YouTube personalities Sarah & Peter Brookhart left Chicago for Florida to follow their dream of Moving to Disney World. (10 Minute Read)
Moving To Disney
Did you ever dream about living at Disneyland? I know I did. I clearly remember being nine-years-old, drooping sadly out the gates after the fireworks and thinking out loud to nobody, “If I could just stay hidden in one of the caves on Tom Sawyer Island, I could wait out the security guards and have the place all to myself… forever.”
But that’s unrealistic, right? Eventually fantasies give way to reality and childlike dreams fade away.
However, sometimes when you’re not looking, the dream stirs again. Enter YouTube personalities, Sarah and Peter Brookhart.
Magic Kingdom Kids
The Brookharts are an insufferably cute pair of high school sweethearts from Chicago (seriously, folks, they’re adorable) who just recently pulled up stakes and moved to Walt Disney World to follow their dreams.
Sarah, an expressive young woman whose animated eyes, snowy complexion, and icing-blonde hair makes one think of the wooden-shoed Dutch maidens on the It’s a Small World attraction. Born into a Disney-loving family, her parents honeymooned at Walt Disney World and raised their three daughters to love castles, princesses, and talking mice. Every two years like clockwork, Sarah’s family traveled from Chicago to Florida for two weeks at a time to experience all that Disney has to offer.
Peter, broad shouldered and gregarious, did not grow up going to Disney. His family did other things on vacation, but when he fell in love with Sarah, it became inevitable – he’d have to fall in love with Disney too.
During their college years, Peter convinced Sarah to join the Disney College Program so they could spend a Summer or two working as Cast Members. Until then, Peter had never visited a Disney Park, so Sarah insisted they go down to Florida a week early because, as she says, “He has to experience the magic before he can be behind the magic.”
They were married in August of 2015, and you’ll never guess where they honeymooned. That’s right – Niagara Falls! Just kidding. They drove Route 66 to California to spend a week at Disneyland.
Back home in Chicago, surrounded by close family, working good jobs, and enjoying the support of a network of lifelong friends, the Brookharts lived a life marked by stability.
Somewhere in their hearts, however, discontent was brewing.
Home Is Where?
From time to time, Sarah and Peter toyed with the idea of moving to Orlando permanently.
“Since 2011, the thought has been in the back of our mind, ‘What would life be like if we moved out here?,” Peter said. “‘What would we be missing? What would we be gaining? Would it be forever? Would it not be forever?’ And I think it’s been just sitting on our mind for the last 6 years.”
In February of 2017, after a weeklong visit to Walt Disney World, Sarah and Peter sat near the pool at Saratoga Springs Resort sipping a vacation favorite, the Lava Smoothie. They were intent on soaking up the last few moments of Florida sun and Disney magic before the airport shuttle arrived.
And they weren’t happy.
If you’ve vacationed at Disney – or anywhere else for that matter – you’ll remember these three stages of vacation emotions. First, you experience the dogged intensity of planning and preparing for the trip. Second, you’re giddy with excitement as you finally arrive at your home-away-from-home. Third, you descend into a fog of melancholy as you reach the vacation’s final day.
The Brookharts were in that third stage.
Peter spoke in a low voice, apparently trying not to disturb the air. Sarah leaned her head against his shoulder, her eyes billowed like the Florida sky, threatening rain. So many times they’d left Disney World, and they felt sad every time, but this time was different.
“We just looked broken,” said Peter. “And it was like something (had) snapped in us.”
On the flight to Chicago they didn’t talk much. When they did speak, they could only describe a looming dread that they weren’t just going home. They were leaving their dreams behind.
“I didn’t want to be 85, talking to my grandchildren,” Peter remembered thinking, “and let them know that Grandpa didn’t follow his dreams. Grandpa didn’t try, at least, to see what living at Disney World would be like.”
After a week of hard conversations thinking and talking about what a move to Disney World might mean, Peter finally asked Sarah, “We’re doing this, right?” And that’s when their journey began.
It’s a scary thing to leave the comfort of home to follow a dream. Like the gold-rush 49ers who headed West in pursuit of fortune and glory, true courage is required to face down the fears, doubts, and obstacles that will come your way.
More to the Brookhart’s interests, Disney park video bloggers like Joey Beth & Josh Bugg (It’s The Bugg’s Life), Brock & Promise (Ears2You), and the current king of the craft, Tim Tracker (TheTimTracker) proved that there is a growing demand for true-life human adventures that take place at Disney.
These trailblazers paved the way for Sarah and Peter to courageously ask, “If they could do it, why couldn’t we?”
But courage from strangers wasn’t going to be enough to uproot them from the community where they were raised.
The Ties That Bind
Sarah and Peter grew up on the Southside of Chicago in a village where you’re known by the church you attend. The small-town in a big-city vibe afforded them some of the most close-knit and satisfying community connections the Midwest has to offer; friends, jobs, lifelong connection to a city that they love…
And family. Sarah and her sisters were an inseparable trio who had gone through everything together. To Sarah, leaving her family to go live at Disney seemed like betrayal.
“We were used to being the people you could lean on,” Sarah said.” So telling someone we’re not gonna be there is a pretty harsh blow for them and it’s a pretty harsh blow for us because, you know, we enjoy being there for others.”
Even though their family was supportive of the move, the knowledge that they would be missing important family moments made it even more painful to leave.
At one point, Sarah’s sister, Christina, announced that she was pregnant. In the midst of the joy and excitement, Sarah was struck cold by the realization that she would be in Orlando throughout much of the pregnancy. With her sister-senses tingling, Christina wasn’t about to let Sarah call off the dream. She looked Sarah in the eyes and said, “You still have to go to Disney.”
The good news is, unlike the 49ers, Sarah and Peter have FaceTime, Snapchat, and their daily video diaries on YouTube to make communication with their families easy.
“Luckily for them, every single day of our lives is on the internet so they can see what we’re up to,” Sarah laughed. “But it is still up to us to make sure that we stay updated on their lives too.”
A Goal, a Plan…
Once their minds were made up to go, all they needed was a goal to aim for and a plan to get there. For Peter, a zealous foodie, there was one target he could focus on that would keep them moving forward.
“I didn’t know what job I’d have,” said Peter. “Didn’t know if we’d both have to work full normal jobs. If I’d be working weekends, second shift, third shift, first shift? We didn’t know! But all I said is, ‘I wanna be in Florida by Food and Wine festival.’”
So with Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival as the carrot to draw them on, they set about to make their plan.
Sarah is a freelance graphic artist with a steady client load. Her job would be portable. Peter would have to find a job, and searching for work from half a continent away wasn’t going to be easy.
They also needed to find an affordable place to stay (hopefully within 10 minutes of the resorts), a vehicle to get around in, and a whole lot of money for moving expenses.
Step by step, hour by hour, week by week, for 4 months they researched, saved, asked a lot of questions, and patiently pursued their dream until at last, most of the pieces had fallen into place.
Peter got a promising job with a timeshare company that would be waiting when they arrived. They found a place to rent seven minutes from the gates of Disney World (a feat they are still super proud of). They managed to save just enough to pay for all the expenses of the move, and even had something socked away to buy a car once they arrived.
Along the way, they welcomed to the family a cute little sidekick to share their adventures, a Pomeranian puppy named Eve.
But there was one more puzzle piece they would need to complete the picture. A name.
…And a Name.
Their original YouTube channel, named The Fab 5207 , was a collaboration with friends from their Disney College Program days. If they did actually make it to Florida, Sarah and Peter intended to create a brand new YouTube channel to share their adventures with their established audience and friends back home.
Their new adventures, to be filmed and published every day, would center around their relationship as a couple, their highs and lows – even their starting of a family – all within the context of their shared love for the Disney experience.
Now, every good story has a title and every YouTube channel needs a name. The Brookharts wanted to choose something just right, so they decided to look for inspiration from the man whose mouse started it all, Walt Disney.
Back in the 1960s, Walt was looking for a place to build his outrageous dream of a master-planned vacation kingdom and city of tomorrow. He settled on Central Florida as the ideal location. Long before he had a name for the place that would become Walt Disney World, Walt and his team simply referred to it as “The Florida Project.”
Whenever Walt spoke of “The Florida Project”the words seemed to flow off of his tongue with a sort of reverent excitement that revealed his true feelings for what he was certain his dream would one day become. His brother Roy reported that Walt was still scheming about the project on his death bed, using the hospital ceiling tiles as the gridlines of a map to point out where he wanted certain features and attractions.
Sadly, Roy would be the only Disney brother to see The Florida Project become a reality.
Influenced by that same spirit of hope and vision for the future, the Brookharts’ new life and video channel was sure to become a long-running documentary of their very own Florida project.
So, on July 28, 2017, The Brookhart Project set their cameras to record, kissed their families goodbye, and hit the road, bound for a brand new life in Walt Disney World.
At Home in Disney World
Six months later, Sarah and Peter sit on a bench at the Beach Club Resort just few short steps from the entrance to Epcot. They’re reflecting on the what they’ve experienced and learned since their journey began one year ago.
“What has been the child, almost, of The Brookhart Project,” said Peter, is really the lifestyle that Sarah and I have adapted and been growing into since we moved down here – and that’s just appreciating every single day, and every single minute, every single thing.”
Moving to Disney has developed a deeper appreciation for the obvious things like the rides, architecture, and the food (they did make it in time for the Food and Wine Festival after all). However, they’ve found themselves appreciating the little things even more, like the way cast members work so hard to give each guest a special experience.
“Even though we live in such a grand place, it’s this humble view on life has been the biggest gain for us.”
Naturally, they have experienced every parade, show, and attraction many times. Still, it hasn’t been all churros and Dole Whips for the couple.
“We’ve heard few snide comments,” Sarah said, “where people are like, ‘Oh, you live in Fantasyland.’ I mean we still have laundry! We still have dishes. We still have bills, we’re not eating out at the parks every night. You don’t see us when we’re downing PB & Js in the car before we head into the parks!”
And it hasn’t been easy being so far from their families.
“My family is just used to being obsessed with each other,” Sarah said. “We FaceTime every other day almost. I talk to my mom every night on the phone. But, you know, we just miss being able to stop by and shovel the sidewalk for her.”
Nonetheless, the happiness they’ve experienced as a couple and the friendships they’ve built are valuable beyond measure.
“Because we are constantly interacting with others who watch our videos, we’ve had some incredibly humbling messages sent to us about what our videos do for them.”
Once, they heard from a woman in a nursing home who was feeling trapped and hopeless. She told Sarah and Peter, “You guys give me my freedom because you take me away from this place every day.”
“Stuff like that makes me realize, this isn’t just a YouTube channel,” said Sarah.
Now that they have realized their dream of moving to Disney World, the Brookharts feel a responsibility to inspire others to pursue dreams of their own.
“Even if it’s inspiring them to do something of their own. Maybe Walt Disney World is not their ‘Disney World.’ Maybe going to explore South America is their ‘Disney World,’” said Peter.
For Sarah and Peter, Walt Disney World has become more than a vacation destination. In many ways, it has become the laboratory for a grand relationship experiment.
“No matter what,” said Sarah, “it’s kind of been strengthening us as a couple just to figure out how we want to live.”
Ask any marriage counselor and they’ll tell you that the best ways to perpetuate the romance and insulate a relationship against divorce is to share a hobby and to keep a regular date night.
If that’s true, then Sarah and Peter’s story will end in “happily ever after.” From the day they arrived in Florida, they’ve enjoyed date night every night, wandering hand in hand together and capturing every moment in the most magical place on earth.
Freddy’s Move to Disneyland – An Epilogue
I wrote the first words of this story on board the “Ward Kimball” steam train while taking a grand circle tour of Disneyland. If you had been there, you might have thought it a little strange to see me working on my laptop as though the tunnels and tracks were a suburban Starbucks.
After observing people like the Brookharts, Peter Tu (the clapping man of Disneyland), Lou Mongello, and many others, I decided to turn what I do into something I love by doing it in the place where I feel most creative – Disneyland!
Although I didn’t actually “move to Disneyland” (I still live over an hour away), I started 2018 with the commitment to hold my “office hours” one day a week at the Disneyland Resort. You might find me running reports at the Hungry Bear in Critter Country, drafting an appeal letter on the old Motor Boat Cruise launch, or editing content on Tom Sawyer Island.
And yes, I am actually working.
Here’s what I learned from the Brookharts about how to follow your dream to live at Disney in 8 practical steps.
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