Coming off from my semester abroad in Florence, Italy, I was pretty dismal about the impending summer months.
I am truly not trying to sound cliché when I say they were the most stellar months of my life – I have an episode to prove it. The day I had to move out of my apartment on via Ghibellina in Florence, all my roommates were gone and the song “So Good” by b.o.b came on my shuffle and I began crying uncontrollably as I dejectedly threw my new Italian clothes into my suitcase. Terribly embarrassing, I know – but I really did have it so good getting to live in Europe, travel the continent in crazy amounts, be a part of a new culture and indulge in some of the worlds most rich food and fashion.
Oh, and I also had not even been able to line up an internship yet for the summer, despite months of applications and emails.
As a rising senior, this worried me quite a bit. So I was leaving a place I never wanted to leave for a place that seemed to have nothing for me. I’m being dramatic, but this is how I felt.
I had my wonderful family and friends to come home to see, and it was undeniably sweet to be reunited. I still had no job, but I did get to finally relax after scuttling around the European borders every week for many months.
I eventually locked down two writing gigs in my area of New Jersey that ended up being genuinely rewarding, but the real twist to my seemingly dull summer was the amount of music festivals I randomly was able to attend around the country.
During the weeks in the summer I freelanced for a local online newspaper in my hometown of Morristown and also was a blogger-intern for a sustainable living website. I got to write a ton, and often about topics of my choosing about the environment, and also got to acquaint myself better with the city I only just moved to a year ago by reporting and writing on it.
But on a bunch of the weekends, I ended up at festivals. I had never even been to one at all before the summer began and by the end I had been to three of the biggest ones that happen in America each summer.
Now, music festivals are no small ordeal. The tickets are usually heftily expensive, from $100-$200 for the weekend. You have to get a camping pass, because they usually occur in places far and wide away from where most of the US population lives. And you usually have to drive there to get all your stuff there like your tent and your food and your clothes and yourself – so you end up having to travel hours upon hours to reach your destination.
I had the uncanny fortune to be offered a ticket to Bonnaroo Music Festival in Manchester, Tennessee for literally a fraction of its original price. That was the second week in June, and it took my three best friends and I 16 hours to drive there down from Boston, through Connecticut, through New Jersey, and then all the way down through parts of West Virginia and Virginia that you never want to see again. But the trip was undoubtedly worth it; for much less than many others who attended, and along with my best friends I got to see over twenty of my favorite musical groups such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Shins, Bon Iver, Skrillex, the Roots, Phish, and even Ludacris. It was ludacris, in fact.
I am also very fortunate to have an older sister who is a photographer who got me a free media/press pass ticket to Electric Forest Festival in Rothbury, Michigan, which is outside of Grand Rapids. That took us a whopping 10 hours each way and we had to drive through a ridiculous hail storm on the way home that permanently dented my poor mother’s car we borrowed. But the weekend was worth it because of the eclectic music I got to listen to, like Thievery Corporation, the String Cheese Incident, Major Lazer, Steve Aoki, Santigold, and Girl Talk. Oh, and the festival gets its namesake because of the giant forest it takes place in that they completely transform at night with installation art, rainbow-colored laser beams and lights, and millions of hammocks in between the trees. Read a review I wrote of this festival here from Backslash college magazine.
The third was Gathering of the Vibes, a festival that is not so far away from me in Bridgeport, CT. Thankfully, I have many friends from CT who were able to lend me a CT driver’s license in order to get a discounted ticket for being a ‘resident’ at this festival, which only set me back $20. Score! The Avett Brothers and ALO were among the best of the day and this festival closed out my summer of festivals at the end of July.
By August I was almost – just almost – molded into my inner-hippie self and completely sold on the music festival flow. They are amazing opportunities to put your normal life on hold, take a risk, make real movement, and enter into a temporary universe where an enormous flock of people comes together in the name of nature and unrivaled music.
I originally thought my summer was going to be as lame as can be but it really turned out that the fact that my writing gigs were at home and so flexible (unpaid things tend to be less demanding), they allowed me the incredible opportunity to keep traveling and trying new things and discovering new pockets of life and sound in my very own country. I may not have made next to any money at all this summer, or done much more than act like a freelancing flower-child, but I can’t really say I regret it because a festival – or three, if you’re lucky – is something that every free-spirit should take the time off to try.