Life in a Resort Town

Swifts Beach on a hot summer day, Wareham, Mass.
By Boston Public Library, Swifts Beach on a hot summer day, Wareham, Mass., under Creative Commons 2.0 Generic License.


Now that Memorial Day weekend has come and gone, summer is officially here. If you live on the East Coast, you may find yourself traveling to some summer hot spots such as Martha’s Vineyard, Newport or Atlantic City. While staying there for a week or two in the summer may be fun, living in these places is a whole different experience.

According to a government report on resorts in British Columbia, a resort town can be defined as “an area where tourism or vacationing is the primary component of the local culture and economy.” During the “on” season, resort towns are the best places to live and make a living. During the “off” season, they can be the worst.

For two years now, I’ve been fortunate enough to call myself a “seasonal resident” of Cape Cod. Cape Cod isn’t a resort town per say, but rather an entire resort peninsula. It is a 65 mile tourist haven with 77 beaches and hundreds of local businesses whose population in the summer surges from the permanent 200,000 to the seasonal 500,000.

The town I stay in during the summer can be classified as a resort town. Streets aren’t lined with a variety of local businesses but can instead be summed up in two industries: hospitality and food. Because of this, resort towns are a hotbed of job activity. I remember frantically applying for any job I could find last year in late June, and getting about ten interviews in a week.

“Lazy summer days” is a term that does not apply here. On the Cape, there is always something to do; whether it’s mini-golfing, sailing, shopping, dining or just beaching it, you get the sense that everyone is go-go-going all the time. The only time anything stops is when it rains; rainy days aren’t just considered a pity here, but can be called an economic loss for many businesses.

Summer holidays that usually bring people together, such as the Fourth of July, are the worst days of the working year for resort towns. If you’ve ever wondered what a highway would look like if it were transformed to a parking lot, try driving down Route 28 during any time of the day on July 4th. The few local grocery stores’ stock of hot dogs and hamburgers are wiped out at least three days prior to the holiday. This is true for all major summer resort towns. If you’ve ever wondered how nice would it be to spend the Fourth in [insert summer resort town destination here.] It’s not. If you’ve ever wondered about trying this, don’t worry, you’re actually saving yourself a lot of trouble by not going.

You will know a Cape Cod local if you ever meet one. They are extremely proud of the Cape, but also extremely over it. If you mention an attraction, they have most definitely been there and still don’t get what the hype is. And yes, despite it being their main source of income, they absolutely despise tourists. Yet, no one loves the Cape like the locals do. They stay here, year in and year out, through snow, hurricanes, slow economic times and boredom.

While tourists are the very reason Cape Cod survives in the summer, they are also the bane of its existence. They are the cause of ruin for everything: the clogged roads, the eroding dunes, the strewn litter everywhere. Even if they’re not, they are. Working in the restaurant industry, I can tell you some of the worst encounters I’ve had have been with tourists using the mentality that you can treat people terribly because you’ll never see them again.

(While we’re on that note: Why do people think it’s acceptable to be rude to people just because they know they’ll never see them again? First off, you don’t know that for certain, secondly it’s never ok to be rude.)

But there are benefits to living here.

I’ve known people who make their year’s worth of living in four months, leaving them three seasons to spend recuperating. The job opportunities created by tourism allow a variety of people to make money: international citizens, locals and college students like me. And, most importantly, when I need to sweat and commiserate after my summer job, I don’t do it at my house: I can do it at the beach down my street.

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