People often ask “what IS a transformational festival, and what makes it so….transformational?”
While there is no cookie cutter recipe for a festival experience that has such a profound impact on someone it drives them to transform all or part of their lives, there are some defining characteristics that many of them share. These include, but are not limited to: full on freedom of expression, complete isolation from the default world, overcoming certain obstacles, and of course, moments of pure bliss.
Freedom of expression is not something we are used to having, at least not fully. Sure, we are allowed to express and dress ourselves in ways we see fit – but there are limits in the real world, depending on where you go. Dress codes at school and work prevent most from taking complete creative control of their outfits. Pressure from others to conform is another type of “code” that drives many to dim their shine. Even mainstream festivals limit what you can and cannot wear to a certain extent. Transformational festivals don’t draw a line on how much you can express yourself – whether that is fully clothed in the most complex costume, or fully nude, wearing nothing but the shoes on your feet.
At larger festivals, it’s easy to get lost in the sensory overload environment, but it’s just as easy to be whipped back into the default world. Transformational festivals are not as easy to shake yourself from. One key characteristic that makes these festivals so “transformative” is the full on immersion into the world of the festival. You are camping, often miles away from the nearest signs of civilization, cut off from the real world, with no cell phone reception. A transformational festival creates an environment that allows you to disengage from the default world carefree, and gives you the room to truly transform. Besides the music, there are food vendors, workshops, yoga sessions, sound baths, stand up comedy, festival games – a multitude of events that help envelope you into the core and culture of the festival for a few days.
But, no good experience comes without a price, and no transformation comes without a little struggle. No one said going to these kinds of festivals was going to be a complete walk in the park. It’s not like it’s a hardship, but there are certain common obstacles like a tent ripping, the elements of the festival (heat, dust, bugs, the usual) taking their toll, and a million other things that could / will eventually happen to you somewhere along your journey. These occurrences, while frustrating, help prepare you for the next time, through tough lessons and remembrance. Lost your stakes? Next time, you’ll bring extra. Getting overheated? Next time, plan ahead and bring a chilly towel, or some other mechanism to cool off. Hungry? Didn’t bring enough food? Spring for the food vendors for now, and bring more than you think you’ll need next time. Although his may seem overly optimistic, there is a silver lining and a lesson behind everything that happens, even the annoying hiccups in your festival experience.
The most powerful aspects of what makes a festival transformational are the moments of pure bliss that bring you the kind of happiness and love that you want to share with the world. These moments can be felt alone, or with company, and can consist of joys both big and small. A memorable moment of pure bliss for me would be seeing Odesza for the first time at my first Lightning in a Bottle. Dancing around with the people I love most, acting a fool, grooving as hard as we could – that is a moment, one of the many I’ve had, that will stick with me for life. Going on an art tour at Lightning in a Bottle 2016 with some of my closest friends was another – touring art pieces from the edge of Oasis camp to the rim of the Woogie camp. Meeting some very unique and beautiful people randomly, in the crowd, and becoming lasting friends with them – that’s another moment. Sitting and eating with friends after a long day of dancing or a long night’s sleep, joking about and sharing the adventures we’d just lived through. These are the moments that transform your way of thinking and your way of looking at life. They fill you up with pure joy, and once you leave the festival, you feel like you’re on the biggest emotional high because of all of the happy memories you just created.
You feel the need to take the love you’ve received and unleash it back onto the world ten fold, transforming the world around you as you know it.