I haven’t shared this yet, but I nearly won that large lottery back in January. The night before the drawing, my wife and I made no small plans. We would buy a large home on Geneva, which home exactly I cannot tell you out of respect for those homes that we didn’t choose. We would buy a home in the mountains, but not just any mountains, the Canadian Rockies. Why on the Canadian side? Because my wife is Canadian and it’s either I buy a mountain home near trout fishing or I buy a prairie home near Winnipeg. I choose the mountains, if I must choose Canada. Then, a home in warmer climes, but not Florida. I was in Florida last week and while I appreciate what it is and why it exists, I do not plan on owning real estate there for the duration of my life. Turks it would be, where I can fly fish from my own beach, and hunt for spiny lobsters when I tire of casting. I assume they have spiny lobsters there. The house we picked on that island was in the $20MM range, which was reasonable given our certain winnings. We spent an hour that night picking and planning, and what fun it was. The only thing better than a dream house are dream homes.
The picking of these homes was fun, simple, so easy even an Illinoisan who vacations in Michigan could do it. The next day, when we didn’t win, though we did amass a fine collection of at least two matching numbers out of the small pile of numbers we had purchased, we weren’t upset. We knew the exercise was one of intense futility, but we also knew it was fun to dream, if for an evening. We had, after all, effortlessly picked the location of our dream homes and the homes themselves. We envisioned a snippet of life in those homes, of a summer spent here, and a winter spent wading through the flats of a nameless turquoise bay. The entire process, from start to finish was enjoyable and easy. Dream home shopping is like that, but only when it’s pretend.
A real dream home search when playing out over a real life schedule, is anything but fun. For those who have dreamed of the ability to find that ideal house, when money is no object and when time is as plentiful as these Benjamin’s, the process is fun and carefree, a whimsical dream of fancy. When the dream house must fit a budget, no matter how dreamy, and the geographic confines of the house makes the choices rather limited, and the kids have hockey two nights a week and STEM class on Saturday, well, this thing isn’t as easy. Nor is it entirely fun. To those who have never looked, you might not know what I’m talking about. To those who have looked, far and wide, down this little lakeside lane and that one, in the Bay first, and then Fontana, and Linn and Geneva, you know what I’m talking about. In fact, you may know so well what it is that I speak of that you’ve pushed this hunt to the background in favor of those things in the foreground.
This is easy to do, when schedules are tight and vision is limited. It’s easy to do when the vacation home is viewed as an unnecessary luxury, as something that exists in the background as a dream that needn’t be fulfilled because it’s just that, a distant dream and we the serious know that distant dreams shouldn’t interfere with the work that must be done today. But is it this way? Is a vacation home just a dream that might be fulfilled when we have superfluous time and excesses of money? Should a vacation home search be only executed when time permits, when the schedule opens for a day, or a few hours, or a week next August? Is this something meaningless, that looks like fun but has no bearing on real life? Is a Lake Geneva vacation home just another something, rather than nearly everything? Does any of this actually matter?
I’d tell you today that it does, and you won’t be surprised that I think that. But why do I think that? Do I think that solely because unless I do my children will starve and I’ll be forced to pull your next espresso shot at your favorite Lake Geneva area coffee shop? Or do I think that because I’ve seen it, because I see the families that come here and commit to this place and I see the way their lives are changed? I’d be lying if I told you it was all of the latter and none of the former, but it’s more of the latter than you might presume. It’s easy to get to Lake Geneva, to drive on a Friday night that short direction North and some to the West, but it’s not easy to establish that as the routine. It’s easy to wire money when the money is available, it’s easy to receive the keys, and it’s easy to show up on a Fourth of July Weekend whenever everyone with a lake house does the same. But it’s difficult to aggressively pursue the hunt, and it’s difficult to make it to the lake house as often as you know you should, and it’s yes, it’s difficult when you have too much work and not enough time.
In my life, it’s the difficult things that are rewarding. The easy things, the immediate things, the things that have no choice but to be done, those are the things that mean little. It’s easy to forget about Lake Geneva in the dead of a Midwestern winter, even if the winter is as this one, which feels more like mid March than early February, but forgetting about your summer in the middle of winter is the best way to ruin your summer. Dream homes that only occupy our dreams are easy. Dream homes that require effort of us are hard, but the rewards are endless, the satisfaction palpable.