Once Myron and I decided to build a home on my family property near the shores of Lake Ontario, we knew we needed to start thinking in radical new directions.  The widely accepted method of saving money, building credit and begging the bank for a loan just wasn’t in harmony with our anti-establishment natures.  Besides we had almost no savings. However, we were willing to work hard, and we had faith that together we could figure it out.

Together we can figure it out.

Clockwise (left to right) My Mom – Sally, my brother – Merrill, my son – Nick and me!

I went to talk with my Mom about taking over the property so we could pursue our dream. At first, she looked horrified. “Oh, you don’t want to do that.” She then began recounting every difficulty and unpleasant circumstance she’d endured while living in a 12’ x 10’ cabin while my Dad built the first few rooms of what would become our family home. No running water, an outhouse in the woods, leaky roofs…the litany continued.

When she finished, I asked, “It wasn’t all bad was it?”

“No” she replied cautiously.

“How about the time we sailed to Aunt Judy’s when the water was calm, but the wind was good?”

She smiled as the memory came over her.

“And what about the time the smelt ran so strong in the creek that we could barely keep up with getting them in the freezer.” I continued until she became lost in fond memories of friends, family, pets and adventures.

“So, it wasn’t all bad” I offered.

“No,” she replied, “but it was very, very hard.”

“We’re accustomed to hardship and we both come from hardy stock.” I stated

With that, she agreed.

Two roads diverged in a wood and I, I took the one less traveled by and that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

So, I began researching alternative paths to home ownership with 3 criteria for the house in mind:

  1. No Mortgage
  2. Energy Efficient
  3. Low Maintenance

Mortgage free home ownership is more than just a matter of personal economics. It has to be a principled philosophical choice. I say this, because it is not easy. I know there are a lot of late-night infomercials out there that would disagree, but what I mean when I say Mortgage Free is low cost, do it yourself and pay as you go. It is not for the faint of heart, but it is by no means out of reach. Still, there were many Nay Sayers along the way who pointed out what they thought were flaws in our plans. They were quick to point out all of the challenges that would conspire to bring about our demise. And they’d sit back and nod to themselves as though they conveyed a profound truth. In reality, I think they were afraid we’d succeed. If we did, they’d have to face up to the fact that they could have chosen a different path, rather than the one they were on.

When you choose to veer off well-trodden roads and forge ahead in new directions there will always be well intentioned voices trying to steer you back to safer ground.  They will tell you all of the reasons you won’t succeed and point out all of the things you could have done differently thus far. They’ll ask questions like, “Why do you want to do it the hard way?” and “Wouldn’t it be better if you did it my way?” The voice of doubt might even come from within your own heart.

I hope you will challenge those voices and challenge yourself in the process. When confronted by a Nay Sayer, Myron and I like to remind each other that, everyone thinks they know something, but they don’t know what makes us who we are.  Most importantly remember this: it’s not about perfection. You will make mistakes, but you will also learn, grow and improve. That’s what its all about.

Life shouldn’t be just the same thing over and over. Reach out beyond the everyday and see what you can discover. Leave the Nay Sayers to while away the hours, days and years doing the same things over and over. Strike out and discover your own path, follow it, surmount the obstacles and then find another even less trodden path to forge. Obstacles are just that. They can be surmounted. You are capable. And when you do reach beyond what you believed were your limits, you will be amazed to discover what you find there.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

Henry David Thoreau