BFA in Gypsying?: Tips for the Traveling Lifestyle With a Theatre Degree, Part 1
If I could journey back in time and tell the super green, fresh college grad version of myself that my theatre employment would take me to over 40 US states and even make me a world traveler in 5 years (mostly on someone else’s very snazzy dime), I would have“shablam-ed” to the floor in shock. Then I would have wisely rushed to the passport office to retake my photo, which embarrassingly screams Orange is the New Black. Oh, if only I could pull a Cher and turn back time.
Thanks to national tours, regional theatres, and summer stocks, I have become some sort of gypsy fairy fluttering all over the country on a zig-zagging path that I’m sure would resemble a toddler’s attempt at connect-the-dots if mapped. It’s been one sporadic, unpredictable adventure after another, busting open my luggage so frequently I feel I am permanently packed and ready to go! I have left my footprints in state capitals and small towns from coast to coast, spent summers nestled in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and Catskills of New York, and am currently typing this post in a cafe in Shinjuku, the Times Square of Tokyo. I literally just ordered a latte in Japanese. WHAT IS MY LIFE?!
With an origin drenched in myth, mystery, and even persecution, the name “gypsy” is believed to have been given to traveling immigrants (now called Romani) leaving India and migrating to Europe nearly 1,500 years ago, commonly mistaken in their early travels for Egyptians. It has now evolved to representing nomadic and free-spirited people scattered all across the globe, and has grown to have a special ring in show business. Some may instantly think of Patti LuPone’s recent turn as “Mama Rose” in the iconic musical Gypsy and others may think of the Gypsy Robe ceremony, an opening night tradition on Broadway that celebrates the seasoned members of the chorus. No matter what first comes to mind, theatre folk truly have their own gypsy essence sizzling in their souls, passed down from American musical theatre’s vagabond roots in minstrel, vaudeville, and burlesque. There is a deep history of hopping from stage to stage and show to show with a “show must go on” mentality fearlessly steering the way. The gypsy lifestyle can easily become a performance world norm, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come without a price.
“Gypsying” is not all glamour. It’s a life of constant adapting and adjusting, stepping out of your comfort zone (as well as time zone), navigating bumps on the road (sometimes quite literally via bus), missing a slew of things back home like holidays and weddings (FOMO), playing catch up with the outside world on Facebook, scrambling for a good healthy meal, and lots of hustling and mustering strength when your brain and body hit a wall and there is a still an 8 o’clock curtain. No theatre degree can really prepare you for the constant town skipping, dazed schlepping, and homesickness.
BUT what will help you become a gypsy star is a go-with-the-flow nature, a diva-less attitude, a wanderlust agenda, an open mind and heart, and an ability to cultivate a home within yourself when everything around you is constantly changing. Being grounded and connected to what you desire is the key.
Let’s explore the first four out of eight valuable gypsy jewels in becoming a rock star on the road and viewing your experiences and adventures as your pot of gold.
1. Travel Smart and Light
An excess of stuff complicates this pick-up-and-go life style and can weigh you down. So I say start consolidating NOW (garage sale, donate, or Ebay baby) and chose quality over quantity, investing in the good stuff that lasts and doesn’t rip or break. For clothes, be sensible and go for rehearsal comfort over loads of casual wear, sporting what you love to lounge and relax in. There’s nothing wrong with hobo chic! Let wellness get priority in what you stock up on, focusing on vocal health and aching, tired limbs. Leave breakables and/or expensive valuables safe at home or in the care of someone you trust. And give all your music, movies, TV shows, and books a digital home, which can become the best savior for packing space. The less you pack, the better your back! (And the more room for souvenirs!)
Smart Tip: When on a gig, even if your company or producers are paying for your transportation and accommodations, you can rack in on frequent flyer rewards as well as hotel reward plans. Grab discount/loyalty cards to all the places you love to visit, from food to shops, as well. Those cards will become money-saving golden tickets.
2. Document Your Experience
I mean this in two ways. The first way is more for business purposes, like saving your receipts for reimbursements and tax season, and keeping expenses organized so you stay financially in charge.
And the second is for savoring your memories. Journal. Scrapbook. Blog. Vlog. Snap photos. Share on social media. Do whatever grooves with you to give yourself plenty of material for the grandkids that captures your heyday. It’s the best way to vividly bring back to life where you’ve been and see how much you’ve grown. I’m a journaling junkie!
3. The Jet Lag Jig
Even though I am psyched to be here, since landing in Japan, I’ve been fighting Mr. Sandman for a normal sleep schedule. Exhaustion, especially if you are bouncing from city to city, is inevitable on the gypsy journey. Here are my favorite ways to boost energy:
- Increase protein and high fiber in snacks, from organic protein bars to nuts to chia seeds to peanut butter smoothies (the latter being my favorite).
- Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate! Water will be your best replenishing friend.
- Shake off stiffness of long travels with a walk or dance party. Do this to explore, let loose, and/or gently move your body, not for calories.
- Sneak in catnaps that allow your body to power off for a short period and reboot.
- Hang out with the people who make you laugh. Laughter is a vibrational energy enhancer and positivity inducer.
- Meditate, Meditate, MEDITATE! This is my non-negotiable time out! More to come on this in Part 2!
4. Explore the Great Outdoors
As people who are perpetually indoors performing for strangers in the dark, we need to make opportunities to soak in some Vitamin D and let nature in. It can start off as simple as opening your blinds in the morning and inviting in natural sunlight. Then put on your adventurer hat and go out in the fresh air, allowing time to slow down and your senses to be stimulated. Visit bodies of water to be naturally soothed, parks to play, picnic, and lay in, local zoos to enjoy some animals, flea or farmer markets to get your shopping on, or hiking trails to truly immerse yourself in your wild surroundings. These mini adventures can be refreshing escapes from work and company bonding outings, giving you favorite hideaways and treasured off the clock experiences. One of my summer stock casts would venture to a nearby rocky ridge post shows and go stargazing, laying out blankets and unwinding under a twinkling night’s sky. It was pure magic, and something I’ll never forget.
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