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The Millionaire Question

July 26th, 2009 3 comments


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…

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3 Responses to “The Millionaire Question”

  1. frank says:

    hey guys i hope that you are both well it is middle winter here but 21-25 degrees so a great day once again brilliant writings so have you got a script writer now or what.

    you must be nearly home i imagine, what happens then i thinks you will be riding very slowly the closer you get to home as you will not want this adventure to finish

    ok my friends have a great day and keep smiling hugs from OZ and me to xx

  2. Alan Shea says:

    I would share tonight’s draw of 32 million with my brother so he and his wife could still cycle the world–Take care, and see you soon–Alan/Carol/Maggie

  3. Nora says:

    As much as I’ve seen more than my fair share of less than desirable things on the road, and had to make compromises to travel full-time, I’m in Brian’s camp. If I had it all to do over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.

    One of the beautiful things I have learned in my own full-time travel adventure over the last few years is that travel – and retirement – and dreams – are so different for everybody. Even two people on the same trip will see the experience with different eyes. I love it!

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