Monterey Telecommuter Discusses Opportunity and Writing – Part 1
Is telecommuting in a small town really possible, and if so, are the available opportunities enough to compete with larger cities? According to Erik Sax, the answer to both questions is “yes.” Erik, his wife, and two young sons moved to Monterey last year from Fairfax County. He says, “I was in the Intel community for a long time, which is why I was sort of stuck in Northern Virginia. At some point, I decided that that wasn’t really for me anymore, and I had this opportunity land in my lap to work at a startup, and this startup is spread all over the world, so this was a big change, because instead of being at work every day, I was able to be at home every day, but we were still spending a fortune on our mortgage. No matter what we did, it seemed like we would spend a fortune on restaurants and just everything. Before you know it, you’ve got a $3,000, $4,000 credit card bill easy in Northern Virginia.”
Erik’s mother-in-law lives in Monterey and has Alzheimer’s disease. His family realized they would have to help out, so they made the decision to sell their house in Northern Virginia and move in next door. It was a risk, but it didn’t take long for their decision to be validated. Early on, their realtor called with an urgent message to send back some paperwork to avoid an emergency situation with the closing of their house. Erik explains, “Here I am surrounded by boxes and sweating like crazy, and I have about half an hour to get whatever signed and back to this closing company, and I ended up running to the bank and begging them to use their printer. Back up in Northern Virginia, most kinds of businesses like that would have looked at me like I had three heads and told me to get lost, but the people here were like, ‘Yeah, of course you can use our printer, whatever you need,’ so right off the bat, we saw the benefits of a small town, and it’s different than it was in a big community where there’s millions of people. Here, I find that I’m much more dependent on my neighbors. That’s a big win in my book. Before we knew it, I was talking to Highland Telephone Cooperative. They really stepped up to solve probably my biggest problem, which was that the DSL service wasn’t quite doing it for me, but they said, ‘You know what? We are going to help you. You can be the third customer in town to get fiber optic service,’ and it has been rock solid ever since. Other than that, the issues for telecommuting are not a big deal. Once you have solid internet, and you have the ability to connect to people wherever they are in the world, I can drive the three hours to Richmond and hop on a plane if I need to once every couple of months.”
As a self-proclaimed “outsider,” his perspective on opportunity here is interesting to consider. Erik explains, “Our money in Highland is going way further. In fact, I would love to convince more people in my industry that towns like this and probably, especially Monterey are really overlooked and undervalued because I can move to San Francisco and find myself buried under a pile of debt, or I can have this amazing weather here where money goes so much further. There’s so much more opportunity in a way. We were able to consider a lot of things once we became more established here, you know, should we buy another property and start growing apples on it or a campground. Should we invest in a property that costs $90,000? Right? That was unthinkable in a lot of these other areas, but it is a little bit of a “catch-22.” If this was a city the size of D.C., the opportunity to live in a place that was cheaper wouldn’t be there. The fact that you can then live in a place like this and have such a cheaper lifestyle and much greater connection with your neighbors is really huge.”
Erik has moved forward to other ventures such as writing. We’ll have more on this in part 2, where Erik is looking for some feedback to advance a story.