People often look at me like I’m a little kooky when it comes up in discussion that I don’t believe in mortgages. I then struggle to detangle and explain what I mean by that. To be clear, I am fully aware of their existence, evident in the millions of people who are attached to one if not more, worldwide. However, I do not believe in them for the same reason I do not believe in, and have no intention of ever possessing, a credit card – I do not think they bring us happiness. Further yet, I think it’s very possible that they destroy the possibility of attaining happiness.
Personally, I don’t agree with buying beyond my means. I don’t believe in owing vast amounts of money to a “suited fat cat” somewhere who keeps adding figures to the amount I owe. If possible, I’d like to live my whole life avoiding the damage that this type of entrapment can cause to one’s state of mind, being and health. Not to speak of the financial repercussions on a country, continent, global population, shackling of people into a borrowing culture from which they eventually cannot escape.
Stubbornly refusing to ever succumb to a mortgage however, does not mean that I do not want to be a homeowner; that I do not desire a stable place to call our own, where a family can grow together and nurture one another. I simply do not want to accomplish it with money that I do not have, that I will consequently spend the majority if not all of my life paying back. And so, I am met with quizzical looks and defeatist remarks “but that’s impossible.”
Have we forgotten that nothing is impossible? Have we lost faith in ourselves? In our own ability to achieve our ambitions and dreams in our own way? People tell me a mortgage is basically an unavoidable symptom of our generation and era in which we live, one that I must accept in order to be a homeowner. I attempt to share with them what I think is valuable information on affordable methods of building your own home – but am usually met with the same strange looks and questions like “…so you want to live in a mud hut..?”
I try to clarify, to explain this is just one eco-friendly technique that has been used for centuries and is just an example of many options that could enable a mortgage-free home ownership. The possibilities are vast – methods which have been adapted and perfected to suit the environment, using materials which can be locally sourced. I see from the looks on people’s faces that not everyone will understand me, but that’s ok.
We are building ourselves a humble home on a small island, a two-minute boat ride from Lagos. The roads are sandy throughout, soft white beach sand, which means a constant workout for your calves and thighs (but I enjoy it!) There are no motorized vehicles on the island, which means no fumes, no smog. Even though there is currently no electricity on the island since a ship destroyed the power line, very few people use generators – improving the air a thousand fold compared with mainland Lagos. Mango and cashew trees grow wild and coconut palms decorate the otherwise clear blue skyline. There is an abundance of wildlife – from the usual lizards, goats and chickens, to dragonflies, tropical birds and the best sighting so far – monkeys.
The land was bought for a fair price from the indigenous people of the island. Ideally, we would have to liked to have used mud and straw – a durable and long lasting method of building – but those are not locally available materials and would have had to be sourced from another state, adding unnecessary cost and carbon footprints. So far, the place is as close to perfect as possible bar the unavoidable exceptions such as the local “area boys” collecting money for each vital stage of your building process such as the foundation or roofing. I put up as best a fight as possible but you have very little choice in paying up unless you want your materials scattered in the night – a small reminder that we are still in Lagos, and still very much in Nigeria where this financial burden has become the norm for anyone wanting to build a home.
Still, we are building our house within our means and with the help of close friends lending their expertise and knowledge where possible. By visiting the site daily to help out in anyway with the construction I have already learnt a lot about the place that will soon bare the name “home” for me. Although we may not live there permanently (because who knows what the future holds) it still fuels and excites us to be part of such an organic project, and to be there for every stage of the building process.
My eight year old neighbour-to-be, and so far my favourite person on the island, Dare, teaches me new things daily. He explains to me with a shine in his eyes the best way to grow pawpaw and mangoes. He also sweetly confessed that it was he who set our land on fire, to chase away a snake and make sure it wouldn’t build a nest in our roofing materials. I love to watch him running around, bare foot, carefree, chasing insects and various wildlife, climbing a cashew tree to pick fruit for all those shouting his name from the ground below, helping to fetch water from the well, tending to the chickens or preparing his family’s dinner on an open wood fire outside. He is a breath of fresh air and gives credit to why I’ve always thought a place like this would be a dream for children to grow up in. Immersed in nature, they not only understand the importance of living in harmony with the treats that mother earth has blessed us with but they also appreciate their environment and make the most of its natural benefits.
It may take some time, but one day we will be able to call it “home.” A home away from home in London. A home in the sunshine surrounded by a still lagoon. Best of all, a home which was built without having given a penny or cobalt of our money to a bank or mortgage company – which in my opinion (and it is truly my own), enslave people who simply want a place to call their own.