Wednesday, September 3, 2014

13 Tips for Budding Vagabond Nia Teachers

Several people have expressed interest in experiencing the nomadic Nia teacher lifestyle that I have been living since 2010 and have asked me for advice on how to make it work. I've come up with a list of 13 discoveries I've made about how to maximize joy on the road and how to make the most of this endeavor.

1- Do your homework beforehand.
Before I go on a trip, I spend about two months putting it together. I map out a desired route and then make notes of which cities and recreational sites I'll be passing through. I then contact Nia teachers in the cities and start a conversation about my visit. I also look into any interesting sites along the way and work those into my schedule as well.
By the time I'm hitting the road, I have all of my stops planned out. It takes a lot of anxiety off of me to know that I have a place to be every day.

2- Schedule breaks.
While in the planning phase, it's very exciting. And it's tempting to totally fill my schedule with activity and work. But I learned very quickly to earmark at least one day a week free of any responsibility. Personally, that means also no driving. So every week I book two nights in a single spot. The day without driving becomes quite important; especially if I'm doing long days when I am driving.  I also occasionally schedule a long stop if I'm going to be passing through a National Park or something that I'm really interested in.

3- Be flexible.
When planning the trip, I make sure to adjust myself to the places I'm visiting. For example, I have no set agenda and no set rate structure. I appoint a host in each city and let her make all of the executive decisions regarding where class will be held, how much to charge, how to handle sign-ups, how long the class is, etc. Each city and each community will have a different style. I have accepted payment by visa, check, cash and via pay pal. Some places want to mail me a check, which is nice to have waiting for me when I get home.

4- Make it Easy For Them
When I'm contacting people to set up a date, I let them know the time frame I'm available to teach and let them choose any time within that time frame. I tell them what I'm planning to teach and let them know that I have no expectations. I tell them they are totally in charge of all the details of the event but that I'm available for assistance or if they have any questions. Each person will take the reigns in their own way.

5- Have a Flier.
I always have a flier template that I offer to personalize for them.  I love this practice for two reasons: One is that it makes it easier for my host. Two is that it is the equivalent of a handshake. Once I've made the flier, I know it's a booked gig. And the host needs to give me all the pertinent details for the flier, so it ensures that all the arrangements have been made and all communications are clear.

6- Ask for What you Need.
I never assume there will be a stereo hookup, mirrors, microphone... etc.  I'm prepared to teach without most of those things if I show up and see that they are missing. But there are certain things I cannot do without. So I ask about the stereo and if I can connect my iPod. It makes no sense to set up a teaching gig and then show up and not be able to do your work, so its always worth it to be sure that whatever you absolutely need is there.
photo: Bruce Thayer

7- Give Yourself Lots of Extra Time.
Being late is unacceptable. And cutting it close is stressful. The trip itself offers enough stress and excitement. It will be worth your while to add about 25% more time than you think you need. And that's AFTER allowing for arriving to the space early. I have my dog with me, so I always have a fun way to occupy myself when I've arrive at a space before it's even unlocked, but I'd much rather be there waiting and have to find a way to entertain myself than to be rushing around, anxiously wondering if I'll be on time. You never know if you'll hit traffic. A drawbridge. A detour. An accident. Faulty directions that get you lost. A closed street. A parking situation that eats up a lot of time.

8- Be Love Motivated, Not Money Motivated.
Over and over again, I have had my hosts tell me how much they appreciated my laid back attitude about getting paid. Don't get me wrong, I love to get paid, and the money is important to me. But my over riding attitude is that I am taking the trip as an opportunity to see the world and present the work that I love. The income is an added bonus to the pleasure of being able to offer my classes. I have heard people tell me that they'd not invite so-and-so back because of how hard nosed they were about demanding a minimum income. I work it so that I only take a percentage of whatever income the event generated. Since I only ask for 70%, my hosts always make something from my visit. Sometimes, they forego their percentage and give me 100% of the take, but I would never ask nor expect anyone to host me and not be paid. I have made as little as $20 for a gig and as much as $250 for a single class. It all evens out in the end. There were many places that I'd never have been invited to teach if I were demanding a minimum dollar amount. In the end, I know that I'm doing this because it brings me joy.

9- Be Grateful for "No"
Either saying "no" or accepting "no" as an answer is part of the game. Not everyone will be interested. Not everyone will have the resources or the energy. And not everyone will have the time. But no matter what the 'reason', it is guaranteed that you will have to accept "no" at some point. So be thankful for it and move on. The last thing you want is to get yourself into a situation where it's awkward or impossible to follow through with the plans. Receive and give "No" abundantly when you are in the planning phase of the trip and it will be much better for everyone.

10- Minimize expenses.
I avoid restaurants and going to fancy hotels. I stay at Motel 6, which is the cheapest motel chain in the country. It's not glamorous, but it helps my bottom line. I go to grocery stores or farmers markets whenever I can and I travel with an ice chest and do almost all of my own cooking. I can get away with about $100/week if I shop and eat wisely. I can easily spend that much in one day if I have three restaurant meals.

11-  Start Small.
The first trip I took was about a week and didn't leave the state of Washington. It was still a big undertaking and I learned a lot. It is surprising how easy it is to put together a really long trip. But I suggest working your way up to the longer ones because once you've set it up you can't really back out of it without destroying your credibility. I have learned that anything over a month feels really long to me. I can take trips longer than a month, but only if I include a non-working stay in at least one location for several days.

12- Measure Success in Joy.
If you're going into the nomad lifestyle to make lots of money, then you probably need to be selling some product in addition to teaching class. I teach classes and I also do personal training consultations and massage/body work, so I can create numerous income streams. A business guru that I consult has recommended that I get an online product (videos or an ebook) that I can then sell to all of the people I meet. I think it's a brilliant idea, but I haven't done it yet.

13- Don't Bring a Dog.
I love River. And personally I wouldn't be interested in doing this without him. He prevents me from getting lonely on the road, which I have heard from other nomads is one of the most difficult aspects of the lifestyle. But traveling with the dog prevents me from seeing and doing a lot of things. Not the least of which is since many studios across the country won't allow dogs,  I hear a lot of "no" based on that fact alone. On one hand, he probably prevents me from spending money on restaurants and museums, or from going shopping etc. On the other hand, I may pay an extra fee at a motel, and there is the added expense of his food to consider.  So, while I will always have my dog with me, I would advise anyone who has the option of traveling without one to leave him at home.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Goldfinger Again

River and I are planning another road trip.  This one will initiate in Cornelius, Oregon, where we'll be spending the weekend on a horse farm with Kevin Behan of Natural Dog Training fame.

Our proposed itinerary will look something like this (of course plenty of adjustments will likely be made as we secure dates across the country):

Oct 2-3   Boise, ID
Oct 4      Evanston, WY
Oct 5       Colorado
Oct 6     Lincoln, NE
Oct 7     Des Moines/ Iowa City
Oct 8     Cleveland, OH
Oct 9-14     NYC
Oct 15    NJ
Oct 16    Penn
Oct 17    Indianapolis, IN
Oct 18-19 Milwaukee, WI
Oct 20 St Cloud, MN
Oct 21   Bismarck, ND
Oct 22   Billings, MT
Oct 23    Missoula, MT
Oct 24   Eastern Washington/northern Idaho

I'll be bringing my Goldfinger routine and can teach it again at places that have already seen it.

I could also teach an extended immersion into the routine, which would be about 3-4 hours, or teach a "Learn the Routine" if there are enough interested teachers.

The dates above are a general guideline and can and will be tweaked to fit the reality and things fall into place. If you're interested in being a part of the October Goldfinger Tour, please let me know.  But I will most likely be contacting people along the route in the next week or so to see about what interest and opportunity there is.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Upstate New York

The drive from Connecticut through western Massachusetts and to Albany, NY was really nice. I had enough time to take the back roads and avoid the big highways, so I got to see a lot of small towns and lots and lots of green trees. It was a lush drive in nice weather. It was overcast, but not raining much, just how I like it. Off and on, there were some light sprinkles.

I had a reservation at the local Motel 6 and also had an invitation to stay at the home of my local producer for Albany, Richele Corbo. I knew that she had a dog and didn't know what sort of living situation we'd have and how River would be with the whole thing, so I kept the motel reservation handy just in case.

I was hungry when I arrived, since I had unwittingly left all of my food in the previous town, and was looking forward to relaxing and hopefully eating something soon. I saw a beautiful house set way back on a gorgeous, lush property with a creek running behind it. I parked by a gorgeous barn and  brought River to the front door and couldn't find a bell so I knocked. Mike greeted me and as their  golden lab began to approach us, said "This will be interesting."

That was not what I wanted to hear. The dog didn't come to us but stood a few feet away, barking at us. River was pretty good about it. He went toward the dog but I didn't let go of the leash, so he came back and hung out by me.

The next few minutes were sort of surreal as we stood in the foyer having a casual conversation while the dog loudly and repeatedly obscured every fourth or fifth word we spoke. At the same time, the oldest son and his girlfriend come into the foyer and introduce themselves (although I couldn't hear their names) and introducing themselves to River.

River was doing remarkably well under the circumstances. But I was a bit nervous. Mike kept saying, "she'll stop soon" but even he seemed surprised at how much she was continuing. As the kids were leaving, I asked where Richele was. And he explained to me about how she had gone to BARK BARK but when she BARK to leave, there was another car in tBARK. So they're trying to locate the guy to move his BARK BARK."

To me, living for so long in New York City, that sounded like a situation that was going to eat up at least half an hour, easily, or more. I kept waiting for a suggestion to the solution of the barking dog, which seemed to me to be to separate them. I was about to suggest that I go either go outside or be shown to where I was staying, I could settle in a bit and maybe she would calm down. I was starting to hope that maybe they were planning on having us sleep in the barn.

It was only a matter of minutes, it turns out, before Richele came in. We were both excited to see each other, and she wanted to meet River, but it was also clear that she was reacting, so Richele suggested She and I take the dogs for a walk.

Once we started walking, the dog was immediately quiet and all seemed to be going well. The dogs would sniff at each other and then enjoy the walk together. Richele and I chatted and in my attempt to express to her that I was concerned about this situation we may have, I insulted her family; using the word 'chaotic' to describe the energy vibe I was feeling. I was seeking her reassurance or suggestions for solutions, but it came out as saying 'your family isn't really working out for us, so we'll be staying somewhere else'.

Fortunately, she and I have a history of overcoming misunderstandings in our relationship because we're both willing to face our differences of perspective, see the others and come to a loving understanding of each other. We took a long walk around the expansive tree-filled yard, which sent River into leaps of joy.

Finally we had dinner outdoors near the pond as the bullfrogs burped. I canceled the reservation at motel 6 and we ended up having a marvelous time.

River did wonderfully with the other animals. I was amazed as I watched him behave like a real dog. He pushed his boundaries with her quite a bit, but not in a vicious or a fearful way, just an immature way. Each time he overstepped his bounds, Nicci or I would tell him to stop, and he would. They shared a water bowl and got along fine, otherwise.

And I haven't mentioned the cats. There are two cats. The first, River met by entering a room the cat was in and then running back out having been hissed at. Much later, the cat and he met at the top of the stairs. River was inside the room we were staying in, while Richele and I were out in the hallway discussing my new pants. At this time, a cat came up the stairs, facing the open door to see River sitting, watching him, but staying within the safety of our room. The cat, eyes locked on River, skulked up the stairs and escaped into the master bedroom.

Much later, the family had gone to bed but I stayed up to do laundry. River slept at my feet and I watched TV. The next thing I know, two cats are slowly walking in. They've obviously been watching us the whole time, and now that River's snoring, they're making their move.

Eventually, they're inches from River and he's snoring obliviously. The closer cat sniffs at him close enough to make contact and wake him up. He raises his head, as if to say "huh? what's going--" and the cats dart away, leaving him blinking and yawning. A few moments later his hackles went up. But he didn't pursue it. He checked in with me, and then laid back down to sleep again.

The next morning, as I was getting ready to leave for class, River went into the bedroom where he last saw the cat go. He looked under the bed and then walked around the back of the bed, to find the cat sitting on a chair on the other side. The cat stared as River walked close in enough to get a good sniff, and then walked back a few steps, turned around and exited the room.

Goldfinger class took place in a gritty cool funky tough neighborhood of Albany and we had a fantastic turn-out of glittering genius artists. We all had glitter on the souls of our feet by the end of class.
Posturing, before class

Pre-class contemplative

Richele and Jason with pants!


still dancing...

more dancing...

It was another opportunity for me to stretch the 55 minute format as this studio customarily has 75 minute classes, so I included my Party anthem song and the journey through the Vital Factors once again.

After class, we went to the farmer's market and picked up a lot of great local fruits, veggies, cheese, honey, eggs and some bison jerky for me and a bone for River. I took it back to the house and cooked it a little bit and put it in the few pieces of tupperware that weren't in the long lost box. Then, with my cooler full, hit the road to our next destination.

On the way out of town, I stopped at the local food co-op to stock up the stuff that I left in the last state. After class, Richele handed me a wad of money that I put into my pocket. I drew from that wad repeatedly at the farmers markets and loaded my arms with good. I had still never counted the money, but in preparation for going shopping at the co-op, I finally counted it and was surprised to have over $200.

So my pantry is now well-stocked again. Thanks Albany! Love!

It was late afternoon before we shuffled off to Buffalo. It shaved two hours off the four hour drive to take the main highway, so I took a straight shot. The sun was setting in my eyes during the last hour of the drive, and we arrived at the motel after dark. I quickly ate and went to bed after midnight.

In the early morning hours, River crawled up and got into bed with me. I noticed that it was cold. I don't usually get cold in the night, but I could feel the chill. I decided to let this one slide, and he slept the next few hours on the bed with me.

Our next stop is in Michigan, but I didn't want to drive all the way there in one day so I opted for a stop in Macedonia, Ohio, which is in between Cleveland and Akron.


River was still hacking today.

We drove from Framingham, MA to Branford, CT in pouring rain. The rain was so hard at times that the windshield wipers couldn't keep up, even at the fastest speed. Traffic had to slow to about 55 (ten mph below the posted limit) so that we weren't pummeled with water quite so rapidly.

We took a lovely, winding, scenic forest-y road, and River and I stopped at a riverside scenic viewpoint for some running, exploring and relieving. Everything was going well, River grabbed the toy the first time I presented it to him, and we ran together with it. Then we explored around the riverbank, so River could get his paws wet.

There was a fisherman down there, which startled us at first, but then we all minded our own business and all was OK.

Up the river a bit, we found another good spot with shore access, and no fishermen. We waded a bit in the running water, and spotted a freshly killed large fish lying on the ground at the edge of the river. I let River smell and explore it, but he showed no interest in gutting it or eating it.

As we were heading back to the car, I thought I'd encourage River to Bite and Carry one more time, so I slapped him on the side of his body with the toy, as Kevin would do, to get River riled up enough to bite the toy and run with it. But he didn't bite at it. Instead, he cowered and partially closed his eyelids.  I tried again and he skulked all the way to the ground and lifted his legs, squinting his eyes.

I was obviously doing something wrong, so I hid the toy and we just ran together toward the car.

We arrived at our motel in Branford. This was the third Motel 6 in a row that had interior corridors. But unlike the prior two, this one was nice and the staff was friendly. So it made a big difference in my overall impression of the place. It also helped that everything seemed to be working and nothing was missing.

We spent the night there and left for Milford the next morning, where I was scheduled to teach my class. 

I arrived early, as I usually do, and took River for a walk around the neighborhood. And when I tried to do that Bite and Carry game with him, he responded again with cowering and squinting. I gave up out of frustration and now I am ambivalent about what to do. I wrote an email to Kevin, the trainer, asking what I might be doing wrong.

It was nice to have the class experience to immerse myself into because I was letting myself get all knotted up about River. The magic of Nia prevailed, of course, and after teaching Goldfinger to a small and creative gathering of crystal artistic geniuses, I felt much more at ease with everything.

Today's class was the second to "see my knees" as Nancy put it. The first, were those lucky dogs in Cambridge. ;)

I didn't do it consciously, but I later realized that I officially retired my disconium tuxedo pants at the final turn-around point for the trip, in Portland, Maine. They made it all the way from coast to coast, but not a step back west. I had packed some aluminum running shorts that I found at American Apparel just in case my pants didn't survive.

This was the first opportunity I had to expand my 55 minute format into a longer class. I had 90 minutes slated, so I added a few extra songs and spent a little bit more time setting up a clear focus at the start.

I included a  really high energy song called Get The Party Started, that Mark Frossard gave me when we taught the Men of Nia Jam in Santa Fe. It is sung by Shirley Bassey, which is the common thread of the Goldfinger routine, so it fit in perfectly, and actually provided a new climax point, which I really enjoyed. 

Another thing I added was a journey through the 13 First Degree Black Belt Vital Factors.  I explained how I was going to share the name of each vital factor, and the idea was to interpretive dance based on the feelings and inspirations that come from hearing the words. In the context of the Goldfinger class, which is all about celebration of unique artistic expression, it was a perfect fit and yielded some quite lovely results as the students truly committed to exploring the Vital Factors of Nia.

The next morning I left the motel room without a big box of nuts, seeds, peanut butter, olive and coconut oil, my spices and herbs, my baking soda, much of my tupperware and some supplements that I take on the occasions when I don't get enough fresh vegetables in my diet. I was hours away from Connecticut, part-way to my next destination before I got hungry and saw that I didn't have my food.

I was able to contact Nancy Hammett, who has been my producer in Milford many times. I told her about the box of goodies and that they were keeping it at the front desk of Motel 6 with her name on it.

After hitting Connecticut, we have officially concluded our loop through New England. I actually do have another gig in New York tomorrow before we really leave New England, but since I've already done New York on this trip and already earned the right to color it in on the map. I'm calling Connecticut the last of the New England loop. So, here's what we've done so far.

Friday, June 13, 2014


It was a short drive from Portland, ME to Cambridge, MASS, so I decide to avoid the Turnpike and take the back roads. Unfortunately, I ran into some construction on a two lane highway as I was leaving rural Maine in a town called Ogunquit.

I was sitting in stopped traffic for quite a while. Long enough to shut my engine off and get out my phone to film the tragic traffic. Looking back, I think it's amusing how 'upset' I was getting. I'm not really even upset by the traffic, but it was the not knowing what was going on that was disturbing. I'm used to seeing a sign warning "Flagman Ahead" or "Construction- Be Prepared to Stop" or "One Lane Highway Ahead" something like that. But in this case, all I saw was stopped traffic for quite a while.

Once I got past the construction zone it was free sailing all the way into Cambridge. But I arrived there just in time to meet rush hour traffic and some of the rudest, most impatient drivers I've ever encountered in the United States.

I have been honked at by displeased fellow motorists in the past, but it is very rare because I'm such a relaxed, considerate driver. But I was honked at no less than eight times in my short visit to the Boston area and deliberately cut off from entering into a lane of traffic while I sat there signaling my intention to merge. Not only were they blocking me from joining, but they made eye contact with me while doing so. At least in LA they pretend you don't exist. 

If New Hampshire was the most courteous state for driving, Massachusetts gets the prize for the least courteous.

Fortunately, I've learned to allow LOTS of time to get to my classes on time. I was able to find an open, free parking spot on the main street, just a few doors down from the building I was teaching in and we made it with plenty of time to spare.


Julianne Corey produced me in a beautiful, historic-looking Oddfellows Hall building in the center of Cambridge. In fact, I think it was called Center Square.

We had a great gang of artists, who really drank in the Goldfinger magic. Sadly, we got off to a late start as everyone arrived and settled up, so at the end of class, there were people knocking on the door to get into the room.

This class was not the biggest in terms of attendance, but it was in the top five. And I think it was the highest paying class to date. When I set up my trip, I never make any specific payment request. My thinking is that I'll get paid whatever the market will bear. I'm more interested in getting my work out there than putting up restrictions and requirements. My way, I'm always pleasantly surprised by whatever I get paid for the class.

After class, a few of us went to a local restaurant with outdoor seating. We ate some good food (including a free plate of baklava, sent to us because our food took a long time to arrive) and chatted mostly about Nia and dog training.

I think River must have eaten a leaf or something, because he has started to make a hacking sound on a pretty regular basis. He often eats grass and leafs that don't settle and he'll hack them up, but whatever this is, seems to be resisting coming out. I hope it works its way out soon. I feel bad seeing him hack like that.

Thursday, June 12, 2014


Maine seems like another laid-back, scenic state. It is certainly the land of the cute slogans.
"Maine. Worth to visit. Worth a Lifetime" "Maine: The Way Life Should Be." "Vacationland"
"Where America's Day Begins" (because it's where the sun first shines on the USA every day.) And my favorite one: "Maine. It's not the edge of the universe, but you can see it from the edge of the universe."

Everything about my trip to Maine was lovely except for the Motel 6. Which was one of the worst I've stayed in. The male desk staff were all barely existent and certainly not friendly or helpful. There was an abundance of handicapped parking any where near the only entrance door for the whole building, so there were no parking spaces that didnt' require a long, shlepping walk just to get to the lobby. My room had a musty funk to it and there were no screens on the window, so I had to choose between the mosquitoes or the funk. There was no microwave in the common area, which is not required of Motel 6s, but it's very common. In fact it is very rare that there is no microwave. In some places, you have to bring your food to the lobby and ask at the desk to heat your food up for you, but this place. Nothing. The vending machine is also another fixture at Motel 6 that one could almost rely upon. I don't often use them, but once in a while I get a late night craving for some chocolate and I can usually find something fairly benign in the vending machine. But not this one. The glass had been broken out and all the inventory was gone.  At one point, in the morning, a fire alarm went off and they made us all go outside and wait in the parking lot while the fire department came and checked everything out. I was glad to finally load up the car and leave that place.

But in the meantime, I had a bit of respite from the horrors of my accommodations in the form of a lovely Nia class. My easternmost Nia class in the USA. Portland, Maine. I was hosted by Erin Curran who teaches at Casco Bay Movers. She assembled a great group of about a dozen students as well as teachers from near and far.

I love that I can teach this routine over and over again and still not get sick of it. Of course, the enthusiasm that it is usually received with could possibly have something to do with that.

After class some of us went out to check out Erin's art car.

Erin took River and I on a long walk part way around a body of water that I assume was Casco Bay, as in the name of the place in which we danced.

Erin wanted so badly to be a gracious host to me, but I had no needs and didn't really want to do much but go back to my room and shower and eat. Even though my dinner was going to be cold (ref. Motel 6 rant above). She even offered her microwave up to me in case I wanted to come by, heat up my food and leave. But instead I ate cold food and loved it.

It was weird to be in Portland. All my life I had known Portland to be on the west coast, in Oregon. Seeing signs and store names including the name Portland, momentarily pulled me out of my reality and made me think where I was.

New Hampshire

"Drive Courteously. It's the New Hampshire Way." according to a sign I saw shortly after entering the state. And I'd agree. I really felt like driving in New Hampshire was a pleasure because people were courteous in general.

Lately, I've been seeing an ad for New Hampshire tourism. It shows a couple hiking to the top of a mountain. There is no voiceover and no music. All you can hear a few distant the birds chirping and the rustling of their shoes on the path as they make it to the summit in the few seconds we know them. They stop and stand and look out at the wilderness below them. No one says a word. Finally the script shows up, saying  something like 'come to New Hampshire; it's natural.'

And that's pretty much my impression of the place. It's natural. It's relaxed and friendly. It's beautiful and doesn't make a big deal about itself. 

I had nothing to do there, and had just dropped a bunch of cash for the dog training weekend, so I placed an ad offering my services for personal training and/or massage, and actually got two interested responses. So I gave two massages and made some of that money back.

One of the clients told me about a really big park that River would love. So on our way out of New Hampshire, the next day, we stopped at this park and took a walk around a river that seemed like a lake because it was so still. But once we got to the other end, I could see that it was flowing.


After this long trek, I practiced some of the Bite and Carry, which worked like a charm. He was still energetic after the long walk, but after only a minute of Bite and Carry, he was lying on the grass with his tongue hanging out of the side of his mouth.

I'm learning that, with him, it's not as much the volume or intensity of exercise, but the specificity of exercise that he really needs. I'm really loving how relaxed it makes him.

 No, this is not doggy porn, this is a picture of some marks that River has on his belly. I noticed them as he let me rub his tummy. I noticed that they look an awful lot like a target reaction that one sees from being bitten by a Lyme disease carrying tick. And we are in Lyme country. Or perhaps ringworm?

(I later learned that dogs don't actually exhibit the target reaction from Lyme infested tick bites, and that these markings are those of black fly bites.)

After playing in the park for an hour or so, we headed even further east to our next destination.