Europe is expensive.
Of course it is. I knew this. The dollar isn’t worth as much as the euro. But I went. And it was one of the top experiences of my life. I’ll never be able to replicate those 9 full days in Gran Canaria. It wasn’t just a vacation. It wasn’t just pole camp. It wasn’t just a Spanish Island. It was so much more.
Here is the breakdown:
- 4 days of pole camp (16 hours of training including pole tricks & combos, heels class, doubles, pole heels, beach stretch, acrobalance, salsa, and dancehall)
- Gran Canaria is a Spanish island so I got to practice my Spanish!
- Parasailing, scuba diving, jet skiing, tanning, drinking, eating, and exploring the ocean and the island
- Meeting over 20 people who also love poling as much as I do
- Traveling with one of my favorite pole sisters
- 19 hours of travel to get there and 21 hours of travel to get back
- Asthma getting better and then worse with a nasty cold developed on our last flight back
After growing up in a country where people don’t bat an eye when you drink out of the garden hose – not having access to ‘free’ water was a shock. I saw many people drinking juice, alcohol, or small glasses of water. How are people in Gran Canaria not dehydrated? I made it my mission to drink at least one of the 1.5 liter bottles that were sold everywhere (from 0,50 to 1 euros apiece). A little ice water anyone? Most of the water was mildly cold at best and ice was not always available. The glasses provided at the IFA hotel were perhaps 8oz glasses and only available if you paid for ‘all inclusive’ – which was 13 euros a day for the remainder of your stay (you couldn’t just pay for a single day or choose which days you wanted to be all inclusive).
Sunscreen was everywhere you turned but most people weren’t using it or were using a 15 spf or just tanning oil. With my 55 spf facial lotion and 45 spf sport sunscreen, I was the odd woman out. I was also one of the only light skinned people in our group who didn’t turn into a red lobster. I did burn my hairline when I forgot to pull my hair back into a ponytail on one of our outdoor excursions.
You would think that out of a group of Polish, English, Australian, and the two N. Americans, that someone would be fluent in Spanish. I spoke the most Spanish out of anyone in our group. Most of the time, Spanish was not necessary to get where we needed to go, but it was useful to be able to do more than point and speak a few words. I’m glad I got to go to a Spanish-speaking country (island).
What can you get that’s made in Gran Canaria? Not much. Jewelry made out of lava rock. Some special aloe soaps. Beer. I was a bit disapointed that there weren’t any special Gran Canarian candie. Fish? Yes. Sauce? Yes. Chocolate? No.
Everything costs money. Want to weigh your bags before you head to the airport? 1 euro. Want to drink some water? Who knows how many euros. Want to use the safe in your room? 2 euros a night. Want some wifi? 2 euros a day or only obtainable in the lobby. Want a fan? (mind you there is no air-conditioning). 2 euros a day.
I always forget that when outdoors, people smoke without regard for others. I despise cigarette smoke. After a bout of nasty bronchitis following Seattle’s poor air quality and the smoke from the surrounding states’ fires, I was especially vulnerable to toxins in the air. People smoke everywhere in Europe! In the bars. On the beach. While eating. While tanning. While in the hot tub (which is not hot, by the way). While with friends. While walking. I couldn’t get away from the smoke. Towards the end of our trip, the smoke would trigger an asthma attack where I would cough violently with my entire upper body and then suck in air without getting adequate oxygen for about 10 seconds. The night before we left, I coughed so violently I vomited. I broke my record for not vomiting on planes as my coughs were still so hard that I vomited three times on our second flight and was very afraid of any coughing thereafter.
Where was all the wifi? Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. Sometimes you had to pay and sometimes it was free. It was never very fast…
Anybody else notice all the cats? We saw at least 7 cats lounging in the sun, some in better shape than others.
The food was so delicious! I just wish there were more vegetables! Every day at the IFA was a buffet and I tried so many new dishes! I even went to the McDonald’s closest to us (nobody there spoke English). I had a super sweet cider (Kopparberg), a European KitKat, rock hard donuts, and every smoothie under the sun.
And I didn’t forget about the donuts! I found a lot of packaged donuts and then hit the jackpot with this delicious Oreo donut (0,70).
What about the pole camp classes?
I got into some pretty rad poses and did some awesome combos! These pictures are courtesy of Instagramer #kandipicss and #gffdamianpolecamp
Shout out to Kasia for her amazing beach stretch classes and rolling with it when the sand was so dirty we devolved into handstands and running into the water. Her flexy pole class was still within my reach, which was amazing since I’m still at the beginning of my flex journey.
Shout out to Sam and Dan. Their doubles class was so amazing and their doubles poses were spectacular. Dan’s pole heels class had such great choreography and I loved his static poses we worked on in both intermediate and advanced. Sam’s advanced spin pole combo was fantastic and I’m glad I got at least one gravity-defying butt pose (not sure of the name haha but it’s pictured below as my last pole picture).
Shout out to Artur for all the photos, videos, and the cardio! I loved the salsa choreo we learned. Dancehall was fun until all those squats! Then it was a challenge to stay low! I still can’t get the hang of moving my hands in half time to my hips.
Super shout out to Damian for an amazing trip and a very organized trip at that. His class was a whirlwind with moves I was very unwilling to try (hands around your neck to hold the pole), willing to try but failing to grasp, attainable at a later date, and an aha I’ve got it move! I can’t wait to go back and practice these moves. Thanks for letting us take video back with us and for all the epic, funny, and profile-worthy photos!
Another super shout out to my pole sister Rockin’ Kandi for encouraging (and there was a lot of that in the beginning) me to go and rooming with me, putting up with my coughing, going everywhere with me, sharing poles, and doing doubles with me.
Thank you to all the other polers on the trip. Tak? I had so much fun poling, laughing, sharing taxis, going out, eating, sitting by the pool, goofing off, stretching, getting sandy together, and everything else that went on in class and outside of classes.
A final thank you to Dragonfly for the gift certificate for winning the street pole challenge with Rockin’ Kandi!
Our instructors were so amazing! My favorite class was probably the doubles class. After the first day, where I opted to try both intermediate and advanced classes and poled for 4 hours instead of 2 (along with the beach stretch and dance hall), on the second day one of my calluses broke and I had to switch hands for our doubles move! I also stabbed my own foot in heels, sigh, because I’m still so awkward in heels. I thought I could fix my incorrect footing mid-air and instead just stepped on myself. I was very reticent to do anything in those heels and took them off for the remainder of the combo. I just made those heels tighter so I’ll be less wobbly in them, since they didn’t quite fit before.
Now the cost:
Round trip plane tickets from Seattle (stop in Chicago, stop in Madrid, and final stop in Gran Canaria and reversing to get home) ~ $1200 but you can pay less if you don’t mind an extra 6 hours of traveling 😉
Pole camp = ~$750 after the exchange from dollars to pounds (the hosting studio is from Manchester). This was the biggest steal since the cost included the 16 hours of pole camp with some stellar instructors and room and half board at the IFA (at times a questionably 3 star hotel). Since we paid around 200 euros for 2 nights at another hotel of similar value and food was not cheap, getting 6 nights at the hotel and 4 days of camp for only $750 was a great value! Most instructor workshops are $45-$100 stateside and we took 7 workshop-type classes along with all of our other classes.
Money spent during our stay ~ $800 (Because I wanted to do watersports, get a massage while there, stay longer, eat out, and buy all the little things this number is higher than it could have been).
And don’t forget that exchange rate! Before we left I clocked it at .84 (for every dollar you’re only getting 0,84 euros). At the hotel our first night we got the fabulous exchange rate of .86, but they conveniently didn’t add the fee that night. Trying to exchange more money later we were only promised .74 rate and the bank only gave us a .76 rate. The exchange place down the street in an auto body shop was only a .60! Our final exchange place (to pay for something we were promised could be paid with a credit card and then later couldn’t) was miraculously .80. Add in the fact that your credit card purchase adds a fee on top of the poor exchange rate and then the business might also add a foreign transaction fee and you’re looking at money running through your fingers like water.
Totally worth it.
I love your last line. I have always found travel worth it, especially outside the continental US. Sorry about the cough, but so glad you had a great experience anyway! Also glad you made it there and back again safely and with some fabulous new understandings and memories. See you sometime soon!
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