Photo Credit: Joe Plimmer
Traveler Story: How To Find Community in Pole Fitness While Traveling
From Rio to Malta, this solo traveler has learnt the ins and outs of nurturing self while on the pole and on the road. Elizabeth shares her experiences, stories and tips on how to integrate pole into your travels, make friends and deepen your connection with any country.
How did you get into pole fitness or dancing?
When I started university, I was determined to find a sport I could get into. Gyms were intimidating to me (it’s only now, 6 years later, that I’m learning to get over that fear) and, aside from swimming and occasional track, I didn’t have a particularly active childhood. I didn’t want to start adulthood without a fitness habit because I’ve seen how difficult it can be for Black women, especially, to stay active in later life.
I wanted something that didn’t feel repetitive and also made me feel strong because strength empowers me. I narrowed it down to pole fitness and kickboxing. Pole was the only one that had a free slot – it took a year to go beyond the taster classes, and the rest is history.
How have you used pole to make friends while traveling?
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I really enjoy solo travel, and one of the easiest ways to make friends is to stay at a hostel. I also enjoy my own space, so I normally stay just for the first couple of days to get my bearings. After that, I always book a few pole classes, ideally in different studios, so I can meet the locals and get a real feel for my environment.
I spent a month in Malta at the end of 2020 and made some great friends after attending just one class. It also helps that pole communities thrive on social media – we even have our own hashtag system to label our moves.
This makes it really easy to stay in touch with the people you may meet only once on your travels.
Are there any destinations that are known for having great pole communities?
It feels like the move of pole dancing into the mainstream happened in Australia. Many of the legendary modern pole dancers came from strip clubs in Melbourne and Sydney, and almost every studio I’ve visited has had at least one Australian instructor.
The other side of modern-day pole dance was born in the USA, particularly in Atlanta – Magic City is on my bucket list just so I can see the pros at work.
Having said that, next time I go to Brazil, I’m going to spend more time in the studios – the vibe is amazing, and they even run beach pole sessions in Ipanema and Copacabana.
Which has been your most memorable experience to date?
Brazil will always have a very special place in my heart. The day I finally made it to Amora Pole Dance in Ipanema was one of my favorites. I had a beautiful day on the beach with great company and dragged a friend along to the class – for a first-timer, it could’ve gone much worse for him.
The studio was so welcoming and was decorated with artwork centred around the theme of female empowerment. I think it was the first time that it struck me how important it is to embrace my sexuality when practicing and performing.
When I started pole in uni, it was intentionally labelled as “pole fitness society” to have mass appeal and (to some degree) to distance itself from its sex worker roots. As I learned to embrace pole’s heritage, I began to feel more confident in my body, and it opened up a new dimension beyond just keeping fit for me.
As a Black woman, how have you found pole communities internationally?
I think pole has often been the way for me to integrate, especially in places where there are fewer Black people. So far, my experience has been excellent, but there is every possibility that I’ve been a bit lucky.
As with all societies, there are serious race issues within pole dance, which is why communities like Black Girls Pole and Blxckstage exist. There have been times when I’ve felt othered in studios in the UK, but I think when you’re abroad, the “tourist” card typically works in your favor. Even in racist countries, people see you as existing outside the sociopolitical structures of the country you’re in.
What other tips do you have for traveling and maintaining your hobbies?
Before you even arrive in the country, find your local club/gym/community where you can practice your hobby. When we travel, routine often disappears, but partaking in another country makes the transition back to “real life” that much easier.
Some of the best relationships I’ve formed while travelling have been with pole dancers, and an added benefit is that classes and hobbies can help you to pick up the language. I
n Brazil, my instructor spoke English, but I learned directions from listening to her in class. Solo travel can be lonely, so practicing your hobbies is a great way to integrate within your local community.