Laura Boll, her husband, and their two young children thought the Northwoods would be a short refuge for them.
They came to stay at their vacation home between Land O’Lakes and Phelps when the pandemic started last March.
“We came here in the week and thought we might be here for a few weeks to a few months,” Boll told WXPR in September.
The family lived in the suburbs of Chicago but chose to wait for the worst of COVID-19 at their second home on Kildare Lake.
“We were in a small rental house with three bedrooms and a small backyard [in Chicago]. The house is much bigger up here, a lot more land, a lot more space, ”said Boll.
When we first talked, spring had turned into summer, the pandemic hadn’t let up, and the family decided to enroll the children at Land O’Lakes Elementary School. But it thought it might return to Chicago at some point.
Now the story is different.
We met up with Boll again this week to see how it went.
The family has decided to stay long term and is now even more committed to the Northwoods.
“My husband jokes, he was so happy when we had Wisconsin license plates on our cars,” said Boll. “We’re not going to get dirty looks from an Illinois plate anymore.”
The family had never had a full winter in northern Wisconsin. In fact, last winter solidified his decision to plant deeper roots here.
“We did a lot of great, long hikes in the snow. We did ice fishing. We bought an ice fishing hut this year, a snail, a few tips, all sorts of things. We really got into things that we really enjoy doing and we really love winter, ”said Boll.
Boll’s husband still works remotely for a Fortune 500 company based in Chicago. He makes a short trip to headquarters about once a month.
Chicago seems less and less like home, however.
“Personally, I’m happier here than in the suburbs or in the city,” said Boll. “The goal is definitely to stay here and it would be ideal.”
Plus, Boll carves out a bit of a Northwoods identity.
She has always grown and preserved organic vegetables, and her property in Northwoods finally gives her plenty of room for them. Her friends in town urged her to document her activities on social media.
“[They say,] “You lived in Wrigleyville a few years ago and now you are in the woods trying to support yourself.” I started a page, ”she said.
You can follow Boll’s growth, canning and fermentation adventures on Facebook and TikTok under the name Lush’s Lifestyle.
Katy Martens’ family had similar reasons for coming north last year.
She runs a naturopathic and yoga business, and Martens, her husband, and two young children decided to get out of their cramped Milwaukee apartment.
“Coronavirus was something like this catalyst, we’re doing this. We’re going to do that,” Martens told WXPR in September.
The family had moved to a family hut in Sayner, and Martens was teaching yoga classes virtually from their wooded backyard.
“It just so happened that I could do this from anywhere. Sayner is great. It’s our family home, ”she said. “And it’s better for the kids. So at that point it was a no-brainer. “
With some reluctance to school quality, the Ellie and Karlo family enrolled in Eagle River Elementary.
This week, Martens said, not only did the family stay, the school and the area turned out to be great.
“You really like it. You have friends. You will soon be playing softball and baseball. It was really just a really smooth transition, ”she said.
Many families seem to be following the trend.
The Northland Pines School District had about 60 new students at the beginning of the year and added about 25 more during the school year.
In the meantime, Martens’ virtual yoga and naturopathic practice is growing. Members from all over the world visit their newly built home studio.
In the community she feels less a visitor than a resident of Northwoods.
“It feels different. I feel at home, ”she said. “It’s permanent.”
The family will be here for at least another year.
And most likely, this Northwoods house will be her home forever.
“We feel we could put down roots here,” said Martens. “Yeah, I could see we’ve been here a long time.”
The popularity of moving to the Northwoods has led home buyers to take drastic steps to buy property in a tight market.
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