In anthropologist Carlos Castaneda’s novel “Journey to Ixtlan,” he writes of his journeys with a shaman who wanders the lands of Mexico.
“It is best to erase all personal history,” he relays of the shaman toward the end of the book, “because that makes us free from the encumbering thoughts of other people. If you have no personal history, no explanations are needed; nobody is angry or disillusioned with your acts. And above all no one pins you down with their thoughts.”
There’s a phenomenon that happens when one arrives through the gates of a festival. Looming beyond hours of traffic and long unpaved roads lays an arena of magic. Here, we are allowed—rather, communally urged—to release our “personal history,” as labeled in Castaneda’s book, and join with a festival community as one. For this experience, thousands of people forgo the comfort of their cozy beds and protecting homes, they forgo need to be a certain “type” of person. They forgo the rituals of set schedule and are no longer ruled by time. Layers shed.
Festivals provide us the space, freedom, and community necessary for letting go of our personal history. The landscape, the creative spectacles, and the collage of music all lend to an environment of newfound presence, where no explanations are needed for our actions and no judgment is cast.
As people arrive to festival gatherings and affirm for themselves that it’s okay to let go, okay to be whoever they long to be, if even just for a weekend, therapy happens. Beauty comes from the creation of a free-minded parallel universe. Each festie-goer has the chance to create a new identity or name, their own schedule, and to hang with whichever tribe of people their heart truly desires.
Festie Prep 101:
For festival newbies the process of packing, mentally preparing, etc. can be a bit tricky, especially if you’re not an avid outdoors (wo)man. Here’s some tips I’ve picked up.
- Clothes: …or don’t bring any, and I’m sure you’ll fit in just as well. At a festival, clothes give you the chance to express an alter-ego. Whether this means portrayal through full-out costume, rocking a line of retro bikinis, or pulling our that rainbow onzie you bought at a flea market eight years ago, festivals give you full liberty to wear whatever, so allow yourself fully express yourself. I’d also recommend rain gear, a solid pair of sandals that you can wear wherever, and a hat.
- Reusable Water bottle: A total festival must, especially as we head into a hot summer. For festie pro-status, bring a camelback backpack for easy, hands-free water access. Check your festival’s website beforehand to see if there will be refillable water stations. If not, I’d recommend bringing a 5-6 gallon water jug that you can leave in your trunk for refilling.
- Cooler with Dry Ice: Dry ice, when layered with a towel should keep your beers, coconut waters, and perishable foods cool throughout your festival experience. Be sure to bring foods in your cooler that are high in nutrients to keep yourself energized and nourished throughout. Combos like hummus & raw veggies or fruits & nut butter are great festie foods to snag when you’re in between shows.
- Small Backpack or Fanny Pack: This is a must for keeping the essentials with you throughout. Personally, I always carry chapstick, sunscreen, sunglasses, water, a light layer of extra clothing, dried fruit, my ID, cash, phone (for pics!), and gemstones for trading. If you’re a doodler or avid writer, carrying a small notebook around with you will provide you with a solid creative outlet/personal time on the go.
- Night Gear: Bug repellant! Especially if you’re doing an Arkansas festival. Click here, for all natural DIY bug spray ideas. Another nighttime must is a headlamp. Keeping a lantern set up at your campsite is also fun, but you can always just strap your headlamp to a post or your tent’s structure. If you’re an early riser and like to get solid sleep, bring earplugs. If you’re a stargazer, bring a blanket that can get dirty.
- BYO’s: Reusable cup, utensil, and bowl. I also like to keep at least one kitchen towel to clean out dishes after use. It’s always a good call to bring a couple of extra reusable bags for campsite cleanliness. Typically I have three: compost, recyclables, and trash. Pack out what you pack in and help keep your festival grounds clean.
- Extras: Body paint, temporary tats, wild jewelry, a hammock, yoga mat, playing cards, important gemstones, mini speakers for your tent, journal, your favorite food spices/additives (I always travel with EVOO, Braggs vineagar, turmeric, cumin, pepper, & sea salt), baby wipes for mini showering, a book, and any campsite/tent flair.
- Upon Arrival: Set your tent up, get settled/organized, and then spend a bit of time on your own if possible. Festivals can be overwhelming as you’re first adjusting to the multitudes of people and sensory attractions, so giving yourself the chance to create a festival intention can be a game changer and set a positive tone for your overall experience.
You’re going to a festival to have fun and to let go! Allow your festival preparation and road trip there to be lighthearted and stress free, setting the vibe for your festival experience. If you do forget something, remember that your campmates are more than likely going to be overjoyed to share! Happy festivaling;)
- Written by Ashleigh Price