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Mobile massage therapy will sure beat hell out of paying clinic rent. So went my thinking as I decided to become a traveling therapist. I was both right and wrong about that, it turns out. But the benefits of the job were so much more than I dreamed.
Money vs. Time – The Eternal Trade-Off
Traveling massage therapy is, in one sense, working on the cheap. Sure, you don’t pay clinic rent. Or a receptionist or communal laundry service. Your vehicle and gas suddenly become a business deduction, as does the portion of your home expenses dedicated to your home office. But what you trade for all that money is time. Patients don’t come to you, you go to them, which gives you travel time and exposes you to scheduling embarrassments if traffic snarls up. You see less patients per day. You are the receptionist (although some scheduling apps help out with this) – expect to spend more time on the phone. You either find your own laundry service or do it yourself. So, the end result: you spend more time seeing less people in exchange for less expense.
I could live with that. I learned the fastest ways around Vancouver and got my table setup down to a reflex.
A Minimalist Workstyle
A traveling massage therapist is a minimalist. No heating pads, wall charts or controlled, soothing environment. You get your table, your oil bottle, and your hands. You work in your patient’s living room or bedroom or kitchen or back yard, to silence or screaming kids or Led Zeppelin or Oprah. You get supper smells or cigarettes or a lilac forest or eau de hospital.
Every session was a new experience, and within it all I had to be a professional and do a body some good with just what I could carry. I loved it all.
The Real Gold
The real benefit to being a traveling massage therapist? There were two: I got to see my clients where they lived, and I saw clients that no other therapist got to see.
I had the opportunity to see inside my patients’ lives. I stepped into a hundred varieties of loving, supportive environments and a hundred examples of stressful, chronically unhealthy living situations. I got to indulge a guilty pleasure and peruse a hundred bookshelves. I saw the environments that support health or foster disease. Sometimes it helped inform my treatment plans. Always it broadened my worldview.
Mobile massage therapy introduces you to patients you’d never see in a clinic. I was called to the homes of the elderly, the disabled, the comatose, and the dying. I worked with MS and Lupus and arthritis and strokes and spinal cord injury and every other condition that pins people to their beds. The conditions and situations I encountered in my practice shocked, scared, humbled, challenged and fascinated me. They sent me back to the books. Time and time again I was pushed to see what I could do. More often than not, massage therapy was able to do some good.
A Unique and Amazing Career
Travelling massage introduced me to so many incredible people and situations. The young man in the throes of his very first MS attack, his entire family in turmoil. The single mother of newborn twins with no time to visit a clinic for her aching back. More than a handful of famous people who didn’t want to be seen. The man with the back spasm on his living room floor, only able to reach his phone. The homes where I was kept busy for a day massaging the entire family.
I’ve given sessions on a boat, in a park, in back yards and on balconies. I’ve worked on canopy beds and hospital beds and my invincible massage table. I’ve seen the inside of every health care facility and major hotel in Vancouver. I’ve been in mansions and hovels, from the British Properties to the Downtown East Side.
I did traveling massage therapy for 12 years, and those times are precious. The experiences have made me rich. It’s not for everyone, but it was definitely the right choice for me.