In the spirit of storytelling and telling about my everyday, I would like to tell you the story of how I attended my first Australian doof (Aussie slang for an electronic music festival/gathering where the music doesn’t stop for three days).
While visiting my Australian friend from Balina at the beginning of January, my first week in Australia, she recommended that I attend Earth Frequency. This friendship dates back some five years, from Nelson, BC. BC is a province that is home to and in my opinion at the forefront of the transformative festival scene.
I hadn’t really planned on going to any festivals on my trip, but I looked it up and it seemed that they were still accepting volunteers so I applied, and a couple of weeks later, got accepted.
In between thinking about the festival and actually going, I had flown down to Melbourne where I found a great Couchsurfing host and stayed for a few days. The first night, my host had some people over and between Coopers green I discovered the beards dude sitting beside me was also going to Earth Freq! Destiny…
Since I was short on time, I decided to fly back up. Not for want of rideshares, Australia is rife with potential travel buddies. However, most want to take their time moseying up the coast and camping. Which, don’t get me wrong, sounds amazing, however, as I am not on holiday and need an Internet connection every day, not for me.
The family I stayed with in Brisbane had kindly offered to lend me camping gear for the four days. All I needed is a ride to get me onsite in time for my first volunteer shift.
I posted an ad on Gumtree, a huge classifieds site that is very active. Within a couple of days, I had a ride!
Two days before the festival, I got an email from the volunteer coordinator saying that no non-volunteers would be allowed onsite before Friday. That meant that my ride, who was not volunteering, would be turned away at the gate after dropping me off. Not cool.
I posted another ad on the volunteer FB page and got a quick response, this time from an American couple. It was on.
My plan was to train it out to Salisbury, the suburb my friends live in and get showered, shopped and laundered before my ride arrived. However, the guy who originally offered me a ride offered to pick me up from the airport and take me there. Wow. Very generous.
When I arrived in Brisbane, I looked for the black Mercedes I was getting picked up in and there he was, skinny guy with long dreads and leather upholstery.
He said he ‘recognized’ me by my mandala tattoo.
We took a detoured route around Brisbane, chatting and listening to really good Krishna-sequel chanting music which it was very easy to get lost in and utterly relax.
After he dropped me off, I zipped around according to the plan: shower, laundry, shopping. I even had time to have a beer because my co-volunteers and next ride were running late.
When they arrived, we packed the car, me with my COOLER (usually a minimalist festival camper, this was my first time having my very own cooler, Eskimo in the local parlance).
I won’t bore you with the details of the festival, except to say that I saw my buddy from Melbourne walking around and I went with him to meet his friends at the gate, who quickly became one of my ‘haunts’, home away from home camps.
Some notable details: HUGE tent! I could stand up in it, which was another festival first.
After camping in the staff area, when all the car campers were moving their camps to the shadier and more protected general camping, I hiked around the back way and found myself a good spot, from which I witnessed the tent city grow around me. It took me three trips to get all my stuff up there. It was worth it.
On my next to last day, I was talking to friends at the haunt I just mentioned and was struck by a comment that one of the women made. I had just double checked my flight details because they had asked when I was leaving. I looked it up on my phone and it turned out to be the next day at 2 pm.
“You seem so calm about it! I would be so scared, to come to a festival by myself, to not know how I am leaving…”
The thing was I did have a plan. I planned to pack up my stuff early in the morning and make the two trips down to the road and hitchhike out.
It never really occurred to me to be scared. My festival going history has been mostly solo. I’m not the one who organizes 5 or 6 people to go with. When I have gone with people, they are usually veteran festival goers and comfortable with the unknown. It’s exciting to be in that mind space, not knowing, not planning the festival you will have but being open to and receiving it. I’ve been there, in the fear. Now, I’ve learned it doesn’t pay and is a waste of time to allow yourself to be afraid. Just make a decision and go with it. Try. Do.
When I thought about the festival later, and why I am writing this, is that it occurred to me how many people I had to seek out and meet, connect with in order to have the amazing experience I did have. It wouldn’t have been the same if I hadn’t met my friend from Melbourne or my airport ride from Brisbane, my fellow volunteers, my nighttime co-adventurers.
The thing I appreciate more and more about this culture is that it is a culture. Anywhere in the world, you feel at home, immediately relieved with people who are from that same culture. It’s like speaking the same language. Not for nothing that the first words you will hear at Burning Man are “welcome home”.
This experience plays into my thoughts and ideas about community, how community is formed and what happens when a bunch of people with agency get together.
Spectacular beauty, a backdrop for life-changing connections.