Alta States 

Leaving "home" - another Whistlerite hits the road


"All changes are more or less tinged with melancholy, for what we are leaving behind is part of ourselves."

Amelia Barr

Imagine coming up with your dream job - the very thing that gets you up and smiling in the morning - and then discovering that you have to leave town if you want to see it grow and thrive. Bummer, eh?

But wait. There's more. Imagine finding the one place in the world where you feel totally at home - unique, magical, crazy and enthralling all at the same time - and then coming up with your dream job, only to discover that you have to leave town... blah-blah-blah.

Total downer.

I don't know about you, but it seems to me that there's been a profusion of such stories at Whistler of late. Like we've been so focused on pushing other people's agenda here (Intrawest, the IOC, elected officials, etc. etc.) that we've forgotten what it really takes to build a sustainable community. And that, my friends, comes down to one word: people.

It's the you's and me's that make all the difference here. And anyone who tells you differently is full of... well, you can fill in the rest.

Strange, too. For no matter who I talk to about Whistler - whether weekender, long-time visitor or casual tourist - the gist of the conversation is always the same. It's not the stuff, stupid. It's the residents. And the mountain environment. And how the two have become one.

Have you heard that too? Funny, eh? The power of Whistler, I've come to understand, is all about that mysterious, unexplainable - but thoroughly appealling - fusion between human and nature that occurs in this unconventional Coast Mountain valley.

And yet we're still eating our young! We make it so hard for emerging entrepreneurs to get their foot in the door here, that many are just throwing up their hands in despair and walking away.

Take the case of Caroline Smalley. A high-spirited Brit with the soul of a visionary and the mind of an entrepreneur, Smalley moved to Whistler a decade ago - and suddenly found her place. "I felt such a sense of belonging in this community," she professes. "And it was immediate. It really spoke to my heart."

When we first met three years ago, Smalley had just "discovered" how she could make a difference at Whistler. And I couldn't help but be infected by her zeal. This was my reaction back then:

"Caroline Smalley has a plan," I wrote in the fall of 2008. "Well, actually more than a plan. The principal driver behind The Citizen's Media, a new online venture the 34-year old launched recently, Smalley is on a crusade to encourage folk to get more involved in the way decisions are made in their communities. 'I've always been passionate about communicating with people,' says the brand-new - and very proud - Canadian. 'It's all about making connections,' she explains. 'When people feel connected to other people, they stop being fearful. And when they stop being fearful, good things happen...'


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