How Far Would You Travel for Your Favorite Festival?

Article by: Lane Undhjem

Thu December 31, 2015 | 13:00 PM

A gathering on the pristine beaches of Costa Rica has captured the imaginations of festival-goers around the globe. A 21st century fusion of art and education, this four-day event is pushing the boundaries of today’s festival culture and has garnered widespread attention since it first sold out in 2014.

If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m talking about Envision Festival , perhaps the most impressive transformational festival on the planet. Four stages (mostly made of reclaimed wood or driftwood straight from nearby beaches) of world-class music and visual art enhance the coastal paradise of Uvita, Costa Rica during this one-of-a-kind cultural celebration. This February 23-26, 2017, Envision will happen again and festival-goers from around the world will make the pilgrimage to Uvita to learn, dance, share and laugh as they experience the magic for themselves.

Envision Zendo Andrew Jorgensen 2

Photo by: Andrew Jorgensen

That’s why I’m going — to see it for myself. A seemingly perfect storm of intelligent and caring people hosted in one of the most beautiful countries in the world? Four full days of movement and yoga seminars, a great musical lineup, talks on sustainability and social responsibility? Definitely my cup of tea. Throw in a couple of starstruck testimonials from past attendees, one of the most spectacular aftermovies that I have ever seen, and this place quickly began to seem like some sort of modern day El Dorado—the mythical jungle city that, if ever found, would hold all of mankind’s deepest desires.

Sold. Now how to get there? After acquiring my passport in July, the wanderlust began to set in. It became quite clear that I was not going to be able to postpone this adventure until February 2016. After a not-so-hard deliberation, I quit my job, packed my backpack and set out on a two-month journey from Mexico City to Uvita.

Backpacking instead of flying direct has proven to be the best decision that I could have made. If you are already traveling to Envision or toying with the idea of backpacking to any festival across the globe, here’s why you should seriously consider backpacking.

Latin American Travel is Cheap

Envision Festival 2015 Lane Undhjem Hippie Bus

Photo by: Lane Undhjem

You will be amazed at how far your money can go in Central America. Hostel beds run about seven to nine U.S. dollars a night. A tasty meal might cost you three to five. With a little budgeting, you can live off of about $100-150 a week. Sites like Workaway and HelpX post volunteer opportunities throughout Central America that can make traveling even more affordable. Most of these volunteering positions offer a free bed and two or three meals in exchange for 20-30 hours of work per week. Some also offer access to surf boards, bikes, discounted Spanish and yoga classes, and many other random perks. Not all exchanges are created equal, but if you get the right one, you can live for basically free. I did one such exchange working at a hostel in Puerto Escondido, Mexico for three weeks that ended up saving me nearly $200 in housing alone.

Envision Festival 2015 Art Gimbel   28

Photo by: Art Gimbel

If you are worried about bringing all your camping gear on your trip, never fear. Envision offers camping package rentals that contain a tent, sleeping pad and pillow (singles for $75, doubles for $95). Split it with a friend and you’ve got yourself four days of shelter for the reasonable price of $48, not much more expensive than an airline will charge you for checking an extra bag.

The most expensive piece to this puzzle is certainly airfare. If you’re already bound for Envision, shop around for cheaper airline tickets to destinations like Guatemala City, San Salvador or Panama City and get some extra vacation time in before the real magic begins.

Strengthen Your Practice

Envision Festival 2015 Art Gimbel   10
Photo by: Art Gimbel

Whether your passion is yoga, permaculture, languages, or music, there will be endless opportunities to strengthen your skills along the road. Yoga and meditation retreats for all skill levels can be found throughout the region including in some absolutely stunning locations like Lake Atitlan, Guatemala or Ometepe Island, Nicaragua. If you’re interested in improving your Spanish, home-stays with local families can be as cheap as $150 a week (you get four hours of Spanish instruction, plus housing and three meals per day). Private lessons will run you around five to ten an hour. 

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Photo by: Art Gimbel

Permaculture and sustainable living projects are also very common throughout Central America. From organic coffee farms and sea turtle sanctuaries to eco-lodge construction and alternative tourism, opportunities to get involved are widespread and extremely diverse. These are best researched online before your trip through sites like Wwoof (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms), Workaway and HelpX. These educational experiences strengthen the foundation upon which Envision’s workshops and seminars seek to build upon, allowing one to make the most of learning opportunities at the festival itself, and on the journey there.

Get Those Festie Friendships Started Early

Envision Festival Backpacking 2015 Lane Undhjem

Photo by: Lane Undhjem

If you are anything like me, it’s forming new friendships that truly completes the festival experience. The whimsical interactions with wonderfully quirky individuals, the unexpected existential conversations, the ecstatic faces of a spontaneous dance party…this is why we do what we do. It is why we are drawn to the magnetic energy of festival culture: to find ourselves in others, and others in ourselves.

The willingness of festival-goers to engage one another has resulted in some of my most important and lifelong friendships, but that willingness and lack of inhibition is not unique to festival culture. Backpackers are cut from the same cloth; they live for the moment, embracing people and culture along their journey, however brief. After just one month traveling, I have made four friends who are already backpacking to Envision and I have convinced two other friends to buy their tickets and make the trek. I anticipate meeting more and convincing more, as well. 

Envision Festival 2015 Art Gimbel   14

Photo by: Art Gimbel

Our paths will continue to crisscross down the Pacific coast for the next four months until we are celebrating our reunion in Uvita, longtime friends by then. You never know who you’ll meet while traveling, but there are some compassionate, adventure-seeking Envisioners on the road. It might only take one person to justify your entire trip.

Beyond Latin America...

Even if Central America isn’t high on your to-do list, checking out a festival abroad is a real eye opening experience. European, Australian, and Asian festivals all have a unique spin on the same fun-loving festival flavor. Spend a couple months on the road and with any luck, you’ll meet a few friends who will invite you to join up with their crew for their respective hometown festival. So what are you waiting for? Pack your backpack and see what kind of adventure the road has in store for you! Time to get working on that travel bucket list.

This article was originally published in December 2015.