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.


Didi said…
I love this Jason. Well done. As a traveller for many years I see the sense in what you have written. Mind you I have never done it quite like this but I love the idea.

If you are ever travelling alone, I am still here in St. Catharines, Ontario and would love you at one of my classes or events.

I really enjoy following your travels.

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