Cottages are a tranquil home away from home


Liza McCarthy

A quaint cottage in Leland, Michigan

For FHC Math teacher Tracy Will, what started as “all her husband’s idea” turned out to be a great blessing for her family. 

In June of 2020, Will and her family purchased a family cottage on Chippewa Lake, about twenty minutes past Big Rapids. 

The thought of owning a cottage never crossed Will’s mind until an opportunity was presented to her husband by a friend on Facebook who works as a realtor. They were very intrigued about what the cottage had to offer and went to check out the property—it was an immediate hit. 

“We liked that [the property] was an hour away,” Will said. “[We] don’t have to stop [on the way to the cottage] and get all sorts of groceries and such. It’s far enough, yet close enough.”

Sleeping up to ten people, it was a great way to spend family time during the pandemic. With Will being a teacher and her husband a volleyball coach, they basically have the summers off, giving them plenty of time to spend up at the cottage. 

Although the ride is only an hour long, Will came up with a creative way to occupy that short time while eagerly awaiting her arrival. 

“I made an hour-long playlist,” Will said. “I thought that if I played it every time I left my house [to go to the cottage], I’d start to anticipate when we would get there based on the songs that played.” 

And while Will always highly anticipates every trip to their cottage, there were times where the hour-long trip was leading up to renovations rather than relaxation. 

In her eyes, it definitely needed some adjustments, so Will and her family didn’t waste any time fixing it up. 

“When we bought [the cottage],” Will said, “it had a lot of different tones of wood on the deck because they had added a gazebo and a connecting deck. So one of the things we did was stain everything one color, and that was fun.” 

And the renovations were worth it, because Will and her family have created a sanctuary, of sorts, with many memories attached to their home away from home. 

“The feeling that I get when I go [to the cottage] is automatically different,” Will said, “because I think of myself as having minimalist tendencies. Having this new place allowed me to only intentionally put what I want to have there. It’s very calming for my mind to have a space to live in for a day or three where the only things I have are the things I need.” 

While the Will’s cottage has been a sanctuary of peace, senior Delaney Niswonger’s family cottage has a purpose for more than just enjoyment. The convenience of having a place near some family-favorite locations was considered in the decision process.

Delaney’s dad has a passion for hunting, especially in the Upper Peninsula, and having a cottage near his hunting club allows for the whole family to have a place to stay while he hunts. The cottage is located in Curtis, Michigan on South Manistique Lake. 

It’s far enough, yet close enough.

— Tracy Will

“Normally we’re really busy in the spring and the summertime,” Delaney said, “and with COVID this year, everything slowed down. We started thinking that this might be something we want to invest in. My parents are thinking about moving up there in their future to retire and having a space there. We just had the time and felt inspired to have a getaway during covid.”

Since the cottage was purchased right before Labor day this past year, Delaney has only been able to make the five-hour trip to Curtis a couple of times. 

“I have only been able to get up there twice because it is in the [Upper Peninsula] and it’s kind of a long-weekend kind of trip,” Delaney said. “With me cheering at football games on Friday nights, I wasn’t able to get up there very much.” 

Her sister, Zoe recently graduated from Grand Valley State University, and even though she wasn’t able to have a proper graduation celebration due to the circumstances, her family made sure her special day was still celebrated. 

“We celebrated up [at the cottage] actually,” Delaney said. “We went to dinner, we surprised her with a cap and gown, and we had a little celebration, so that was really fun.” 

Though Delaney hasn’t made it up to her cottage very much, she is very excited about this coming summer when she can hopefully bring some friends and have more fun adventures.

Unlike the Will’s and Niswonger’s newly purchased cottages, junior Jack Woods’ cottage has been one of his favorite places for about four years now. But, just as Will spent her fair share of time renovating hers, Jack did as well–his cottage in Onekama, Michigan was a fixer-upper. 

“We spent the first year renovating,” Jack said. “There are all sorts of crazy stories from [the renovation process]. The place was not built well, so it was a bit fun to tear down and take sledgehammers to walls and throw trash at each other.”

Though a lot of people close up their cottage for the winter, Jack’s family uses it year-round. In the summertime, he spends his time jet skiing and sailing, while in the wintertime, he skis and snowboards. 

Like a second home to him and his family, and because he can be there all year, Jack has many memories there, but one, especially, sticks out.  

“I almost broke my ankle because I tried to jump over my deck,” Jack said. “We were playing the game ‘Spoons.’ We had this clear plastic spoon and [my friend] chucked it in the yard. So we’re sitting on the back porch, and this other guy played his cards down first so he sprints down the stairs, and I’m like, ‘shoot, I don’t have time to go down the stairs.’ So I just jumped over the railing and totally rolled my ankles. I still lost, but it makes for a good story.”

As school has been completely online for FHC for the past few weeks, Jack has been doing online school from his cottage and he feels that “there’s no reason to be back home” when he can still work while being in a nice, relaxing location.

When there aren’t many opportunities to do much, having a cottage has been very handy for Will, Jack, Delaney, and their families. Whether the cottage experience is new for some or a family tradition to others, cottages provide family time in a place away from the typical home life.

Sometimes it’s just nice to be off the map for a while.

“I feel so much more relaxed [when I’m at my cottage],” Jack said. “It’s a great way to just get away from everything. I feel like back home, everything is just nonstop, but up here it’s ‘roll out of bed at 9 a.m.; no problem.’”