The Cottage Life

Many Canadians work very hard in soulless cities, to ensure their families can enjoy the good life. The definition of the “The Good Life” is as diverse as the population of your typical WalMart on a Saturday morning at 10:32 a.m.

One of the oddities of residents in the Southern Ontario area, is that many have decided that this good life in Southern Ontario, always includes trips to get the hell out of Southern Ontario. Fortunately for many, the logical destination for their well-earned vacation is a Northern Ontario cottage. Current maps will show you that Northern Ontario is just a smidgeon north of Southern Ontario.

The attraction of a cottage on a beautiful lake is not up for debate, unless you were on your debating high school team. Those legendary students would argue endlessly about the traffic, the mosquitos, the black flies, the mice, the heat, the dangers of boating, life jackets weight ratios, cedar toxicity, algae salad recipes, water pollution, dock repairs, inappropriate swim wear, and of course the proper sunscreen number for your protection. My point here is, if you were on your school’s debate team, because the Chess Team roster was filled, you learned that through no fault of your own, you just like to argue a lot.

As you fantasize about your cottage life options, the sad truth is you really only have three approaches to explore to ensure your dreams come true.

Mooch, Rent or Buy


When you reach early adulthood, you quickly discover that you start making new friends, as your work life slowly replaces your school life. When you are determining who these new friends might be, there are two very important questions to ask, to determine the worthiness of these new potential friends.

The first question you must ask is “Do you have a Criminal record?” If the answer to this question is “No”, and you glance downwards to their ankles, searching for unusual looking bracelets to confirm this fact, move on to question two.

“Does your family own a beautiful cottage up north, that welcomes guests often during the summertime?”

If the answer to this question is “yes” ignore the rest of this article, as mooching becomes the only option you will need, to enjoy your lazy hazy days of summer by a northern lake. I will offer one word of counsel here. If your host’s beer fridge does not have your favourite brand of beer, ensure you mention that early during your stay, or more strategically, just at the time your friends are heading into town to do grocery shopping.

(Note: More sophisticated practitioners of this approach add two other questions during the new friend recruitment stage. “Does your non-cottage house have a pool?” and “Do you own a snow blower?”)


During the cold winters in Canada, many families huddle around the fire and think about summer. We anticipate sunny days and the sound of loons on the lake, as we ask our children to go to their rooms and bring down another blanket. As the parents bask in the thermal coverings that drape them, these adults reach for their favourtie alcohol to encourage more tolerable numbness to enhance this winter feeling.

It is during this time that parents discuss the dream of the cottage life. I’m no real estate agent, but I have learned over the years, that many landowners wishing to sell their summer properties, demand a hefty down payment as an indication of your wealth and ability to purchase their property. This discriminating approach to the cottage business relegates most of us deep into the rental pool, when contemplating a week or two up north.

The key to renting a summer cottage is the timing of that decision. For example, lets say it is July the 7th.   Both parents have finally achieved the correct interpretation the vacation policy of their respective work places. As responsible adults, they have also learned how to fill out those online forms that the cranky boss insists on submitting, before booking time off. As you finally conform to company policy, you discover that the third week of July will be the best time for your family cottage vacation up north.

What you will discover is that you should have been a little more proactive in your vacation planning, as now the only cottage available for your week away, is seven miles from the nearest lake.  When you read the small print of your one week lease you will also discover that you must paint the exterior of the rental property. as part of this iron clad, one week contract for this year’s family’s getaway to the hinterland.


Areas like Muskoka or Haliburton, where many cottages resemble the Cathedral in Cologne, with slightly more stained glass windows, is the epitome of true rustic cottage life. These mansions on the lake, represent a typical cottage, in the same way that World War II represented a typical disagreement. Now I appreciate I am more than likely showing jealousy here, as I crave for things I will never have, however my real disappointment is more with myself and an opportunity missed during my job hunting days of the 1980s.

I did come so very, very close to owning my very own coveted property on one of those prestigious lakes in Ontario’s cottage country.  I was interviewing with the Columbian Cartel for an important job in their distribution department. Though the benefit package for this role did not meet my expectations, I mean seriously they didn’t even have a drug plan, but I moved quickly to the fourth and final interview.  I did my best not to think of this 3 million dollar salary and very attractive incentive plan as I prepared for the final interview.  I was already dreaming about my cottage on the lake, when Pablo Escobar entered the room for some final questions. My big mistake is that I thought Mr. Escobar was an up and coming shortstop for the Triple A team in the Los Angeles Dodgers farm system, not what I discovered later, the head of this very successful pharmaceutical company.

Needless to say, things ended badly as I was escorted out of the room with fourteen armed guards. They did give me a company key chain as a thank you for my efforts. I learned a valuable lesson about interviewing that day. Never assume the president of your prospective company is a die hard baseball fan!

There is of course a fourth option for enjoying the good life during each summer, but running through the sprinkler on your front lawn, as a fully formed adult will more than likely get you excommunicated from your Neighbourhood Watch program.


Cue the Blong:  A painful reminder that you must work hard, if you want to enjoy “The Good Life”.


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