Digital nomad Carrie Hawkins swapped life on the road in an Airstream to settle down in Tulsa, Oklahoma, after the city paid her $10,000 to move there.

Tulsa skyline at dusk
Tulsa is paying digital nomads to move there ©Sean Pavone/Getty Images

Working remotely as a customer experience designer for Cisco, Carrie didn't need to be tied to a desk. Her husband Zach a web developer, was in the same boat. Originally from New Mexico, they lived and worked on the road, travelling across 47 states over three years in an Airstream with their dog Kyla. But earlier this year Carrie started to crave something more secure. In March she found out about Tulsa Remote - a program that encourages remote workers to move there with incentives like $10,000 in funding, housing stipends and co-working spaces - and she applied straight away.

Carrie Hawkins
Carrie Hawkins is one of the 2019 Tulsa Remote applicants ©Carrie Hawkins

"I was looking for somewhere to live so I thought 'I may as well be paid to live somewhere'," Carrie told Lonely Planet. "It was pretty easy for me to move, I think, because I was very mobile. I was staying in an RV park in March while I house hunted in Tulsa and I actually ended up buying a house in April. I found a house that I loved and put an offer on it. I'm all in."

Winning applicants receive $10,000 to get them on their feet, distributed throughout the course of the year. The first $2500 covers relocation expenses, followed by a monthly stipend of $500 and then a final payout of $1500 once the program is completed. In addition to the incentives, it offers unique support and resources to participants before and after they move like membership to 36 Degrees North, a local co-working space, and housing assistance.

Instead of just focusing on the essentials though, the program encourages applicants to engage with the community and establish roots. Participants and those who relocated with them this year, have quickly seized opportunities to join nonprofits, attend community events and engage with their new neighbours, making a positive, lasting impression on Tulsa’s longtime residents.

Downtown Tulsa
In addition to the incentives, the program provides unique support and resources to participants before and after they move ©DenisTangneyJr/Getty Images

"What's great is the community," said Carrie. "I moved here at the same time as a lot of others. Tulsa Remote employees are really good at finding things that people might have in common and connecting them. It's been nice. I feel that I've had a lot of social activities on my calendar, more in the last six months than the last three years living in the Airstream. We went on a brewery tour recently and we have a Halloween party coming up. We even had a dinner with the mayor and his senior staff where they talked to us about opportunities in Tulsa and how we can get involved."

When the program launched in November 2018, it originally planned to welcome 25 applicants, but after getting more than 10,000 applications, they decided to accept 100. Since spring, 70 have moved to Tulsa, and a dozen have already bought houses.

"Tulsa is a burgeoning epicenter for remote work in the country, and we are ready to welcome more individuals to the community through this program," said Mayor of Tulsa G.T. Bynum. "Tulsa Remote is deepening our city’s roster of active businesses and bench of talent, which provides mobility and networking opportunities for current residents"

Downtown of south central city shot from above
Remote workers are being encouraged to consider a move to Tulsa ©krasnal/Getty Images

"It's definitely more affordable than a lot of the bigger cities," Carrie agreed. "I think there's a lot going on here, there's a lot of investment and you can see that it's growing. We're happy here, we love our house. I think I'll be here for a little while... beyond my year anyway."

The city has a high quality of life and a comparatively low cost of living, according to Mayor Bynum. With the creation of public spaces like Gathering Place, a diverse arts community, a growing music scene and one of the most affordable housing markets in the country, Tulsans enjoy a high quality of life.

Sounds interesting? Applications and more information on Tulsa Remote can be found here. To be eligible for the program, participants must have the legal ability to work in the U.S., show consistent income, be at least 18 years of age, work for a business that is based outside of Oklahoma and commit to moving to and living in Tulsa for at least one year

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