Upon stepping off the plane in San Jose I could instantly feel the magic of Costa Rica seeping in from every crevice; the climate was a lot warmer and stickier than I was used to, all the locals had a glistening golden tan and everyone greeted us with wide genuine smiles and salutations of “Pura Vida!” We had made it; after months of preparation, planning and countless hours of traveling and plane changes, we were here and ready to experience all that Envision Festival had to offer.
A huge part of what makes Envision Festival such a special gathering is its unique location; taking place in a tropical, lush paradise, Costa Rica is the perfect setting for radical transformation, eco-conscious learning, inner-exploration and soulful rebirth to occur. During the last weekend of February about 6,000 attendees from all around the globe helped celebrate Envision’s fifth year at its home in Uvita, small town about 3 hours south of San Jose where the jungle covered mountains meet the sparkling beach and the landscape is overflowing with an abundance of fresh fruits, coconuts and wildlife.
This humble gathering is unlike any other and Envision Festival is truly paving the way for future transformative festivals and setting the bar high for their competition. This festival is a compilation of some of the smartest, most hard working people in the industry who are tirelessly trying to improve the event year after year, not only how to make it better but how to reduce the environmental impact of such a large gathering on the local community. By implementing a “Leave No Trace” policy and banning the sale and consumption of single use products they are urging attendees to practice self-reliance and environmental responsibility. To buy a beverage or meal from a vendor you must bring your own plate, cup and utensils or rent one to rewash once you are finished- saving the landfill from thousands of paper products! Not only is Envision redefining the way we eat food at a festival but they are changing the way we answer the call of Mother Nature as well; long gone are the days of rows of smelly Porto potties and chemicals. Using locally harvested bamboo, festival organizers built composting toilets to cut down on the carbon footprint and redistribute nutrients back into the Earth that we so abundantly take from.
In addition to being extremely Eco-conscious, there are so many activities and entertainment to choose from during the day to keep you busy! You can spend your afternoon practicing yoga with world renowned teachers such as Rachel Brathen, sitting in on a meditation workshop, sipping some specially brewed tea at the tea lounge, browsing the many incredible vendors, enjoying a freshly cut open coconut while catching a cat nap in the shade or munch on the most delicious falafel you've ever tasted. If you get too hot during the day you can take a dip at the beach which is just a very short walk through a jungle like portal that is lined with local Tico vendors selling their handmade jewelry, art and food. Envision did a fantastic job providing a space for everyone of all ages and hobbies to enjoy and be able to experience what they traveled so far for. Envision goes way beyond just being labeled a music festival, in fact this is actually the first festival I've attended where I have asked people which performance they were most excited for and a majority told me that they were mostly in attendance for the workshops and spiritual gathering aspect that the festival provides and that the music was just a bonus for them.
Perhaps one of my favorite parts of the festival was the global aspect it provided; I haven’t traveled much out of the United States so not only am I attending a festival I have never been to but also in a foreign country. There is something so organic about this, being somewhere you've never been with Costa Rican Colones in hand and locals speaking in languages you don’t understand. Meeting people from all over the world, hearing different accents, seeing the way people from other places of the globe live and dress was incredibly refreshing. It seemed as if everyone I met was meant to cross paths with me, sharing stories of their life and travels in exotic places such as Bali, Thailand, New Zeland and Australia and sharing intimate stories with me about what brings them to Envision. We may all have traveled a long way for different reasons but here, at Envision, we were one. We joined together and let down our hair and our guards and we got dirty, sweaty and danced barefoot with wild abandon without a worry in the world. Yes it was hot, and periodically the running water got shut off but it only bonded us together more, people sharing their water and helping their fellow tribe members stay cool and hydrated. By the end of the weekend we had all adapted to the elements, with a nice base tan and sheer lightweight fabrics draped over our head and shoulders to keep us cool as we danced the sunsets into sunrises.
Envision festival created a magical place for some of the most beautiful people inside and out to gather, learn, dance, cry, laugh and grow together. With all of the structures and activities at Envision, you can clearly see and feel all the hard work that went into building such a magical paradise for us to play. There were 2 large stages and 3 smaller stages that featured acts such as The Polish Ambassador, Wildlight (with live band debut!), Groundation, Ott, Emancipator and Random Rab. The Luna stage featured performance artists showcasing talents such fire fans, interpretive dance, double fire staff, aerial silks and hula hoops and also featured live painting next to the stage by artist visionaries such as Android Jones and Amanda Sage. The stages, as with all of the structures at Envision including the crazy climbing contraptions, bridges and slides were all constructed out of locally harvested bamboo and local reclaimed materials.
Perhaps what truly sets Envision apart from most destination festivals is every night at sunset, the entire festival would make their way to the beach for a sunset ceremony complete with drum circles and fire spinners to celebrate the coming of nightfall. The energy on the beach was infectious, howling at the sun as it dipped beneath the water on the horizon, dancing topless on the shoreline or sharing a deep conversation with a new friend; the air was filled with love and everyone was free, there was no room for judgment here and what an incredible feeling that is!
While the daytime is a great time to enjoy some live music, the nighttime is when the temperature starts cooling down and and the music starts heating up; lasers dancing across the trees, fire performers taking the stage and LED flowtoys begin filling the crowd. If you have it in you to make it through the night, sunrise sets are a staple part of the Envision culture and this year they did not disappoint! AtYyA made his Envision debut as the first sunrise set of the weekend, flanked by fire spinners on both sides of the stage while delivering sacred ethereal sonic bliss and keeping festival goers moving as the sun peaked through the trees at dawn. The following morning featured a sunrise set from Random Rab with vocal assistance from Ayla Nereo and Emancipator's own Ilya Goldberg on the violin. It was a truly incredible morning filled barefoot dancing, downtempo dub and the faint smell of Palo Santo and incense in the air. Monday morning sunrise was my personal favorite featuring a 2 hour Emancipator set followed by a surprise performance by Desert Dwellers who were not even on the lineup!
Envision festival is truly a tropical paradise and an incredible place to feel alive- to learn, grow, transform, figure out who you are and make your wildest dreams come true. Making connections with new friends, hearing a speaker say something that resonates within you, nailing a new yoga position, trying a food you have never tasted or falling in love with an artist’s you have never listened to… it is all possible when you open up your heart and your mind to new experiences and overcome challenges that may be holding you back. A huge thank you to Envision Festival for providing us the means to grow, the country of Costa Rica for the perfect location, all the wonderful people behind the scenes who work tirelessly to bring such a magical place to life and to all the beautiful attendees who made this festival so incredible, Pura Vida!
All photos by ATS Photography
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