By Heather Gradowski
Those of us who live here year-round intrinsically understand the draw. Wherever you live in Harbor Country, you can find a little bit of paradise in every day. Us full-timers can sit on our back porch after a long day of work and listen to the birds call and the frogs sing. We can walk the beach on a Wednesday morning and have the beach glass pickins’ mostly to ourselves. We can fish or kayak the Galien with little more company than a muskrat swimming among the grasses at water’s edge and the geese honking overhead. We enjoy months at a time when we can eat at the restaurant of our choosing without waiting an hour or more for a table. We can stop in at Barney’s to pick up a chicken for dinner, see eight people we know, and still be back in our car and heading home in about five minutes.
Then summer comes. And with summer comes traffic. In our restaurants, on our beaches, in the shops, wineries, bakeries, breweries, and in the checkout line at the grocery store. Overnight it seems that Illinois license plates outnumber Michigan, and you start to think you might just snap if one more person driving on Red Arrow Highway decides to turn left from the far right lane because they suddenly found the antique store they were looking for.
Yes, it’s easy to become frustrated and frazzled by our out-of-state visitors. Easier still to lump a few rude drivers, bad tippers, or that one entitled jerk in line at the coffee shop into a broad category of people you love to hate. But I believe that would be looking at things the wrong way. Because here in Harbor Country, a vast percentage of us make our living either directly or indirectly fromtourists. Whether you wait tables, build homes, sell insurance, maintain the streets, rent bicycles, or wash windows. Whether you’re a brewer, a baker, an artisan cheese maker. Your business prospers because you do your business in a place that draws tens of thousands of visitors a year.
People come to Harbor Country because of our astonishingly beautiful natural resources only to discover our equally incredible human resources. Sure, it can feel like you’re working your a** off while everyone else goes to the beach, but that’s the very definition of making hay while the sun shines. And no matter where you live or work you’ll be faced with rude drivers, bad tippers and entitled jerks at the coffee shop. But there are very few places you could live and work where you can step outside during a stressful day and take five minutes to just look at the lake, or walk down the street and get a milkshake from a high school kid you know by name. Just drive down the country roads in August and roll down the car window to smell the grapes ripening on the vine and you’ll know you live and work somewhere special.
So the next time that one driver cuts right in front of you to pull out of Barneys, instead of getting angry, take a minute to be grateful for visitors from Illinois and every other state because they have given you the opportunity to work and – more importantly – to LIVE in this beautiful place. To be part of a close-knit community and an extraordinary lifestyle. And for that I say, thank you!
Heather Gradowski is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage/ChooseChad Team in New Buffalo, Michigan. She is licensed in Michigan and Indiana.