Massage therapist reignites her career at Lake Tahoe
Special to the Bonanza
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — There are countless crossroads in life, not all of them leading in the right direction at the right time.
But, every so often, you find yourself on a road you didn’t mean to take, and somehow, you wind up where you were meant to be.
Such was the case for Sarah Bartlett, owner of Tahoe Body in Balance in Incline Village.
Bartlett was born on the Big Island of Hawaii, where she spent the better part of her childhood until, at age 10, her parents moved her and her two older brothers to the hot, dry desert of Tucson, Ariz.
“At the time, I felt like it was child abuse,” Bartlett joked. “As I grew older, I could learn to appreciate some things about the desert, but as a whole, I never really loved Arizona.”
Shortly after turning 18, Bartlett moved to Phoenix and got a hospitality job at an upscale resort and spa.
Urban life was a nice change from Tucson, but booking hotel reservations wasn’t exactly Bartlett’s dream.
NEWLYWEDS AND A NEW CAREER
While pondering her next career move, the 20-year-old began dating an Incline Village native she met in Phoenix, who swept her off her feet.
“I had never even heard of Tahoe when I met my (now) husband,” she said during a quiet afternoon at her massage studio above High Altitude Fitness.
The couple eventually wed and decided to settle down and start a family in Arizona, but the idea of living in Tahoe crept up from time to time.
Meanwhile, Bartlett had to make a choice — she could stay in hospitality, working her way up to hotel management, or she could try something else.
That’s when she stumbled upon an upcoming certification class at Phoenix Therapeutic Massage College (now called Cortiva Institute).
“I walked into the school blind and they told me I should do the 1,000-hour sports program and I thought, sure I’ll try it out, what do I have to lose?” Bartlett said. “One month in and it was already so much more than I ever thought it would be.”
Those first few years in the field took a toll on the young masseuse, who worked long hours and sacrificed her own body in order to help others.
“I’d come home completely exhausted,” Bartlett said. “I knew I wasn’t going to last much longer if I didn’t figure out how to ground myself.”
Bartlett looked to her mentors for advice, and through their guidance, was able to achieve the right balance between taking care of herself and taking care of others.
“I began to understand that what is happening with them (her clients) is their healing process, and it’s so not about me — I’m facilitating it, but it’s ultimately up to them, and I can’t take all of that on,” she said.
WORKING THROUGH THE KNOTS
With one growing toddler, and another on the way, Bartlett decided to enroll in a few biology and science courses to fulfill prerequisites for a nursing program.
After two grueling years of studying and filling out applications, Bartlett was accepted into a Phoenix-based nursing program.
On her first day of orientation, she received some unpleasant news — her CPR certification was through a company the school no longer accepted, and she would have to reapply the following year.
“I was devastated,” Bartlett recalled. “I had no idea what to do next.”
Faced with yet another difficult crossroad, she called her husband and told him what happened.
Then she told him to book a flight to Reno immediately.
A few days prior, Bartlett’s husband had gotten wind about a job opportunity at the Hyatt in Incline. It was a nice idea in theory, but the couple had decided Bartlett’s education would come first.
That was until the paperwork mix-up put a red light on nursing school.
“He got the job and we moved right away,” she said. “It was a total fluke the way it all worked out.”
A WRONG TURN LEADS TO THE RIGHT ROAD
Bartlett returned to massage therapy, working at Incline’s Recreation Center, where, in the summertime, she would set up a massage table under a cabana on the beach.
“Moving to Tahoe was like a rebirth for me,” Bartlett said. “I had been so ready to start a different career, but then I got here and realized, I really do love massage.”
With a newfound appreciation for her longtime occupation, Bartlett reached yet another crossroads — only this time, the choice was a no-brainer.
“I heard there was a chiropractor in town looking to share (his office space) with a massage therapist, so I jumped on it,” Bartlett said.
Six months ago, Bartlett became her own boss with the launch of Tahoe Body in Balance, located in the same office as Dr. Geoff Lowden’s Tahoe Spin and Sport.
“It takes a lot of time and work to start your own business, and it’s definitely put me out of my comfort zone, but so far, it’s been totally worth it,” she said.
In addition to the flexibility she’s gained from making her own schedule, Bartlett has also embraced things like living in seasons for the first time, enjoying the outdoors year-round, and finding a tight-knit community to call home.
“The last two years have been such a whirlwind, and I’ve loved every minute of it,” Bartlett said.
Jenny Goldsmith is a North Tahoe-based freelance writer and a former reporter for the Sierra Sun newspaper. Have an idea for a merchant to feature? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.