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Why I Hate Massages & Other Things Travel Has Taught Me About Myself

by Tony · 27 comments

My worst massage ever and what travel taught me about myself

“I was naked. Totally naked. Face up on a table with my bemused massage therapist staring down at me.” – Me 

Travel has taught me many things about myself, but one of the first things I learned in my travels with  Meg is that I do NOT like massages.

Whenever I tell people I don’t like massages they seem to think I’m a weirdo, but let me tell you why first… then you can judge.

My First/Last & Most Uncomfortable Massage

Massage by the beach

I had never gotten a massage in my life, but when the Honeymoon Package we signed up for on Virgin Gorda came with one, how could I resist?

I pictured resting on a soft massage table by the beach, dressed in a swimsuit as the gentle caribbean breeze blew through my hair and the massage therapist lightly rubbed my back.

Instead… I was escorted, with Meg by my side, into a hut high above the beach that immediately brought to mind that crazy hut scene from “Deer Hunter.”

We were told to disrobe and throw on towels and our massage therapists would be in shortly.

With only a towel concealing me, I crawled onto the massage table facing the floor. Meg hopped onto her table about 4 feet away.

Enter a very friendly, very large, local woman who would be my massage therapist for the hour. This woman’s hands could bend steel, so she was not too worried about my puny frame.

She immediately grabbed my towel and pulled it out from under me so that it only loosely covered my backside. I realize that you massage regulars are used to this, but for a newbie, this is where we start to get uncomfortable.

Surprisingly though, once the back rub part of the massage started and I stopped worrying about how exposed I was, I started to feel pretty dang good.

My worst massage....

The problems began to develop when I realized that there was more to a massage then just a back rub.

Tops of shoulders to lower back… that’s my range of comfortableness with human contact from a stranger. You go outside of that and I start to feel weird.

After 20 minutes of focusing on my back, I was told to roll over.

Now, here is where I began to tense up. With only a towel loosely draped over my backside, I could not figure out how to coordinate a roll over without exposing myself.

My lovely massage therapist solved this by just picking the towel up and holding it high above me.


Ordered to roll over, I did as told.

I was naked. Totally naked. Face up on a table with my bemused massage therapist staring down at me.

The small towel was laid back down on top of me and I then received what can only be described as the most awkward 15 minutes of human contact ever to have occurred.

Who knew upper thigh rubs were part of a massage in Virgin Gorda? Meg apparently did… because she laughed at me for an hour afterwards upon hearing of my discomfort.

I definitely didn’t know. As my massage therapist rubbed my thighs with no hint of subtlety, I curled my toes and counted down the minutes until this unique form of hell was over. I think I was even more tense than George Costanza.

Did I enjoy my first massage?


But that is the beauty of travel. It always teaching you new things about yourself that you might never have discovered.

What Else Has Travel Taught Me?

Travel teaches many things

  • I can sleep anywhere.
  • I can eat pasta for an incredible number of consecutive meals.
  • I should not be allowed to go for runs in new cities as I have yet to not get lost.
  • I don’t have very bad body odor as I can easily wear the same shirt for numerous days without issue… at least I can’t tell if I smell :)
  • I love meeting new people.
  • I might not love the long lines and delays, but I still love the sense of adventure on every travel day.
  • I have not seen enough. The little I have seen of this world has just left me with a great yearning to see more.

Your Turn: What has traveling taught you about yourself? Do massages make you uncomfortable too, or am I just a big weirdo?

About Tony
Quit his job to try actually following his dreams for once... and is currently loving it. He is working hard to to make this life-style permanent by writing about his adventures and brainstorming money making opportunities with his partner-in-crime, Meg.

Bethany ~ twoOregonians July 24, 2012 at 8:09 am

Haha. I’ll never forget you telling the massage story on the jam-packed TBU bus. Suddenly the whole crowd went very quiet. So hilarious.

I’ll be the first to say you’re a big weirdo. I’m counting down the days to Asia…the fabled land of five dollar massages. Ted and I will be signing up for *at least* one session daily 😉

(Meg – you know who to call if you need a spa-day partner; count me in.)

Tony July 24, 2012 at 9:03 am

You’re definitely the first to say it… but I doubt you’ll be the last!

And yes… my graphic retelling of the massage story, inadvertently to the entire bus, was definitely a highlight/lowlight for me.

Meg definitely needs a spa buddy and those cheap massages in Thailand are famous! I’m cool with foot rubs, though… so maybe they offer them?

Meg July 24, 2012 at 8:11 am

That picture of the baby getting a head rub is deeply disturbing

Tony July 24, 2012 at 9:04 am

It’s a fair approximation of the bliss I had in the first few minutes of the massage… before the back rub turned into a violation. Don’t be such baby hater!

Megan July 24, 2012 at 8:33 am

hahahha i hate massages too. and i have never had one. only ladies tickling my feet as i get a pedicure and that was enough for me. apparently i like being an uptight and tense american. but my favorite part of this post was the ‘deer hunter’ reference (the american part of that movie was filmed where my parents grew up so it is semi-special).

traveling has taught me: i can drink beer for breakfast and have no shame, i am more patient with people when traveling than when living with another culture as an expat, going into foreign grocery stores is my favorite part of traveling, alot of people hate americans, alot of people like americans, i dont mind wearing stinky clothes over and over again, i get really overwhelmed with operating new showers, anddd….that is all i can think of at the moment!

hope yall are doing well!

Tony July 24, 2012 at 9:09 am

I’m glad you can sympathize with my massage phobia… everyone thinks I’m so weird! So glad you got my Deer Hunter reference… wasn’t sure if anybody would even know what I was talking about.

And what an awesome response to my question! We always ask questions at the end of every article and I think you just won the award for best answer ever!

The beer thing is so true… there is something about travel that makes perfectly fine to drink beer for breakfast. It somehow even enhances the awesomeness of travel!

Thanks again for a great comment, Megan!

Ali July 25, 2012 at 4:50 am

I hate massages too! So awkward & uncomfortable. First one I ever had left my body sore for days. I got to keep my underwear on but I still felt weird being near naked. I once had a free shoulder massage in Bali & she wanted me to take off my shirt even though I was facing a window that all hotel guests had to walk past to get to their rooms. No way! And I hate having my feet touched so that part of massages is awful too. Not my thing at all. You’re not alone! (I also wear the same shirt for days when I travel.)

Tony July 25, 2012 at 2:11 pm

haha yes! Thank you for the support!

I could handle a foot rub… I think. This has yet to be tested though. Maybe i’ll try it in Thailand if Meg goes to get a real massage… but we shall see!

JR July 25, 2012 at 7:39 am

Tony I believe you nailed it. There is a true sense of total uncomfortableness with a pure stranger. The fact that they do that many times a day blows me away.

Tony July 25, 2012 at 2:11 pm

Totally weird! So glad that I’m getting some support finally on this issue… I feel like there is a whole group of uncomfortable massagers out there who just need a strong voice to lead them. I think I might start a support group…

Annette | Bucket List Journey July 25, 2012 at 4:35 pm

Phew! I’m happy to hear there is someone else out there that does not like massages. I just find it really creepy when the room is quiet and dark and I can hear the masseuse breathing. I’m thinking I’d might like a fully clothed foot massage, if they keep their hands soley to my lower extremities!

Tony July 26, 2012 at 6:27 am

Yes! I love that I am getting some supporters on this topic.

For too long I have felt like the odd one out when everybody is raving about massages… I am seriously considering starting a support group!

Sign me up for a fully clothed foot massage. That is probably the limit of what I can handle…

Cherina August 5, 2012 at 3:28 am

Haha…Ah Tony, you do make me laugh. I’m totally with Meg in the laughing out loud at you (seems to happen a lot – sorry!)
Love your honesty though and I’m sorry your massage experience wasn’t all together pleasant. Better luck next time, maybe?? :)

Tony August 7, 2012 at 12:11 am

Just so YOU know, Cherina… I’ve had many people supporting my anti-massage stance. Although instead of anti-massage, I prefer the term: Pro personal-space….

Also, a quick update: Just got to Thailand and successfully enjoyed a foot massage… for $3, they are the best thing ever. Baby steps…

Josh | Traveling 9 to 5 August 8, 2012 at 7:55 am

I am a fan of regular full-body massages, and luckily wasn’t scarred on my first one, but I did get a foot massage in Bangkok recently and I will never get one again!

The masseuse was tiny but strong, and I didn’t realize that a foot massage includes trying to jam a pencil-like object into the bottom of your foot. I was on edge the entire time, while the rest of my family was resting peacefully getting their “foot rubs” right beside me. I’m glad to hear yours wasn’t as painful.

Especially when there’s a language barrier, the massage can be an “interesting” experience. Caroline still laughs about the time the masseuse was demanding I take off my pants while simultaneously being uncomfortable that I was doing it. I’ve never been so confused!

Tony August 8, 2012 at 11:49 pm

LOTS of mixed signals going on when there is a language barrier at a massage place… and that little rounded dagger they use is terrifying! Luckily it hasn’t caused me to much pain yet.

I just got another foot massage and it was the WORST experience of my life. The place was full and they actually pulled in a lady and guy from the street to give us ours…

Meg got a real masseuse while I got her 250 lbs son who proceeded to give me the most uncomfortably delicate foot massage ever… intermittently interrupted with bouts of sheer pain as he applied his fully body weight to my legs.

Life lesson: massages are a tricky business.

Cassie February 3, 2013 at 7:25 pm

My husband feels the same way! I’m can go either way on it. Massages doesn’t make me uncomfortable but if I’m going to shell out the money, I would much rather get a facial (something that makes me feel AND look better!)

Tony February 3, 2013 at 9:25 pm

I’m so glad to hear someone else can’t stand them either… I can never relax!

D Lewis February 5, 2013 at 7:21 pm

If your wife finds your discomfort at sexual abuse funny, get rid of her now.

Tony August 15, 2013 at 4:53 pm

She’s a keeper, don’t worry :)

Caroline August 15, 2013 at 4:02 pm

I feel your dislike for the massage was not the problem. Her being a big burly lady man to start. Then you have your woman right next to you.

Theirs a reason privacy and comfortability go hand in hand.

Most of us masseuses carefully drape, especially for newbies. We know it’s weird for civilians. 😉

Don’t give up on massages. Just get a decent female with strong soft hands, and get the massage alone. Your a man, naturally you might “rise”.


Caroline the masseuse

Tony August 15, 2013 at 4:55 pm

Love the feedback from a pro!

Don’t worry… there was no fear or “rise” being a problem with Meg laying next to me and my masseuse resembling an NFL linebacker :)

Good point though. I’m sure I could always be talked into getting a massage again… although I think I just might stick to leg/foot rubs. I’m a sucker for those!

Danielle November 14, 2013 at 3:08 pm

I just want to say to everyone on here that there are types of massage work done fully clothed and being a massage therapist I want to say I am sorry for anyone who has had a less than pleasant encounter with massage.

First: Thai Massage, or Thai Yoga is great, because you wear loose clothing and sweat pants. They do a lot of compression work and stretches on people, and for anyone (excluding those with disc issues) this can really help pain in the hips and low back. It is great for sciatica, and it is one of my favorite types of massage. By the end of a treatment the client should feel as if they have had a great yoga session.

The only thing that worries me, even as a therapist, is working on people when we work up the legs, which some people are bothered by. By talking to the client before the treatment and really informing them of what is going on you can really relieve some stress from what should be a relaxing treatment. I also talk to people during the session to make sure I do not over step boundries and the client remains comfortable.

Also, in America we are very uncomfortable with the human body because of the way we are raised. If you want to try massage but are nervous DO NOT go to Europe to try it. You will probably be naked, and possibly have to walk around naked, which would scare even me.

Instead try one in the U.S. and make sure it is a place where you can get on the table and be fully covered and drapped so you feel comfortable.

Clothed massage types: compression massage, Thai Massage/ Thai Yoga, and Shiatsu.

Good luck everyone, and I hope that if any of you try massage again you have better experiences!

Linda June 15, 2016 at 12:14 pm

I wanted to say Tony it seems the person was not trained to do massage. It is far more than a “back Rub”. In the US we go to school for 5 semesters, have to do close to 80 massages minimum on students and clinic clients, and have to do a massage for the instructors to pass and then take a licensing exam. We drape carefully, ask the person to get undressed to “their ” comfort level not mine and talk to people and ask about feet inner thighs etc. I usually only do inner thighs on the backside. Massage does far more for pain, circulation , lymph drainage, and swelling. It also helps release endorphins and decrease anxiety. It is more than a back rub sorry you had a weird experience.

Haprilona November 28, 2016 at 11:56 am

I feel your pain. I have severe back pain and had to get myself a massage appointment. Thing is, I couldn’t get a reservation early enough from other than the person who gave me the most awkward massage of all time previously. I’m a girl, and he was a dude. He had me stripped from my shirt and bra and did the back massage. Okay, all good. Then he asked me to turn over and didn’t even give me a towel to cover my breasts. Bloody hell, was I scarred after that. I think he noticed my discomfort, because after all that he told me “I hope this didn’t scare you indefinitely away.”

At least this time I’ll know to give him a deathglare and ask for a towel if he tries to pull that stunt again. Or maybe I’ll just use my own scarf. See what his reaction is then. Ha.

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