When the closest city is nearly 20 miles away from you, finding regular massage clients can be a bit tricky. Business runs quite differently for massage therapists who work out in the country.
So what’s a therapist to do?
In Texas, traveling to the quietest parts of the state, where guests hide away on secluded dude ranches—vacation resorts that feature western ranch-style activities such as horseback riding—is one way for a massage therapist to make a living.
It’s how Carl Dexter makes his living, and he loves it.
A Vacation State of Mind
“I like going to the guest ranches because the client is already in a relaxed state of mind,” said Dexter, who works as a traveling massage therapist. “They’re a lot of fun and already relaxed. They’re very open [to massage].”
In 2010, Dexter decided to take a trip out to the country with some business brochures to offer his services to Texas dude ranch guests. He figured most people were escaping to country ranches to relax anyway, and it seemed like a perfect opportunity to find ongoing business.
In addition to traveling to quite a few ranches, he’s also a regular therapist at Dixie Dude Ranch in Bandera, Texas.
To make the most of his clients’ time—and his own—he reserves one-and-a-half hour slots for massage therapy at $80 per session. It’s a good deal for clients who would otherwise have to travel into the big city to find a massage therapist.
By the time Dexter gets to the clients, they are usually weary from day-long horseback riding or hiking trips, and grateful to have an experienced therapist stretch their muscles and work out knots using deep tissue work, Swedish massage or other modalities.
“It’s my duty to give them everything I can,” said Dexter, adding that he offers educational moments whenever he can during a session. By the time his clients leave, Dexter said he wants them to feel relaxed, happy—and like they got their money’s worth.
After driving 22 miles one way, setting up and breaking down his equipment, plus doing laundry, Dexter’s workdays often run until midnight. To know he’s helping others, though, is worth the drive and commitment to being a traveling massage therapist, he remarked.
His advice to other therapists who live in the country and want to boost business?
“Schedule your time properly,” he said. “And always be ready to make an extended session if that’s what it takes. Clients are always first.”
Three hours east of Dixie Dude Ranch is Cat Springs, Texas, home to BlissWood Bed and Breakfast Ranch. Couples escape to this ranch for nature walks, trap shooting, archery and horseback riding opportunities for special occasions such as birthdays or anniversaries.
The location has also been featured on the German edition of the popular ABC reality show The Bachelor.
Owner Carol Davis calls her Texas dude ranch “a world away” and an easy one-hour drive from Houston.
Sixteen years ago, Davis left the big city and felt the need to go back to her country roots. She opened the ranch with 13 houses and cabin suites and welcomes guests from around the world to her little slice of paradise.
Several years back, Davis realized guests might enjoy massage after a long day of physical activity. Now, anytime a guest may want a massage, Davis can contact a handful of contracted therapists to come and work onsite.
To her, building partnerships with local massage therapists was one of the smartest moves she made for her bed-and-breakfast ranch. Guests can have therapists come straight to their rooms, or, for a more relaxing setting, guests can receive their sessions in a gazebo on Enchanted Lake.
When the weather is nice, some guests opt to enjoy their massage right on their cabin front porch, Davis said.
“To see happy guests relaxed, and to hear how wonderful the massage therapists are, it gives me confidence knowing I offer that service,” she said. “Happy guests give me joy. That’s my joy in life. In this industry, you have to get the joy from service.”
Suzanne Haevischer loves working as a therapist on Davis’ ranch. Even with her 35- mile commute, an hour of travel fades away quickly once she arrives at the ranch.
“It’s a beautiful location,” said Haevischer. “It’s pretty exotic and beautiful.”
Haevischer loves giving massage outdoors because of the wildlife that roams the 500-acre working ranch. Once, she saw a young buck with velvety antlers wander up mere feet from her massage table.
“It’s very peaceful,” she said. “I usually get to look out at beautiful settings or people riding horses. You don’t need music; you have nature sounds.”
Plus, most of her clients are laid-back.
“Most people who are paying that much for a weekend, they are not into doing anything but having a good time and having stress relief,” she said.
Haevischer always wanted to live in the country and have her own business. People told her she couldn’t do it—but she does, and she loves it.
“We were lucky. We wanted to live in the country. No one thought I could do it, so I did it,” she said. “I wanted to be the boss.”
As for the miles of lonely road she travels between client sessions, an audio book keeps her company on the ride. For her, it’s worth it to be able to live in true Texas country.
“Anywhere you go, you have to get there,” she reasoned. “Everything is 20 miles in the country.”
Before her traveling therapist days, she worked in corporate settings. Now that she’s had a taste of entrepreneurial freedom and country life, she says she wouldn’t go back. She believes bodywork heals her as it heals her clients.
“It’s very healing for me, too,” she said. “It’s very rewarding. Everyone has a special calling. Whenever you can feed it and live it, it can be very rewarding. You can give more.”
To learn more about opportunities on Texas dude ranches, visit The Dude Ranchers’ Association.
About the Author:
Seraine Page is an award-winning journalist based out of Florida. She enjoys writing about health, wellness and travel. Her work has been featured online for sites like SANDBOXX, Redbubble, Teespring, DAYSPA Magazine and others. Page is a regular contributor to MASSAGE Magazine, and she recently wrote “At the Caring Place, Cancer Patients’ Fear, Anger and Anxiety Are Soothed by Massage” for massagemag.com.