We were paid $10,000 to move from Austin to Arkansas. It wasn't perfect, but we have no regrets.

  • My self-employed husband and I moved from Austin to Arkansas after being offered $10,000 to do so.

  • We had great access to nature, and our cost of living was lower, but we didn't love where we lived.

  • Living in Arkansas helped us figure out what we wanted and I have no regrets about my time there.

Nearly every time I mentioned my impending move to Arkansas, I was asked, "Why there?"

It was a curious choice, especially considering I was leaving bustling and lively Austin for Fayetteville, Arkansas, a city known for little more than historical monuments and college football.

My somewhat tongue-in-cheek reply to the above inquiry is that I was bribed.

Money talks, and it said, 'move'

Alisha McDarris hiking in leaves with hiking poles
My husband and I love the outdoors. Alisha McDarris

My conversation-prompting response wasn't entirely untrue.

The Northwest Arkansas Council had launched Life Works Here, an initiative that offered $10,000 in cash or bitcoin and a mountain bike to selected remote-work applicants in exchange for moving to the region.

My husband and I are both self-employed, so we could live anywhere but we didn't have an abundant amount of funds to do so in a place with a stratospheric cost of living.

So when we heard about the grant program designed to entice people who worked from home to move to Northwest Arkansas, we thought, "Why not?"

Ready to leave burgeoning Austin, whose shine had begun to patina after eight years, we each applied for the initiative alongside tens of thousands of others.

When my application was one of 100 accepted, we started packing.

After all, the cost of living in the Texas city was rapidly rising and we craved more adventure and outdoors than Austin's manicured parks and overcrowded campsites could offer.

And maybe Arkansas wasn't that big of a jump, anyway. Although Texas had more inbound movers than outbound movers last year, so did Arkansas. According to data collected by major moving company Atlas, Arkansas was actually even more of a relocation hot spot than Texas was in 2023.

Our move came with rough starts and fresh discoveries

We moved in July 2022 and were immediately disenchanted because we arrived during what appeared to be a housing crisis.

This added panic and urgency to our housing search. I was also confused as to why we'd been enticed to move if there weren't enough places to actually live here.

When we finally found a suitable apartment that was much cheaper than what we'd pay for something similar in Austin, we realized we'd made a mistake: Our new place was one highway exit from the Arkansas Razorback stadium.

Living there became a headache that lasted through the late summer and autumn as fans clogged the streets and angrily honked at anyone not wearing the team's signature red.

Still, we enjoyed exploring our new community. We learned to mountain bike, as one does when moving 30 minutes south of Bentonville, the mountain-bike capital of the world.

We joined group rides and participated in trail maintenance, and we became passionate about mountain biking. We enjoyed backpacking trails minutes from our doorstep, visiting campsites that didn't have to be reserved months in advance, and finding accessible outdoor activities in the surrounding national forest.

We found it easier to connect with fellow creatives and became friends with small-business owners who were just as invested in their communities as they were in their own success, which isn't always the case in large cities.

After six months, we knew Arkansas wouldn't be our forever home

Utah mountains
We later moved to Utah.Jason Cameron/Getty Images

Living here was an honor and a privilege, our chance to sample a different sort of existence in a smaller town that loved the outdoors but with little financial risk.

Our Arkansas town had much of what we longed for but showed us we really wanted more: towering peaks, a community of equally passionate outdoor lovers, and the opportunity to try even more sports.

And because we uprooted and moved once with little-to-no concrete evidence it was the right decision, we now knew we could do it again.

In the end, we left Arkansas after 15 months and moved to a small city near the Wasatch Mountains in Utah.

I regret nothing about our transitional period in Arkansas. Our time there was a necessary stepping stone across the river of life, a leap that made the next one seem attainable.

Now, my soul soars when I marvel at peaks from uncrowded trails, cruise downhill on two wheels, and, yes, even tentatively learn to snowboard.

And it's thanks to Arkansas that I realized what I needed to truly thrive.

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