This is the final installment in our series about how the coronavirus pandemic inspired one family to make a lifestyle change.
There may be no official time line or step-by-step process for the transition from new Door County resident to true Door County local, but for Elizabeth Grooms and her family, being here a full year offers a good time to reflect.
Grooms, along with her husband and son, moved from Oak Park, Illinois, in suburban Chicago, to rural Baileys Harbor in September 2020. Their move was a direct result of COVID-19. The lockdowns in spring 2020 shuttered Grooms’ massage-therapy practice, and the focus on social distancing left them wanting more space and proximity to nature.
Interestingly, one way in which Grooms said she feels more local now is that the pressure to be out in nature all the time has gone away. She recalled that when she’d come here as a tourist and the weather was beautiful, she felt as though she constantly had to go places. Not anymore.
“[Now], some days it’s a beautiful day, and I might not leave my house; I might not leave my property,” she said. “I’m just content to be here. There’s not this push to have to absorb Door County in the way that we did when we were visitors.”
Another sign that they’ve completed a significant transition may be that they’re now part of the workforce that serves the tourists. Grooms’ husband, Troy, has been working at Door County Brewing Co., and Grooms herself is working at Twelve Eleven wine bar. And like locals, they’ve stepped up their hours this fall with the summer workers gone.
The seasonality of life in Door County, and particularly the seasonal business hours and closures, have taken some getting used to.
“You don’t have everything at your fingertips all year-round,” Grooms said.
But she doesn’t miss much about living in the Chicago area. Ethnic food is one thing, and she also remembers the ease that came with having so many stores and restaurants so nearby.
“I still haven’t adjusted to having to drive so far for my groceries,” she said. “I miss ordering [take-out food] and having it delivered to [my] door.”
Those conveniences aside, Grooms said the move has been a positive change for the family: “Door County has been good for us in ways we didn’t expect.”
Their lives have slowed down, but she acknowledged that some of that may be related to ongoing pandemic precautions and not solely relocation. Either way, Grooms said it’s been good for her son and for her own mental health and stress level.
“In Chicago, I always felt like I should be doing something at all times,” she said, whereas here, “the external noise around us is not present.”
Grooms said she expected to feel isolated here, but she’s made great connections with neighbors and has found that her waitstaff position has also provided a welcome opportunity to meet people.
Originally, she had planned to open a massage practice this year, but with ongoing COVID-19 concerns and infections from the Delta variant, she now thinks that may wait until next summer.
Although the past year has not necessarily played out as planned, Grooms said could not have visualized it better.
“There’s still a lot of pinching myself,” she said. “I love where I live.”