It took about 27 minutes for me to fall in love with Maine. On a recent trip there this past spring, my heart was captured in a well-worn lobster cage and thrown overboard. Somewhere in a silent cove lobster boats bob atop me like aquatic pickup trucks. Bald eagles and crows soar overhead through puffy cumulus clouds, grazing the tops of pine trees. Fog and seaspray haze the horizon at dawn and dusk. And after a spring squall, a firework display of crashing waves flashes along the craggy coastline.
These frigid, pristine waters point many vacationers’ compasses due north. Filled with landscapes a bit more protected from climate change and the unbearable heat of the south, northern summers are painted in rental cottages and fresh caught seafood, forest hikes, and crisp Atlantic or lake swimming. Wildlife. Blueberries. Just as vibrant, northern cities offer the best of human creation with a diverse cultural tapestry, bustle, and art scene. While the fierce winters limit ease and access several months out of the year, many still flock north for their vacation homes. Today’s Transitions caught up with Joyce Inman who decided to go north for her second home: a lakefront Chicago condo.
City Life in Chicago
As a military brat, Joyce Inman was born with a nomadic spirit. Stemming from a childhood that scattered her from Germany to cities all across the U.S., she quickly fell in love with big travel and city life. Therefore, part of the arrangement she made with her husband when they decided to get married was a promise to buy property in Italy and retire there. However, plans change and the two took root in Louisville, making a European move less likely.
On a girls’ weekend getaway to Chicago last summer, Joyce woke up early at their lakefront Airbnb and as she turned the corner, the view from the window overlooking Lake Michigan at sunrise took her breath away. “The view changes like the ocean throughout the day,” Joyce said. “It was so beautiful…I had to live there. So I called my husband to see what he thought about it and he said ok.”
And that is all it took. Joyce, a natural researcher, immediately sprung into action. After returning in late June from her girls’ weekend, she planned another visit for their anniversary in October. She found a real estate agent there and set up seven showings in a day that fit her parameters: lakefront, away from mid-city, updated, and renter-friendly.
“I thought my husband and I would look for a year, but when we got to our condo, my husband stood on that balcony for the longest time — I’ve never seen him do that. He has never lived away from Louisville, and I honestly thought he was just appeasing me by agreeing to look at some properties, but we made an offer that day and it was accepted.”
The stars seemed to align for the Inman’s vacation home — it is a corner unit with impeccable views from the wall of windows. They were able to sublet to a renter for several months throughout the winter, and they did not have to engage in any major renovations. The thought of managing construction in a major city seemed too daunting a task for them. Joyce loves the ethnicities and exciting aromas that waft down the hallways, and the neighborhood is robust and walkable with all the amenities of a big city — and the view. The view.
For now, Joyce is hesitant to call this her summer home, “But who wants to live in Chicago in the winter?” she says. She plans to use the space as a getaway for friends and family and to go back and forth from April to October.
As far as advice, Joyce says if you are thinking of buying a vacation home: research, research, research. “If you don’t enjoy research, then don’t do it. You will have to find a doctor, a place to cut your hair, mechanics, and a dentist. All of these tasks would have been much more challenging if we decided on Europe.
“I’m a northerner — I like the direct way people communicate there. I’ve had many friends that moved to Europe and ended up unhappy there — it just wasn’t what they thought. My husband and I went up and spent a weekend in our neighborhood, just walking the streets to get a feel for it, and we love the people and culture there. Last year was a very stressful year for us, so this has really restored a lot of our hope for the future,” Joyce says.
By Megan Seckman | Photos submitted