The Millionaire Question

555km Warman to Dauphin

DSC_9539What would you do if you woke up tomorrow and found you’d won a million dollars?

Since the earliest days of our trip, we’ve asked this question of everyone we spend an evening with. “Camels. I’d buy camels,” said a nomad in Morocco, explaining that camels were the gold standard in that part of the world. Another man that night said he’d take his mother on pilgrimage to Mecca. Still others along the way spoke of buying tropical islands, going on shopping sprees and sailing off into the sunset.

But Brian, our newest friend from the road, gave an answer we’d never heard before. Sitting on the shores of Moon Lake in Riding Mountain National Park, listening to the waves gently lap up on the beach and the loons singing their first evening calls, Brian said simply that he wouldn’t change a thing.

It took us a moment to digest this idea. Nothing? Not a bigger house or a little hideaway cabin in a different spot or some other treat – anything – dreamed of but so far unaffordable? No, the answer came again. Nothing.

This, we thought, was perhaps the ultimate sign of true happiness: that you might have the potential to buy any number of new and wonderful things and yet saw no need for any of it.

DSC_9528And the more we looked at Brian’s lifestyle, the more we understood and admired and felt inspired, more than we have been by almost anyone else on our journey. We talked about how he managed to retire at 39 (no, we haven’t mistyped that figure). We stayed in his beautiful and entirely recycled home, built himself using materials that were salvaged from old barns, cabooses and other people’s abandoned projects. We learned about his winter vacations to warm spots and his summer’s challenge of building a log cabin to house a sauna and guest room. And all this on a pauper’s income but one used wisely to generate the maximum happiness and freedom.

This, we thought, is our dream.

We found our dream’s essence reiterated in a story discovered on Brian’s bookshelf:

“I’ve found one good way to live and be happy. There must be other ways too, but I don’t know ’em, so I mean to stick to my way-till I come to the end of it. The secret seems to be, to do everything you can yourself.

It’s difficult to explain, but take an example. Take travel. Allow yourself to be carried about the world in Wagon-Lits and cabins-de-luxe, and what do you get out of it? You get bored to death. Everything is done for you and you don’t even have to think. All you have to do is pay. You’re carried about with the greatest care and wrapped up and fed and insulated from everything. You see about as much of life as a suckling in the arms of its nurse. No wonder you get bored!

But get yourself about the world, on your own feet, or in your own boat, and you’re bound, you’re bound to fill your life with interest and charm and fun-and beauty. You’ll have your disagreeable and uncomfortable times, of course, but they merely serve to make the good times taste better.”

Those words come from the story The £200 Millionaire, written by Weston Martyr in 1932 . Words to think about as we continue further east…