13 Things I Learned from Lightning in a Bottle
According to Wikipedia, a transformational festival is, “a counterculture festival that espouses a community-building ethic, and a value system that celebrates life, personal growth, social responsibility, healthy living, and creative expression. Transformational alludes both to personal transformation (self-realization) and steering the transformation of culture toward sustainability.”
From the glorious moment of arrival, the community vibes are high energy and all-encompassing. Even while waiting in line to get your car in, people all around are buzzing with excitement and anticipation, cheering most of the long wait time. This is going to be one weekend you’ll be wishing would never end, so leave your troubles at the gate and get ready for some considerably playful and imaginative camping. Here are some things I have learned from this year’s LIB as a first-timer.
- Setting Up Camp- There is a lot to take in, and the map itself is pretty huge. From finding a parking spot to dragging your stuff to your campsite in ridiculously scorching weather, this festival site is not for the faint of heart. However, if you need help or get lost, there are many people around to give you a boost of moral support, and your campsite neighbors will (hopefully) end up being your friends. Since two campsites are better than one, sharing is caring! Need a lighter? Ask your neighbor. Need help covering your entire body in glitter? Anytime! Most neighbors at a music festival are super cooperative in terms of space, and sometimes it can be hard to tell when your camp ends and theirs begins. I, unfortunately, had one neighbor who was very loud and rude to us when we asked them to turn their music down (it was 6 in the morning) and they actually turned the music up instead. Besides these unfortunately cantankerous bystanders, most were amazingly charitable and respectful.
- Missing Out- There is so much to see, so try your best to get a glimpse of everything or your friends are gonna rub it in that you missed the huge telescope or the amazing art installations, or anything else they saw that you didn’t. You don’t want that kind of regret, so make it a point to walk everywhere and see everything you can. If there is anything you MUST SEE, make sure to do it. However, a lot of my favorite artists were those that I just randomly walked in on and fell in love with. I missed a lot of musicians I already knew, but got to find out about some new ones instead, so I didn’t feel too bad about that.
- Getting Lost- It’s easy to get lost, but LIB gives you personal maps and they have a lot of maps scattered around the festival grounds, so you won’t be too lost for long. Also, just ask a stranger, since everyone has been misplaced at one point or another. Within my first day of being there (until my phone died), I had walked about 10 miles. That is a pretty small number considering that was only half of the first day I was there. There will be a lot of walking from one stage to another, so comfy shoes are a must. Boots are a safe bet, since you’ll be walking over rocks and shrubby areas, as well as climbing up hills and kicking up a lot of dust. Also, don’t wear white shoes or any shoes you don’t want to ruin. I found this out the hard way.
- Friends- It’s smart to not meet up with friends the entire time. It’s easier to just meet at a stage during a performance, or to meet up at camp or any specific location during a certain time. I wasted a lot of time trying to find friends or help them find someone else. Just do what you want to do, whenever you want to, or take one person and not a huge group. My loud and rude neighbors were, surprisingly, very organized, as they had a whiteboard where they would write out the schedules. From __ to __ o’clock, they would pre-game. Then they would go see ___. Then at __thirty, they would do another thing. It seemed to work pretty well for them, though if you lagged, you got left behind. Ouch.
- Staying Cool- Water is something that is extremely important. I saw a handful of people collapse on the ground while their friends yelled for help, possibly due to dehydration and heat exhaustion. You don’t want to have heat exhaustion, it is a horrible feeling and will make the rest of the festival incredibly hard for you to do anything. It’s critical to have a hat, umbrella, sunglasses, sunscreen, and a fan. It gets really hot, and you won’t regret coming prepared. A handheld fan is incredibly useful during DJ sets that are during the day, since you can cool yourself off without having to leave your awesome spot in the front. LIB had lots of free water refill stations, so you won’t be thirsty for long.
- Staying Warm- This location gets hot during the day and really cold at night. It’s essential to go back to camp and change into warmer attire after the glorious sunset. If you don’t want to trek back to camp, just bring a backpack with warm clothes. Wearing layers is always a good idea and when it comes to sleeping, and a sleeping bag and heavy blanket will do the trick.
- Dust- Wear a dust mask of some kind, believe me, you’ll need it. The festival workers do everything they can to keep the dust to a minimum, but there will always be a lot that you will breathe in regardless. Especially in crowded areas when people are dancing or walking, dirt is kicked up a lot and goes straight to your lungs. You’ll most likely leave with a slight cough and lots of sneezing, but a mask goes a long way. It can help during the day to wet this mask or bandana so your face stays cool, and you can also buy some oils from vendors that help open your lungs up and fight allergies and irritation in your nose. I put a few drops on my mask and noticed the improvement almost immediately.
- Sleeping- If you’re tired, take a nap, but don’t sleep too long or you’ll sleep through everything. I did this. I decided to take a nap and ended up sleeping for six hours, right through everything I wanted to see. It’s important to take care of yourself, especially those of us that can’t function without sleep. For those of you that can, just power through the exhaustion and you’ll be sure to not miss a beat. Don’t forget to bring some kind of foam pad to sleep on, unless you’re ok sleeping on the ground. You can get one for less than ten dollars. It’s very hard to sleep in during the day, since when the sun comes up it gets extremely hot, especially inside a tent. One camp close to mine had a hammock hive that they built themselves. It had some clever name that eludes me right now, but it was basically this wooden contraption with a few hammocks hanging comfortably under some shade, free for anyone to use. It was a wonderful idea and I had my fair share of naps thanks to their innovation.
- Charging- Bring portable chargers that work because your phone is going to die. Unless you’re ok with taking zero pictures and having no way to communicate with anyone, ever, it’s good to have a high-quality charger that will keep you connected. Some people have generators or solar powered chargers, and a lot are willing to share these tools with anyone who needs a quick boost. It was, however, kind of nice not having technology for the weekend. It made me realize how much we are always on our phones, but how else am I going to look at animals in silly hats?
- DRUGS!- In terms of party favors, there will always be varying levels of intoxication. I saw one particularly naked man flailing around in the dirt, confused and aggressive. He is a poster child for what not to do at a music festival, or ever. Most people know their limits and what they are comfortable doing, and whatever you decide to do is at your own discretion. Just always be sure to take proper precautions and listen to your gut instincts.
- Other things to do- There is so much to this festival besides music. During the day, there are countless experiences to be had. If you’re looking for yoga, there are a plethora of ways to get your fix. There are traditional practices, some that have music and dancing, some that are for stretching and some that are solid workouts. This is true in meditation as well, as their schedules are so vast and the possibilities are endless. It may be hard to go to all the ones that pique your interest, but try to make at least one or two. There are also talks by amazing and knowledgeable experts. These talks range from how to eat healthy and take care of your body, to sound healing, and a mystery school that talks about spiritual transformations. I listened to a talk from a teacher at Stanford who discussed spirituality and robots. Some talks are about aliens, the universe and everything in between. There are amazing performers at LIB, from trapeze to burlesque and even some of the attendees had a fire spinning circle, the first official at LIB so far. These fire dancers were probably some of the best in the country. LIB also had bowling, derby racing, talent shows, and so much more. What you decide to do is up to you, just don’t miss it!
- Community-The community presence is the most amazing thing about the festival. Strangers have offered me snacks and drinks, and I have done so in return. If you see someone that needs help, offer to help, and the kindness will be returned when you are in need. This is a place of love, acceptance, and open-mindedness more than anything else. The amount of compassion and respect here is more than anything I have ever experienced, and it’s something that has changed me as a person- for the better! I can’t tell you what you’re going to experience, just that it’s going to be one of the most amazing weekends of your life. I never felt like I was being harassed by anyone, and no one was passing any judgements. Here you are free to be yourself and as long as you are respectful, others will open up to you and you will learn a lot from your fellow humans. We are one.
- Food, art, and shops- Food here is amazing, organic, and made with love from all the talented vendors. Most of the people that work the food trucks are volunteers, and they get to go to the event for free as long as they work. There are volunteers in the art galleries, marketplaces, and probably everywhere else as well. These are just music-loving people who are giving to the community and keeping us going strong. The vendors and artists work so incredibly hard and are all such inspiring and lovely people. This is a place where creativity reigns free and they put their hearts into each thing they create. So get in those vendor booths and art galleries and show them some love, they deserve it and you’ll walk out with a one-of-a-kind article that your friends will be envious of.
Overall, this festival has been a magical adventure full of community, spiritual growth, and harmoniously good behavior. I cried tears of joy, I laughed with strangers that I felt like I’ve known for years, I learned a lot of new things and got some good cardio in as well. As a first-timer, I picked up a few tricks that I am going to try out next year, but in spite of the sunburns, it was absolutely fascinating and inspirational. Above all, I have taken the spirit of open-mindedness and acceptance back with me to my everyday life. I see the world a little differently now, and if that isn’t expected at a transformational festival, I don’t know what is!