Test out living in the PA Wilds this summer for free
Imagine waking up for work, taking your dog on a leisurely walk along a scenic path or going mountain biking along a forest trail, then still being able to make it back for your first morning meeting. When was the last time you went to a community festival and saw friendly, welcoming, familiar faces? Think about how often you’ve dreamed you could hear birds singing instead of sirens or a river rushing instead of the rush of traffic.
When you live in the Pennsylvania Wilds, it’s all possible.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in the PA Wilds? Are you paying rent in a large city but you have a remote job and are thinking, “Why should I live here when I could do this job from anywhere?”
If you live outside of the PA Wilds but want to “test drive” what it’s like to live there, you have the opportunity to apply for The Wilds Are Working: A Remote Lifestyle Experience.
It’s a project that’s funded by the Appalachian Regional Commission through Ben Franklin Technology Partners and administered by the PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, Inc., and it seeks to help address the issue of outmigration in rural areas by marketing PA Wilds communities as great places to live and work.
You’re invited (and encouraged!) to bring along their partners, families and even pets. You must already have a job that can be done remotely, and they must be willing to relocate to one of the two host communities. You can choose to apply for either Emporium or Warren, or they can apply for both.
After a successful pilot program in 2022, remote workers have the chance to apply to test out living in two new communities for 2023. Those communities will be Emporium and Warren.
Wilds Are Working participants will be placed in accommodations for free for the duration of that month, and the housing will fit their needs and be equipped with full kitchens and other amenities to make them feel at home. You will also be provided with a stipend to use to explore the PA Wilds, called the Shop the PA Wilds gift card. This gift card (run through Yiftee) is accepted at many of the Wilds Cooperative of Pennsylvania members, and you can use it to enhance your stay through meals at restaurants, souvenirs, outdoors equipment or outfitter excursions.
Applications are due by May 3, 2023, and are available at WildsAreWorking.com.
If they are looking for a hometown feel where there are no fast food restaurants and big box stores, but instead a place where you can take a walk at midnight, shoot hoops at one of the three playgrounds or enjoy looking at the stars, then apply! – Tina Johns Solak
Emporium, the seat of Cameron County, will host up to five remote workers in July 2023. The town is geographically centered in the “heart of the PA Wilds” and situated between the region’s Elk Country and Dark Skies landscapes. With just under 2,000 residents, this is a small but thriving town.
Despite Emporium’s forested location, it also has the technology that makes it a perfect match for folks who are looking for both wilderness and modernity.
“Workers will be surprised at the amenities that are located in this rural community including fiber internet connections,” says Tina Johns Solak, executive director of the Cameron County Chamber of Commerce and Artisan Center.
Bring your bike and enjoy the rails to trails, which cut through the center of town and offer a peaceful retreat.
“Many people live in areas where they must spend an hour or more in a vehicle to bike or hike trails or enjoy time fishing or wildlife watching,” says Tina. “Emporium gives that worker all of those activities and more without spending time in a vehicle.”
In Emporium, locally owned shops and restaurants fill the tree-lined Main Street. The town’s historical church district includes stained glass windows from the 1800s, showing its beautiful history.
Tina and the rest of the Wilds Are Working community organizers are excited to show the participants around town, giving them insider’s tips on some of the best places to visit.
“Top of the World, West Creek Recreational Trail, and the George Stevenson Dam at Sinnemahoning State Park top the list for me,” says Tina when asked about places she loves best and the places she feels the remote workers should visit first.
In addition to thinking about where the participants might like to visit for recreation, Tina says the Chamber and the Wilds Are Working community organizers have been thinking about how the participants can still work effectively at their remote jobs.
“The chamber is excited for the one on one interaction with the participants. It will give all of the decision makers the opportunity to see the community through the eyes of another and help improve the community,” she says. “For instance, one of the committee members is a remote worker herself. We talked about restaurants where she can bring her laptop and complete work tasks. She pointed out issues with piped in music at locations. It violates her company’s policy. That is an issue many of us never thought of, so it gives us guidance on where to suggest the workers visit.”
Participants selected for Emporium will spend the month of July in the charming community, and Tina says that means they will be able to enjoy lots of great events.
“The committee is excited to share with the workers, the hometown amenities and the variety of events and activities that are happening in our piece of the PA Wilds. During the month of July there are farmers markets planned, outdoor music, foot races, fireworks, 100 mile yard sale, photography class, a mud run, and more.”
What kind of person should apply to potentially live and work remotely for a month in Emporium? Tina says, “Anyone selecting Emporium should be interested in exploring the outdoors. If they are an avid motorcyclist, hiker, runner, hunter, or enjoy fishing they will find plenty of opportunities during off work hours. If they are looking for a hometown feel where there are no fast food restaurants and big box stores, but instead a place where you can take a walk at midnight, shoot hoops at one of the three playgrounds or enjoy looking at the stars, then apply!”
Anyone seeking a different lifestyle, maybe something off the typical beaten path, would be a great fit for our community. I would say to anyone looking for a change of location to give us a chance. Let a local lead you through an immersed journey that will surely be an unforgettable one. – Savannah Casey
Warren, the seat of Warren County, is located in the northwestern corner of the PA Wilds. With a population of more than 9,000 residents, Warren is one of the larger communities in the PA Wilds, while still holding onto its small-town charm.
“Warren County is a great place to visit, but a better place to live,” says Savannah Casey, administrative assistant for the Warren County Chamber of Business and Industry. “Its geographical position sets the community in a positive setting, for world-class, abundant, outdoor recreation opportunities and short commute times. There is always something to do in Warren. No matter if you’re a novice or expert, you’ll be able to find something that best suits your needs and interests. Our four season weather allows for activities year-round and for all ages.”
The wild and scenic Allegheny River runs through Warren, offering the ability to kayak, fish or take a stroll along the river.
Savannah says Warren is a prime spot for nature lovers who want to stay busy. “We are excited to show the remote workers, and their guests, the plentiful opportunities Warren County has to offer. We are blessed to have such a picturesque location, being positioned in the heart of the Allegheny National Forest & Surrounds landscape of the PA Wilds. The month of August is great for weather in Warren County and has a full calendar of exciting events and activities. We hope to hook our guests on an unforgettable journey down the river and through the woods… memories that will last forever.”
Savannah knows the Wilds Are Working initiative is also a chance for the Chamber and community to learn from the participants as well. “For our guests, we encourage whatever feedback they have, good or bad,” she says. “That priceless insight will allow us to think ahead to more positive changes we can make as a community. I hope that our guests rethink what ‘rural’ is. We might be a ‘small town,’ but we’re full of heart.”
Participants selected for Warren will spend the month of August there, giving them the chance to enjoy late summer weather and plenty of outdoor adventures. Warren is a perfect location for avid hikers, and mountain bikers will enjoy the trails at Jakes Rocks.
“My family and I love to be outdoors and the Trails at Jakes Rocks offer more than just mountain biking trails. We visit the trails for hiking and family picnics. It’s a very beautiful place to visit,” says Savannah.
However, Savannah also notes there are plenty of other activities, even if you’re not the most outdoorsy person or if it happens to be a rainy day. “I love to antique shop and am constantly reading something. Warren has all of that to offer and much more. You’ll often find me at Author’s Books, Warren Antiques & Giftware, at any one of the great coffee shops, breweries, or local eateries.”
What kind of person might be the best fit for Warren? “Anyone seeking a different lifestyle, maybe something off the typical beaten path, would be a great fit for our community,” says Savannah. “We’re not limited. We have such a diverse workforce, abundant recreation, and active year-round events calendar. Single persons or entire families would be able to find something in Warren. I would say to anyone looking for a change of location to give us a chance. Let a local lead you through an immersed journey that will surely be an unforgettable one.”
Ready to apply?
Applications are due by May 3, 2023, and are available at WildsAreWorking.com.
In the application form, you’re asked to provide your basic information (name, phone number, etc.), as well as information about your remote job and employer. This also includes any requirements that you might have for work, such as a certain internet speed or specialized equipment. You’ll also be asked about any partner, family members or pets that you would like to bring along. Later in the application process, you will be asked to share an introduction video about yourself and why you applied.
Are you ready to experience the PA Wilds? Apply today, and you just might be chosen!
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