You see them all over YouTube: Videos of your favorite choreographers teaching in Germany, Japan, Russia, etc., and you think to yourself, “Man, it would be awesome to be paid to teach and dance in another country!” So you train, take classes, join cyphers, try out for teams... and if you play your cards right, you could end up being able to live this dream.
If you’re looking for some tips, I’ve written an article on how to accomplish such a task. But once you do accomplish this feat, what next? What is it like traveling to another country where you most likely have no idea how to speak the language, what sort of customs to expect, or what to do when you get there?
After traveling to a couple of different countries doing different gigs for dance, whether it be touring or teaching, I’ve run into some common themes that I think the aspiring traveling dancer should know prior to their trip into the unknown.
The first thing you should do is make sure your passport is in good order and current. If you need to get a Visa for the country you are going to, it's important to do it ASAP. It has always taken me roughly two weeks to a month to get this done, and I’ve had to pay a pretty penny to get it expedited when I procrastinated.
This might come as a no brainer, but do your homework before traveling to another country. Find out what the weather is currently like, or if you will need to watch out for certain bugs (some things people don’t consider are the little things). Is the water safe for drinking, or is it better to spend the money on bottled water to avoid getting sick? Consider the time differences and location. Some countries/cities could have weather changes like night and day. The more you know going in, the less stress you will have by being prepared, and less stress = more fun.
I’ll say it: Being born in America, we have a tendency to feel ‘entitled’; it seems to be a common thing I’ve noticed traveling with other Americans or meeting others from America. Just remember, you are a foreigner to their country. Anything that could lead to trouble could lead you to be deported - know the consequences. It’s a great idea to keep your head on straight when you encounter troubling situations. Better yet, avoid these situations completely.
Of all the amazing things I’ve experienced traveling, the top of the list are the people I’ve met. Being a dancer means meeting other dancers on your travels, and the best part is dancing is universally understood in any language. Building those bonds with people across the world is a surreal experience, something that merely adding people on social media can never really accomplish. Life is about making experiences and the people you share it with, so use every opportunity to create some lasting ones.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it's still very important to note - we’ve all seen the movie Taken. Take it from someone who has actually been kidnapped on one of their trips to a different country, that stuff actually happens. It goes hand in hand with doing research on the place you are traveling to, but be sure to know what is safe or not. Common things to be aware of are not to go anywhere at night alone if you can avoid it, only take clearly marked taxis and public transportation, and know where the U.S. Consulate and police stations are located in case of emergencies.
What type of trip are you going on? Are you going to be staying in one location for the most part, or are you going to be on tour? It might seem like a good idea to bring everything you own just in case, but touring becomes really difficult having to lug around three different bags plus two carry ons everywhere. Try to get good at packing one good sized carry on. It might sound crazy, but trust me, you’ll be thanking me for it later. Know what type of adapters for your electronics to bring, universal adapters aren’t usually very expensive. Bring medicine, first aid equipment, any travel sized sanitation and bug spray.
I’m absolutely terrible at documenting experiences. I’ve always been more of a live-in-the-now type of guy instead of snapping away memories to keep. Ditching this mentality on my last trip around the world was a welcome change. Living in a digital age where even your toothbrush seems to have a camera, it makes it easy to take all the pictures of everything. These are things you’re going to enjoy long after your trip is done. And let’s face it, how else are you going to brag to share with everyone else about what you’re doing?
Sometimes it’s hard to stay connected with friends and family when you’re traveling. It can be worrisome to them when you can’t be reached. Get an international sim card for your phone if you can, and download apps to stay in contact (WeChat is one of the best texting apps for traveling, and it has the added perk of being free!). Skype is always a go to application to stay in touch. Most places have some sort of access to WiFi, so utlizing these locations is nearly a must. One of the most helpful phrases I’ve come to find out is, “what is the password to the wifi?” It’ll make your life so much easier; it's practically right up there with “where is the bathroom?”.
The first time I was in Japan, I had to take the train to get to my destination after getting out of the airport. Anyone that has tried to read the train schedule and routes for the first time knows where I’m going with this. Reading the train routes is like trying to decipher hieroglyphics. Some stations make finding the route to your destination easy, but don’t rely on these to be everywhere. Know in advance how to tell someone your destination if you need to take a taxi or bus. It can save a ton of headache by saving the address on your phone, because sadly, Siri isn’t much help here.
A lot of things can happen while you’re away from home. Having access to an account at home might be out of the question, so knowing how much your trip might cost you is essential. I recommend plotting out how much each day is roughly going to cost and go from there, adding a bit more for recreational activities.....SIKE - we’re all broke dancers!
But in all seriousness, the best case scenario is to be smart with the money you have, or the money you receive. Know when to spend your money, and when to save it.
Have you had to travel somewhere else to dance or teach? What advice would you give to those who are about to do so? Leave a comment below to share your opinions! We can't stress the importance of #4 enough - but to help us with this task, check out this article about networking - or neTWERKing as dancers!