Do you know what you want your future retirement to look like? Or where you want to be? Jen and Tom found their ideal retirement in Door County, Wisconsin. Here’s how they discovered their ideal lifestyle.

Discovering Our Ideal Vacation

Sailboats on the lake

We desperately needed a break from our home in southern Indiana. The sweltering heat and humidity of summer was draining our family of four. We needed a vacation, a true vacation, where we could relax, get a break from the heat, but still enjoy the summer with our boys.

I racked my brain for a good vacation idea and remembered an article I had read in Midwest Living Magazine about Door County, WI. I don’t remember what it said, but it must have reminded me of my childhood. My parents used to take my brother and I on fishing vacations when we were kids. We would stay in a cabin on a lake and spend our days swimming while my dad fished and my mom hiked/read novels. Door County sounded like a step back in time. Maybe this is where my husband, Tom, and I could create our own version of a fishing vacation with our boys who were 9 and 12 years old.

A few weeks later we were on our way to Rowley’s Bay in Door County. I had booked a cabin for four nights at The Wagon Wheel Resort. It was a long nine hour drive before we parked in front of our little rustic cabin getaway on the edge of Lake Michigan!

The drive had been long, but well worth it. The next morning I got up before anyone else and made a pot of coffee before strolling outside in the cool morning air. It was refreshing beyond belief. With my coffee in hand, I found a place to sit back and take in the beautiful scenery. I even saw newbies get an early morning kayak lesson!

When my husband and boys woke up they were ready to take to the lake. My dad had made tackle boxes for the boys and they were eager to catch their first fish. Every day, they tried, but it didn’t come easy. Then, one day a gull swooped down and grabbed the cork on my 9 year old’s line and tried to fly away with it! That story went down in family lore as the day Drew caught a gull! When the boys weren’t feverishly trying to catch a fish, they were swimming in the lake or biking with their dad along the cedar lined roads. We kept our meals simple, using the cabin’s kitchen and always ended our day with a family board game. It was exactly what our family needed.

That week was pure bliss and went by quickly. We were all sad when it was time to head back home. We had learned that this type of vacation - a simple cabin with outdoor activities - was our favorite. We didn’t need a lot of money to take a vacation, just a bit of time. With this realization, we decided to return to Door County the following Summer. It quickly became a yearly summer getaway for our family!

Creating a Vacation Home

Lakefront views

As the years went by and the boys grew up, we continued to visit Door County. After 10 years of summer getaways we realized that this wasn’t enough. We wanted more time at our favorite place. My husband and I started dreaming of retiring here and talked about the possibility of buying a vacation home so we could return whenever we wanted.

We looked around for five years before we found a place that fit us perfectly. There was a condo for sale in Egg Harbor with water front property. At 1,250 square foot, ground level, and a deck looking over beautiful Green Bay of Lake Michigan, we knew it was exactly what we wanted. With the condo, we could come and go without worrying about yard work or snow removal and could fully enjoy the laid back vibe of Door County whenever we were here.

When we closed on the condo, Tom was still working full time and I was caring for my ailing parents. We made it back whenever we could, even bringing my Dad with several times. He loved it there and we nicknamed the second bedroom Pop’s Room. We spent a number of years driving back and forth between our home in Indiana and the condo in Door County before Tom and I started talking plans for actually retiring in Door County.

Retirement Living in Door County

Tom on the patio

About two years ago we started talking seriously about retirement. More specifically, early retirement. I had retired several years prior, but now we were both 57 years old and were considering our ability for Tom to retire early as well.

My parents had passed away and our boys had moved to Florida and Kentucky. With no family in Indiana, we figured we would sell our home and move into our condo full time. Tom announced his early retirement at work, but his company asked him to stay on as a senior adviser and work remotely. He would still need to go into the office every 6-7 weeks though. This meant that we would still need a place to live in Indiana.

We weighed our options and felt that the offer to stay with the company would work wonderfully for us. Not only would it be a great transition towards full retirement, it was less hours, offered flexibility, had a salary that would cover our expenses (no need to dip into our retirement savings yet), and included our health insurance until we are eligible for Medicare. Plus, Tom loves his job!

Since we could spend a majority of our time in Door County, we didn’t need our big family house in Indiana. We decided to sell and rent a duplex near Tom’s work. The transition has been really easy.

It’s been over 2 months since we made this change and we are enjoying the blissful lifestyle of Door Country we discovered 20 years ago! Life here is relaxing yet active. We head over to the YMCA most days and I spend Wednesday afternoons with an awesome knitting group. We’ve even found a tiny church with a big heart in Fish Creek! Tom works out on the deck during the summer while and I read. And when we feel like doing a little something special, we take an afternoon break to visit one of our favorite coffee shops for coffee and biscotti!

We love our life here, but we do take a break from the cold winter in January and February by visiting our son in Tampa!

Jen, Tom, and grandkids by the water

Then, over the 4th of July our boys and their families return to Door County for a week of vacation! I love that we are keeping our little family fishing vacation alive! It’s amazing how 20 years ago, the need to find some family rejuvenation led us to where we would eventually find retirement bliss!

Do you have a freedom story you would like to share? We would love to hear from you! Submit your story here!