This Is What It’s Really Like To Live In A Popular Gay Vacation Destination

Written by | Columnists and Letters, Gay Voices

Beach Guy with Cocktails

From living in two popular destinations, Wade learns to loathe tourists. Then one of them finally reminds him why he moved there in the first place.

Watch Out!

If I ever end up on an episode of Dateline NBC, odds are that my husband Gary and I have run over a touristand been caught attempting to dispose of the body in some nefarious way.

Not only do Gary and I live in two resort towns — Saugatuck, MI and Palm Springs, CA — but we also live in each during their respective high seasons for tourists.

During summer in Saugatuck, tourists jam the sidewalks and clog the beaches. They can most often be seen shuffling around in a stupor, shopping and eating fudge.

“Watch out for the Red Hat Ladies at nine o’clock,” I’ll yell at Gary as he barrels through our town, trying to run errands.

“Move!” Gary will bellow at a couple on a bicycle built for two. “I have a prescription to fill!”

A similar phenomenon greets us winters in Palm Springs, where snowbirds fill the restaurants while millennial hipsters crowd the pools, sharing deep thoughts like: “Wouldn’t ‘Wisconsin’ be a good name for a new cologne?”

At times, our lives feel like an episode of The Walking Dead — except tourists seem to move way slower than zombies and can be even more irritating.

Why Shouldn’t We Live Where We’d Want to Vacation?

The irony is that we chose to make our homes in these towns because of the very beauty that makes tourists flock to them. When we were making the career changes that allowed us to relocate, I remember Gary and I asking ourselves, “Why shouldn’t we live in places we always wanted to go on vacation?”

After we moved came the realization. We’d also have to work in places where we would rather be on vacation.

As my writing career picked up, it was a blessing to be busy with work. However, I rarely (if ever) got to enjoy the beauty and fun of our new towns. And when I saw others blissfully experiencing them unencumbered by job obligations, it made me annoyed.

So, one beautiful afternoon in Palm Springs, Gary found me working and said, “We’re done for the day. Change into a swimsuit.”

I hesitated. “Now!” he added emphatically.

Playing Tourist

We headed to a local hotel where we had purchased a rarely used membership to the gym and pool, pulled two lounge chairs up to the edge of the water and settled down to relax in the sun.

I was perusing the drink menu and discussing some good news I’d received about my latest book. A random woman approached to introduce herself. She said she’d overheard our conversation and had bought me a drink to celebrate. When the pool boy returned, drink in hand, I thanked her and asked, “What’s in it?”

“Don’t worry about it,” the stranger said, lowering her mammoth sunglasses to give me a wink. “That’s the whole point of being on vacation, isn’t it? To simply not worry for a little while.”

I smiled, nodded and sipped the drink. It was strong, but I enjoyed it and ordered another. The rest of the day, I hardly moved. I stared at the stunning vista: the mountains hovering over the desert, the sun shimmering through the palms, the pool glistening like diamonds.

Since then, Gary and I have made a pact. Each year — during the height of the tourist seasons in both Saugatuck and Palm Springs — we’ll set aside work and transform ourselves into tourists in our own backyards. We shop, eat fudge, and shuffle around like extras on The Walking Dead.

It’s worthwhile to briefly become the kind of tourists we’d normally get enraged about because we finally learned that it’s not enough for us to live somewhere worth going on vacation. We have to put aside the worries of everyday life and actually be on vacation.

Otherwise, the tourists win.

Want More?

Check out Wade’s memoirs, including It’s All Relative and At Least in the City Someone Would Hear Me Scream, and his novels under the pen name Viola Shipman, such as The Recipe Box and The Hope Chest. To learn about them all, visit

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Last modified: August 26, 2019