved in a month. We rented an apartment out of sight, which is wild.

Our first fire season was a shock.

Montana had one of its worst wildfire seasons, so it was all smoke. It was so hot. There was a drought. They’d have all these air quality warnings that said don’t go outside. I woke up in the middle of the night and it smelled like the apartment was on fire, but it was just all the smoke outside. And it’s so dry here compared to the east coast.

A wildfire is burning in Big Timber, Montana, about an hour east of Bozeman.

A wildfire is burning in Big Timber, Montana, about an hour east of Bozeman.

Avalon/Contributor via Getty Images

We are still acclimatizing.

I periodically questioned my decision. But I’m really happy here. I love my new job. I like my colleagues. I’m happier than I’ve ever been on that front.

I love that nature is so big out there. You have the Rocky Mountains, and it’s like nature on steroids. The hike is amazing. The skiing is spectacular. The fishing is huge here. So if you are an outdoor enthusiast, this is the place for you. You get the city, but 15, 20 minutes away is this beautiful country.

Sunset from the top of Peets Hill overlooking Bozeman, Montana in the spring.

Sunset from the top of Peets Hill overlooking Bozeman in the spring.

bmswanson/Getty Images

One thing I don’t like here is that it’s not super diverse. It’s a lot of “God and Country”, which I’m not used to since I’m from the East Coast.

My husband is a little on the fence, like me. He is really enjoying his new job in IT. He really likes hiking and skiing and that kind of stuff. But it’s interesting to go from a liberal side of the country to maybe a less liberal side of the country. It’s different, and I think we’re still getting used to it.

At the moment we live in the next town, which is Belgrade. But we’re in the process of buying a condo in West Bozeman. We made an offer and it was accepted.

It was hell looking for real estate in Bozeman.

It was total hell. We made offers on five places, and we were outbid each time by people with money. We had a 40% deposit and were offering more than the asking price. Once we bid $16,000 more than asked, and we kept bidding it higher.

We were really trying to stay in the $400,000 range. The inventory just wasn’t there. So when something nice happened, there were five offers and the cash one got it.

Moving boxes in Eugenia and Russell's apartment in Belgrade, Montana.

Moving boxes at Eugenia and Russell.

Janie Osborne for Insider

Then one of Russell’s colleagues said, “Oh, this guy is retiring and he wants to sell his house, but he doesn’t want to put it on the market. You should talk to him. We went and looked at her place, and it was beautiful. And we made him an offer.

We ended up at $425,000. We are so happy. It has hardwood floors and granite countertops. It is a two bedroom, two bathroom unit with a one car garage. It’s a bit smaller than we wanted, but there are only two of us, so it’s really nice.

Here is my advice if you are considering moving to Bozeman.

The people are super nice, which is weird coming from New York. The people are so nice — so nice that at first I was like, “Is this real? Like, how can people be so nice and kind? You hear people talk about how different Bozeman is and it’s changed so much, but then they’re super nice to you.

Summer outdoor Music on the Green festival in downtown Bozeman Montana on the Public Library Lawn.

An outdoor music festival on the lawn of the downtown Bozeman Public Library.

Don & Melinda Crawford/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

I miss the humidity the most. I’m so dry all the time. I miss the tall, old trees on the east coast. I miss the foliage. I didn’t think about how we were going to be basically in what they call the alpine desert.

My advice to someone considering moving to Bozeman is to be persistent if you’re serious about it. Keep trying, as you may not find accommodation right away. There are tons of jobs, but you might not find housing.

If it’s really something you want to do, keep trying.

Did you move during the pandemic? Do you have a story to share? Let us know! Complete this short survey and an Insider reporter will get back to you.

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