Things don’t always turn out as you expect.
The origins and reason I decided to move to Montana in the early 2000s turned out to NOT be the reason I lived full time in Montana from late-2008 until October of 2019.
My Montana experience is proof that things don’t always turn out as planned – but, they always turn out perfectly.
When I was a boy, I read the Journals of Lewis and Clark and fell in love with the Mountain explorers. When Sacajawea remembered the pass that would lead L&C across the mountains to the rivers to the Pacific, she was standing in what today is known as the Bitterroot Valley, Montana. The Bitterroot was mentioned in the L&C Journals as a flower. Bitterroot is a funny (& memorable) word for a 9- or 10-year old boy.
When I was a late-teenaged young man, I had a vision (or dream) of taking my car out west with my trunk filled with tools and getting a job on a ranch fixing fences or whatever ranch hands did.
In the early 90s I dated a woman from Europe who was living in the SF Bay Area. Her happy place was the Sawtooth Mountains near the town of Stanley, Idaho.
In the late 90s while working for Bubba Gump and traveling to many other cities, I decided that someday I would leave California and go live in another part of the country. Each city I visited was an audition.
In the early 2000s I had a dream of purchasing an RV park somewhere in the USA and living on that little piece of heaven meeting travelers who came to stay at my park.
Shortly after the RV park idea, I was planning a trip to Europe (Vienna & Budapest). At the 11th hour, I cancelled the trip and rescheduled a trip to Montana in search of my dream property. My thinking: Why go see more castles when I could go and find the place to live the rest of my life.
From that trip to NW Montana and the Idaho panhandle, I decided to purchase some property in the Bitterroot Valley near the small town of Hamilton, MT.
Over the next three years I purchased a total of seven properties.
In 2006, I decided to move part-time to Montana, split my time between MT & CA, and reduce my work schedule with Bubba Gump Shrimp.
In late 2008, I moved full-time to Montana. Simultaneously, I launched my speaking business.
The 2008 real estate and market crash, along with starting a new business, and having almost all of my portfolio in real estate was a perfect, imperfect storm.
I instantly put most of my properties on the market trying to decrease debt and get some cash.
Over the next few years I managed to sell 3 properties at a significant loss and return 3 properties to the bank.
My once big plan for a Montana real estate empire was reduced to a single property with minimal costs to maintain.
In a little over 7 years, the Montana dream went from nothing to $2m in assets with $1m in debt to a single property.
Over the next 6+ years, I doggedly pursued both my speaking career and holding on to the remnants of my Montana dream.
During this time, I experienced a profound level of personal awareness, personal development, and professional growth. I essentially was working on the question, ‘What do I want to be when I grow up?’
In late spring 2018, a unique opportunity suddenly became available. The caveat was I’d have to travel throughout the USA for extended time periods. That moment jolted me into a profound realization. All the stuff I originally brought with me for the Montana dream was sitting idly in my garage and two outbuildings.
While that travel opportunity never came to fruition, it did set in motion the urge to downsize. All the stuff I had was limiting my possibilities. I started by getting rid of the big things such as vehicles, large equipment, and trailers.
In late winter 2019, I decided to sell at least 2/3 of my woodworking tools. And by June 1st, the decision was made to sell everything, leave Montana, and live on the road in an RV for the next 3-5 years.
On October 6, 2019. I left Montana.
Since then, I’ve been temporarily staying with family in Pennsylvania.
Today, here is how I view my time in Montana and value gained from the experience:
- A chance to reclaim my own identity after the 15 years of being Forrest Gump
- A time to heal and personally grow from some personality blind spots that caused a few, very-specific patterns to keep repeating throughout my life.
- A chance to answer the question, ‘What do I want to do with the rest of my life.’
- The opportunity to decide what is important and what does not matter.
- The opportunity to separate my own ambitions from the instilled wishes inherited from upbringing, society, and popular culture.
All of those lessons are invaluable. I had to be humbled before I could learn them – but learn them I did.
Knowing, is very different than thinking. I have always been a very good thinker. Now, I know.
So today I understand why I went to Montana. Turns out it wasn’t for any of the reasons I thought I was going there.
I’m glad I went to Montana. I love Montana!