I don’t know Neil Ulman. My first introduction to him wasn’t an introduction at all, as I just read an article he wrote in the Wall Street Journal. My first reaction to Neil was one of jealousy, since he has his name in print and my name only appears in html code. My jealousy turned to respect shortly after I began reading his piece, oddly titled Very Cold- and Very Warm. Then, as if I were being urged by Patrick Swayze in character as Jed, I let it turn to something else (Red Dawn reference). It seems that Mr. Ulman and his wife purchased a 35 acre farm in the hills of northern Vermont with the idea of retiring here in the peace and creepy quiet of the Vermont hills. I applaud his purchase, particularly if his hobby farm is, as I picture it, just like the little farm on the Cooks Country television show.
I really did appreciate his move to the country. I think it’s nice when city folk can up and move to the sticks. In another life, I wouldn’t mind trying that sort of thing out myself. But when Neil talked about the weather and the goings on in this small Vermont hamlet, I grew a little disenchanted. According to Neil, there’s a mud season there. And mud season in followed closely by flack fly season. And black fly season is followed by blizzard season, and one such blizzard killed 12 of his neighbors cows. And said blizzards tend to shut down roads and strand homeowners in their little farmhouses. That, by the way, sounds quaint and idyllic on the surface, but if you really think about it, being stranded in a farmhouse really only sounds like fun in theory. It doesn’t matter anyway, because by that point in his article I wasn’t paying attention. He lost me at black fly season.
And so it is, generations of people like Neil, seeking to congratulate themselves after a long life burdened with work and overrun with stress, retire in far flung places looking to recoup a little of the life that they’ve lost. It’s this desire that spawned House Hunters International, HGTV’s attempt to showcase vacation home buyers and loud shirt wearing Realtors alike. It’s this desire that pushes a nice couple living (sweating) in St. Louis to seek out a vacation home on some wind swept, tourist packed island off the coast of South America. A vacation home that they’ll buy with good intentions, and probably visit so infrequently that they could spin the experience into another HGTV show. House Sellers International.
Many people, like Neil in Vermont and the sweaty couple from St. Louis, purchase vacation homes that represent the extreme. Neil wanted to have some peace and quiet, so he traipsed all the way into the isolation of a muddy Vermont farm field to find it. Sweaty St. Louis couple boarded a plane and flew to some typhoid ravaged island just to dip their toes in some crystal clear water. It’s this same desire for a radically different way of life that drives people to the far north woods of Wisconsin or, gulp, the north woods of Michigan. It’s also this pull for a completely refreshing lifestyle that has brought vacation lovers to Lake Geneva for 160 years.
Lake Geneva is different than most vacation destinations. It’s different for myriad reasons, but there is a quality that this lake effortlessly possesses that many buyers and contemplaters miss. Geneva, more than any other vacation destination that I know, can be exactly whatever you want it to be. Let me explain. Most buyers will come to Lake Geneva because they want a change of pace. They want their weekends to be relaxing and refreshing, and they either want to escape the postage stamp yard of their city row house, or the water-less nature of their suburban existence.
What’s different about Geneva is the varied vacation style that exists along the 26 miles (or 21, or 27) of shoreline. Someone like Neil could find his utopic, private retreat somewhere along the north shore or south shore of Geneva. A family estate where privacy and quiet abound. A place where he’d have his peace and quiet, but still be less than 10 minutes from a small town in the event that his Diet Coke supply runs low. He could have his solitude, and he wouldn’t have to worry about cow killing blizzards come January. For the Neil’s out there, Geneva can more than easily cater to the privacy concerns of your inner Ted Kaczynski.
Along those same shores, there are opportunities for people who don’t want to be alone. Opportunities for people who want to people watch and be in the thick of the action. I have a client who built a beautiful new home in Glenwood Springs primarily because he wanted to be where the people are. He wanted his kids to play with other kids on grassy lakeside lawns, and the thought of the relative isolation that exists a mere 2 miles down the lake from his current home offers him no temptation. When Glenwood Springs throws their annual Pig Roast along the lakefront, he delights in the hustle and bustle of that quintessential summer event. When that party extends deep into the night, and tanned Lake Geneva lovers sit pier side and nurse the last evening drink and kids run about, shouting, with butterfly nets chasing fireflies, the Neils of the world are fast asleep, a mere two miles away, in the silence of their own lakeside retreat. The delightful sounds of kids laughing and running are replaced only with the soft rolling of the waves, and the Oak leaves rustling in the lake breeze.
One lake, two very different styles of living. So while Neil and others pack up and head into some far away place to jockey with the mud and flies, and others give in to exhausting airport delays and fight for an extra bag of pretzels, the rest of us will come to Lake Geneva. Whether you choose the action packed exciting Lake Geneva, or the laid back peaceful Lake Geneva, the lake will gladly accommodate, and the choice is entirely yours. See you at the lake.