8 Tips to Prepare You For Your First Overseas Festival

Article by: Marcus Barnes|@mgoldenbarnes

Tue August 29, 2017 | 12:45 PM

Going away to a festival is almost always exhilarating and enlightening. Whether you’re out to discover new artists, bond with new people, spend quality time with your friends, grow as a person or simply lose yourself for a few days, it’s such an uplifting experience, and going overseas to an undiscovered land can amplify that even more.

Traveling abroad is one of the biggest steps we can take in gaining a more rounded view of the world. Experiencing culture shock, different customs, climates and people is great way to broaden your horizons. Combine this discovery with a festival adventure and you’re bound to have a special one.

Here are a few tips to prepare for that magical mystery tour.

Start Planning

Lightning In A Bottle Boutique Camping 2016

This is not a simple jaunt to your local park for a one-day event or merely camping for a weekend in a different city. This is traveling to a whole other country (or continent even) which means you must have some semblance of a plan. Book flights early to avoid extortionate prices. Work out where you’re staying: hotel, hostel or campsite. Who’s going on the trip? What’s the local currency and the exchange rate? How much time do you need off work? Will you bolt on some tourist time at the end, or maybe beforehand? These are all questions that you should ponder and utilize in order to build a plan, where it's loose or strict. Remember that failing to plan is planning to fail.

Respect the Local Culture

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It’s not very pleasant to have people visit your country and ignorantly disobey local customs, so we advise you to do a little bit of research on where you’re heading just to be aware of any potential flashpoints. As the world becomes increasingly homogenized thanks to how digitally interconnected we are, you may find that the country you’re visiting feels familiar but below the surface subtle behaviours and traditions do remain. It’s important to acknowledge these. 

Also learning some very basic, functional words and sentences in the local language is a great way to ingratiate yourself to the locals and to be respectful to them. Remember they’re encouraging you to have a good time in their country. The least you can do is be able to say "Hello, how are you, goodbye, please and thank you" in their language.

Buddy Up

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Photo by: Dominica Murillo for Northern Nights Music Festival

Discovering new places is great alone and equally as good, maybe more so, when you’re doing it with other people. You may have organised a crew to travel with you to your overseas festival but in that group you could choose to form a mutually motivational buddy system with one particular person. 

It’s your job to keep each other buoyant, to be a shoulder to cry on, a protector, a motivational coach, a dance partner and any other kind of support you may need, in bad times or good. Wandering around a festival aimlessly with the company of a trusted loved one is a priceless experience. We all need some one-to-one time even when we’re in a group full of our best mates.

Dress Up

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Whether you’re at a rock festival or a psychedelic lovefest in the jungle, it’s important to shed the layers that you accumulate out there in the "real world." Going to a totally different country allows you to be someone completely new, and an outfit can be the catalyst behind your new (or should that be true?) persona. Go silly, go straight, go outrageous, go onesie, go nude (if you’re allowed), go beyond your comfortable limits and see how people react. 

An "out-there" outfit is often the perfect way to break the ice with a stranger. Meeting people and finding out more about them is one of the most potent ways to expand your mind and nurture your empathy for others. Allow your inner stylist to come forth, invent a new personality and lubricate your social experience.

Tap Into Your Inner Adventurer

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Photo by: Art Gimbel

Being at a festival in a new country can heighten your yearning for discovery. Awakening your playful inner child is what many festivals are adept at doing, so let that side of you awaken and explore. Channel the wonder of youth, run around the festival site poking your nose into any new unexplored corners and see what comes up. You don’t have to stick to your normal routine. 

Break away from your crew and go on a solo jaunt if you dare. Throw the timetable away and meander around the festival site leaving it up to fate to tempt you into a tent or stage area. This is a real chance to let go, and have an authentic adventure in a new place which will (hopefully) feel a lot more familiar once you’ve done some intrepid exploring.

Prepare Yourself Mentally

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It doesn’t matter if the place you’re going to has a similar culture to your home nation, there are always going to be moments when you feel anxious, perhaps alienated or just a little bit out of your comfort zone. It could be language barriers, the way locals dance, losing your friends in a crowd, or even just being really tired or homesick. Whatever it is, know that it will happen but that it's not the end of the world. 

If it can happen at your local festival, it can happen overseas and may be amplified by being away from home. Remember that we all go through it and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Being in a new country is a chance to grow, and growth usually comes from difficult experiences so face everything head-on when you feel like you can, but when you need time out make sure you take it.

Take the Opportunity to Explore

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Photo by: City of Chicago

While you’re in another country take the opportunity to explore what it has to offer outside the utopian confines of the festival. You might end up finding beautiful stretches of beach, a quirky little town, a busy metropolis, an ancient ruin, local delicacies, landmarks, welcoming bars where you can chat with locals or any number of other such delights. 

It’s up to you to go and explore, which is where our first step regarding research will come in handy. I certainly wouldn’t have seen anywhere near as much of the world as I have were it not for my festival travels; from strip clubs in Reno to art galleries in Bilbao, I’ve seen and done so many things in so many cities, all due to attending nearby festivals.

Let Loose and Surrender

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Photo by: Art Gimbel

At the core of having fun is the ability to let loose and surrender to whatever you’re confronted with. Going with the flow is key, so be mindful to remain open to all the experiences your foreign frolics present to you. Of course there will be times when you’d prefer not to indulge in whatever it is that has sprung up in front of you, and it’s fine to decline. Surrender, but make sure it’s within your own personal boundaries. Don’t just say yes to everything; be responsible for yourself and your health and safety. 

That said, a few risks here and there might be fun. Ultimately, don’t be a barrier to your own personal enjoyment but also be conscious of what your intuition is telling you, which goes to my earlier point of mentally preparing yourself – this process could include thinking about what you want to get out of you trip.