Guest author: Stephanie Aronson
Festival Survival Guide has made it overseas for Envision Festival 2016 in Costa Rica! It was actually my second year at Envision and let me tell you, this festival is not like any other we have covered. I know, I know, you can say that about any festival, but this is an international transformational festival. Apart from the music, I am completely blown away by all the little efforts this festival makes to be absolutely beautiful while still maintaining environmental conservation.
I’ll start with the venue. Envision takes place in the jungle on the Pacific coast of the country, a few kilometers (I know, metric system) from the very small town of Uvita. The venue includes a short trail through the woods to the beach, where in past years, it is tradition to spend sunset. Festival goers would cheer as the last little sliver of sunlight dips below the horizon. Unfortunately, for 2016, this tradition was suspended due to high tide complications causing the beach to close early everyday for our safety. But I have high hopes it will continue on next year! Almost all of the construction is done with natural materials, wood and bamboo, so as to leave as little footprint as possible. All the signs are hand-painted and there are nifty things around like a giant climbable structure at one of the main stages and driftwood sculptures.
Now for the good stuff: the music and workshops. The schedule is jam packed with yoga, workshops, and music. One thing I especially got a kick out of was The Red Tent, which had workshops for “womb”yn. Get it? Women. Anyone can find workshops that fit their personality, ranging from permaculture and sustainability to color therapy and ecstatic dance. The workshops were neat and insightful but I’m always in it for the music.
I was so impressed with the diversity in the music lineup this year. Although most of the performances are electronic music of various genres, i.e. Beats Antique, Shpongle, Digital Rust, and Lafa Taylor, there were gems such as Elephant Revival, a bluegrass band from Colorado as well. I was in constant awe of the projection mapping at both main stages, Sol Stage and Luna Stage. The Luna Stage also had side platforms for a variety of performers, pyrodancers, aerialists, and my personal favorite: a bubble-blower.
I can’t believe I almost forgot to write about the food! There’s always such a variety of food options at festivals and Envision is no different in that aspect. What does set Envision apart is that many of the vendors sport organic menu items, some vegetarian or even vegan. My favorite vendor was Luv Burger! I couldn’t get enough of their vegan burgers, especially the one with pineapple, teriyaki, and coconut bacon. That’s right, I said coconut bacon! There was also a fantastic coffee bar, providing some of that delicious Costa Rican coffee! But don’t forget your plate or cup! As an effort to eliminate waste, there aren’t any disposable eating materials and you are required to bring your own or place a nonrefundable deposit in order to receive what you need. Just another reason why I’m so in love with this little festival!
All in all, Envision is a gathering for self-expression and personal growth. It’s a very different experience for everyone as there are so many different ways to navigate all that it has to offer. Just make sure you arrive with an open-mind and you’ll be sure to leave with a full heart.
As for an actual guide to Envision Festival:
Transportation: Envision provides chartered shuttles that run $60 one-way from the San Jose airport to the venue. It’s about a four-hour ride and information can be found on the Envision website. I prefer to use the local transportation and took a “Tico Bus” from San Jose to Uvita for about $10. I’ve used these buses in the past and they are very reliable. Just make sure to get to the bus station early to buy your ticket in case they sell out. The same goes for returning, always chose a bus time that allows you ample time to arrive at the airport for your flight, Costa Rican roads take a bit longer than US ones to travel.
Lodging: Envision for me has always been a camping festival. You may decide to stay in one of the hostels in Uvita or Domincal, or an AirBnb in either town, but these places sell out fast so make sure you book far in advance. And why not be right where the action is? You are literally camping inside the venue where the stages are, there’s no separation between stages and camping which is one thing I absolutely love but if you are a light-sleeper, you may have a bit of trouble dozing off with the music going until sunrise. They added the new feature of car-camping this year so you can camp right next to your car if you rented one but it’s a bit farther away from the action. On this note: you have to be very cautious of any valuables you may have brought (cough, passport, cough). There is a “Secure Bag Check” which I highly recommend! I left my passport and extra cash in there all weekend for $6 ($20 if you want to be able to get in and out of your bag) and they stayed completely safe! I wouldn’t leave anything you’re not comfortable living without in your tent unattended.
Bathrooms: This year, they introduced natural bathrooms so as to reduce the amount of Porto-potties on site. There were composting toilets, for lack of a better word, when you need to go #2 and natural urinals for #1. There was even a “Moon Pod” for women with a very special visitor.
Packing: You will need to be quite the light-packer for Envision but since you are most likely traveling out of the country, you also want to be very prepared, especially for the heat and humidity. You’ll want to pack what you normally can’t live without at festivals (tent, clothing, toiletries) but also pay close attention to a few things:
- A re-usable water bottle: there are no plastic water bottles for sale at bars. If you forget one, you can always buy one at the merchandise booth or a vendor.
- A plate/bowl, cup, and eating utensils: the vendors do not provide disposable eating tools. I brought a mess kit in which all of the items fit inside each other nicely! Look up Light My Fire mess kits. You can also buy these at a local grocery store if you do not want to travel with them.
- Electrolytes! Bring those little flavor packets that have electrolytes in them for your water bottle. You can drink water all day but you’ll also need to replenish the sugar and sodium in your body or it won’t mean a thing in that heat.
- Travel towel: try a micro-fiber camping towel, it packs small and dries quickly. I used mine for showers, which were only $4.
- Beach towel/tapestry: if you don’t want to use your shower towel at the beach.
- Shade: try to bring something you can somehow place over your tent to provide you with some extra shade. Once the sun comes up at about 6-7am, you will be up too so this might help you sleep just a little longer. This can double as your beach thing.
- Hammock: this year they provided a hammock village so it was not as necessary to bring your own if you wanted a relaxing swing.
- Portable fan/mister and extra batteries: if you have a hard time in heat and humidity for extended periods of time, this will be your saving grace.
- A ratcheting headlamp: you’re in the jungle and there is some overhead lighting at night but bring one to be safe. I only brought a flashlight and I was envious of everyone who had a headlamp.
- BUG SPRAY AND SUNSCREEN: no explanation necessary on these. Try to avoid the aerosol ones, as they are not environmentally friendly. Also bring some sort of anti-itch cream and aloe.
- Rain tarp: Envision takes place in the dry-season but that doesn’t mean it can’t rain. It rained for a solid few hours this year and if it weren’t for my tarp, everything I brought would have been soaked!
Envision also provides their own “Survival Guide” on the website. I highly recommend reading it before you start your journey. It will provide you with more details for a few things and cover what I left out for length and attention purposes.
Oh, and make sure you take a quick trip to a waterfall in town! You can find one at Hostel Cascada Verde. The fresh, cold water and natural beauty will do wonders for your mental health.