Less and More: what a European’s room on check-out reveals about them, us and the place we call home

Based on observations I have made in the course of cleaning my short term rental suite over the past year, I have come to the following brilliant albeit totally unscientific and sweeping conclusions:

  1. Nobody knows your personal habits better than your housekeeper.
  2. When it comes to nature, Europeans use less and appreciate more.

They use less toilet paper, less Kleenex, and less paper towel. They use fewer linens. In fact, couples frequently share the same bath towel. They use less hydro and less water, usually ignoring the dishwasher to wash, dry and put away!! the dishes themselves. The settings on the clothes washer & dryer are consistently left on the ‘eco’ cycles and the thermostats register 10 degrees at check out. They recycle their garbage more completely and assiduously than my North American guests and after a week long stay, will often leave me with only one small bag of refuse bound for the dump and overflowing recycling bins. Oh and did I mention that their food, beer, pop and wine containers are invariably carefully rinsed before they land in my blue boxes?

From a housemaid’s perspective these are genuine miracles. So are wet towels hung up to dry instead of thrown on the floor, extra blankets neatly folded and returned to the cupboard, movie CD’s stored in their jackets and placed back on the shelves, counters and appliances wiped down – all of these are mindful acts and the stuff of my dreams. One admittedly over-the-top couple from the Netherlands even cleaned the BBQ and swept the deck. I hiccup-cried when they left.

I sometimes wondered if my European guests were too busy cleaning my suite to enjoy their vacations but happily they have all reported that they had the best time ever and wish they had allotted more time to explore our valley and surrounding wild spaces.

No offense intended to the 3000 pound gorilla to the south, but my European guests often spend less than a day in Whistler, remarking that these types of resorts are legion in Europe and the Canadian version is no big deal (yawn, dismissive hand flap). Sometimes they skip right over Tiny Town, deadheading from the Sea to Sky gondola straight to my doorstep. While all of my guests are invariably charmed by the quaint shops and outstanding eateries in our sleepy little village, these do not seem to be the main events for the European contingent.

For some of them, their perfect vacation appears to consist of drinking quarts of the excellent Pemberton Valley brand of coffee, floating in the hot tub, sprawling in the deck chairs, staring at Ts’zil shining in the sun, lying patiently in wait for bear, moose, deer, cougar, coyote, or even my neighbour’s cat to make a fleeting appearance on the game trail at the bottom of my property and achieving nirvana with the rising of the moon. The key thrills appear to be the abundance of trees, the possibility of seeing a bear, the Parisian style arrogance of raucous stellar jays and the paucity of other human beings. This probably means that they are not crazy about me but they always seem to enjoy the company of my dog. Perhaps that’s because he refrains from expressing annoying personal opinions except when my neighbour’s cat is involved. But, I digress.

Others of them will head out early every morning with hope in their hearts, polish on their hiking boots and freshly washed hair only to return at the end of the day looking like they have been dragged through a knot hole backwards. The really big attraction for them seems to be what I awaken to every morning: endless back country adventure possibilities. The real deal. Pull on your grown up pants. We’re not in Whistler anymore, Toto.

In  my opinion, Europeans are unique among my guests. What is routine to me is obviously rare and precious to them. A place to be alone with nature and enough time to do nothing more than contemplate the lint in their navels appear to be novel luxuries. They spare no effort to prolong and preserve their valley experience and leave no trace behind except their gratitude and good will. Perhaps these pleasures are unobtainable where they live. Perhaps they will become unobtainable here unless we too learn to use less of our abundance and appreciate it more.

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