"The one thing that scares me is the idea that it would take me years to learn just the absolute basics"
This is more of a psychological issue than a musical issue. I'll share some of my experiences and maybe that will help. I started on the violin at age 5. I was good right away and excelled fast in private lessons. At about 8 or 9 (I don't remember) I started private lessons on electric guitar and forgot about the violin. Later in high school I wanted to enter an accelerated music program at a college prep academy and guitar was not on the list of allowed instruments. So I thought I'll just pick up the violin again and it will be no problem to get my chops back. That never happened. It was a disaster. I started on the upright bass and took to that so fast I was doing gigs within 6 months. However! I continued with classical bass lessons for about 6 years and personally feel like I never mastered the bow (regardless of whether my instructor gave positive feedback), but I persisted. I tried different quality of bow, weights on the bow etc. As a music major I had to "learn" piano (take piano lab) and hated it. I have no problem using both hands on the classical guitar but could never coordinate both on the piano (I will likely never understand why). At this point in my life I've played guitar professionally for many years and decided last year to take classical voice lessons. I have gotten better but it was a real crush to my ego that I didn't take to it naturally, as with guitar and bass. But it is what it is.
If you're looking for someone to tell you that violin is easy or not that is not a fair question since it depends on the person. For me it was easy then impossible as I was a different person 5 years after quitting. I will tell you a couple things about any member of this family of instruments.
(1) They are fretless. Unlike the piano which is an equal tempered instrument the violin, cello, and bass are fretless so there is no guide for being in tune except the ear. You will need to get used to that and that is good for all musicians in my opinion.
(2) The bow can be a challenge to master for some. But that depends on the quality of the bow and the teacher.
I think you should get a teacher from the start if you want to seriously explore the violin. Also, you are going to just have to try and see how it goes. So what if it takes 5 years to get good? That is what it takes. You are either committed or not. If you put a time constraint on it before you start you have already quit. I'd say just try and see if you like it. See if it fits your body and personality. Then you will devote the time and the technique will evolve.
I think that most people that pursue the arts have some natural talent in one area or another. This is good but can backfire in that when things take actual effort it's a turn off. The things that take effort are definitely worth doing.