Tango traveler’s guide
As we say goodbye to the old year we are faced towards the one that is yet to come; we try to figure out which tango events we should include in our calendar. What I refer to is we all wish to travel more if only we had both money and time enough. Since most of us are not as lucky as to have limitless resources, a bit of wisdom would help before making our choice.
My intention in this article is to help tango travelers in planning their year a bit wiser. When you travel almost every month (as I have been doing in the past few years), you begin to notice some patterns that might be useful for the less experienced travelers.
I believe this article can be of great value not only for the absolute beginners out there in the tango travelers’ world, but also for the more experienced ones as well.
Being an active traveler, many people think I spend a lot of money. This is actually not true. If you plan your trips wisely and with flexible deadlines as I do, the trips could cost significantly cheaper than one might imagine.
As an example, if you create your traveling plan wisely and if you buy your tickets early on, you may save almost 50% of the ‘regular’ price. Sometimes this goes for the accommodation as well.
All of this gives you ideas, right? However, this article is not about making your trip cheaper. It is about how to choose the right event for you. Trip can be cheaper though, but never for free, so you should not spend your money and time on those where you do not enjoy.
Ok then, let us get into it.
1. Know your mindset – First thing you have to do when you start planning your tango trips is to ask yourself: what kind of a dancer are you? This will define the kind of events you should look for.
Ask yourself what is the purpose of your tango journey? Are you a person who enjoys the feeling in the embrace or feels good when you do impossible moves? Do you prefer to be relaxed and party or you want to go to events where you can fully experience the feeling of the Argentinean tango culture? What is your level and what is your experience?
Those questions will define what kind of dancer you are and where you belong, but do not forget that people evolve over time: what I liked in the beginning I may be despising now; what was hard to accept as a beginner – I admire it now. Ask yourself these questions from time to time.
At this point I am going to list three types of events which will help you decide where you belong. Please bear in mind that my experience is based on what is going on in Europe mostly – in your particular region some of these types of events may not even exist.
a) The Festivals – These are the most popular types of events and also the largest. I have heard about festivals with more than 5.000 participants attending. Festivals usually do not have a limited number of participants and do not ask questions related to how experienced as a dancer you are. It is enough to register and pay on time in order to be able to attend these kinds of events.
Festivals are usually structured with two types of activities: milongas and workshops. Some of the tango celebrities are invited to lead classes during the day and a show in the evenings.
Festivals are ideal for people who are at their very beginning of the tango journey, but I would not recommend them to those that are more experienced. Festivals tend to become chaotic and overcrowded. They are also very expensive.
b) The Marathons – The idea of the marathon is to gather tango dancers from different communities for a weekend of just dancing. There are daily and evening milongas. Marathons do not include dancing stars and show dances, neither workshops nor classes.
Registering to a marathon might be a little harder since the organizers control who enters in order to keep a proper gender balance and obtain a level of quality of the dancing. To some of these events you can enter only if being recommended by other dancers or if the organizer knows you and grants you permission.
The marathons are smaller than the festivals and tend to gather the best of the dancers. They are also slightly cheaper than the festivals.
c) The Encuentros – Festivals are open to everyone, marathons chose only the best. What is the case with the encuentros? They choose only dancers that are focused on social tango and are respectful dancers. The organizers of the encuentros usually do not advertise the event – it is a hidden world for most of the dancers, especially for beginners.
The participants of encuentros are dancers who are focused more on the embrace rather than the showy steps. They also tend to focus on respect, the codigos and the traditions. The music is very strict – only the Old guard and Golden age.*
*I plan to write an article about the tango history and what it means to the dancers. Subscribe to my Newsletter not to miss it.
Encuentros are also gender balanced, the number of the participants is usually limited to 100 and they also have a “one tanda rule” in hope that everyone will get their turn with other dancers.
If you are a dancer who admires the tango traditions from the Golden Age and if you prefer to embrace and not to make showy steps, than encuentros are the right choice for you.
2. Traveling connections – Tango events are usually limited to the weekends: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Some events have a couple of days extra, but basically all stick to the weekend days.
This means you will have to arrive on Friday and go to the evening milonga only after a few hours of rest. Then on Sunday or Monday, you will have to get on a plane and get to work well rested.
This plan might work only if your connections are comfortable and simple. Complicated and long trips are acceptable only in one case: if you travel on a budget and have free time. I have had many experiences, such as waiting for a transfer almost 12 hours. Some of them have been a sleepover, just to keep the costs lower. When the accommodation is not a problem, you might also arrive earlier or later if those day or two affect the ticket price. This way you will also have a day or two to look around.
If you have to stay one or two days more, my advice is to choose coming earlier rather than staying longer after the event finishes. In this way when the milonga evening comes you will be well rested.
Before you choose the event you want to travel to, take time to check out how the city where you live in is connected to the city where the event you choose happens. Check flights, check busses, check driving time. If you travel by plane, I also recommend you to check the distance between the city and the airport and what the costs of the transportation are. It is also important to check where the venue is.
All this details will help you choose wise. The first step has to be right. If needed, ask for a help from the organizers by email or in a private message on Facebook. Many of them take care after their guests in order to create a smoother experience: they prepare a traveling plan for them from the airport to the city or to the venue itself.
3. Check the prices – Whatever type of a traveler you are on-a-budget or high class, it is always wise to check out where you could go and what prices you could expect. Being surprised by the prices can often spoil your experience.
The first thing you should worry about is the accommodation, there are few things you should do about it.
a) If you travel on a really tight budget you might want to choose couch surfing. Check out the regular ones (the ones for non-tango people). If this does not work, or in case you would rather stay with tango people, you have the option to stay at a local dancer’s. If you already have friends from the town you travel to, write them and explain your situation, some might offer you the couch in their living room. Another option is to contact the organizer or the local tango school and ask them if they are able to find you a free couch for sleeping.
b) If you chose a more comfortable option, the hostels are the best ones. Ask the organizer to recommend you the most affordable hostel, also the closest one to the venue. Proximity to the venue will save you some money for the local transport.
c) Travel in groups. This way you might choose to rent a whole room in a hostel just for you – or in some cases to book all of the beds in a small hostel and to have it just for the group. Traveling in groups opens up the possibility to book a whole apartment (via Airbnb) which is even a better option.
High class travelers should also consult the organizers before they decide to book their hotel, since as locals, they can point out if there is a problem with the selection.
Next option is to check out the food prices. If you have an accommodation where you can prepare your own meals, the spending on food will also be much lower. Buying at the supermarkets is significantly cheaper than eating in restaurants.
To be sure about the prices my best advice is to ask the local dancers. Another option is to ask people who have previously visited the same event. They can also point out a place where you could taste local cuisine with reasonable prices.
The spending on the accommodation and the food cover a significant part in your travel expenses, so you should consider them when you choose the event for the next year.
4. Where are your friends – I wrote about the nature of the event, the traveling expenses, sleeping and food expenses. I would like to finish this list with the most important one – the quality of the event.
Do not choose the events for their advertisement investments. That is the worst thing you can do. Quality of the tango event is almost never connected with the amount of money and effort the organizers put into advertising it. I would rather suggest you to ask people about their experience or even better – to ask them where they plan to travel.
Before you choose the event check out who else is planning to visit it. Although the “going” list on Facebook is never an attendance list, you can use it as a starting point. Ask some of your friends on that list why they chose this event and if they are seriously planning to visit it.
I would also advice you to start your year planning with a little private survey: ask your favorite dancers where they plan to visit this year. Sometimes you will be surprised how the quality of the dancing tends to concentrate on a few events. This will give you a clear image where you should visit and what you should put on your calendar for next year.
What is your experience? If you have more to add on this list I would appreciate if you share it in the comments or in a private message to me. I would be happy to include it in some of my next articles.