It’s summer: you’re coasting along the highway – a sweetly rumbling engine and good tunes in your ear, the summer wind on your face. Imagine spending an entire summer in nature, living simply, constantly seeing new things and meeting new people, and consistently being surrounded by incredible music and art. You’ll spend weeks in environments that encourage free self expression, where you can indulge in the luxury of being your truest self. This is the appeal of a nomad summer spent road-tripping from festival to festival.
Adventures are magical things that leave you changed forever; they take you outside of your comfort zone and teach you things about yourself that you might never have otherwise discovered. Through this lifestyle you start to remember what’s really important in life, what’s important to you.
After 7 months of preparation, my partner, J, and I are embarking on our own epic summer road trip! We’ll be hitting Astral Harvest, Bass Coast, Pemberton, Motion Notion, Shambhala, and Atmosphere, visiting friends and national parks along the way. If you’ve ever thought about undertaking an adventure of this scale, but don’t know where to start, here are our top 5 tips to help you get the ball rolling.
Second to your destinations, your vehicle is the most important choice you’ll make. Traveling safe means a pre-trip vehicle inspection is mandatory, as are regular oil changes. Keeping a jerry can of gas in the car is always a good idea. I felt it was important to purchase from a used car dealership that included a 6-month warranty valid anywhere in North America. Our van ended up needing work before we even left, and the warranty saved us $1000!
When deciding what type of vehicle will suit your needs, consider what you’ll be doing on your trip. Camping? Glamping? Back-roading? Traversing long distances? Will you be hosteling? Air BnB, hotels? Will you be finding campgrounds at each new destination, or do you want to be able to pull over and have everything you need ready to go? A camper van, which can be equipped with a bed, functioning kitchen, and even sometimes a toilet and shower, is a popular choice for van life! If you have less gear, or can afford hotels, a mid-sized car or SUV may suffice.
For J and I, space was the biggest factor. J and I are planning on doing a lot of festivals and have an epic “glamp” set-up, tickle trunks full of festival-wear, a mini-kitchen, and a cuddle puddle which incorporates massive quantities of blankets and pillows and a couch. We were able to get a great deal on a 1993 Ford E350, which we’ve lovingly dubbed The Bass Chaser.
Since our festival camp set-up has a lot of components, we wanted to make sure that our vision would manifest practically and smoothly. By inviting all our friends on a camping trip, we were able to see our site in action (see below an adorable picture of our friend, Lee, who fell asleep in our cuddle puddle). We also worked out some kinks, like realizing that a $10 clothing hanger from Wal-Mart will get smashed by the first drunk friend that enters your site, and is therefore impractical. Letting your other drunk friend cook a pound of bacon in one pan on the camp stove will result in two hours of cleanup. We also learned that you should hide your wagon as soon as you’re done packing in your gear because your drunk friends will want to mount it with a camp chair and ride it off the edge of a dry creek bed while carrying a box of wine, a cigarette and a full beer.
Admittedly, most of the kinks had to do with drunk-friend-proofing our set-up.
We invited people to bring anything they would like to gift to our site or trinkets they wanted us to take with us so we’d have a piece of them on our travels. It was an opportunity to spend quality time with the people we love most before leaving for 4 months, and it ended up being one of the best weekends of all time.
Food and Health
Our goal for this trip is to engage whole-heartedly in the most vibrant of experiences: meeting new people, enjoying nature’s wonderlands, growing, being present, and – of course! – having a rocking good time. Spending 4 months on the road and attending multiple festivals is inherently draining – after Shambhala last summer, we needed one night at a hot springs and a week lazing about before we were ready to rejoin the muggle world! Taking care of your body and mind will help you maintain vitality through an entire summer of festivals and outdoor living.
I’m super excited about the brand new camp stove we invested in. For $95 dollars, we got a Coleman Triton Series 2-Burner Stove. With 22,000 BTUs and 23 inches of cooking area, it will serve all of our needs. We have 2 coolers (one for bevies and one for food) and a bin for dry goods. Our meals won’t get boring and they will always include fresh vitamin-and-mineral-rich produce. This saves us from spending hundreds of dollars at restaurants and food vendors.
But taking care of your body during long days in the sun, short nights of sleep, tons of dancing, and *whatever else you might be doing* will require more than just good food. I went to a local health food store and told a specialist about our summer plans so they could suggest the best things to support our bodies. The top two answers were Adrenal support and CocoHydro electrolyte powder.
The last thing I’m super stoked about is our plan to buy our produce at farmer’s markets as we’re driving from city to city. We’re really looking to reducing our waste/carbon footprint, supporting local businesses/small farms, and being responsible consumers. A big part of festival culture is RESPECT – and that means respect for the environment and future generations. To do this and take care of our bodies at the same time is totally awesome!
Sure, you’ve got to invest in savings for a while to be able to afford a trip like this; being frugal and creating a budget are great tools. We also won’t be paying rent for the summer, since we gave up our apartment while we’re gone. Beyond the basics, try to think about what experience and skills you can utilize on your journey.
For example, J is a welder. He applied to a bunch of pre-show crew positions hoping to help build and maintain stages. I’ll be teaching yoga at a few festivals, and contributing to B+K for a few others. I also have a ton of food service/hospitality experience, so I applied to volunteer on Artist Hospitality teams and landed some killer gigs. We’re also both interested in doing a psy-crisis training so that we can serve as volunteers in Sanctuaries.
For most festivals, you have to pay a volunteer deposit (full ticket price) plus fees. Fees are not refundable. If you don’t get chosen for a volunteer position, you get your deposit back. Otherwise, you get it after you complete your shifts (most of them within 30 days). The deposits can start getting really expensive (we paid about $4,000 CAD). We’ll get almost all of that money back, so we decided the best way to foot the bill was by getting a credit card with a low interest rate that we can use solely for this purpose.
Set Your Intention
Setting an intention gives you something to hold onto when things get tough or don’t go the way you planned – when you’re hot or hungry or exhausted or get a flat tire or miss your home and friends (or when you get denied entry at a border crossing and have to pull a full Plan B on an entire 50-day segment of your trip – yes, this happened to us!!!).
Our intention for this trip was multi-faceted: experiencing hundreds of musical acts on some of the best sound systems around; meeting new people, making lifelong friends we never would have met otherwise; giving back to the culture that helped us grow and become the best versions of ourselves; learning about ourselves; challenging our limitations; going outside our comfort zones; extending the freedom, fun and joy of the festival experience over a longer period of time.
There will always be road blocks on trips like this, but making it all worth it will be top tier musical acts, epically produced stage and art environments, and some of the most beautiful places, most beautiful spirits, and most beautiful smiles.
WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHY: Lauren DeGaine