Wyoming Welcomes You. A sign welcomes motorists entering Wyoming from Utah on State Highway 414. WyoFile asked Wyoming expatriates to give their views on the pros and cons of living in — or leaving — the Equality State. (Flickr Creative Commons/J. Stephen Conn)

As part of WyoFile’s reporting on Wyoming expatriates, we asked readers for their views on moving back to the state. We heard from readers on Facebook and by email. Here’s a selection of those comments and stories.

This is a companion piece to WyoFile’s coverage of the expatriate experience. For Part I, read What would it take to bring Wyoming expatriates home? For Part II, read Shane, come back! – Why do some Wyoming expatriates return? — Ed.

We’d like to hear from you, too. You can submit a comment at the end of this article, or send us your comment via email: editor@wyofile.com

Some readers gave their two cents on what would make them move back to Wyoming.

Raise the temperature and lower the wind speed substantially…then I would consider.
— Cindy Neal Lange (June 11, submitted via Facebook)

Get real estate prices lower…ridiculous amount of money for a 3/2 home in Lander, Wyoming, gets me a 3/2 a mile from the beach in Texas for 1/2 the $$$!
— Lee Bailey (June 11, submitted via Facebook)

Gone so long I’m not sure I would count. Born in Kemmerer, grew up in Cheyenne. Left in 1966 for college in Seattle. Still have 2 brothers and a sister in Cheyenne and Laramie. Could not live in Wyo. I’m not big on the outdoors, the politics are awful. Live music is important and it is absent. Happy for the ones that return but it’s not for me!
Put a pin in Sammamish, WA!
Thanks!
— Anthony J. Evans (submitted via email, August 18)

Other readers sketched out their moves away from Wyoming, and their return once they reached retirement age. (Census data shows Wyoming’s fastest growing age groups are between 50 and 70 years old.)

Born in Casper, left Wyoming when I was six. Wyoming is home. However, the lack of technology jobs and opportunity has kept me on an ex-pat status for 46 years. I still go “home” every summer to our cabin in Wyoming. And despite growing up in New Mexico, I still consider Wyoming home. About the only good news is that the closer I get to retirement, is the closer I get to going back home for good.
— Jackie Diehl (June 9, submitted via Facebook)

I am a native of our state. I left Cody right out of high school because I wanted to get away. The Army was good for me. Then I returned three years later and wanted to stay in Wyoming, but there was no “opportunity” other than the oil patch and seasonal labor. So off to college, back into the Army, and an adult life spent elsewhere. Now that I’m an old fart and was able to return to live in Wyo., I see the same ugly specter of no opportunity in our fair state facing my children. They too will probably have to go elsewhere.
— Harry Whitlock (June 9, submitted via facebook)

Some expatriates left for financial reasons.

I just read your story on young professionals who are Wyoming expats. Go ahead and add me to the map. I was the Albany County Coroner in Laramie for almost four years and moved to upstate New York last August for better financial opportunity. … By May I had already made more money than I would make in an entire year in Wyoming. It’s pretty much impossible to turn that down, no matter how much you love the state.
— Kathleen Vernon (submitted by email)

Readers ranged from those who made repeated efforts to get back to Wyoming, to those who can’t wait to leave.

Left 4 times and came back every time. First time for the Army the other three because I convinced myself the grass was greener elsewhere. I learned that even with its faults Wyoming was where I wanted to be, so I chose quality over quantity and have never looked back. Is it tough to make a living in Wyoming?….can be…..but every time I get frustrated I think about being stuck in traffic in the People’s Republic of Minnesota or in Dallas and realize the money I was making in those places was a poor substitute for the wildflowers in spring on the Big Horns or sitting on a rock in Clark’s Fork canyon.
— Jerry Summers (June 9, submitted via Facebook)

I’m about to graduate UW and definitely do not plan on staying in this state. It’s anti-intellectual stance and anachronistic social policies won’t motivate many people from my generation to stay. Maybe if this wasn’t a state majorly populated by senior citizens young people would feel as though they had any political sway whatsoever.
— Niko Kolis (June 9, submitted via Facebook)

I don’t know how to express how little I am willing to even consider returning to Wyoming. The only members of my CHS graduating class who have not left Wyoming; either had more kids than decades on earth at 25, or at least one visit to rehab. Even the roughnecks have left for the Dakotas. Nothing will ever rescue Wyoming from being a cultural, political, and geographical sinkhole. The most miserable climes in the U.S. will only attract the most obstinate and desperate persons, and the lack of self-awareness of this only amplifies the issues. The only people I know who, I sense, legitimately like Wyoming are those who are uninterested in human interaction. In an age where networking is of critical importance for anyone who isn’t retired… Wyoming should just accept its position as “summer Arizona” for retirees.
— Daniel Aaron Blaney (submitted by email)

Left when my kids, now in their late 20s, were pre-teen. They went back for a funeral a few years ago. Ever since, they’ve repeatedly thanked their mom & me for getting them out of there. So thank you, Rob Hurless, for not naming me editor of the Star-Tribune. And thank you, Anne, Kerry & all the WyoFile writers for valiantly insisting/persisting on introducing sense & facts to a state that routinely exhibits little regard for either. Wyo is lucky to have you. And yeah. Weather. No.
— Hugh Jackson, Las Vegas (submitted by email)

A few expatriates submitted full profiles of themselves and their feelings about moving back home. They describe pursuing opportunities not available in Wyoming.

Jon Updike

  • HOMETOWN: Banner
  • CURRENT CITY: New York
  • CAREER/JOB: Medical student

Why did you leave?

Currently, I live in New York, NY, attending Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons (P&S) as a third year medical student. P&S is the only medical school to have a master’s program in Narrative Medicine, which strives to teach compassion and emotional attention to improve healthcare delivery. This humanistic approach to medicine with diverse culture and abundant theatre, food, and travel made attending a highly regarded medical school in one of the world’s most influential cities immensely appealing.

What would it take for you to return to Wyoming?

I am not sure, and I have many more years of education remaining to mull it over. Only two residency programs exist in Wyoming, both of which are in family medicine. Currently, I remain undecided with which specialty I intend to pursue. Furthermore, travel and educational opportunities top my priority list. … Wyoming remains unparalleled in my heart for natural wonder. Yet, Wyoming is one corner of the world. Other definitions of natural beauty exist, along with different forms of intellectual engagement. … Though fellow Wyomingites may glance askance at the possibility, an urban upbringing has its merits as well. In the meantime, I have other things to learn and achieve that Wyoming simply cannot provide. I believe that it may be able to do so in the future, and I relish the thought that I may one day help continue moving it to that place.

Elizabeth Marnell

  • AGE: 28
  • HOMETOWN: Casper
  • CURRENT CITY: Westminster, Colorado
  • PREVIOUS CITY: Saitama City, Saitama Prefecture, Japan
  • CAREER/JOB: Teacher

Why did you leave?

I am an educator in Secondary Education English. But I want to teach Japanese. But the opportunities for me to do that in Wyoming are non-existent. … So I moved to Colorado where I can pursue the opportunity to teach the language because getting the endorsement is more inclusive of the abilities I have, and I can use ALL the work I did in college to get that endorsement. I don’t have to take an extra and expensive standardized test to get it. The opportunity isn’t there. But it is in Colorado.

Further, my husband, who is also from Casper, was able to find a job in the computer industry that isn’t offered anywhere in the state. How do you expect young people like us to stay if there are no opportunities for us? Of course we have to leave. We have to find a way to make it in the economy that we have been gifted. And that means taking what we can get where we can get it. We have bills to pay and we didn’t go to college to get stuck in the oil field, or working somewhere that doesn’t utilize our degrees in a way that is meaningful to us.

Do Wyoming’s politics play a role in deciding where to live?

The politics of the state are a whole different story. We both tend to lean more liberally. … After participating in several elections and always seeing Republicans going forth to represent the state, you have to wonder if your interests are really being represented. So I would say that the political atmosphere is definitely something that would keep us from moving back.

What would it take for you to come back?

I think it would take economic opportunities beyond what Wyoming currently offers. … We would like to see cultural enrichment beyond a rodeo or state fair. We want Wyoming to bring in ethnic foods [so] that we aren’t stuck at the same Chinese place every Wednesday night.

Of the people you grew up with, where are they now?

Some of them still live in Wyoming somewhere. But quite a few left. And those that left were typically the ones I went to college with. The ones that took different routes in life technical schools, or other avenues of education are still in Wyoming.

Adam Boyd

  • AGE: 22
  • HOMETOWN: Cheyenne
  • CURRENT CITY: Washington, D.C.
  • OTHER CITIES LIVED IN: Orlando, Tours, France
  • CAREER/JOB: Program coordinator for the International Monetary Fund

Why did you leave?

I majored in a degree unrelated to oil or finance or ranching. That’s the economy of Wyoming in a nutshell and any other career path makes it difficult to ever make it out of retail or minimum wage work. I wanted to have the American dream and be in the middle class, which Wyoming doesn’t offer. I also wanted to pay off my student loans and have enough money to travel and see the world.

Do you want to come back?

I love Wyoming. There’s cheap cost of living, beautiful summers, and nature that is breathtaking to behold. …  I would like to come back and raise a family here. However, there are not enough opportunities to make a return trip feasible.

What opportunities have you found, and could you do that in Wyoming?

I worked in the United States Senate and the International Monetary Fund. There are a lot of administrative and management roles with career ladders on the East Coast. Any administrative or government work could take me back to Wyoming.

So many young professionals in D.C. have an amazing salary ranging from $40–$55,000 with only a bachelor’s degree. To go back home is a step back in earnings. Perhaps after I have invested in a 401k for several years and pay off my student loan debt (debt from tuition that the university wants to now increase on an annual basis), I will be financially secure to return home and take the pay cut without issue.

Do Wyoming’s politics play a role in deciding where to live?

As a gay man growing up in Wyoming, there was stigma, harassment, and unfriendly mannerisms from citizens that was against the supposed live-and-let-live Wyoming mentality that is so often professed. Most surprising was that my fraternity and university friends were supportive, while those in church and political organizations were antagonistic and cruel. What’s sad is that I consider myself a Republican and think that there needs to be more reflection on a real live-and-let-live mentality to let me feel safe enough to leave the cosmopolitan DC life to return to Cheyenne or Laramie.

What would it take for you to move back to Wyoming?

I am a big advocate of planning cities to meet the needs of their citizens. I believe in stronger rent control and affordable housing and apartments in Cheyenne and Laramie, and tying that to the average wage of the area. I want to see rent or mortgages that only cost 30 percent of someone’s monthly income. I also think we need someone outside of the usual Cheyenne city planners and city council to revitalize Cheyenne Downtown as a capital city hub, and a hub that catches up with Denver, Washington, Orlando, and Fort Collins.

I also want more affordable flights to Denver or perhaps an Amtrak route from Cheyenne to the I-25 corridor for cheap transportation. We aren’t the northeast, but we can still use trains and planes in our own way.

Finally, more jobs available in more types of career streams (other than retail and fast food) would be a nice change.

— Are you a Wyoming expatriate or a former expatriate? WyoFile wants to hear your story. For those who did make a return, what convinced you to do it? Let us know if we can add a pin with your name and city to our expatriates map. Please comment below, or email editor@wyofile.com.

Flickr Creative Commons photo by J. Stephen Conn.

Gregory Nickerson

Gregory Nickerson worked as government and policy reporter for WyoFile from 2012-2015. He studied history at the University of Wyoming. Follow Greg on Twitter at @GregNickersonWY and on www.facebook.com/GregoryNickersonWriter/

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