Note from the editor: This article was originally posted to the Orlando Sentinel. It was so good, I felt compelled to post it in its entirety here. – Mayor
By Jeff Kunerth, Orlando Sentinel
4:02 p.m. EDT, July 18, 2013
Every year, about 48,000 people move to metro Orlando from other states. They relocate here for jobs, climate, retirement, family and Disney. Yes, Disney.
It is not enough to vacation at Walt Disney World, coming back every year with the kids, and later, when the children grow up, by themselves — as Michael Bachand and his wife did. Or flying down a couple of times a year as Joan Doyle and her husband did for so long they didn’t call it vacationing — they called it commuting.
This is what Disney does to people. It creates an experience so pleasurable, so addictive, that people leave behind their jobs, their families, their neighbors for no other reason than this is where the Mouse resides.
John Saccheri was five when he first visited Disney World. When the family got back to Long Island, he told his father that when he grew up, he was going to live near Disney. By near, he meant a house next to Cinderella’s Castle. His father told him he would outgrow his delusions.
“He said, ‘You feel like that now, but when you get older, it won’t be that important to you,’ ” said Saccheri, now 41. “He thought I was normal.”
Saccheri knows moving just to be near a place of childhood fantasy is outside the lines of rational thought. “I realize there’s something obviously crazy about it, and I don’t care, because I love it,” he said.
He loves it because there is nowhere else that provides the same sense of respite, sanctuary and wonder from ordinary, dull, daily life. Disney World is the neat, orderly, familiar, entertaining, idealistic, nostalgic antidote to the messy, chaotic, dirty, unpredictable, threatening, sometimes dangerous society in which we live.
Joan Doyle calls it “The Disney Bubble.” You enter The Disney Bubble when you walk through the front gates and the world is transformed from what it is into what it should be.
“When you get to Disney, the real world doesn’t exist,” said Doyle, 54, a project manager for Wyndham Vacation Ownership in Orlando. “In The Disney Bubble, people are being nice, kind to each other, helpful.”
Before Joan and her husband Barry moved here in 2009, they would time how long it took before somebody — a rude clerk at the rental car return, a surly ticket agent at the airport, an obnoxious passenger on the plane — burst The Bubble.
Bachand and his wife feel the same way. They first visited Disney in 1986 when their kids were young and kept coming back until Bachand retired in 2005 and they could move to Osceola County from Boston.
Disney was always an escape from reality for Bachand, who worked in the insurance and defense industries, and that hasn’t changed in his retirement.
“I had a very stressful job. Being able to walk through those gates and into a fantasy world was just magical,” said Bachand, 67. “That feeling still exists today that you are walking into a different world, a nicer place, a happier place.”
It took John Saccheri 29 years to make good on his promise to his father. In 2005, he moved his Mystique Shopper customer-service business from New York to Orlando. Finding no housing available next to the Castle, he bought a home in Clermont. It’s 25 minutes from Disney, which turns out to be close enough, he said: “It’s not right on top of the tourists.”
No longer a tourist and no longer a child, Saccheri remains entranced by Disney World as a resident of Central Florida. “It still feels like fantasy,” he said. “I still think, ‘Wow, I can’t believe I’m here.’ “