It’s no secret that the international music festival scene has witnesses explosive growth over the past decade.
What was a community of underground warehouses and desert raves have evolved into the EDCs of Tokyo, Mexico, Paris to Tomorrowland (and their newly minted Winter Edition in the Alps), Ozora, Afrikaburn, Hungary’s Sziget Festival, and, nestled in the jungles of Costa Rica, Envision Fest.
With so many festivals popping up on the global scale, it’s reasonable to think that any proper music fan would want to purchase the ticket and take the ride to some far away destination, parts unknown, looking for the sweet sounds of your favorite artists.
Any why wouldn’t you greet adventure head on?
But just because you’re headed to a musical paradise doesn’t mean there aren’t some precautions and preparations to take in order to make your trip the best possible one it could be.
Traveling abroad for a music festival is not much different than traveling abroad in general – albeit your wardrobe might be slightly more flamboyant (see #3).
Often, the festival will have tips and tricks to make your trip as efficient and comfortable as possible. However, the joy and anticipation of a music festival should not override your better judgment.
And since we’re on a plane to Costa Rica’s Envision Festival, why not use this opportunity to spread some information on what it takes to travel safely, and in style, to an international music festival.
(Plus, I have 6 hours to kill and the flight attendant has only been around with the drink cart once.)
- 1. Make sure to pack your Situational Awareness
The fact of the matter is this: knowing what is happening around you and being AWARE of your surroundings, body language, and other people is perhaps the most important thing you can take with you while traveling.
We’ve become so accustomed to popping in our headphones and staring at our phone screens that we won’t notice the shady stalker 10-feet behind you until it’s already too late and you’re wondering why you kept all your spare cash in your unprotected back pocket.
While I want to believe that the world is full of good people who only want the best for myself and others, I know that is not the reality we live in, especially as a privileged, cis-white male American.
Keep your eyes up and engaged – not down on your phone. Take stock of the local landscape and the inhabitants’ culture and behaviors.
Remember, it’s not a bad thing to stand out – but trouble comes knocking if you don’t have the awareness that you’re standing out.
- 2. Learn the local language.
You don’t need anything more than a bathroom emergency to find out quick enough that this rule of thumb is worth investing time into.
A couple phrases on your Google Translate while on the plane or in the airport could possibly save you an enormous headache or hours of confusion once you hit your destination.
- Hello! How are you?
- Where is the bathroom?
- My name is…
- How much is it?
- How do I find…?
- I need help.
Not only will you spend less time fumbling around, you may even gain the respect and admiration of the local populace (and the chance at a free beer J).
- 3. Don’t make yourself a target.
I know it’s tempting to unpack your flashy, LED-lit rockstar tights and unicorn onesie as soon as your butt leaves seat 11D for the first time in 8 hours, and why shouldn’t you rock that shit?
But right next to the conspicuous cheetah print and acid-horse mask should be packed at least a day’s worth of clothing that reflects what the locals would wear. While most of the time might be spent on the festival grounds, it’s inevitable that you find yourself at the local town center picking up cooking supplies or having a beer at the nearest hostel the night before music starts.
Wearing an outfit that doesn’t scream, “I’m a tourist with money,” can go a long way in keeping you out of the crosshairs of any maligned intentions.
In addition, invest in a dummy wallet and put a credit card and $40 cash in local currency in it. Store the dummy wallet in a back pocket and any unsuspecting pickpocket won’t know the different. Spreading your resources into a couple separate locations will ensure one small mishap doesn’t snowball into something larger.
- 4. Communication is key.
Remember James Franco in the movie 127 Hours?
There comes a point in the movie, right after his arm becomes a boulder sandwich, where his character reflects on the poor decision not to communicate his travel plans, schedule, or, well, just about anything to loved ones, friends, a stranger in the park.
Number 4 is all about not being that person.
While it’s never a good idea to advertise that you will be away from home for 2 weeks on social media (Oh, hello vacant house with $10K in jewelry sitting out), it is a great idea to let your family, friends, or significant other know that you’ll be out of town. Oh, and by the way, here is when you can expect a check-in and where I’ll be from this date forward.
- 5. Do your research.
Know the area, know where you’re going, and have an idea on what the weather may be like or even what kind of food is served locally if you have a weak stomach.
This goes back to #3 – having at the very least a general lay of the land can be a massive support if things happen to go sideways, or if you simply run out of battery or lose your GPS (read: smart phone) device.
Music festivals are a blast, and traveling, in my opinion, is some of the best money I’ve ever invested, but I would never go to a festival without first looking up the lineup, the atmosphere, and the history of the festival itself. The same goes for any country you’re about to visit.
Know your shit and walk down the street with confidence. Not only will it make you more aware of the people and culture saturating your consciousness at every turn, it will make you less of a target to those looking to exploit tourists.
Reading all this back to back before your trip may stir up feelings of paranoia or fear, but that is not the intention. A seasoned traveler will tell you that a bit of practice and preparation and all of the above becomes like second nature.
Remember, you’re on this trip to have fun! Whether it’s Envision Festival or EDC-name-your-location, Japan or Costa Rica, the point is to initiate joy, meet other humans, and dance ‘till sunrise with your favorite artists. Having these 5 tidbits in your back pocket, ready to utilize when needed, will make sure that you can do all the above in the safest, and best possible way.
Enjoy your next trip abroad, carry awareness, and don’t forget to say hi to the person next to you. We’ll see you in the jungles of Costa Rica – with all the flamboyant costumes at the ready.