“!Entrada!” I exclaimed to the taxi driver with an extended arm and pointed finger as we reached the sign at the festival entrance.
“!Si, entrada!” He exclaimed driving right on down that dirt road forged in the middle of tropical green. Uh…ok, so I was being dropped off down the street and walking back.
Finally in line for that festival I had worked so hard to get to, I expected to be ecstatic. Instead I was having a low moment of wary impatience, over-stimulation and everything getting to me. Aware of it and trying to switch out of grouchy traveler mode, I struggled to be in the moment when a guy in line started to sing while playing his guitar and an old hippie in a court jester style hat and tie-dye short started talking all kinds of random nonsense with an occasional tap on his tambourine.
Looking around with irritated thoughts about how much of a challenge it was to tolerate the twenty-something festie types who came with what I perceived to be an inauthentic and entitled “we are the world but I know everything and should be catered to” attitude (see millennial memes), I wondered if I was just being a grouchy turd or had already passed the age of being able to enjoy the festival world. A sad thought given that I had just starting exploring it.
Finally making my way up the line in hot sun and sticky heat, a welcome turn came when I managed to head back toward a bit of zen soon after getting past the gates. It didn’t last long, unfortunately, thanks to a chick fitting the description above ironically tried to push her bottle under the spout for some Karma Tribe gifted ice-cold cucumber water before I could move out of the way. Awkwardly trying to screw on the water cap of my camelbak, you better believe I said scolded her. Proud in that moment for finally having a voice to stand up for myself after decades of being too easily walked on and insecure, I also simultaneously felt uneasy with the thought that I sounded like a mom. Ugh.
Begrudgingly continuing on as I began to set up camp in the harsh mid-day sun thanks to so few spots still available in open camping, I managed to find a little comfort in the memory it inspired of breaking down camp at Burning Man, only in an intense dry heat, a few months before. A difference that soon seemed to lead to my feeling not only a bit nauseous but also in my developing a slight headache. A bit dazed by the time I finished, I zombied around in circles despite knowing full well that I probably just needed a wee moment with less stimulation, rest and more agua. As to my feeling angry and full of shattered assumption, I was aware that part of the reason was thanks to my having high expectations (nowhere to go but down when starting from the top) and being too sensitive as to what a challenge it was going to be to find the burner vibe I was looking for among so much consumerism. A reaction that was soon to be seconded by Venesa once she arrived.
Wandering off after camp was finally set up, I managed to find a large and mostly empty palapa made of different-sized tree trunks and dried palms to lay down in. Thank God.
Half an hour or so after going limp, a bearded man about my age with a peaceful shamanic energy and smile that was just as big as his beard popped his face over mine to ask if it would be a bother to set up some stuff by me. Turned out he was about to lead a sound meditation workshop that ended up being just what I needed. Especially once the man laying next to me told me about a natural herb remedy tent he volunteered at by the medical station that could may be able to help with my symptoms. A recommendation that proved successful after getting through squeals, excitement and hugs once finally stumbling upon Venesa, her boyfriend (our first time meeting) and a man they had carpooled in with followed by showing them where to set up camp. The universe had finally given me a hand.
Finally taking a turn for the better from that point on, we excitedly threw up a cheers once settled in and the first celebratory drink continued on into many more through the wee hours. Adding on to that amusing ambiance, we even managed to buy some party favors from one of the people openly selling as they walked by every ten minutes. Something that gave me even more of a chuckle was when the guy allowed to send payment for my chocolate through Venmo.
Later that night, with what was to be the only big tropical storm of the weekend (my chance to channel Woodstock), a rainy downpour of a manic dance party broke out at the music stage we were at. One of those magical moments that ended up being my highlight of the festival. Even when we made it back to camp and realized that I had left my tent’s window open causing it to flood and all of my belongings to get soaked. A situation that, within 24 hours, was about to lead to everything in there smelling for the rest of the next few days to the point of my not being able to sleep during the few hours that I may have been able to otherwise.
Shout out to Venesa for helping me empty out the water when I was frozen in a drunken state of “oh nooooo” and thanks above for having paid to check important belongings like my laptop in a protected storage crate for $20.
Still, in contrast to the surly vibes I had a hard time shaking earlier that day, I found the humor in it. In no small part, thanks to remembering how nostalgia seemed to later pop up when thinking of those most challenging moments. Who knows why. Maybe because they tend to be when we most grow.