Moving to Main Street, U.S.A.

How We Left Our Home, Took the Kids, and Moved to the Doorstep of Walt Disney World

by Michele Atwood | Release Date: March 12, 2017 | Availability: Print, Kindle

Next Door to Mickey Mouse

Fess up. If you could quit your job, pull your kids out of school, sell your house, and say goodbye to your friends, you'd move to the doorstep of Walt Disney World, in a heartbeat. But who can do that? Scott and Michele Atwood did. And in doing so they built a Disney business. Here's how!

From cold, snowy Michigan, Michele Atwood tried to run her popular Disney site, The Main Street Mouse. It wasn't easy. All the action was many hundreds of miles away, in Orlando. Her dream - okay, her Disney dream - was to earn enough money from The Main Street Mouse to support her family. But from Michigan? No way.

So she shut down the site and got a real job. Except—she didn't! If Disney couldn't come to her, she'd go to it.

She persuaded her husband, Scott, that it made perfect sense to pull up stakes and rent a house near Disney World, a house they'd never seen, and count on the website to pay the bills.

After some difficult times, Florida began to feel like home, and The Main Street Mouse became one of the biggest, most successful Disney fan sites in the world. And they blogged happily ever after!

The Atwood's story is a real Disney dream come true.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Once Upon a Time

Chapter 2: Real Life vs Dreaming

Chapter 3: Virtual Reality?

Chapter 4: I’ve Got a Dream

Chapter 5: Moving Forward

Chapter 6: See Ya Real Soon

Chapter 7: A Whole New World

Chapter 8: Now What?

Chapter 9: Disney from a Different Perspective

Chapter 10: Adjusting

Chapter 11: Meet-up Time and More Adjusting

Chapter 12: Making the Most of Summer

Chapter 13: Here Comes Reality

Chapter 14: Fall and Family

Chapter 15: Expanding Our Horizons

Chapter 16: Meeting Our Disney Ohana

Chapter 17: Christmas Cheer

Chapter 18: Wrapping Things Up and Going Home

Chapter 19: Let’s Do This

Chapter 20: Another First

Chapter 21: Family First

Chapter 22: Spring Has Sprung

Chapter 23: On the Scene

Chapter 24: Feet on Ground, Head Elsewhere

Chapter 25: We Made It

Chapter 26: The Adventure Continues

Chapter 27: Food, Wine, and Finding Time

Chapter 28: Celebrate Good Times (on a Budget)

Chapter 29: Tis the Season

Chapter 30: Ups and Downs

Chapter 31: Expect the Unexpected

Chapter 32: Finding Strength

Chapter 33: Living the Dream the Best We Can

Michele Atwood

Michele Atwood is lifelong Disney fan, and the co-owner and lead writer of the popular Disney fan site The Main Street Mouse and its spinoff e-magazine, The Main Street Monthly. Michele’s writing has been featured across various media platforms since the creation of The Main Street Mouse back in 2010. She and her family are originally from southeast Michigan, but relocated to the Orlando area.

There always comes that moment, the one where a long-simmering plan boils over into reality, and a countdown begins. Excitement! Then self-doubt....

So, we’re moving to Florida! Hooray! Now what?

There is so much to do and so much to consider when you make the huge decision to move your family roughly 1200 miles away from home. I wasn’t sure where to begin. It was late winter, still cold outside, I thought I had plenty of time to make a plan. I really didn’t. The goal was to be out of our house and on the road to Florida once the boys got out of school in June. I seriously don’t know what I was thinking. Do I just work better under pressure? Was I somehow in a subconscious way trying to sabotage my plan? Maybe. It’s all a blur. We started getting rid of extra things, donating clothes and other items to Goodwill, just to see if we could make any headway purging the house for the big move. Also, in the meantime, I was online looking into rental houses not far from Walt Disney World. Again, in the back of my head, I thought if we couldn’t find a house, then it wasn’t meant to be, and that would be my sign to stay put in Michigan. I was looking for signs on all sides, good or bad.

Thanks to the power of social media and the internet, I found out that a rental house about 10 minutes from Disney was going to be available in June. June! Perfect! I didn’t want to get too excited until Scott was able to talk to the landlord to see if it’s something we could do, or if he’d even want us as tenants. They spoke on the phone for about 45 minutes, and I was pacing around the house. There I was making deals in my head again, waiting for that sign. Scott got off the phone and I could barely breathe waiting for him to tell me how it went. He just smiled and said, “He’s putting the rental agreement in the mail, we got the house.” We were thrilled! Things were falling into place, fast. Everything we were waiting on, every sign I was holding out for, was happening. Was God telling me to stop being a chicken and just go for it? I was starting to think so … and it was terrifying. We weren’t even sure where this house was; we had only seen pictures. Were we crazy to pack up and move to a house that we haven’t even walked through? Possibly. Something inside me was telling me to just go and it would all be okay, and I had to rely on those feelings. The rent was double what we paid in Michigan, I wasn’t sure how we were going to get things done by June, but we signed the paperwork and put our moving plan into place. Yes, this was happening. We were moving to Main Street, U.S.A. Disney World, here we come!

But first, a few things needed to be done. Well, a lot of things.

Up until this point, I hadn’t really told too many people of our plans. I didn’t want to, because if I did, that made it too real. After making an agreement with the landlord, my first thought after the excitement wore off was, ‘Shoot, things just got real,’ and I knew that it was time to push forward, get our packing done, make arrangements, and put it all out there. I was terrified. People tell me I’m brave, but honestly, the whole time I was packing, putting down deposits, making arrangements for this and that … in my head I was still thinking, ‘I can’t believe I’m doing this.’ and would tell myself that if things fell through, it would be okay and I’d know that it wasn’t meant to be. I was fine with that. Scared, but going through the motions regardless.

There was so much that I had to do, as well as there being a lot to learn. I had only moved once, not including moving out of my parents’ house when I got married in my twenties. Even then, I had bought my grandparents’ house which was only ten minutes from my mom and dad, and it was a house that was a second home for me, so the move wasn’t a huge adjustment. A few years back we moved out of that house and were living someplace new, still only ten minutes away, and in the same city. We had moved into a house that was a bit more updated, needed less work, and we really fixed it up cute. And now we’re leaving that cute house. We had put a lot of work into it: paint, fixtures, landscaping. It looked awesome! And we’re moving? I must have been losing my mind. See what self doubt can do?

I liked my house, but we had only been there two years so it wasn’t “home.” I didn’t think I’d have as hard of a time leaving it as I did the other house we had, the one that my grandparents raised my mother in, the one that I brought my own babies home to. Now that one was a heartbreaker. If I could get through that move, I could certainly let go of this house easier. At least that was my hope.

Continued in "Moving to Main Street, U.S.A."!

Running a media company named after the world's most famous mouse doesn't mean that the mouse gets to hog all the headlines.

When we first got to town, we made a great media contact with a man named John, who was the marketing manager at the new I-Drive 360 Complex that was being built. At this location, a whole new entertainment area was coming which included the Sea Life Aquarium, Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, and the Orlando Eye, a roughly 400-foot observation wheel. The first time we were invited out by John, the wheel was only just beginning to be built. He gave Scott and I hard hats and we toured the construction area. Only the base of the wheel was up at that time. We were hoping that we’d be asked back once the complex was completed, and in fact we were. John was one of the first people in the area to give us a shot when we arrived in Florida, and he was always good to us, so I wanted to cover these events well.

It was a whirlwind three days. The first media day was for the Sea Life Aquarium. They gave people from the media different times to attend the walkthrough, so it wasn’t too crowded, and allowed people enough space to take photos. The following day, and one I was looking forward to, was Madame Toussaud’s Orlando. We arrived at the complex and waited with other press outside for them to let us inside. This was probably the first time in months that I had to face my fears and deal with others in the community who weren’t so nice to us. If you recall, the old me in December had a knotted-up stomach, and was ready to stay home and hide. Fast forward a few months, the new and improved me was standing there, holding my head high, and didn’t give a rip about the whispers and dirty looks. How’s that for progress? Another lesson learned, that you may also find useful, is that confidence causes an exchange of power. If you allow people to run you off, they will. I wasn’t going to let that happen, and still have that philosophy today.

As we walked through the wax museum, we turned a corner and came face to face with … Walt Disney! Or rather, his wax figure. It was sad to think that Walt’s vision and ideas grew to the size that they did, and he wasn’t here to see it. As we continued through, we saw more of our favorite celebrities represented.

Our three days of media madness was to close out the next day, with the opening of the Orlando Eye. Before they allowed the press to actually ride it, there was a “walk the wheel” stunt about to happen, and daredevil Nic Wallenda was going to balance his way across one of the beams, with no safety net. My friend Janel went with me to cover this one, as we had to be there early and Scott took the kids to school and was going to meet up with us later. As we stood there watching him walking, hundreds of feet off the ground, awful thoughts were running though my head, and I was scared for him. I was trying to do a live feed for our viewers, and hold my hand as still as I could, even though I was a jittery mess watching that.

Afterward, we went inside, and the aquarium and museum was open for the press again, but with no restrictions or guides, so we went where we wanted to take more pictures and video. We went to the back of the complex once Scott got there, and we waited our turn for our capsule, as it was time to ride the Orlando Eye. I’m not a fan of heights, not at all, but this was part of the job, so I had to suck it up and deal with my phobia. The nice part is that the wheel is really smooth, and turns really slow, so it’s not so bad. The view from the top is unbelievable; you can see all the theme parks in the area, and on clear days, you can see all the way to the coast.

When we got off the wheel, a local news crew was standing there. Apparently they were interviewing people as they walked off the ride. The reporter talked to us, and told me they had a lot of tapes to go through, as they had interviewed about 40 groups of people, but we could see if we made the news later that afternoon. I didn’t think we had a chance. That evening we were watching the news, waiting for the section on the Orlando Eye, and to my surprise, we did make it. I’m glad Scott had the DVR set just in case. We recorded it and played it back a few times. Part of the reason for recording the footage was so that our crew back home could see it, too.

Continued in "Moving to Main Street, U.S.A."!

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