After a memorable first week at our apartment in Celebration, I’m now back in Tennessee while my wife starts her new job in Florida. When I was down there, there were so many feelings and thoughts rushing at me that I wanted to memorialize here in the blog. But now that I’m back, it all almost feels like it wasn’t real! I’m very excited to continue getting the work done at our Tennessee home so we can sell it. But having that taste of actually living near Disney then being pulled back to “normal life” was jarring… and disheartening. Maybe taking a look back will help me recapture the feeling!

Rather than do a day-by-day recap, here are the highlights and some other random thoughts.

We arrived Saturday in the early afternoon. As is our tradition, we adjusted our route so that we could take the Western Way exit and immediately pass under a Welcome to Walt Disney World sign. From there we took World Drive and headed south. Even after all our planning, I had no idea that World Drive dead-ends into Celebration.

When we saw the location of this apartment online, it seemed to be on the outer edges of the town. So I assumed it might not have the same beautiful architecture as the more central areas. I was wrong! Living amongst the modern/art-deco styled buildings really gives you that sense that your life has a bit of a vacation feel everyday — which is something that we definitely are looking for with this move. Even the gas station nearby look amazing. (Yes, I took a picture of a gas station! We might be a little overly excited about this move!)

We drove down in two vehicles: my wife’s large SUV and my daughter’s four-door sedan. (I drive a two-door car with hardly any trunk space, which would not have been helpful on this trip!) So we were able to pack just about everything my wife would need, except for a mattress and a couch. On our first afternoon, getting a mattress was a priority. What has happened to mattress prices?! It took us way too long to find a reasonably priced twin that will probably just end up in a guest room one day. We got a futon a few days later, which can be used as an extra bed when family visits her.

We had two big dinners during my week there. On our first night, we went to Trail’s End at Fort Wilderness. As I’ve mentioned several times on the site, I’m kind of a picky eater so I really enjoy buffets. Disney is still doing buffets in a family-style all-you-can-eat arrangement, which is close enough for me. And it didn’t disappoint! Coincidentally, for our first night after starting our move away from it, there was a map of Tennessee next to our table!

After my wife’s first day at her new job, we went to Olivia’s at Old Key West, a place that has quickly became a favorite due to a single menu item: the Southernmost Buttermilk Chicken! Our first visit was in May of last year. We’ve returned in two of our three trips since then! One of the best things about it is it seems to be a bit of a hidden gem. While I’m a diehard planner and get our reservations before we ever leave for a trip, Olivia’s always seems to have reservations available within a day or two of when you want to go. Which will be perfect for new locals! Something that made this visit a bit more special is that as a Disney Vacation Club resort, the cast members always greet you by saying, “Welcome home”! We’re not DVC members but we are finally home!

For one of my favorite bloggers lunch at Epcot was the dream, the thing that she couldn’t wait to be part of her normal routine. For me, it’s Disney Springs. Here in Tennessee, when I want to be out, but don’t know where I want to go, the mall is always one of the first options I think of. Want something to eat, but not sure what you want? Maybe go to the mall. Want to get away from the house and do some work on the laptop? Maybe go to the mall. Want to get a walk in, but not at your usual trail? Maybe go to the mall. I want Disney Springs to be as normal as going to the mall is now.

We went to Disney Springs twice while I was there. The first time I still had that feeling that this was just a vacation visit, though a lovely and leisurely dinner at Polite Pig started to eat away at that vibe. The second visit, though, I got my first taste of the place as a local. It was supposed to just be a quick trip to pick up something for the kids while my wife was a work. In and out. But I got drawn in! I realized that I really wasn’t in a hurry. Not only did I have time that day, but just like if I forgot something at my hometown grocery store, I could come back another day. So I slowed down. I wasn’t a tourist anymore with limited vacation hours rushing place to place. At one point I texted my son asking which of several Lego sets he would prefer as a gift and he said he wasn’t sure. I said no problem, I’ll go to lunch and you can think about it. Just on a whim, completely unplanned, I’m having lunch at Disney Springs!

I know to some of you this sounds like something crazy to be this excited about. But for others of you, you know that feeling. It may not be lunch at Epcot or Disney Springs as your mall. But there’s something at Walt Disney World you would love to have in your life all the time.

One of the things that drove home to me that Disney really is starting to feel like home is all the normal, everyday stuff we had to do to prepare the apartment. Filling a refrigerator and pantry. Putting together furniture. Making multiple trips to Walmart. Vacuuming the floor! That was a big one! Mentally, I know moving to Disney isn’t going to be all Mickey waffles and princess parades. And that’s OK. Adding those things to our normal routine is the goal, after all. But folding laundry one moment then the next moment watching the fireworks from your window makes this all seem more real than anything else.

While I’m looking forward to some things becoming routine, others I hope never lose their magic. On my last night before coming back to Tennessee we visited the Polynesian, sat outside under the foliage, listened to the water and a ukulele playing singer, had a meal, and topped it all off with Dole Whips. It was exactly the kind of evening that, in the past, the memory of it would have make me long to return to the parks for our next vacation… a feeling that eventually changed into a yearning never to have to leave.

I’m back in Tennessee. It’s a little depressing. But for the very first time, it’s here that I’m visiting. Home is in Florida now.