Macho Festival Newb and the Comfort Zone

Woman smiling on left. Man in middle making kissy face to man on right. All embraced posing for photo.
Photo by Jacob Avanzato

Last April I experienced my first festival. And I’d be lying if I said it didn’t have its ups and downs.

Getting out of my comfort zone was no easy task. Not to say that I’m not comfortable in my own skin. It had more to do with accepting that I wasn’t that aware of my own bubble and boundaries. I went with my new girlfriend and her group of avid festival goers. Needless to say I was a bit out of my element.

A little background about myself – I’m a 33 year old heterosexual male. I’ve worked in construction most my life, and the the most exotic thing I’ve probably ever worn is a tie dye tee shirt. Camping with a group of strangers, wearing costumes and possibly experiencing some different colored/shaped edibles was honestly a little unnerving.

To all the macho guys out there. I couldn’t have been more wrong about my impression of some “hippy event…”

The first thing I’m going to tell you is this: expectation and reality are two very different things. I’ve always been a go with the flow kind of guy, but grew up in small town in the sticks. It’s not that my values are entirely “traditional,” I just hadn’t been around this scene very much. The hugging, the extra friendly folks with the big pupils, the openness.

Motion photo of man in tie dye shirt and fully padded with elbow guards, helmet, and goggles.
Photo by Amanda Papandrea

My first moment of realization…

It came when we had to shuttle everyone’s stuff to the campground from the parking lot. There were 100 times more people than shuttles and we ended up taking multiple trips on foot to and from the parking lot and it must have been 100 degrees outside. Being the tough guy I am, I took about 3 cart loads up and down the hill myself. By the time I got the third load to camp I felt I was nearing death. No sooner did I lay my ass on the ground under a tree.

I look up and see Kyle and Rick (a couple I had just met) unloading my cart for me and Rick asking if he could use it to go grab another load. The small (but also huge) act of kindness took me by surprise. Mind you, Rick is a smaller build than me, and had already taken 3 himself. I said “Sure I need a break,” as I lay there thinking, “Damn that dude is a beast!”

Young child towing hand cart through festival.
Photo by Amanda Papandrea

After getting camp set up and a long nap later, it was time to get dressed and head to the first music performance. My girlfriend kindly took me festival shopping before hand, and as strange as I thought the clothes were, I did not regret them for a second when we got to the show.

I will say this, if your girl or your friends suggest you buy something they think looks good on you, do it! Once you are there and surrounded by everyone else in there own get-up you will quickly appreciate that decision.

Or you will be like me, and end up buying a few new things on day 2 when you start realizing you want to dress to whatever vibe your feeling when you wake up that day. And I didn’t bring enough clothes that said ‘James’ to me. Not a bad thing though, it is great to support the vendors either way.

Now back to the macho guy thing.

I can honestly say at one point over the weekend I was a little overcome with emotion at how nice every single person I encountered was. I met the most amazing people from all walks of life. Everyone was so cool and all there for the same reason. To express their individualism and have a great time! I never felt any pressure.

My preconceived fears of getting hit on, or feeling out of place in a circle of some hippie folks was really non-existent. We all sang, danced, and adventured around the festival all day and night. It was hands down one of the best experiences of my life and it shouldn’t stop anyone from feeling like they don’t belong because everyone really is welcome.

Lastly, I do want to note that my group knew what they were doing. I will advise coming with a positive attitude and being well prepared to have a great time.

Two men, shirtless, smiling deeply into each other's eyes. One has hands on other's face.
Photo by Eric Allen

Don’t forget to bring a few extra things to share too. You wont regret it. Lighten up and take some risks. Life’s to short to not party naked once or twice. Kidding, but serious. See you all at the next one!

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