I’m glad I didn’t have something better to do

“I was driving home in Detroit one day, and Brendan Benson, who is a singer in this band, asked me if I could stop by after lunch and help him with this song. I said okay because I had nothing better to do. This is a warning to anybody who has something better to do. The great actor Johnny Depp once drove his friend to an audition. His friend did not get the part, but the director said, ‘What are you doing?’ and Johnny Depp starred in A Nightmare on Elm Street. Well I’m glad he didn’t have something better to do. Albert Einstein was a Swiss Patent Clerk who was expected to crunch numbers all day. In his spare time, well, I guess he just explained to you why you’re here. I’m glad he didn’t have something better to do. I gather that some of you are in college right now…I hope you pay attention because even if you become some sort of businessman or lawyer or something like that…I hope you think about this sentence, ‘I’m glad I didn’t have something better to do.’ Can you agree with me on that? No matter what happens tonight can we at least agree on that?” -Jack White during his headlining Bonnaroo set Saturday, June 14th, 2014

Do you really have something better to do? Or are you just making excuses?

 

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I release so I can recieve

I manifested a sexy man to make out with at Envision Festival. But he ended up being a jerk. Then I learned to be more specific in what I ask the Universe for.

Let’s just call him “dream body.” That’s what I told my friends, “I met my dream body.” As soon as I saw him I knew Continue reading

The Death and Evolution of My First Love or My Changing Perspective on Music Festivals

***This post has been published in a slightly different version at elephant journal! Read the article here.

There’s something you need to know about me: I love music festivals. I love folk, world, bluegrass, indie rock, psychedelic dance, weekend-long, week-long, camping, non-camping, you-name-it music festivals. But recently this love felt different. I attended one of my favorite music festivals and didn’t feel the all-encompassing, “oh my goodness my life is altered,” riding on the waves of bliss kind of love and pure joy that I usually feel. Instead Envision Festival left me feeling jaded, sad and heartbroken in ways that I couldn’t quite understand.

Envision Festival is a four day camping, music, yoga, art and movement festival in the Costa Rican jungle alongside a beach. Over the past few years there’s been an emergence in music festivals that are centered on conscious community and transformation, Envision included. Throughout the day at Envision there are multiple yoga classes, permaculture discussions and healing workshops. At night and through the sunrise hours there’s live music (mostly electronic).

I love music festivals because of moments like this: a group hug at Random Rab's sunrise set.

I love music festivals because of moments like this: a group hug at Random Rab’s sunrise set.

This year I went to Envision straight from living at the Mystical Yoga Farm, an intentional yoga community in Guatemala. It was my first time leaving the lake and leaving the farm for more than 24 hours. It was also my first time in a long time being around thousands of intoxicated people.

Many magic moments happened at Envision. Nahko and Medicine for the People’s set fueled me with energy for days. Ayla Nereo inspired me to not waste time in following my heart. Suzanne Sterling’s yoga class brought me to my knees in prayer, love and tears.

Suzanne Sterling's class. Photo courtesy of Envision.

Losing ourselves to ecstatic dance in Suzanne Sterling’s class. Photo courtesy of Envision.

Running into the ocean naked revitalized and invigorated me. I made connections with people who helped me to see with clarity. I connected with my tribe of festival friends from around the world. I overheard a toddler call to their friend over and over, “I love you so much. Bye. I love you so much. Bye.” These words echoed throughout the night.

Many beautiful things happened. But I didn’t feel cradled in community. I didn’t feel supported. I connected with people when I needed, but those were mostly fleeting connections. I was slightly overwhelmed by all that was going on. I saw the warped connections that occur once it gets dark and people start taking too many drugs. Especially since I’ve been living at a drug and alcohol free community, I felt ultra-heightened to these bizarre hours of the night and day when shit just gets weird.

I didn’t feel jaded because of my personal experience (more on that in a different blog post), but overall something seemed missing. I came to realize that what I really felt was a lack in overall intention. The Envision program reads, “Together we are here to celebrate our spirits, heal our bodies and minds, and revitalize our souls…” Yes, I do think Envision provides a space for that, but it also provides a space for people to partake in and possibly abuse drugs and alcohol. Depending on the music festival, drug and alcohol use are going to occur, but I think there can be a stronger balance with drug use and wellness. Even though there were yoga classes and there was a healing area, I’d like to see a greater space devoted to wellness and connection at these types of events.

After Envision I spontaneously landed at Tribal Alliance Retreat, a visionary leadership immersion in the middle of the Costa Rican jungle. Once Tribal Alliance was in full swing I realized why Envision left me jaded and upset.

At its core Tribal Alliance was a journey into the heart of community, sacred celebration, regenerative culture, rites of passage, empowerment, and embodying the vision of a new Earth. All this and more at an alcohol-free event with limited participant space and three vegetarian meals daily led to an intimate, inspirational gathering. At Tribal Alliance people were united in their intentions to be vulnerable, to go deeper, to build and maintain lasting connections and to remain centered on ultimate wellness and love. Focused on the more engaging, learning, grounding aspects of community, Tribal Alliance bridged the gap between music festival culture and tangible aspects of health, wellness and permaculture.

Where music festivals provide a plethora of options to partake in at all times, Tribal Alliance provided one workshop at a time. Where music festivals provide multiple stages with multiple musicians playing at once, Tribal Alliance provided one stage with one band playing at a time; there were no overlapping sets. Where music festivals provide a space to be pulled in a million directions, Tribal Alliance provided a space to be grounded and to be a part of community.

Another important aspect to Tribal Alliance: the food. The event included three vegetarian meals a day, and we all ate together. Eating with others and connecting over a meal is a beautiful bonding experience. I love being able to share the joy and fortune of food with others. There was live music every night, but it ended at 1 a.m. It was easier to rest when I didn’t have to worry about missing any late night music or have the remnants of late night partyers stomp through the campground.

Meal time at Tribal Alliance

Meal time at Tribal Alliance

I still think there’s a place and need for music festivals and I always will, but my personal needs are changing. As my life becomes more focused on health and wellness, I find myself questioning how nourishment fits into being at a four day party without getting the best rest or eating properly. As I become more myself, my values are changing. I value getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night, looking people in the eyes, mindfully eating, learning who people really are, practicing yoga daily, connecting to people without the influence of drugs or alcohol and carrying an awareness while remaining grounded.

The more immersed I am in community, the more I realize how important a support group is. The more time I dedicate to yoga and health, the better I feel in every way. I want to live life as intentionally and mindfully as possible without fogging my perspective with drugs or alcohol. But at the same time, I love live music. I love dancing all night until past sunrise. I love the magic that can only occur at music festivals. How does all this balance? Where does it fit? At Tribal Alliance I felt the balance. I experienced how nourishing, healthy transformational events are possible.

Right after Envision I realized I was slightly heartbroken because at Envision a piece of myself died, a piece of myself who I’ve been for years, a piece of myself that was so intertwined with my identity. At Tribal Alliance I realized it didn’t die; it evolved.

So will I always be in love with music festivals? I can’t say for sure, but I know I’ll always love them in a special way. They’ve shaped my life tremendously. I’m constantly growing more into the person I want to be, more into the person I am. I’m recognizing what I really want out of life and how events like Tribal Alliance combine my interests in the most positive, meaningful way. I want to bring concepts and ideas from events like Tribal Alliance into music festival culture. I want to attend and be a part of events where ultimate wellness involving mind, body, spirit, land and community is the root.

This is my last blog post under the name ‘aprilsfestivals.’ I’m keeping the blog, but I’m ready to make the official transition to Smile and Be Free. Smile and Be Free represents the evolution of my love of music festivals and my ideas on life.

What are your thoughts on this emergence of “transformational” music festivals? Where do healing, yoga and permaculture fit into music festivals? How can we foster lasting positive change at these events? How do you remain present, grounded and mindful at music festivals when the chaos spins all around you?

Please Bring Positivity

This past summer was another whirlwind of campgrounds, music festivals, rest stops and skylines. I spent another summer working for the Clean Vibes Trading Post, educating festival-goers about the importance of composting and recycling. When I wasn’t working at music festivals, I was road-tripping across the United States in my comforting and stately Subaru.

After traveling in Costa Rica for five months it was enthralling to embrace the places my home country has to offer. From almost getting caught in a tornado in Nebraska, to eating fresh Salmon jerky in Northern California to waking up in the redwoods, I fell more in love with the world around me.

I said farewell to summer and danced in the beginning of Autumn at Symbiosis Gathering, a celebration of life with music, live art, permaculture workshops, yoga, dance, and much more.

Symbiosis was filled with magical moments, and I wanted to share my favorite one.

Just before sunrise on the last day of Symbiosis I peeked into a small geodesic dome where a group of friends were all cuddled together in a circle. They invited me in, and I instantly felt warm, welcomed and accepted. As I drifted to sleep a song started playing in the background. “We are so blessed,” one of the friends said. Everything about the moment was so beautiful that I couldn’t help but cry. Light was approaching in the sky so the friends left to watch the sunrise. But first they put a pillow under my head and tucked me in. “When she wakes up she’s going to wonder if this was all a dream,” one of them said as he kissed my forehead. It’s a moment I’ll never forget. Thank you so much Chakra Activation Portals for providing a space where magic can happen.

I hope this song reminds you of the immense joy and healing music brings.

Envisionary Enlightenment

Attitude of Gratitude:

I’m thankful that I’ve been spending the winter at various beach towns away from snow.

I’m thankful for strangers who lend me their computers so I can blog.

I’m thankful for every single thing that happened to me since leaving the La Fortuna area.

Sometimes in life things happen so fast that they don´t even feel like they´re happening. After three weeks of volunteering at Rancho Margot I left to venture to Envision, a music, arts and movement festival in Bahia, Costa Rica. I didn´t have a ticket and I wasn´t registered to volunteer, but I knew I didn´t have anything to lose. Sometimes all you have to do is show up. I don´t think we give ourselves enough credit for showing up. If one thing doesn´t work out, something else will. As long as we enter situations with an open mind and an open heart, things will be all right.

The day we left the ranch (I tagged along with another ranch volunteer who was set to volunteer at Envision), we spent most of the day traveling to Jaco. When we passed through San Jose I felt like someone picked me up and dropped me onto a spinning top. After weeks of solitude at the ranch, the movement,  litter and concrete of the city was overwhelming to say the least. We arrived in Jaco around sunset, ate, slept and caught the 6 a.m. bus to Uvita. When we arrived to Envision, I lined up with all the volunteers to sign-in. I asked them if they needed any extra help, said I was willing to do anything and they signed me up for the Envision Cafe and Tea Lounge. I was ecstatic with the way things were working out.

As the festival went on it quickly became one of my favorite festivals. Part of Envision’s mission is to elevate people to live a more conscious lifestyle through education, music, art and sacred movement. Throughout the day there were countless yoga and dance classes and all sorts of informative workshops on topics like healing plants, building community and feeling empowered. The music (mostly electronic) started at 5 p.m. and went on until 7:30 in the morning. The crowd was a mix of like-minded travelers, festival lovers, Burners and ticos. It was set deep in the jungle with multiple types of palms outlining the grounds  and the nighttime hum of cicadas.

Envision highlights: showing up without a ticket and being able to volunteer, serving people at the Envision Cafe and Tea Lounge, Random Rab’s sunrise set, seeing Rising Appalachia for the first time, discovering a divine love for jackfruit, taking a contemporary dance workshop with the performers of Quixotic, the question and answer session with Alex and Allyson Grey, randomly running into friends from the States and recieving some of the best hugs I’ve ever had.

After Envision I spent two nights in Bahia then joined the rest of the Envisionaries in Dominical which quickly turned into an Envision after-party. The street along the beach usually has typical beach vendors selling towels, jewerly and art, but after Envision many craftsmen joined the vendor row. People camped right behind the vendors and on various spots along the beach. Post-Envision transformed into Occupy Dominical. At any given moment interesting characters swayed and stumbled along that vendor road.

We arrived just before sunset, found an open room for the two of us that transformed to six in Bahia and went straight to the beach. I’ve never seen so many people on one area of the beach for sunset before. Three of us sat close to the water and meditated as a man played his trumpet and the sun sank below the horizon. Everyone clapped and cheered. People drummed, hooped, spun fire, threw sticks, danced.

Dominical

Sunset

French loves

IMG_9083

I spent the next few days falling in love with everything and everyone around me. I had so many great conversations with people I just met. And the beautiful people were everywhere: on the streets, on the beach, at the supermarket, at the hostel. After the festival it was so nice to still see festival friends. It was a chance to get to know them outside the festival while letting go and sayin nos vemos at the same time. A slow, easy transition back to the “real world.” Even though for most of us traveling the real world is a bit like festival life. The festival just gave us a gathering space to merge together.

After Dominical I went to San Jose to regroup while visiting a friend and now I’m writing this from an island in Panama. Life has been filled with so much sweetness.

June as a festival whirlwind

That started in Tennessee and ended in Vermont. Now, weeks later, everything rushes back to me as it simultaneously fades away.

Where did I go? What did I do? Who did I meet? What happened?

The basic answers flash in my mind, but the other ones take more digging. Looking back on traveling is like that. Certain moments shine so vividly, when you think about them, it’s like you’re reliving them all around you. But others inevitably dissolve. At the end, it feels like everything happened so fast; it’s like it never happened at all. At the same time everything was so incredibly real, raw, present. I guess it’s a mixture of both. When I look back, I just can’t believe that it’s already over (over in one sense of the word, anyway).

Isn’t life like that most of the time? Sometimes you have these in-your-face real moments where you’ve never felt more alive, where you’re just yourself. You’re reaching out for all those colors around you, and you’re actually catching them. And you go with it. Other days I just seem to fall into the spaces between the second hand tick. The in-your-face alive moments are the ones I remember. The ones I strive for.

We left for Tennessee the first weekend of June. Four of us stuffed into an old Subaru. We drove roads that paralleled the highways. We made frequent stops to let the car cool. We spent hours in Virginia lounging roadside and riverside.

When we arrived at Clean Vibes’ headquarters to work the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, emotions of all types flooded me. I was so grateful to be out of the car; I was overjoyed to be reunited with friends. Mainly, it was happiness. Clean Vibes employees live all over the country. The only time we’re all in the same place is Bonnaroo. I hadn’t seen many Clean Vibers since last summer. Tears broke in my eyes as I hugged old friends.

Clean Vibers are a special breed of people. How many people you know would pickup trash as a job? Would pickup schwilly, nasty bags of poop, god only knows whats and thousands of cigarette butts? No matter the weather conditions: streaming sunshine, pouring rain.

When I explain my job to other people they give me a strange look at first. “I’m pretty much a garbage lady at music festivals,” isn’t something you hear everyday. Clean Vibers are some of the most open-minded people I’ve ever met. Adventurers. Risk takers. Road Less Traveleders. Beautiful in every sense of the word. People with different backgrounds and hometowns coming together to make the world a better place, one cigarette butt off the ground at a time. Part of the reason I pickup trash is because of the amazing people I work with.

Where we camp

The Main Stage

Radiate Positivity: one of Bonnaroo’s themes

The whole gang-she-bang

We camp at Bonnaroo until all of the garbage is picked up and the 700-acre farm is more spotless than it was before the festival started. The cleanup can take a couple weeks. We live together, work together, eat in catering together, shower in stalls beside each other, party together, play together. Forget alone time and personal space. Needless to say you become a family fairly quickly.

This year at Bonnaroo I worked at the Clean Vibes Trading Post.

Here I am working the Trading Post for Clean Vibes

The Trading Post is a recycling based initiative program that promotes sustainability by encouraging festival-goers to recycle. We set-up a booth in Planetroo that’s pretty much a recycling arcade. Festival-goers bring us their recycling and in return they win prizes such as synergy clothing, platypus water bottles, concert tickets and many more. I loved spreading the word about Clean Vibes and encouraging people to help keep the scene clean. For more information about the Trading Post check out their website here.

Because I was tired most days after work, I didn’t see that much music at Bonnaroo. I saw bits and pieces of Soja, Rubblebucket, Feist, Ludacris, Dawes, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Radiohead, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Phish. I loved walking around by myself, but I also loved being with a crew of Clean Vibers and dancing our butts off. My favorite part of Bonnaroo was the day after Bonnaroo at the staff party. There’s a DJ, karaoke, free booze, free food, the most crawfish you’ve ever seen and lots and lots of dancing.

Crawfish forever

After working three days of post-show cleanup we said goodbye to Tennesee and drove 13 straight hours overnight to Atlantic City, NJ, to work the next show, Phish. Phish played a three night run at Bader Field. Most of our crew worked the 4 p.m. to 4 a.m. shift.

Phish fans are some of the most respectful fans I’ve ever encountered. So many people came up to us to ask what we were doing, to thank us, and to throw away their garbage. So many fans were extremely grateful and appreciative of our efforts. Who doesn’t like feeling appreciated? Thank you Phish fans. I appreciate you and your appreciation.

Last summer when I worked my first Phish festival, Superbowl, I learned that Phish is much more than a band. I started to understand what they were all about and why thousands of people devote their lives to following Phish around. Phish is the community of people it brings together. Phish is the feeling and energy the fans create. Phish is being kind to strangers and accepting everyone. Phish is unifying. Phish is letting your freak flag fly.

Saturday morning after finishing work at 5 a.m. a bunch of us, the now dubbed ‘Breakfast Club,’ decided to explore AC. We visited one of our friends at a penthouse suite at the Chelsea Hotel; we frolicked on the roof of the Chelsea Hotel; we may or may not have gotten kicked out of some casinos and a bar, but we had an absolute blast.

Things can get a little blurry around 7 a.m.

The Breakfast Club

A few hours later we woke up, started work at 4 p.m. and worked until there was no more trash on the ground. Going into the shift we were presented with the ambiguous time of ‘no more trash on the ground.’ Well, that ended up being until noon on Monday. We worked a 2o hour shift from 4 p.m. on Sunday until noon on Monday. By the time the sun comes up, you don’t know what’s real and what’s not. By that point I was delusional off of lack of sleep and all night work. But we all stuck it out and made it through together. Luckily we had each other for encouragement, silliness and love.

One morning before work my lovely lady friend and fellow Clean Viber, Angel happened to be outside talking on the phone at the same time I was. When she hung up she ran over to me and exclaimed, “I have a dream come true offer for you.” She offered me her Artist Hospitality position at the yoga and music festival Wanderlust in Vermont the following weekend. How could I refuse? Seize opportunities. After Phish I went home for a few days and then ventured to Vermont to be swept away in a land of yogis and more good vibes.

Part of the program

At Wanderlust I worked as an assistant to the head of artist hospitality. Our job was to cater to all of the artists’ needs. We food shopped for them, set up the green room, shuttled them to and from stages, filled coolers and did pretty much whatever they needed. By artists I mean Ziggy Marley, Ani DiFranco and Beats Antique. They were the headliners of the festival.

I was so grateful to be a part of such a wonderful festival in such a beautiful part of the world. The festival took place in the Green Mountains at Stratton Mountain Resort.

My ‘office’

I love everything about Vermont and I loved everything about Wanderlust.

A whole program filled with active activities!

Everyday (from Thursday to Sunday) there were guided hikes, multiple yoga classes, live music, lectures and more.

A description of the fest from their website, “Wanderlust is a one-of-a-kind festival bringing together the world’s leading yoga teachers, top musical acts and DJs, renowned speakers, top chefs and winemakers, and much, much more — all in a setting of breathtaking natural beauty. We’re talking about fun in the sun and dancing under the stars. Hiking on peaceful trails and gettin’ your down dog on at the top of the mountain. Sipping poolside cocktails with your friends, and then enjoying a tasty farm-to-table dinner with views of the surrounding mountain peaks. Early morning meditations and all-night chakra spinning musical performances – it’s an all-out ecstatic celebration in the most awe-inspiring locations in the world.”

I was pretty much in Heaven. It’s not too late to experience Wanderlust either! The fest is traveling to different parts of America and Canada. Wander to their website for more information.

I took a class called, “Unleash Your Inner Goddess” with Jennilee Toner. It was the best class I ever took out of any type of anything I’ve ever taken. After the class I felt invigorated, spiritually charged, empowered, connected, strong, loved, happy, refreshed, closer to the Universe, and ecstatic about life, love and the endless possibilities of this beautiful world we live in. It was just what I needed. I highly recommend this class to each and every person. Definitely check out Jennilee’s website and biography. She is such an inspiring person. If you’re ever in the Ballston Spa area in NY check out her studio.

As I finish typing this blog, I’m sitting on the floor of my childhood room gazing out the window at the tops of trees and bottoms of clouds. I’m thinking about those four questions I started the blog off with:

Where did I go? What did I do? Who did I meet? What happened?

Music festivals open up my eyes. After them I realize that I didn’t just go to festivals, but I escaped to a glimpse of what life can be when people strip away their insecurities, fears and doubts. When people join together in dancing, in stretching, in love. When people spend time outside, when people embrace their surroundings. I danced. I played. I loved. I woke up from the doldrums of everyday life. Life happened and it’s just going to keep happening. I’m going to strive to bring pieces of festival happiness into my everyday life and strive to constantly be alert and aware.

Namaste with love and light,

Clean Vibes at The Great Googa Mooga

For me the beginning of festival season is usually served with a nice, long road trip. This start of the season was slightly different. As half of our Clean Vibes crew headed south for The Hangout Music Festival, another handful of us headed north for The Great Googa Mooga. Since the Googa Mooga was in Brooklyn, from New Jersey I didn’t have far to journey at all.

This year was the very first Googa Mooga, a two day food and music festival set in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park on May 19th and 20th. Even though the weather was absolutely gorgeous and the best NYC restaurants were serving food and alcohol, for many festival-goers, the Googa Mooga was somewhat of a disaster. People waited in line after line after line to get everything from wristbands to money to water. Luckily for me, I worked on the clean-up crew and didn’t have to worry about all of those long lines.

Superfly Productions, the company that hosted the event, is giving a 100% refund to the Extra Mooga customers, those who paid $250 plus handling fees (the other tickets were free).

“We promised you a terrific Extra Mooga experience this past weekend and we didn’t deliver,” the organizers wrote on their website. “We’re very sorry if we disappointed you.”  Refund requests can be directed to refunds@googamooga.com and must be made within 30 days.

Clean Vibes

For my second summer in a row I’m working for the waste management company, Clean Vibes. Based out of Asheville, NC, but traveling nation-wide, Clean Vibes takes care of all things trash. For us Clean Vibers this means working pre-festival (mapping out and setting up stations for trash, recycling and compost), during the festival (cleaning up trash on the ground and servicing all the trash stations) and post-show (line sweeping the festival grounds and taking down trash stations).

Clean Vibes’ mission is to actively encourage and promote recycling, composting and proper waste disposal. Our goal is to divert waste from landfills by increasing the amount of material that is recycled and composted, thereby greatly reducing the ecological footprint of outdoor festivals and events.

Working for Clean Vibes last summer was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I met some of the most incredible people from all over the country, spent weeks outside without going inside at all, was constantly surrounded by live music and helped keep the Earth clean. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to work for Clean Vibes again this summer and spread the clean vibe to festival-goers.

Some of the lovely ladies I work with

Kate teaching us about a clearstream trash station.

Preparing clearstreams to set up throughout the festival

To learn more about Clean Vibes check out their website. Even though the deadline’s passed for a summer job, you can always volunteer.

Clean Vibes and the whole city shining behind us