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To bum or not to bum - skiers choose between lifestyle and a real life

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Thomas Pavlik had a month left in Whistler and he didn't say it outright, but he had reservations about leaving. He looked down at the cigarette lodged between his fingers, at the smoke curling up toward his face.

He said, "I'm fighting what to choose - a nice life to do what I want, to enjoy my life and do some brainwashing job, or do I do something important, to keep my mind focused and develop my mind? I'm feeling this pressure again."

This is at 10 a.m. and the Czech-born lawyer has just woken up, eyes bloodshot, short crop of curly hair in tangles, smoking a cigarette on the deck. The luxuries afforded by Living the Dream in Whistler: frequent sleep-ins and very late nights. The drawbacks: being 28, sharing a home in Blueberry with six other people and making around $9 per hour.

He finished law school in 2006 and landed a job shortly after. It was a typical legal job in Prague: very stressful, working 10 hours per day, drafting the equivalent of million-dollar contracts overnight.

"One day, I was sitting in my office at, like, 12:30 in the morning and I was like, what am I doing? I looked around at myself and I was just producing the paper," he said.

He saw a future vision of himself in that position - probably a little wealthier, but in the same position more or less - in similar clothes, with more wrinkles on his face, having stayed in Prague because the routine of the Real World had him shackled to his seat under halogen lights in downtown Prague, transferring papers from one stack to another.

"That's when I decided to leave," he said.

He was one of a legion of young people who quit jobs in their career fields to "Live the Dream," in what is typically intended to be a final fling with juvenility before finally growing up and settling down. Whistler has one of the highest educated work forces in the country for a place that doesn't have many professional jobs to offer. Engineers work in the dish pit. People with medical degrees work ski patrol. Lawyers, like Pavlik, end up as shippers at Home Hardware.

This is what developmental psychologists call a moratorium on life and Whistler seems like the perfect place to do it. You can work and party and play with a stunning backdrop of mountains and trees, breathing in the fresh air while a rotating cast of beautiful people come in and out with the changing seasons. It's like travelling without having to travel.

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