The pandemic and its dramatic shifts in the way we work has flipped the getaway equation for many people. Once upon a time, we worked Monday through Friday in or near a city; on weekends we escaped to our getaway places in the woods or on the water.
But Covid-19 sent many people to their weekend homes for the duration. We set up home offices in what had been weekend guest rooms and great rooms. Instead of sleeping in at the country house, we got up early and turned on our Zoom ring lights. We still tried to have our traditional weekends, going for walks with neighbors at safe social distances.
And many of us liked it. We were eager to return to the Before Times, when we could hang with friends in the city again. Some of us even missed the office. But many of us liked the casual convenience – and sometimes the flexible hours – of working from home. Especially when home meant being in a place that offered a walk in the woods or on the beach any time, including week days, instead of only on Saturdays and Sundays.
As the masks gradually came off, some of us decided to stay at our second homes. The weekend place became the everyday place.
But we still weren’t able to give up entirely on the city. We had enjoyed and appreciated having a weekend place in the country; it presented the best of both worlds, city and country. We had gotten used to it.
Why give that up?
Some people decided to embrace a Bizarro world where the country place became their main HQ and the city place became the weekend getaway.
The phenomenon seemed especially common in and around New York City. Covid refugees fled to their weekend places up the Hudson Valley, down the shore, out on the Island and places farther afield, such as eastern Pennsylvania.
People moving up the Hudson Valley seemed especially keen to keep a toehold in New York City. Some had jobs that required them to come into the office at least occasionally. Some had family they wanted to see.
Some folks approaching retirement recognized that New York City, with its top-notch health care, mass transit and many other services and conveniences, is probably the best place in the world to grow old. They want to keep that city residence for if and when they can’t keep up in the country, or they need the city’s conveniences and services.
In the aftermath of the pandemic, some city dwellers have given up the apartment that had been their main residence, either renting it out or pulling up stakes and selling. For those who still wanted a city presence, one option was downsizing to a pied-à-terre. (From the French for “a foot on the ground” – a toehold, in other words.)
For many of the people swapping their lifestyle routines, it made sense to have a place that was smaller and less expensive when they weren’t spending as much time in the city. They often ended up in smaller places in the same neighborhoods they knew so well.
Some pandemic refugees apparently still want a weekend place – just not back in the city.
One New York couple gave up their apartment in the city and moved into the weekend house they had built a few years earlier in a quiet, wooded lake community in the Lower Hudson Valley. During the pandemic they became full time in their former escape home, which was still close enough to New York to drive or get a train into town for work or for fun.
Funny enough, they found themselves missing the regular change of scenery on weekends. They ended up getting a new weekend place – not back in the city, but the other direction, north into the Adirondacks ski country.
“We needed a getaway from our getaway,” they said.
Money is always a factor, of course. Being able to afford two places, anywhere, is a reflection of good fortune and privilege. Typically, the getaway place – whether in the city or out in the woods – usually has lower running costs. But not always. And both places need to serve the occupants’ lifestyle and workstyle.
The new escape home in the city may be smaller, but it needs to accommodate clothes and other stuff for everything needed to go out for an evening – not crammed with everything for everyday life.
It seems like people who have flipped the script and shifted to city getaways rarely spend a quiet evening there. If you’re going to the effort and expense to have a place in the city, you want to take advantage of the city. If you want to spend a quiet evening in front of the fire, stay home in their former getaway in the woods.
Some people are making creative arrangements with their families. After spending more time at her weekend place during the pandemic, one professional woman was reluctant to move back to the city full time. But she wasn’t eager to close up her primo Manhattan apartment, either. She still wanted to see her city friends and her grown kids, and go with friends to dinner parties, Broadway shows, art galleries and little independent movie houses.
She made a deal with her son. Like most young people starting their careers in New York City, he had been scrambling to make rent in small apartments with few amenities, often with imperfect roommates in inconvenient neighborhoods.
The mom kept her nice two-bedroom Manhattan apartment. Her son moved in and paid below-market rent. For all practical purposes, it’s his apartment.
In exchange for that sweet rent deal, however, she keeps clothes and stuff in the second bedroom and stays there a couple weekends a month. Sometimes when she comes into the city apartment, her son goes to her country house, where he has a room. When they swap places on those weekends, the city apartment becomes her getaway and her country place becomes his getaway.
That’s one thing that hasn’t changed: Most people reserve their getaways for the weekends, whether they’re moving toward the city or away from it.