Yes, you really can get paid to move to West Virginia.


Early in 2023, Nick wrote a post about remote work incentives like getting paid $12K to move to locations in the US. Nine months later, I am living that headline, writing this post from my cozy little apartment in a cute little hallmark town where I can confirm that yes, you really can get paid to move to West Virginia.

I know what some of you are thinking – “How can I game this?”

Personally, I’m not gaming this – I actually want to live here.


The Ascend West Virginia program I’m participating in has done a great job designing a program for people who are genuinely interested in relocating – or at least genuinely interested in trying it out. It’s designed so that it’s not inflexible towards real-life unpredictability, but it wouldn’t make sense for anyone who doesn’t actually intend to spend time living here.

Like a lot of people, I found city life becoming suddenly less glamorous during the pandemic. We lived in a small apartment in downtown Austin without so much as a porch or patio. We had a window that looked out onto a concrete hole that used to be a pool, then briefly became a makeshift skate park for some feral teens before ultimately becoming a very slow moving construction project. Like a sort of sad, dystopian novel, a community of frogs took over and I’d hear them out my window at night and feel nostalgic for the countryside. My husband and I both grew up out in the country and after ~5 years living nomadically and another ~5 in Austin, we were finally starting to long for elements of the lifestyle we both experienced as kids.

What is the Ascend West Virginia Program and how does it work?

The short summary is this: Ascend West Virginia is a program for remote workers offering $12K for approved participants who move to one of a growing number of participating West Virginia towns for 2 years.

Do you really get $12K? How does that work?

  • Your first year you get $10K, spread out into monthly payments of ~$833
  • You must pick up your payments in person at the co-working space.
  • The last $2K you receive when you finish your second year.
  • You need to actually establish residency to be qualified. So think of this more like a mileage run than a mattress run 😉 – which is to say, you have to actually follow through.

How do they qualify residency? Do you have to buy a place?

This is not unlike applying for a library card or updating a driver’s license (some of the things which are surprisingly hard to do as a nomad.) You need to be able to prove you live in West Virginia to start receiving your benefits with something like a utility bill or a lease (of at least 6 months or more). Or of course you can also buy a home.

Can you move anywhere in West Virginia?

To be eligible for the Ascend program specifically, you have to move to one of the participating locations. There are currently 5:

  1. Morgantown – The most populous participating location
  2. Lewisburg (Greenbrier Valley)
  3. Martinsburg (Eastern Panhandle)
  4. Elkins – this location is in its first year.
  5. Fayetteville (New River Gorge) – this location is brand new.

Each of these locations has a co-working space which serves as the hub for that regional program. Each location also has an eligibility map which shows the accepted range for your relocation, roughly representing about a half hour drive from the co-working space.

When you apply, you’ll need to rank your location preferences, so I recommend visiting first or doing a little research about each town.

What if I don’t know which region I want to move to when I apply?

This was me. When I applied somewhat on a whim I wasn’t super familiar with the different regions so I ranked them based on memories of hiking trips I’d done in high school and college. I knew nothing of the specific towns themselves and I was in Mexico at the time, unable to roadtrip to WV.

I don’t think this is common, but once I got accepted, that’s when I scheduled a roadtrip to visit the various participating towns and pick the one that seemed most like home for Drew and I. The Ascend program folks were all super helpful and it’s clear they want you to love where you live. They work hard to set everyone up for success. Each town I visited, I was introduced to the right contacts for visiting the co-working spaces and talking with the regional program directors.

Again, I don’t think it’s necessarily typical to switch program locations after acceptance like I did, but it serves as a great example for how helpful and success-oriented the Ascend directors are.

What are the other perks of the program?

Members get access to an impressive, central co-working space.

Ascend Co-Working Space

Coworking Space a room with a table and chairs

Each region’s co-working space is a little bit different, but they are each heading towards full-service, Ascend-branded co-working spaces in central downtown locations. Morgantown and Lewisburg are the only two locations where these are completed and open for use. But the other locations are in various stages of building and have other co-working space partnerships in the meantime. In Elkins for instance there is an existing co-working space connected to the downtown coffee shop which serves as the Ascend co-working space until the permanent one is finished.

The co-working space has been super useful for a number of reasons, not only for work. As I mentioned earlier, the co-working space serves as a sort of hub for all kinds of Ascend community activities.

Members also get access to a library of adventure equipment.

I haven’t made use of this yet, but once it gets warmer out I intend to. Also located at the co-working space, this “library” includes all kinds of gear which you can reserve for your adventures. Bicycles and bike racks, paddle boards, crash pads, you name it. This is just another example of how the Ascend folks are making sure to set members up for success. Coming from nomad life, I definitely don’t have a paddle board lying around. But thanks to this equipment library benefit, members can dive right in.

Equipment Rental Portal at Ascend

Members get an “Outdoor Recreation Pass”, a bit like a coupon book of local discounts and freebies.

This pass lasts for a year starting in either November or May, regardless of your join date. Most of the “coupons” are one-time-use kinds of perks. A raft excursion for example, a free ticket on one of the scenic train rides, a zipline pass or two, and two free nights at a West Virginia State Park lodge for example. Perhaps my favorite though is a “Sportsman License” for I think both hunting and fishing.

WV Sportsman License

Best of all, you get to instantly join a community where there’s always something going on and you’re always invited.

I’ve loved flying around the world with my laptop working from wherever I want, and I don’t think I’d trade that flexibility for any amount of money. But moving somewhere new without the usual office routine to help you find a community is pretty hard, and working remotely can feel isolating.

Once accepted into Ascend you’re added to a slack group which serves as a sort of community billboard for all your region’s Ascend members. (If you’re unfamiliar with Slack, it’s a messaging tool that’s typically used for remote work teams.)

Each regional program accepts about 20-35 people per application round (depending on the region), and 3 of the 5 communities are now into their second or third (or even fourth?) round of newcomers. This means at minimum, you’ve already got ~20 people in your instant-community, ready to schedule outings, lend a helping hand, and resolve all the many things that can be hard about moving somewhere new.

One fun example of this community at work from this week – one of the Ascend members found a good deal on locally grown potatoes – 50 lbs for $25. He didn’t need 50 lbs of potatoes, so he took to our community slack group to share the deal with others. In no time he had half a dozen Ascend members ready to take a share of potatoes.

Ascend Slack Group

West Virginia may not be ideal for travel, but it’s great for adventure.

Unless you relocate to Morgantown (home to MGW and ~an hour and 15 minutes from PIT) or Martinsburg/Eastern Panhandle (a little over an hour from IAD), your airport options are limited to tiny little airports with minimal routes. Elkins for example is a little over an hour from a little airport in Clarksburg (CKB) and 2 hours from Charleston (CRW). Lewisburg has a tiny airport of its own (LWB) with Charlotte as its only route and is otherwise about an hour and a half from Roanoke (ROA). Fayetteville is about an hour from CRW.

But again, West Virginia life is for people who intend to actually spend time here. I’m sure my traveling days aren’t over of course, but one of the reasons I moved here is because I actually want to spend time here. I don’t need to escape every weekend – there’s too much for me to see right here in my state – 35 state parks, nine state forests, three rail trails and more than 1500 campsites, for example. And as of 2020, it’s also home to a new National Park – The New River Gorge. This is not only a GORGEous park (that pun is for you, Tim), but it’s also free to enter, and many of its campgrounds are free as well. The Fayetteville Ascend program is right in this region.

Here are my West Virginia Favorites so far

I have been on cloud 9 exploring my new home through camping trips, road trips and hikes. Here are some of my favorites:

New River Gorge National Park

New River Gorge a person's feet on a cliff overlooking a valley

The New River Gorge National Park is such a home run, and again, it’s free to enter! My favorites within the New River Gorge National park are the Endless Wall Trail (a fairly short hike with incredible views of the gorge) and the Sandstone Falls. The Sandstone Falls are a wide portion of river that suddenly turns into a field of cascades.

Sandstone Falls

Judy Springs Campground

Judy Springs Campground

I love a good primitive campsite. If you’ve never done primitive camping, it’s usually remote, scenic, and totally void of facilities. It’s a first-come-first-serve system where you’re simply asked to camp someplace where there’s already an obvious fire ring. Judy Springs Campground is beautiful and the springs make this primitive aspect a little easier (because you have a source of water which doesn’t really need to be purified.) It is I think ~2 miles or so from the parking area to the camp spots, so you’ll have to backpack your gear in and out.

Dolly Sods Wilderness

Dolly Sods a lake surrounded by trees

This is another great spot for primitive camping, hiking, or there is also a very small standard campground (with facilities) for those who plan ahead and arrive in time to snag a spot. We found it very easy to get a primitive camp spot along the Beaver Dam Trail, parking at the Beaver Dam Trailhead and hiking our stuff only about half a mile or so. This area is one I’ve been visiting since I was young and it’s still a favorite.

Greenbrier River Trail

Greenbrier River Trail

This is a 78 mile trail along a former railroad (and along the Greenbrier River) which I’ve loved walking on, but I’d love to bike. There are campsites along the trail for anyone who does not want to try and bike 78 miles in one day (myself included).


Nomad life is incredible for how immersive it is, throwing you into travel as a lifestyle. I’ve loved my now ~7 accumulative years of nomad life for so many reasons which I’ll have to save for a separate post. But there’s a singularity of focus to that lifestyle which leaves your other interests waiting in storage boxes and attics collecting dust. When I’m traveling, I don’t play my banjo. I don’t gather around campfires with friends. I don’t paint. (Some of you may remember how excited I was to participate in a surprise mural lesson in Buenos Aires this past summer as part of our Party of 5 Challenge.)

I’m sure I will still find plenty of opportunities to travel – I am still a remote worker after all. But I’m so excited for all the other interests I’ll get to nourish here in my new home state. 

If you’d like to learn more or are interested in applying yourself, you can check out the Ascend WV website here, which includes a helpful FAQ page and resources for applying.


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Michelle A. Mauck

I moved to Martinsburg, WV in Nov. 1985. I was in the 351st Ordinance Unit 1st Platoon, based in Martinsburg, with the main portion of the unit being in Romney, WV. I found the people of WV to be warm, friendly, and hospitable. It was a quiet pace of living than I was used to. I was married, my two children were born in Martinsburg. The hardest part for me, at that time was all the taxes on everything. Including, your pet. I’m surprised they didn’t tax your children. I lived in WV for ten years, and then moved back home to Scranton, Pa where I grew up. Martinsburg, WV holds a special place in my heart. I’m happy in my home town of Scranton, PA.


Dolly Sods is great! I too would love to check out more of the outdoors life in WV. I would love to try the offer but unfortunately my jobs are not remote 🙁
Glad you guys are enjoying WV tho!


I lived in Morgantown in the mid 70s and worked there as a government intern for about 6 months. It was a great little town with a college. Loved it.

Owning You

The problem with this program is WV doesn’t even have jobs for it’s own residents & they’re encouraging outsiders to compete against natives for work. The corrupt government of WV (specifically Joe Manchin) has continuously failed the citizens of WV over & over & over again. WV is the only state with a steady decline in population for decades upon decades because of the failure that is know as government.

Nick Reyes

I think you’re completely misunderstanding the program. You have to be a remote worker, which means that you have a job already that exists somewhere outside of West Virginia that you can bring with you. I think the intent of these programs is to bring people who already have a salary to the area to add to the tax base and spend money in the local economy. Whether or not that works, I don’t really know and I’m sure there are varying opinions about it, but the whole idea of a program like this is that you’re right, there aren’t local jobs to support drawing people in, so they’re trying to attract people who already have jobs. Carrie owns her own business and works for us – she’s not taking a job away from anybody local. Rather then spending her money on an Airbnb in Mexico or traveling the beaches of Asia or something, she’s renting an apartment in West Virginia (and presumably spending some money that supports local businesses. I’m betting she’s bought a coffee or two at that coffee shop next to the co-working space and has bought some groceries, etc.


I feel like this may be easier to justify if one lives in a comparable state income tax state? Otherwise, depending on the circumstances, what Ascend giveth, WV taketh away? Of course, perhaps the scenery made it more than worthwhile to move from Tx no matter what.


I lived in Elkins, WV for several years. It is really a wonderful community with a nice bike shop, good outdoor recreation, and lots of excellent people. There’s a strong old time music community and arts community in the area. We moved for work reasons, but did maintain an AirBNB there until recently. I cannot recommend it enough for someone looking to do remote work.


Where do I sign up


This post is yet another reason why I love FM so much; it is authentic and written by a genuinely nice person. Thank you for sharing a part of your life, and I am sure you would enjoy living in WV!


Martinsburg seems ideal for those who want to travel. IAD has the Silver line to DCA. Actually surprised Martinsburg on the list given its proximity to DMV.

Bud Hinerman

Be great if they would include the Northern Panhandle in the program!


Living the dream! We’re in Pittsburgh but love exploring the outdoors and cute towns of WV. Highly underrated!


I grew up in southern Ohio and we took a lot of family vacations to West Virginia – mostly hiking and skiing. It’s probably the most underrated state in the country. Glad to hear that you are enjoying it!


My first job out of college had me frequently flying into Pittsburgh and moteling in Morgantown then driving to a job site in Hundred. Beautiful place, I’d pick to live near a university town. But then I love living in the western US…


Super happy for you and Drew. That is a beautiful part of the country. Best wishes on you new adventure.


Will they claw back the 10k like AmEx if I only live there for a year?


I feel like there’s a referral bonus from Ascent for Caroline for every applicant sent via this post.