Why Festivals Can Change Your Life

Article by: Chip Conley|@ChipConley

Mon October 01, 2012 | 00:00 AM


To be curious is to open oneself up to possibility. Unfortunately, most of us experience our lives in just the opposite direction. In order to get through this obstacle course called life, we put blinders on and limit our choices, our thinking, and our fun. And, yet, some of our greatest minds, like Walt Disney and Steve Jobs, credit their success to curiosity. Albert Einstein had an abiding respect for curiosity when he wrote, “I am neither especially clever nor especially gifted. I am only very, very curious.” A little modest as well.

So, curiosity is the elixir for a robust life. And, being “culturally curious” is a way for us to bridge the gap with the “other.” Whether I’ve experienced the Whirling Dervishes in rural Turkey amongst Sufi Muslims or been the only “curious white boy” at an urban spoken word festival, I’ve often found that beneath our varied exteriors is a universal human landscape. Part of the allure of travel isn’t just the beautiful landscapes we see with our eyes, but it’s also the heartfelt commonality we feel with our hearts in connection with those who may be quite different from us.

Festivals are the ideal habitat for fermenting that culturally curious connection. Part of the reason I love David Binder’s TED talk on “The Arts Festival Revolution” is because he helps us see that 21st century festivals are becoming more immersive. He says, “21st century arts festivals ask the audience to be a player, a protagonist, a partner rather than a passive spectator.” Isn’t that insightful advice for life?

Please take ten minutes and watch David’s talk about the transformative nature of art and festivals. I bet this talk will help you become a little bit more culturally curious. Make a commitment to yourself to visit a cultural festival in the next 6 months and make sure it’s a culture that truly feels like the “other” to you. This experience may change your life.