Jason Fell, his wife, and their two children in the Pocono Mountains.
Courtesy of Jason Fell
Jason Fell purchased 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 loves spending time outside, has no regrets about leaving the suburbs.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Jason Fell, a vice president of Entrepreneur magazine whose work has appeared on BI, about his experience moving from an NYC suburb called Midland Park, New Jersey, to Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains. Fell preferred to keep his specific location within the Poconos private. The conversation was edited for length and clarity.
We weren’t necessarily thinking of moving. It was really the pandemic that changed everything.
We figured, why not have a little place to go in the summers — and even sometimes in the winter — to just get away and get the kids out of 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 much outdoorsy people. We like hiking, we like kayaking. The Poconos has all that to offer.
We bought this house in September of 2020.
We never intended to live in the Poconos. If I was commuting into the city, I wouldn’t really be here during the week. But once I didn’t have to make that commute, we just threw it out there almost as a joke: “Would you ever consider it?” “Well, we really do love it out there.”
Fell’s house in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains.
Courtesy of Jason Fell
We basically converted a lake vacation home into a full-time home.
Having green grass and tall trees and lakes and waterfalls and fresh air — that just makes our hearts happy, my wife and I.
And then seeing our kids have so much fun and enjoy themselves so much when they’re outside. It’s obvious, to me at least, that their quality of life is so much better growing up here than growing up there.
It feels like this very blessed, very welcome hybrid — everyday reality blended with vacation.
We’ve got this little bubble of peace, which, again, we’re not on vacation, we’re just home. But it really does wonders for your mental health — at least ours.
I don’t have any regrets. I really don’t.
My long commute could lead to 12-hour days
A lot of people wind up in Bergen County when they want a house, they want a little bit of property, but they also need that proximity to New York.
I lived a block and a half away from a bus stop, so I took the bus into New York City every day. If you got 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 completely different sort.
Thankfully there weren’t too many stops on the bus. But factoring in having to make some stops, and then the traffic each way, it was at least a little over an hour on the good days. But God forbid there was an accident on the highway, or there was bad weather like snow.
I was getting on a bus by 7:30 a.m. I used to have to try my hardest to get on a bus that was leaving Port Authority just after 5 p.m., sometimes running 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 7 p.m. So that’s a 12-hour day.
And even if I caught that early bus and there was no traffic, I would be home by 6:20 p.m. When you have young kids, 7 p.m. was bedtime.
We’re saving on property taxes and were able to renovate
When we bought the Poconos house as a vacation house, we paid cash, so there’s no mortgage. We purchased the house for $150,000, roughly.
We purchased the Midland Park house in 2014 for about $465,000, and then sold it in February of 2021 for $600,000.
One thing about New Jersey is it’s a little bit 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.
Fell bought the Poconos home for $150,000 in 2020.
Courtesy of Jason Fell
We got out here and then, after a little while, we got pregnant with our second child.
We needed to do some work to the house because the family is expanding. There’s not enough room. So we did some construction, too.
It was just over 1,000 square feet, and it was a two-bedroom. We almost doubled the livable square footage — I think we’re at somewhere like 1,800 or 1,900 square feet. Now it’s three bedrooms.
I get to spend more time with my family
I got very lucky in the sense that after I got the blessing from my boss to move, so to speak, my company not only went remote, they got rid of the offices. There’s no office to go back to.
My daughter was born in February of 2020, and then I was off for paternity leave, and then everybody just basically stayed home after that. So I haven’t missed a beat.
We’ve had a second kid, and I’m here for everything. It’s so great.
When working from home, you definitely have chores — you get stuff done throughout the day. 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 that some people might complain about — and you can imagine it, because you’re relocating from the suburbs outside of New York City to a rural area — is that things are not close.
There aren’t many options for quality healthcare out here. My wife and I have a doctor nearby, but apparently she is one of only a couple of 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 into NJ for their pediatrician. People we’ve spoken to say there aren’t any good hospitals out 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 of my front door, walk a couple blocks, and be at a couple of neighborhood restaurants, a bar, some stores. I can’t do that here.
But instead, I walk half a block and I’m at a beach on a lake. So that’s pretty cool.
My family loves the outdoors
We’ve 1,000% increased our outdoor time. That being said, I still have to work, even though I’m working from home. I’m not out hiking every day.
When the weather’s nice, these kids, whether they’re playing sports, or seeing friends, they’re always outside. They’re swimming at the beach, kayaking on the lake, and coming with us on hikes. They would much rather be outside than inside.
We try to go kayaking as often as we can. We’ve got a couple of kayaks and we live right on a lake, so it’s like, you got it, you have to do it.
We just immersed ourselves in it.
The view of a lake from a nearby beach in the Poconos.
Courtesy of Jason Fell
Everyone’s situations are different and everyone’s priorities are different. Having that separation from the real world versus vacation world — I guess some people can see value in that.
It’s not like we moved into our vacation home and that’s it — we still go on vacation. We still get out to other places. It’s not like we’re stuck in this particular vacation land.
I think if you have an opportunity to relocate or situate yourself somewhere that is going to enable you to pursue your professional career or aspirations while inspiring you and really making your heart happy, then you should really give some consideration to making that happen. If it makes sense for you, financially and logistically.
You either look out your window and see your neighbors in their aboveground pool, 20 feet away from your house, or you look outside and you see thousands of trees and the view of the lake through the trees.
I prefer the trees.
Have you moved into your vacation home full-time? Business Insider wants to hear from you. Reach out to this reporter, Jordan Pandy, at firstname.lastname@example.org.