In the summer of 2013, Sarah Whitling loaded her beat-up ‘98 Honda Civic to the gills to drive across the country—from Eugene, Oregon, back home to Maine.
The newly-minted grad student—who’d just earned a master’s in arts administration from the University of Oregon—soon found herself driving along the nation’s highways, camping on the side of the road or laying over at Kampgrounds of America.
Her diet? Overripe bananas.
“I was broke as a joke,” Whitling recalls with a laugh.
With the car’s AC broken and the speedometer stuck at 20, Whitling realized she was going nowhere fast. All she knew was that her dream of running an art museum still felt thousands of miles away.
Whitling, now Trueline’s assistant director of professional development, recalls a life-altering moment once she hit the state of Utah. There, while gazing upon the buttes and mesas of an awe-inspiring landscape drenched in shades of orange and red, she realized something: She was only 25 and free.
“In an instant, life slowed down,” Whitling remembers. “I grasped the fact that I had never traveled alone before and here I was, in the middle of nowhere and I could finally hear myself think. The desert was so quiet, in a way I had never experienced. With no deadlines or agendas to consider, I could do whatever I wanted.”
Returning to her hometown of Portland, Whitling savored the familiar sights and sounds of the city she knew best.
She quickly found a job working as the gallery manager at Maine Media Workshops in Rockport, installing exhibitions and selling artwork. A year later, she had the itch to move to Boston, where she was hired as a marketing associate at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Four years later, she was promoted to its marketing manager of media and video.
“It was one of the most unique and beautiful places I’ve worked,” Whitling says of the global collection, amassed by its namesake around the turn of the 20th century.
After almost five years, however, Whitling felt an internal shift. With a love of the great outdoors, weekend hikes in the suburbs just weren’t cutting it. She wanted to get out of the city—to listen to the sound of silence again.
She eventually landed a job working for the Appalachian Mountain Club as a member of the lodge crew (what she calls “glorified housekeeping”) in Greenville, Maine. After four months, she was promoted to education field instructor and later became a certified Maine Guide.
“I was fully off the grid,” Whitling remembers, saying the job gave her ample time to revel in her outdoor passions of hiking, backpacking and fly-fishing. “I took that opportunity to shift and reset, to see where life would take me.”
But Whitling soon realized it was not a sustainable work option. It was time to pack up and return to civilization—before the snowflakes started to fly.
The Path to Trueline
After a three-month search, Whitling found her way to Trueline in December of 2019.
Hired first as an assistant content coordinator for the company’s many magazines, she quickly rose through the ranks. After just four months, she was promoted to content developer, and five months later she was tapped for her current position, working alongside Director of Professional Development Nick Randall doing voice file coaching.
Whitling says her unconventional experience—transitioning from a high-powered career to living as a hermit in the woods—gave her a perspective that helped her in her new job.
“I am always telling myself to put my big girl pants on and do the hard stuff,” Whitling jokes. “I could translate that into my work here, where everyone is genuine.”
In her current role, Whitling helps content developers be as successful as possible in their positions, explaining and demonstrating the value Trueline’s work can bring to its clients.
“It’s all about fostering communication,” Whitling says. “To do that well, you sometimes have to be vulnerable and take risks.”
Her advice to her team? She encourages people to embrace the uncomfortable conversations—and to listen to what another person is saying.
“Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is where you grow the most,” Whitling says. “The more you do it, the more comfortable you become doing it.”
At Trueline, the onset of COVID-19 brought about myriad changes—not the least of which was a full-on shift to remote operations.
Now able to work from anywhere, Whitling remembered the glowing sunsets and sense of space she felt in Utah and felt the pull to go back—permanently.
“It’s been a dream of mine to move out there since that drive across the country,” Whitling says. “I fell in love with it.”
And that’s not all she fell in love with. Her partner, Matt, is another joy in her life. Come January, she’ll move to her favorite place with her favorite person and their Irish setter, Ruairi, to the town of Springdale. Matt will be a park ranger at Zion National Park while Sarah continues her work with Trueline.
Talk about the best of both worlds: watching those stunning sunsets with her own personal park ranger.
“The biggest draw to this job is the people here,” Whitling says. “The beauty of this change is that I don’t have to say goodbye.”
Simply Sarah Whitling:
Dream Vacation: Glacier National Park … anywhere with mountains.
Favorite way to unwind: Hanging around a fire with a drink while listening to music.
What she’s reading: Edward Abbey’s “Down the River” which is a famous book about his river trips around the world.
Fun fact: Forty-two percent of Utah’s land falls under the U.S. Bureau of Land Management—a big draw for people like Whitling who thrive on hiking and backpacking.