No Shit Sherlock
I know, I know, you’ve heard it all before, I can hear you’re ironic cries from here.
Please hear me out. This is not just some re-hashed article about a theory that has been publicized ad-nauseam in self development circles…OK well maybe it is but please read on. I feel I am better qualified than most to discuss this topic -not that that usually stops me!
One Town - One Enormous Disparity
The handful of people who have read the ‘About Me’ section on my website will know that I used to live in Whistler.
For those unaware, Whistler is a ski resort in British Columbia, Canada. It is where I cut my teeth as a properly independent adult once my University ‘studies’ were over. It is also like few other places on earth…for many reasons.
As usual however, for this Ramble I will discuss only one…the disparity of wealth between the local and the tourist; the helpers and the helped; the risk takers and the Risk Managers.
A financial gap between tourist and local is nothing new -we’ve all been on holiday and seen first hand the contrasting fortunes of the two. However, in the western world this is a far less common occurrence, not least in such a concentrated way.
I must point out right now, that in no way am I suggesting the difference in overall well-being of a college educated Whistler ski-bum and the tourist they are serving beer to is comparable to that of a local worker in the developing world and the western traveller.
Why Is It So?
I put this gap down to a few reasons:
- The proliferation of gap years and world travel for pre or post University graduates means that resort towns everywhere are being inundated by low net worth youths in search of fun and frolics on an epic scale.
- Tourism/service jobs in the main, do not command high pay. Factor in the high labour supply mentioned above and there’s no reason why employers would pay more than they need to for their staff.
- Whistler is a long way to travel. Unlike skiing in Europe where over 700m people are a two hour flight away, anything less than a 10 day trip for those outside North America in unviable. This rules out many financially conscious travellers.
- Whistler is very expensive -for both the tourists and the locals. This does two things. It cripples the locals and, as with the point above, leaves only the financially fit tourist in attendance.
- Whistler is so much fun, workers don’t give a shit what they get paid and tourists don’t care what they get charged.
This theory is backed up by the fact that visitors to Whistler account for 85% of consumer spending despite only representing 50% of the towns’ population on a given day (https://www.whistler.ca/business/economic-development-whistler).
A Smile and a G’day
OK, I think I’ve made my point. Whistler is full of poor workers servicing rich visitors.
It is safe to assume then that the holiday maker on a two week break from funding hedges would be greeted upon arrival with disdain by an embittered millennial with long hair and no money.
Not true, well not in one aspect at least…in actual fact, the shaggy haired Australian is delighted to see them and welcomes them with a smile and a chipper tone. Why? Because he knows that within 12 hours he will be enjoying the best lines of his life...whatever form those lines come in!
The place is the ultimate playground for the Untamed adventurer. Passion and energy course through the veins of all who inhabit. Who cares about sharing a room with four others when the powder is so good? (Snow I mean). Who cares that the daily wage just about covers a crate of Wild Cat and some pasta and pesto, when awesome parties are on tap every night of the week!
Everyone is living their passion and are damn pleased to do so!
Two Weeks To Unwind 50
And what of the stock broker? The $300k a year earner who can afford to treat their family to a posh hotel and private ski lessons every day? Are they as happy as the lifty standing in -10 earning $10/hour?
In any other world, this wouldn’t even be a question but in the perverse universe that is a ski resort, especially Whistler, the answer generally is no.
Superficially of course they’re delighted to be there. Delighted to finally enjoy their only holiday of the year. A break from 15 hour days and the chance to unwind in plush, activity-rich surroundings.
Dig deeper however and reality is very different.
If You Want To Get To Know Someone, Get Them Pissed
As a ski instructor, I was different from the rest. Rather than hanging up my boots and spending the night with my peers discussing the best type of ski’s, I preferred the company of the interesting folk I had been teaching all day.
Once the class was complete I would willingly spend all my wages -and a tiny portion of theirs- in the bar, getting to know them better, sharing stories.
This was the time the truth came out. 3 pitchers of Kokanee in and the tales of stress, overwork and a lack of time off began to surface. “I wish I had the chance to do what you’re doing” and “it must be great living out here, doing what you love everyday?!” were both common admissions when the lowering of inhibitions allowed it.
Hindsight is 20/20…When You're a Ski Instructor
These daily reminders of the two contrasting life paths served me in two ways. Firstly it ensured I never took my amazing position for granted: there was not a chance I would leave this lifestyle behind having not made the absolute most of the abundance around me -an abundance that people from all over the world paid thousands to see.
Secondly it provided 20/20 vision as to what might be should I pursue a career based on salary, social status or family pressure.
Rather than yearning to earn their salaries and be able to afford trips to Whistler two weeks of the year, -as I no doubt would have done in different circumstances- my life was their holiday and I lived it to the fullest, all the while appreciating the relationship between wealth and happiness.
For this I will forever be grateful to the place and all the interesting people I got to meet.
A Viable Life Choice or Merely a Cue?
Hopefully by now you have both realized the theory I am proposing here.
Whilst living on the ragged edge, both financially and physically, is not sustainable (I lasted five years before the full time shakes set in) there are valuable lessons to be learnt.
Whether you're an entrepreneur relentlessly pursuing growth, or an employee in pursuit of that promotion, think of this tale. Consider the real reason behind your desires and the possible outcomes.
Will the extra money bring you happiness by affording you more time to engage in your passions? Will it enable you to spend more time with your family or buy your dream car? Or will it bring added responsibility, social pressures, stress and workload, taking you further away from genuine happiness than ever before?
There are many drunk holiday makers in Whistler well qualified to answer this one.