Rick Miller LICSW


Vacation or Gaycation?

How much of "the scene" do you want?

Posted Mar 10, 2015

Elliot is taking a trip with his partner of many years.  Typically they stay at upscale resorts that are not gay.  After a few days or so, they begin to feel a little lonely and can’t quite figure out how to remedy the situation.  This year, they wonder whether to stay at the same type of resort. Or would it be better to choose a place with more of a gay scene?

Then there is Bill. He’s coming from the other direction, usually booking vacations in gay paradise but missing his beloved quiet time. His question is should he continue booking these trips despite being tired upon returning home, or should he make a real effort to incorporate more introspective time into his itinerary?

In the earlier days when gay life wasn’t as mainstream as it is now, guys would go to popular gay resort towns like Provincetown, Palm Springs, or Key West. Where to go and what to do were laid out … what time to get up, where and when to eat, which section of the beach, which bars for tea dance, which bars for later, what to do when the bars close. And this type of expectancy still exists despite the ever-expanding options available.

I live in Provincetown, and I witness how the obligatory itinerary trumps personal preference time and time again. It amazes me how few people enjoy the beauty of the Cape Cod sunset or gentle hikes through the endless dunes in favor of staying in town in order to not miss one minute of “the scene.”  After decades of seeing clients who return from their vacations feeling empty, I have settled on two fundamental questions that reach the heart of the matter. Did you do what you wanted to do?  Did you take any time away from the scene for peace and quiet?

Media often portray gay travel as being hedonistic, focused on luxurious lodging and gaggles of muscular young men.  For some, this is a dream.  For others, it’s a nightmare.  Social media, of course, pushes these narrow portrayals.  Aside from the ads targeted to gay men, including groups of gorgeous men sitting around a pool with just a towel covering their private parts, there are slews of posts about being at gay resorts or on gay cruises wearing drag outfits and boas and wigs of many colors.

As I scroll through my friends’ posts, I think about my own ideal vacation: a trip to Europe (no wigs necessary).  Like so many other gay men I know over time I have found the gay vacation script to be more and more confining. At times I have felt like a caged animal. When I had the nerve to opt for my own path, doing what I wanted instead of what was expected of me, I experienced freedom. Now my way instead of the way always wins out.  (My “un-gayest” and perhaps best vacation ever included a secluded cabin on a lake in Maine, where my family stayed nearby. To this day, they will never let me live down how dumpy the accommodations were—an outhouse instead of indoor plumbing!)

Media—and sometimes we ourselves—often think of the gay community as offering only one way to be. The truth is we are as diverse in our tastes and interests as any other group, and falling prey to the pressure of what is currently “fashionable” can ruin any vacation.

My point is simple: remember to do what you like to do. Find a destination that appeals to your sensibility.  Instead of the expected vacation, allow yourself to choose exactly what you want for yourself, including getting off the grid if that is what appeals to you.  If you don’t like beach vacations, you do not need to go on one.

If you like to be in a place where you have access to meeting new gay men, then do that.  If you need a little of both, you can plan that too.  Be honest with yourself about what is healthiest for you and make that happen. The true meaning of vacation is to get away to replenish yourself, to relax, and to feel the weight of the pressures of the world falling away. Why trade everyday pressures in for vacation pressures?

Ask yourself:

Do you prefer to travel alone or with others?
Do you like activities or unstructured down time?
Do you want to stay in a gay guesthouse or inn, or a gay-friendly place that has a mixed crowd?
Do you want to stay in a gay resort town?
Would you prefer a quieter area just outside of a resort town?
Do you like city, country, or beach?
Do you want to visit museums or socialize?
Do you want to be in one place the whole time or visit several?

Some of the most memorable moments of life are experienced on vacation, so choose according to your preferences, rather than what you imagine the gay community expects of you. Think about you in terms of everything you are and claim your permission to address that whole person as you wish.

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