The first time I visited a house on a lake, I fell in love. It was my second year of law school. One of my friends invited the rest of our circle to spend a few relaxing days at her grandparent’s lake house in upstate New York.

It was a cozy, homey place with a glorious view of the lake from every window at the back of the house. The yard was large and flat (and filled with gigantic goose poop) and lead straight into the glassy water of the lake. A small treed island stood in the middle of the lake complete with a bonfire pit in the middle.

It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

I grew up in New York City and so had had little exposure to natural beauty prior to that. Before law school I had never gone hiking (unless you count the long marches I did in the Marine Corps) or ever even considered being out in natural settings as a source of recreation. But law school changed all of that, especially the trips to my friend’s lake house.

In the mornings I would wake up before everyone else and head out to the dock with my notebook in hand to watch the sun rise. By my second sunrise I decided that I wanted a lake house. I had no idea how that was going to happen of course, but I knew that I wanted one and would make it happen eventually.

When we bought our second house back in Texas I fell in love with it partially because the neighborhood was on a peninsula surrounded by a lake. While we couldn’t actually see the lake from the house, we drove over it twice a day every day on our commute. Driving over that lake every day at the end of the work day just made all of the tension and stress fade away. There were lots of things to love about that house and the lake was one of them, which made it even harder to leave.

Joseph’s parents recently bought a lake house and we were able to visit it for the first time this month. It’s breathtaking views and tranquility were instant destressors. Being at their lake house reminded me just how much I loved being near the water.

Our room at the lake had the most gorgeous view. When I woke up the next morning to the sun rising over the lake, I knew that it was something that I wanted to be a regular part of my life, if at all possible. So I turned to Joseph and said–I think for the first time ever since we’ve been together–that I wanted a lake house.

Now, the dream of having a house is on our radar. That means that we can start planning for it, which honestly is where the fun begins. We can research and see what the potential options are for making that dream a reality. For example, what do lake houses cost near us? What about in other areas of the country? Does it make sense to buy a second house or should we plan to acquire a lake house in retirement? If we decide to buy a second house, what kind of down payment would we need, how long will it take us to save, and what kind of revenue will the property generate for us when we are not using it?

As we slowly work our way through answering these questions and any others that arise, we can start formulating a plan to make the dream come true.

For example. Let’s say we decide we want a second house now. And we are willing to drive up to three hours to get to it. Then we can start checking out all of the lakes within a 200 mile radius of our house and see what the various price points are. We would also look into what houses in the area rent for, because we would most likely rent out the property whenever we weren’t using it in the hopes that the rental income would cover the mortgage most months allowing us enjoy the lake house with low out of pocket expenses.

With that basic information, we could then start looking into financing for a second house to see what that would cost and what kind of down payment we would need. Lastly, we’d look at our budget to see how long it would take us to save up the down payment so we’d know what kind of time line we were working with. And just like that, what initially seemed like a far-fetched dream becomes a very real possibility with concrete, actionable steps to get there.

Realistically, even without doing all of that research, based on what I know about our current financial situation, we are probably at least three to four years out from being able to afford a second house. We have other financial priorities that are more important to us right now. Some of them, like beefing up our kids’ college funds are pretty time sensitive.

Owning a lake house might be something more of a 10 year goal or even twenty. What’s important is that we have identified it as something that we want in our lives. That way as we evaluate our short and long term financial goals we can start to formulate a plan for making this new financial dream come true.