- Jason Fell bought a vacation home in 2020 and turned it into his primary residence soon after.
- His commute time went from at least an hour each way to zero, and he has more time with his kids.
- Fell, who said his family enjoys spending time outside, has no regrets about leaving the suburbs.
This essay is based on a conversation with Jason Fell, a vice president of Entrepreneur magazine, whose work is displayed in BI, in relation to his expertThemoving from a NYC suburb called Midland Park, New Jersey, to the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. Fell preferred to keep his specific location within the Poconos private. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
We weren’t necessarily thinking about moving. It really was the pandemic that changed everything.
We figured, why not have a little place to go in the summer – and even sometimes in the winter – to get away and take the kids from the suburbs and get some fresh air? The idea would be to be here during the spring, summer and fall as often as we could and wanted to.
My wife and I are very open people. We like hiking, we like kayaking. The Poconos has everything to offer.
We bought this house in September 2020.
We never considered living in the Poconos. If I went to town, I wouldn’t really be here during the week. But once I didn’t have to make that trip, we just threw it out there almost as a joke, “Would you ever consider it?” “Well, we really love it there.”
We essentially converted a vacation home on the lake into a full time home.
Having green grass and tall trees and lakes and waterfalls and fresh air – it just makes our hearts happy, my wife and I.
And then seeing our kids have so much fun and enjoyment when they’re out and about. It’s clear, at least to me, that their quality of life is much better growing up here than growing up there.
It feels like this very blessed, very welcome hybrid – everyday reality mixed with vacation.
We have this little bubble of peace, which, again, we’re not on vacation, we’re just at home. But it really does wonders for your mental health – at least ours.
I have no regrets. I really don’t.
My long commute can lead to 12-hour days
A lot of people end up in Bergen County when they want a house, they want some property, but they also need that proximity to New York.
I lived a block and a half from a bus stop, so I took the bus into New York City every day. If you get in your car and there was no traffic, it would probably be about a 30 minute drive. But as you can imagine, commuting during rush hour is a whole different kind of thing.
Fortunately there were not many stops on the bus. But given the need to make several stops, and then traffic in each direction, it was at least a little over an hour on good days. But God forbid an accident on the highway, or bad weather like snow.
I was getting on the bus at 7:30 in the morning, I had to try my hardest to get on a bus that was leaving the Port Authority shortly after 5:00 pm, sometimes running away from the office. If I didn’t take that bus, or maybe the bus after, the rush hour congestion was so bad I wouldn’t be home until after 7pm, so that’s a 12-hour day.
And even if I caught that early bus and there was no traffic, I’d be home by 6:20pm when you have little kids, 7pm was bedtime.
We are saving on property taxes and were able to renovate
When we bought the Pocono house as a vacation home, we paid cash, so no mortgage. We bought the house for $150,000, roughly.
We bought the Midland Park home in 2014 for about $465,000, and then sold it in February of 2021 for $600,000.
One thing about New Jersey is that it is a little expensive. Taxes are quite high. I was paying about $12,000 or $13,000 in property taxes. Here in Pennsylvania, it’s closer to $3,000.
We came out here and then, after a while, got pregnant with our second child.
We had to do some work at home because the family is expanding. There is not enough room. That’s how we did some constructions.
It was just over 1,000 square feet and was a two-bedroom. We almost doubled the livable square footage—I think we’re somewhere around 1,800 or 1,900 square feet. Now there are three bedrooms.
I can spend more time with my family
I was very lucky in the sense that after I got the blessing from my boss to move, so to speak, my company not only went away, but they were removed from the offices. There is no office to return to.
My daughter was born in February 2020, and then I went away on paternity leave, and then everyone just stayed home after that. So I haven’t missed a beat.
We had a second child and I’m here for everything. It’s so wonderful.
When you work from home, you definitely have chores – you get things done all day long. But whenever you call it quits for work, you’re already home. You can enjoy yourself or your family or whatever is going on.
One thing some people might complain about—and you can imagine, because you’re moving from the suburbs outside of New York City to a rural area—is that things aren’t close.
There aren’t many options for quality healthcare here. My wife and I have a doctor close by, but apparently she is one of the few good doctors in the area. For my kids, we have to drive 45 minutes for a good pediatric dentist and 45 minutes in the opposite direction to NJ for their pediatrician. People we’ve talked to say there aren’t any good hospitals here, you have to go to NJ. And many people we know still travel all the way to NYC to see their doctors.
When I lived in Midland Park, I could literally walk out my front door, walk a few blocks, and be at a few neighborhood restaurants, a bar, a few shops. I can’t do that here.
But instead, I walk half a block and I’m on a beach on a lake. So that’s pretty cool.
My family loves the outdoors
We have increased our time outdoors by 1000%. That said, I still have to work, even though I work from home. I’m not out hiking every day.
When the weather is nice, these kids, whether they’re playing sports or seeing friends, they’re always outside. They’re swimming at the beach, kayaking in the lake, and hiking with us. They would rather be outside than inside.
We try to kayak as often as we can. We have a couple of kayaks and we live right on a lake, so it’s like, you know, you have to do it.
We just dived into it.
Everyone’s situations are different and everyone’s priorities are different. Having that separation from the real world versus the vacation world – I think some people can see value in that.
It’s not like we’ve moved into our vacation home and that’s it – we still go on vacation. We still go out to other places. It’s not like we’re stuck in this particular vacation spot.
I think that if you have an opportunity to relocate or settle somewhere that will enable you to pursue your career or professional aspirations while inspiring you and truly making your heart happy, then you should really take it a consideration to make this happen. If it makes sense for you, financially and logistically.
You either look out the window and see your neighbors in their above ground pool, 20 meters from your house, or look outside and see thousands of trees and the view of the lake through the trees.
I prefer trees.
Have you moved into your vacation home full time? Business Insider wants to hear from you. Contact this reporter, Jordan Pandy, at [email protected].