4.28.11 Editor’s Desk

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SteveBlanchardHeadshotAt one time, travel seemed so simple to me. I’d climb into the back of dad’s pickup truck it had one of those carpeted, bed insert things (no seatbelts, of course) under the camper shell that made the ride a luxurious 200 degrees and the family would head south. Every fall we’d vacation in Florida’s panhandle and enjoy a week on its sandy white shores. By the time we returned to St. Louis the temperatures had dropped and we were deep into the Midwest’s ever-cooling fall months. I knew then that someday I’d live in the Sunshine State, so once I graduated from college, I started looking for jobs here. When we first moved to Florida in 2000, my partner and I would joke about suing the state’s Convention and Visitors’ Bureau (CVB). We didn’t see the hot, shirtless men lounging on the beaches that the ads promised, and roller-blade paths and pina coladas weren’t as readily available as predicted. We didn’t even hear the sounds of calypso music every time we walked outside! It seemed like false advertisement. We were disappointed. I should point out, however, that when we first moved to Florida we lived in an interior county known more for its agricultural impact than its influence on tourism.

Florida has all the sun, fun, men and women that anyone could want, as long as you plant yourself in the right place. Today, travel is more difficult than when I was a kid not simply because of the increasing cost of gas and the insane rituals we go through to climb aboard an airplane but because I want to navigate toward LGBT-friendly destinations. But what that exactly means depends on whom you ask.

Places like Los Angeles, New York City and Fort Lauderdale immediately spring to mind when you think about gay destinations. Even London and Paris could be at the top of the list. When I hear of friends venturing to such exotic locales I admit to a twinge of jealousy in my gut. I’ve never had the opportunity to travel out of the country unless you count that one day trip into Brownsville, Mexico, the summer before my freshman year of high school. But there are plenty of places right here in the States to see. More and more LGBTs are looking to the open water for vacation.

In this issue, writer Greg Stemm talks to some of the creators of the growing gay and lesbian cruise vacation packages. I love the water, but I have trouble when it comes to being on the water. For my birthday weekend a few years back, we took a cruise from the Port of Tampa to Key West. Besides learning that I have an incredible ability to get seasick no matter how calm the water or how big the ship and that checking your pillow for chocolate before you pass out is a good idea I enjoyed myself. I just don’t see another cruise in my immediate future.

We also discuss the huge number of destination Gay Pride events around the world and explore the LGBT side of Houston, Tex., in this issue. We also share more information on Watermark Media’s own Fire and Ice party coinciding with St. Pete Pride this summer. LGBTs are more important now than ever in the travel industry thanks to our struggling economy and it’s comforting to see CVBs, cruise lines and others recognizing that. That’s not to say, however, that there aren’t plenty of great destinations right here in our backyard.

Tourism is still a major part of Florida’s economic backbone and we should take advantage of those offerings as often as possible. When you’re considering costs, arrangements and destination details for your vacation this year, take a minute to also consider the destination’s track record concerning LGBT rights. Supporting communities that support us is a definite way to ensure our money is working for us, and not against us. If you can’t afford to leave the confines of the state, you don’t have to look hard to find an LGBT-affirming community.

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