Twice The Fun, Half the Money

Two words. University housing. Few travelers know that most universities have housing options for any visitors looking to save serious money on nearby hotels. Many times the options range from inexpensive minimalist dorm rooms with shared bathrooms to modestly priced hotel-like rooms with private bathrooms.

The Good Wife and I just spent three days living in a small, but very clean and comfortable hotel-like room on the campus of The University of British Columbia in Vancouver. The centrally located hotel is normally filled with conference participants, job candidates, and visiting faculty. The first night we watched our President pal around with the world’s worst dictator on a 42″ plasma t.v. and throughout our stay we luxuriated in the large commercial kitchen that came complete with a giant fridge/freezer; precise tubs and instructions for labeling our food; free fruit, tea, and coffee; newspapers; and an expresso maker complete with two types of beans waiting to be grinded.

And don’t forget U.S. readers, everything north of the border is currently 24% off, so our three nights cost $302. See how far that will get you in downtown Vancouver.

It gets better. Large university campuses like UBC, go Thunderbirds, have tons to recommend them, especially in the summer, when there’s a tiny fraction of the normal number of people. On our first campus walk, we met a man who befriended us and told us we had to visit the Rose Garden because “the roses knew you were coming, so they’re blooming” and also the Museum of Anthropology which has the world’s largest collection of Pacific Northwest indigenous art.

We dug the roses and the MOA, but the cheap vegetarian restaurants on campus rocked too. And the running was great, the trail that looped the campus, the tartan track, the coastline trail. Next time we’ll take our bicycles because West Vancouver’s ubiquitous bike lanes we’re calling us.

Best of all though was the swimming. After arriving, we learned a new state of the art aquatic center had recently opened in the middle of campus. BEST pool ever. Tons of natural light, beautiful materials, white, clean, spacious—the hot tub is designed for 34. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Entrance to heaven, $5. Bring a quarter or a loonie for a small or large locker and your own towel, shampoo, and soap.

The pool was set up for long course. I could’ve swam, hot tubbed, and steam roomed all day. The only mistake I made was diving off the 3 meter board. Trying to impress the Gal Pal was not worth tweaking my shoulder.

Speaking of swimming, the nearby 137 meter long Kitsilano pool, or Kits pool if you’re cool, was what inspired our trip to West Vancouver. We were mesmerized by the pictures. Not sure it was real, we knew we had to experience it ourselves. It’s described as the third sexiest pool in the world, but that was before The Good Wife graced it with her presence. It was hard to get her out of the water. We had perfect timing too, decent weather, a week after $3.3m in improvements, but a week or two before the summer surge.

And if you’re fortunate enough to visit Vancouver, don’t miss the Granville Island Public Market for some nice art and excellent food. Speaking of food, the first night we ate at Lido, one of the Richmond restaurants featured in the previously highlighted NYT article. We we’re the only non-Asians for as far as the eye could see, super cool. The bok choy, green beans, chicken, and white super sticky rice were off the charts. Heads up—they only take cash and get Canadian money in advance because they don’t want to be bothered with silly currency adjustments.

The best part of this trip, besides reconnecting with my best friend, was mixing with locals the whole time. Downtown we would’ve been two of thousands of tourists. On campus, in coffee houses, at Kits Beach, everywhere we went, we were surrounded by ordinary Canadians, largely Chinese-Canadians, living their daily lives. As travelers, that’s how we’ve always rolled.

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UBC’s New Aquatic Center

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Kits Pool

 

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Now The Sexiest Pool En Todo El Mundo

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Post coastline to downtown run and leisurely swim with far fewer flip turns than normal.

Which Way the Economy?

One of the perks of living in the upper left hand corner, is getting Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) television programming. I dig me the CBC. So much so if hockey was my religion, I might move North.

A recent CBC documentary titled “Secret Suppers of Vancouver” was interesting on several levels. This 2+ minute trailer provides a nice feel for the case study of grassroots economic change.

When new business models bubble up, like Uber and Airbnb, the established businesses they most threaten, such as city-based taxi cab companies and hotels, hire lobbyists to get legislators to pass more and more legal requirements for businesses to operate which makes it virtually impossible for cash-strapped startups to comply.

No surprise that most of Vancouver’s restaurant owners find this loose network of semi-secretive personal kitchens threatening. The restaurateur in the trailer who says, “. . . and I respect the hell out of hustlers” is an outlier.

Some regulation is necessary for large swaths of consumers to trust businesses are competent, and in the case of the food service industry, to ensure public safety is maintained. But it’s wrong to use regulations as a tactic for limiting competition. Doing so stifles the creative destruction that’s part and parcel of a vibrant economy.

I couldn’t help but think about my industry, teacher education (and also charter schools) while watching Secret Suppers of Vancouver. My industry works tirelessly to make sure teacher licensure requirements remain sufficiently rigorous, thus protecting our jobs. Clearly though, one person’s “rigor” is another’s excuse for limiting competition.

Whether Vancouver, San Francisco, or your municipality is getting the regulatory dance just right is something upon which reasonable people will disagree.

It’s too simpleminded to generalize about regulations, we have to ask whether the current level is appropriate on an industry-by-industry basis. Once public safety is assured, we should error on the side of limiting regulations so that new new types of economic activity, like Secret Suppers of Vancouver, will regularly bubble up. Large, established companies should be expected to adapt to upstarts creatively meeting consumer’s needs and desires.

More personally, I was really conflicted by some aspects of Vancouver’s secret supper network. In all honesty, I would love to be a member of the club eating amazing food with all the cool kids. But the movement also has an exclusionary feel to it. You have to have ample social capital to even learn about the personal kitchens and to score an invite. Then you have to have more money than average to be able to afford the exquisite, personalized service.

Watch the full length documentary and then help me be less confused.