Pilates in Paradise?
I have what many people would consider to be an ideal job. I do what I love (teaching Pilates, of course) on a small luxurious private island resort in the Caribbean. My husband also works here, and they provide us and our dog with housing, meals at the staff canteen, and periodic parties, drinks, and intra-mural sports. We also have access to the beach and, when available, water sport equipment (kiteboards, kayaks, etc). I work with guests from all over the world, including royalty, socialites, captains of industry, and even the occasional celebrity.
I love my job. I am well compensated, work fewer hours overall than when I owned my own studio in the US, and see an interesting mix of clients in both complementary group classes and private sessions (we have a studio). The staff and management are wonderful, and the therapists and yoga teacher are extremely talented (this a multiple award winning spa) and we do get to trade services and model for training and continuing education.
So how does one find a job like this? I found this job because I already lived in the country, was called in as a “fill in” Pilates teacher when the resident teacher was away, and I loved it so much that I applied for the position. You can also do a web search for spa positions or do a search for luxury spas see which spas offer pilates, and submit your resumÌ©. Before you jump, however, you need to take some things into consideration.
1. Are you really comfortable in unfamiliar surroundings? You will be living, eating, and working in an entirely new place with little to remind you of home. The rest of the staff will be multi-national and multi-cultural, often with few native English speakers. Staff meals will have different choices than you are used to (pork belly and chili-spiced vegetables, for example). Groceries may be hard to get. I take a 35 minute boat ride every other week with a cooler and suitcases to the main island to stock up my kitchen. Also, you will be sharing close quarters with all kinds of people (my husband and I share a 2 bedroom unit with 2 very nice young Balinese men) and need to be ready for that.
2. Can you be on call at all hours? I work a 6 day week where, while I only need to be at the spa for my scheduled classes and sessions, I am on call from 9am-9pm if a guest wants Pilates. And if they are willing to pay extra, they could have me earlier or later! While my maximum number of sessions is 5 in a day, they can be spread out and if we’re really busy I often go over.
3. Can you be happy and pleasant all the time? You must smile always and be pleasant always, no matter how you feel or how upset at something you may be. Living on a small island with both staff and guests means that you never know who you will run into (some guests are even secret shoppers for travel bureaus), and you need to help keep up the positive mood of the resort.
4. How are you with demanding clients? You will not have the option of turning down a client or refusing to work with someone. And every guest is paying a lot of money to be at the spa and additional funds to take a lesson with you. You must be pleasant and at your very best for every single guest you see, whether in a private or group. This can include working with teenagers, with people who speak no English, with people who have never taken Pilates, and with people who think they know Pilates better than you.
5. Are you confident in your teaching? You will have very little contact with other teachers except on your vacations, so be very confident in what you can do. I do most of my networking on line at Pilates teacher forums and magazines. If you are uncomfortable with an injury or issue, you must speak up as the worst thing you could do is injure a guest. You will see people who study at the best Pilates studios and with the best trainers in the world from every “brand” of Pilates, so be clear that you feel good about your teaching skills and what you know.
6. Can you keep to yourself, avoid gossip, and keep a confidentiality agreement? Most high end luxury resorts will have you sign a confidentiality agreement. If word leaks out every time certain guests come to a hotel, you better believe that they will stop coming and will inform everyone they know, so confidentiality is key to the resort’s success. Plus, in a small place any gossip or nastiness will spread like wildfire and will come back around to you sooner or later (and yes, you can and will get fired for something like this).
Given all these conditions, working at a luxury resort can be a fabulous opportunity to travel, live in a new place, and meet really cool and interesting people. I love it!
By Lynda Lippin