Envision Festival 2017 (Feb 23rd-26th) is fast approaching for its 7th round in the Costa Ballena.  For those who think that it’s mostly just a bunch of naked, smelly hippies sitting around in drum circles, you are in for a treat – if you are open to trying something new.  Envision Festival brings together the very best qualities of Costa Rican lifestyle in a stunning environment, filled with music, arts, dance and more.  The Envisioners who pilgrimage to the Costa Ballena region from around the world are here to enjoy creativity and collective good will, all within a natural, tropical playground.  In this article are a few of the incredible things that make up this world-class festival:

The Setting

Nestled in the Rancho La Merced, Costa Ballena, somewhere in between Uvita and Dominical, this large, outdoor space if perfect for hosting the roughly 7500 (maximum capacity) fest-ers, whose camps are spread out along the different pathways that connect the festival grounds.  There are an abundance of trees lining the open ranch areas, where horse treks take place during the rest of the year.  Much time goes into the preparation of these grounds, so there are no worries about stepping in manure, and compost is a big focus, with composting toilets and an absolute, no-rubbish policy.  Hammocks can be hung for relaxing, and the beach is never far away, where hundreds of people can be found at any one time, playing in the waves, doing yoga, and performing various types of sacred movement, without prompt from anyone who happens to be around.  People here are all too happy to participate, inspired by the incredible setting of this space.

For those worried about the separation of sleep and waking-state, there are enough areas on the festival grounds which have no speakers pointed at them, for the express purpose of promoting the acceptance of all types of people.  If you like to be in bed by 10pm, you will have many more people joining you than you imagine.  Just in case you’re a light sleeper, don’t forget your ear plugs.

The Visitors

Voted to be one of the most engaging, entertaining, and eco-friendly festivals in the world time and again, Envision draws only the best people, who want nothing more than to share in a creative space with like-minded folk.  And because most people travel here from around the world, the visitors to the festival aim to appreciate all of the Costa Ballena region, often also traveling the rest of Costa Rica and even Central America while on this part of our globe.  The shops and tourist spots in the vicinity of the festival fill up quickly in the days surrounding, and the influx of dread-locked, scantily clad people milling around the local towns is where the festival’s bad reputation comes from.  Any other time of year, we have smatterings of these types of tourists (and locals, too), but because they descend on masse every year towards the end of February, the typically gossip-dry locals love to have something new and edge to discuss.

In my own experience of attending this festival in the past, I know that the people who arrive for Envision have a respectful and appreciative ethic, one that their collective appearance may not reflect accurately for the aged-expats and reserved locals who normally populate this region.  I promise you, the vast majority of them mean well, and their dread-locks and tattoos do not bite.

The Art

There are a vast array of musical genres represented at Envision, with artists arriving from as far as New Zealand to play to enthralled crowds.  With seven different stages, an Envisioner can traverse as many genres in a short span of time, walking around and appreciating the well-produced sounds, for which the organizers manage to retain sound separation, allowing for full immersion in each individual experience.  The general theme for the artists invited, and those who have been repeat performers for years, is positivity.  Each genre is represented by artists who spread messages of love and unity from the stage, offering their audience the sacred space to dance and enjoy themselves without pretension.  And for the record, there is hardly any sexualization evident at the event, despite the minimal amounts of clothing.  As a general, yet unspoken, principle, Envisioners are there to share in the collective space with everyone, not to hook up.

Dance performers and graphic visualizations accompany the music throughout the day and night, meaning that you will often see fire dancers, gymnasts hanging from sashes, and all manner of costumed performers, all with a backdrop of incredible light shows and music.  Regardless of intoxicant intake or full-sobriety, it is easy to find yourself in a trance state, completely immersed in the sensational performances that surround you at turn.

Visual art holds a prominent presence at this festival, with professionals and amateurs encouraged to participate, any time of day or night.  Collective murals are being worked on non-stop, and local artists have an incredible showcase, where they are encouraged to sculpt their craft in a public forum, display it, and sell it directly on the festival grounds.

The Education

I didn’t know what I could expect to do during the daytime when I first attended the festival, but my eyes were quickly opened to a myriad of possibilities.  Everywhere you go, there are opportunities to be educated, to learn, and to participate.  Talks of sustainability solutions, permaculture, spirituality, and so much more, take place throughout the day, as do all manner of yoga and meditation sessions, with five dedicated spaces and a wide assortment of teachers and methods from around the world.  Interactive craft-play is available for children, who are openly welcomed on the festival grounds, but also have a family-friendly section for a quieter retreat. 

If you want to explore what it means to be yourself in the midst of our human collective, there is no better, more welcoming, and more informative place in the world to spend four days.  Even if you couldn’t be bothered with music and sacred movement, there is hardly an opportunity to be bored if you favor cultivating your mind and body in more gentle ways, learning from highly-respected teachers from within Costa Rica, and around the world.

The Food

Give up the meaty grub for the four days of the festival and I guarantee that you will not be disappointed.  There are so many delicious and healthful meal options at Envision, and you won’t be sorry to skip the steak when your mind and palate are being expanded to so many new flavor possibilities – and your body will feel so much better for it.  Helpful tip: remember to wash your hands before every meal, as last year there was a tummy bug that went around the fest and left a lot of campers unhappy.  This can be easily prevented with a bit of self-care.

And for another side note to food, the safety precautions and medical aid (of alternative and traditional varieties) are prominently displayed around the grounds, with services free for all to use.  Eco-dish washing stations, showers, and first-aid tents are littered around the center of the festival village, making it easy for everyone to have access to help and health whenever they need.

The Community

Envision is a collectivist haven.  For anyone who loves to mix and mingle with new people, this is a place for you.  The very young and less youthful in age are well represented in this beautiful amalgamation of positive, good-hearted, loving people, who want nothing more than to share in cultivated, curated, and spontaneous special moments with whomever is around.  Sit down, and you might get a massage from a smiling stranger.  Stand around, and you’ll likely be approached by someone passing by, saying hello and asking how you are.  A loving energy abounds at this festival and it would do the local population well to recognize how the energy of the Costa Ballena is reflected in all who attend, and how it serves to draw this wonderful congregation of creatives in our every day sacred space.  They go home and spread the love that they enjoyed here, sending more positive vibrations back this way.  It is time to be thankful that Envision is here and to embrace it in a big, loving hug, grateful for it’s brief but strong presence.

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