Thursday, March 21, 2013

Money matters.

Just two more weeks left in Europe. The time passes quickly.

Learning from my past mistakes about booking late with this tour, I am already approaching organizers about my June tour in Europe. Most of my weekends are booked, huzzah! It's reassuring to know that I can at least book weekend workshops reliably. My next goal is to be booked for more full-on weekend events with multiple instructors (e.g. Sideways and EBI). One weekender per tour is enough, but I'd like to do more.

Ruby and I headed into London today. This trip marks the unfortunate conclusion of our adventuring together. After this point, Ruby will continue on to Bristol, Oxford, and green pastures elsewhere in Europe, while I will remain in London with Jenny. Potential still exists for a trek elsewhere next week, however, since it looks like our Easter weekend is not booked. Italy, perhaps?

I find it easier to spend money on good experiences when traveling. For example, yesterday afternoon and evening were spent on the town. We enjoyed gelato, cheese, deli meats, crêpes, and wine. All told, I probably spent 30 Euro in a day. Back home, I can't afford that kind of rampant spending. But on the road, I can more easily justify it as investing in an experience. When at home, I find myself surviving; on the road, I find myself living. (Having a slightly increased income and no rent helps, of course.)

It is a liberating experience to spend money on oneself, but you don't realize it until it's not possible for a while. When I moved to NYC, I suddenly wasn't earning enough money to pay for my rent, let alone food or any other luxuries such as social activities. I switched into survival mode, where I stopped spending money on what mattered to me: good food, the opportunity for social outings (usually in the form of drinks), and the occasional trip to the cinema or restaurant.

I'm a frugal spender, but my time in NYC has put even my spending habits through the wringer. Studies show that increased wealth increases one's happiness up to a certain point of wealth, after which it plateaus. I definitely felt my happiness go down as my income plunged. My plateau point is somewhere around $10-15K / yr. I'm pleased with mine being so low, because it means that I am summarily content even on the salary of a graduate student. Now that I possess a more intimate understanding of poverty, I can appreciate the crazy ways a lack of money can mess with your head. (In fairness: I realize that my situation has not reached true poverty -- where you have a limited income and no resources at your disposal. I have enjoyed the benefit of a safety net in the form of a savings account, plus family and friends that love me and would take care of me if push came to shove.)

When you don't do nice things for yourself and others, you stop treating yourself gently and lovingly. Activities such as a trip to a non-working dance event are foregone for lack of funds, but somewhere in the unconscious mind is a niggling thought: that you're not spending the money because you don't deserve it. It hits closer to home when suddenly you stop feeding yourself well. The depleted nutrional intake (both in terms of calories and diversity of nutrients) puts you into a distressed body state. You body feels uncared for and it's because you are deciding to not feed it. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Back on the horse.

Oh, hello there, Blog. Haven't seen you in a while.
Me? Nothing much. Major life shifts in location, profession, and relationship. You know, the usual. 
Sorry we've been out of touch. Just a lot going on.
Okay, well have a seat because we'll be here a while.

* * *

This was the little dialogue in my head when sitting down to write this post. Yes, it's been a while. No, I haven't posted about some any of it. When diving headfirst into a new life, it's hard to parse out different life themes and provide digestible posts when all the themes, successes, and challenges in the new life are interconnected, making it impossible to provide a complete portrait without writing a short novel.

But that's no excuse for not trying.

I'd like to thank Tristan for him inspiring me to get back on the blogging horse. We met in Oxford over the workshop weekend a couple weeks ago, a sweet and thoughtful man. At first he didn't connect that I was also the author of this blog. (When he asked me if I was the person from Portland that went to graduate school for engineering and toured in Africa and then dropped everything to become a dance instructor, I thought he was feigning ignorance.) He said I made it very awkward for him to account on his timesheet for the 2 hours he spent at work reading my blog.

I blog mostly for myself, but I must say that having a readership (however small) helps tremendously. It makes me feel like I'm not just spouting of useless, empty crap into the internet ether.

(That famous passage from Macbeth just popped in my head: 

Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.


It will take time to catch up on the past six months of my life. It will be a process. In the meantime, I'll start off with something easier: where I am right now.

* * *

Being a dance teacher is not as glamarous as it sounds. For example: right now I am in Paris. Immediately, visions of riding a rickety bicycle down cobblestone streets with a baguette in my front basket springs to mind. In reality, I spend the majority of my day at a kitchen table on my computer: answering and writing emails, planning new dance gigs, promoting upcoming dance gigs, and handling logistics for said dance gigs. Yes, technically, I am touring Europe, but more precisely I am touring the kitchen work spaces of Europeans and SOMETIMES exploring the cities in which they reside. My past 1.5 weeks were spent in beautiful Lucerne, and yet I probably spent 15 hours total being a tourist.

I reiterate: being a dance teacher is not as glamarous as it sounds.

Still, it has its perks. There is something refreshing about changing your work space once in a while. You get to meet countless new people, many of whom will generously open up their home for you. You get paid enough to survive on something you love. You get to (mostly) stay active and mobile. You have little gems of experiences that stay with you forever.

Last night is a good example. Ruby and I arrived in Paris totally shattered after a day of travel. After warding off offers from our host Joke (prounounced YOH-ka) to enjoy a night on the town, we settled on staying in to cook dinner and watch a movie. What followed were hours of wine, music, discussions of the French and English languages, French rappers and (what Ruby coined) French indie rappers, more wine, tasty and filling food, chocolate, and a witty movie (Grosse Point Blank). We all went to bed with smiles on our faces and our bellies. (My stomach later decided to not put up with the wine, but that's beside the point.)

Those are the moments -- aside from teaching -- that make the traveling teacher lifestyle truly rewarding.