FAIRMONT, W.Va. (AP) — What could be better than a working vacation, the kind where you pick where you go and the people you take with you?
Just ask Nancy Naternicola.
"I travel to different places in the world and 'teach' fitness such as morning yoga classes and get a free vacation," she said.
She's traveled to such exotic places as Jamaica, Curacao, Bahamas, Cabo, Cancun, Riviera Maya, Negril — places that are as fun as they are intriguing.
"Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out and loudly proclaiming, 'Wow! What a ride,'" she said.
She puts her experience as clinical instructor of fitness and wellness at the WVU College of Physical Education and Sport Sciences to practical and fun use by going to five-star, all-inclusive resorts.
She brings some family with her, stays the week and in return, teaches one to three fitness classes a day.
"It's awesome," she said.
She learned about this about 13 years ago while at a conference. She saw a booth offering information on free travel in exchange for teaching fitness. She took a brochure but remained skeptical.
"I thought it was a scam," she said. "It sounded too good to be true."
The brochure stayed on her desk for a year until she checked it out.
And it was good. And it was true.
Her first trip was to Nassau.
"It was fabulous. I kicked myself for not doing this sooner," she said.
"Since then, I've taken two, three trips a year. When I have a spare week, I just go. It's a great thing, to bring a family member. It's a free trip. I teach but when I go on vacation, I work out anyway. So this is no big deal to me."
When she goes to a family resort, she can take two kids. When she goes to an adult resort, she takes a grown-up.
She has three sons, five grandchildren "and one on the way," she said.
They've traveled at a young age, maybe 2, to Jamaica and Mexico. They get an education out of it, too.
"It's fabulous. I love it."
No matter which sun-drenched, beach-front resort it is, "They're all different," she said. "No two beaches in the world are alike."
Right now, Cabo is her favorite, she said.
"It's hard to explain why. The blue ocean is unexplainable. That blue is not in the crayon box," she said. "It's part of Mexico but it's different from Cancun or Riviera Maya. It's more isolated. George Clooney had a house right beside the place I stayed."
She didn't get to see him, but she did see Jennifer Aniston on the beach, she said.
She's sailed, windsurfed, surfed, snorkeled and kayaked on the ocean.
"To be able to do that with family is just awesome," she said.
When you get down to it, "every place" is her favorite, she said, as long as she can watch the sunrise and sunset.
"That's my passion," she said.
Sometimes she can take a sunrise yacht cruise, like the one she took recently at Cabo.
"It had four bedrooms and artwork from famous artists," she said.
"This is a great way to get away. I plan my year around these vacations. I try to go to a different place. In December, I'm going to Punta Cana. It has a new resort that's not even built yet. It will be completed in November."
She also enjoys meeting people from different cultures.
"This gives you an extra experience. You feel, OK, they're in it with you. The world is such a small space anyway. They're all doing the same things we do in the U.S. in health and wellness."
She finds her trips on an online service.
"I choose the country or resort I want to go to, click on the week and see if it's available."
She teaches yoga, pilates and aqua aerobics. Some classes are held outside in pavilions or gazebos.
She likes Cabo because it's secluded, she said.
"It's very isolated. There is nothing, no cities, just sand and desert. It's an oasis. It's Eden."
Even the beach is different, she said.
"There are rock formations. When you walk on the beach, it's rare to come across someone else. It's not commercial at all, not like Myrtle Beach or Virginia Beach.
"The ocean ... the waves are so big and loud. They don't want you walking in the water, the waves are so powerful.
"It's just mesmerizing. You just lay on the beach and watch the waves. You realize how great God is. He made all of this. It re-establishes all this in your heart. It's just awesome."
She takes her family as often as she can, she said.
"This past summer, I took my middle son and his kids, 3 and 6, to a family resort," she said. "The kids swam with the dolphins. There were programs for kids, treasure hunts."
Teens aren't left out, either. Many resorts offer pools, disco, snorkeling, "you name it," she said.
Some adult resorts are action-packed. Others are more laid back and relaxed.
"I don't look at this as business. My passion is fitness," she said. "Wherever I go, fitness is part of it.
"The other thing is I get to be with my family 24-7. That's a huge part of my life. I get to spend seven days with them. That really helps the family unit and closeness.
"When I see the sunrise in Cabo, the sun is actually rising with the moon still in the sky. That is so inspirational. It fortifies my faith to see all that.
"And at night, in my hammock, I look at the sky and it's not like being in the city with all the lights. I can't find the words to describe it."
Information from: Times West Virginian, http://www.timeswv.com