Work To Play

Do you crave a long-term change of scenery?  Do you need to be where work and play are close by?  In some places, this concept is taken more seriously than others.  For example, I just got back from a brief trip to the town of Whistler, British Columbia, north of Vancouver.  Not having been there before I was very surprised by the number of people working in the hotels, bars, restaurants and shops who were not native to the area.  In fact, most weren’t even Canadian!  Gauging from the many accents I heard talking with those I met, I’d guestimate that three quarters of the service personnel were from somewhere else, and probably half of them weren’t even from North America.  Considering the number of Aussies I encountered, there may be a mass exodus from Perth, Melbourne and Sydney!
Sure, Whistler is a vacation destination, primarily attracting skiers and snowboarders – even in summer there’s still plenty of snow at the higher elevations.  But as resort locations go, it’s a small town with little to offer residents beyond basic services, familiar franchise and chain stores, a movie theater, and a couple of casinos a short drive away.  So what was the attraction to all the foreigners who were living and working there?
Certainly the 2010 Winter Olympics attracted a large number of people to the beautiful surroundings to work and play.  Jobs in the service and recreational industries were plentiful; hotels, lodging, entertainment and leisure facilities were expanded; all commercial areas were beautified; roads were widened and trails were repaired; new attractions were built; and the regional economy was bolstered by the influx of athletes, their families and their fans, not to mention the hoards of press sent there to cover the events.
But other reasons non-natives continue to be attracted to the area now that the Olympics are long over include the availability of relatively inexpensive housing and extensive recreational opportunities for weekend warriors and professional athletes alike.  Those who are less interested in the major winter sports can find ample opportunities for mountain and trail bicycle riding (heck, the highways have bike lanes), golf, rock climbing, hiking, rafting, wine tasting, and more, and they all require service personnel to keep customers satisfied and coming back.
I also found out that in Canada non-residents have little trouble obtaining work permits, much less so than in the U.S.  And for a lot of those I met, access to the wealth of available outdoor activities was a prime motivator for them relocating to the region.  So while for many there is an interest in building a career in the hospitality industry, the chance to play hard in the same vicinity as they work – regardless of their profession – is a major draw.
Of course there’s more to the region beyond outdoor sports!  For example, the nearby Vancouver, BC area has a thriving high tech community, including fuel cell and software development.  Forestry, shipping, and an active film production community, are also among the many industries supporting the northern economy.   So there are a lot of reasons beyond tourism that people from such diverse backgrounds and interests have chosen this part of the planet to work, live and play.
Look, I’m not suggesting that you need to move to the great white north (or anyplace else for that matter) to find work!  Regardless of where your professional interests lie, whether in the hotel, food and beverage trades, or any other industry, if you seek a physically active lifestyle, working close to where you can play will help you fulfill those off-hours interests.  It can also make a profound difference in the way you balance your work and the rest of your life.  Work to play?  Not a bad way to pull it all together!

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