A remote chance
Moving is easy, but belonging takes effort.
BY MICHELE PURCELL
“T he first time I moved to a new town I was 17. My parents dropped me off at college in Knoxville, Tennessee and I ended up staying
for 33 years. The second time I moved was to Kalispell in 2021.
I first set foot in the Flathead Valley in 2018 while working at HGTV, creating digital content for the annual HGTV Dream Home giveaway. The 2019 home was in the Elk Highlands development on Big Mountain. I filmed everything from mountain biking and whitewater rafting to dog sledding and skiing. I loved every minute, especially the winter.
I brought my husband for a vacation over the 2019 holidays. He learned to ski and we booked another trip for that February, where we did that imaginative thinking that some vacations inspire: “Someday, when we’re older, maybe when we retire, we should move here.”
“If you’re looking for another job, you might as well look in Montana,” I said. By April of 2021 we were in Kalispell, moving into a home we’d bought after a single FaceTime viewing.
In Knoxville, despite my intense work and travel schedule, I was connected to where I lived and very active in my community. Moving to Kalispell during the height of the pandemic was a complete one-eighty. I would roam the aisles of Rosauers thinking, “I actually can’t run into anyone here, because I don’t know a single person in this town.”
I started traveling for work again, which meant I had to take extra precautions while at home—not exactly a recipe for finding a new community. My husband and I did what we could, our options increasing as time went on and restrictions eased. We attended the grand opening of Haskill Farms, the Two Bear stock-up sale, a fundraiser for the Humane Society and some delicious farm-to-table dinners at Plantland. We had fun, but attending events didn’t make us part of a community.
“When a corporate merger in 2022 eliminated my position at HGTV, I realized I didn’t want to replace one remote job
When a corporate merger in 2022 eliminated my position at HGTV, I realized I didn’t want to replace one remote job with another. I could see uses for my talents here. So in January, I decided to begin my freelance career. I attended an Iconic Women’s Network event, a group I’d been following since I moved. I pulled one of the organizers aside.
“I don’t know anyone,” I said. “I’m just starting my freelance career; I need a website designer. Can you help me?” She did.
By the next event, a women’s lunch put on by the Whitefish Chamber of Commerce, I was up and running, scheduling coffee meet-ups and making connections. Those connections were introducing me to others. I was working on my elevator pitch— “I’m a former digital producer, I’m a lifestyle expert. I make photo backdrops for events, and I can organize anything.” Bottom line, I want to do good work with good people.
Two years after my isolated beginnings, I’m figuring out how I can earn a living here and seeing how I fit in this community. I’m talking to and working with people and businesses I used to watch from afar on Instagram. And it’s finally happened: I’ve run into people I know at Rosauers.
Michele Purcell is an executive producer and digital content consultant with over 28 years of experience creating world-class lifestyle, travel and adventure content. You can follow her journey @getgo_studio_mt on Instagram or at getgostudiomt.com.
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