This is a guest post by Laura Pile. Check out her blog at www.letssway.co.uk
Two summers ago, whilst dealing with a pretty tough breakup I convinced a friend to grab her passport and come on a spontaneous adventure to Spain and Portugal. After so many amazing experiences, the one that truly captured my heart and set my soul alive came in the early hours of the morning in Barcelona. One evening, unplanned and unexpected we found ourselves in the backstreets of Barcelona which were strung as far as the eye could see with colourful lights and lanterns, crowded with people and filled with the sound of what would turn out to be Salsa! Before I knew it, I was asked to dance and clumsily tried to follow the lead of a beaming Catalonian. I didn’t know what I was doing and it was all I could do not to stand on his feet but my God it was fun. The Latin rhythms were infections and I was pulled under. No one cared what they looked like, many people disheveled and shining with sweat but they simply didn’t care. It wasn’t about being conceived as perfect it was about feeling the music and enjoying the moment. Out of breath and overjoyed I took a step back and watched the people around me and thought how I’d never seen so many people so… ALIVE! It wasn’t the stylised dance with the perfect spins I’d seen on Strictly but something much more real, much more fun and I wanted in.
A few months later I had moved to a new city and began what would be an incredibly intense year as I trained to be a teacher. Preoccupied with my new challenges I forgot about my experience not long before. It was only after a few months when I was starting to feel a bit lonely in this new city that typed in “salsa lessons in Bristol” into Google and discovered a local dance school called Salsa Souls (click for the link). Working up the courage to attend that first class was incredibly difficult and involved me downing a glass of wine and dancing around my room to The Rolling Stones ‘Start Me Up’ (the perfect song for when you need a bit of motivation). Terrified of going in alone I hung around in the Primark next door until I decided that enough people had gone in so as not to stand out. Biting the bullet, I pushed open the double doors and climbed the stairs towards the infectious rhythms above and towards a room full of people who would change my life. Salsa Souls welcomed me in and I met an array of interesting and funny people who instantly made me feel part of their community. Training to be a teacher turned out to be all consuming and at points I was incredibly stressed but Salsa dancing kept me sane and I was soon attending up to four classes a week. I loved how I could be marking assessments one moment and then transported to Latin American the next. When I was dancing I forgot everything else that was happening and was consumed by the music and the rhythm. It took me a long time to even get the basic steps down but it didn’t matter- this wasn’t about being perfect but about exploring something that just felt so incredibly right!
Finishing my teacher training and faced with job applications I found that my heart just wasn’t in it. I adore being a teacher but there were some other things I needed to focus on first. I realised that I had been living my life with the expectation that everything I did had to make sense. A neat chronological order of experiences that looked good on my CV and lead towards the dream career and a mortgage. Thinking about this I discovered that I just wasn’t ready. I’d never been inspired by career orientated goals and, even growing up I was far more focused on stories of adventure and travel by fabulous authors like Belinda Jones where girls would pack their bags and hop on a plane to discover a new world of possibilities. Mulling all of this over, I thought about it and made the decision to pursue what really made me happy: exploring new places and dancing! I realised that I could do all of this whilst still teaching (a job that I love) so eventually decided to do the additional qualification of Teaching English as a Foreign Language but this time in Mexico!