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A World Festival Survival Guide

WORLDWIDE | Friday, 3 February 2012 | Views [2440]

Music is an international language, a tool that can only be used for good in the breaking of boundaries between people. From enjoying some Bob Marley in an Amsterdam coffee shop with a Jamaican, to the international beer-drinking language of Polka, I’ve come to understand that music transcends everything. 

Music Festivals are somewhat of a global circuit. The Big Day Out starts in Australia in Summer and then many of the bands begin a good 6-8 months of touring, following these festivals and playing sideshows along the way. While they might have most things taken care of for them, from a plush hotel room to the excessive demands on the rider, the international traveller often has a different experience on the travel circuit. If you’re looking at heading to a UK or European Festival, or even to the states, here are some things to bear in mind;

Give Yourself Some Time

I have attended both V Festival in the UK and Oktoberfest in Germany, and it was straight to the campsite from the airport each time. I can tell you now, if you’re anything like me, going straight from minimal sleep on a plane to a campsite where you have to set up and get ready while surrounded by drunken people, followed by a night of minimal sleep because of said drunken people, you can be pretty damn irritable by the time the festival comes around. 

You might be more of a party animal than myself, but bear it in mind. Get a hotel for a night before you head to the campsite. You’ll thank yourself for it because…

You’ll Get Minimal Sleep

If you’ve had a good night’s sleep beforehand, you’ll be better prepared. If not you’ll just have to endure, knowing there’s not much you can do. The non-stop party atmosphere of the massive campsites is a great vibe, but certainly not conducive to sleeping. Given that many of these are 2-3 day festivals, be prepared. A hotel also provides the benefit of having a long, extensive, warm shower before you spend a few days in your own muck.  

Take a Tent

Once again, as you go straight from the airport to the campsite you might as well take everything you need. You can leave the tent when you’re done, who cares, so make it a cheap one, but also preferably one that water doesn’t get into - attempting to get a tent in a town near the festival, as well as a sleeping bag, will be difficult given that thousands of people before you were also ill-prepared.

Get Your Bearings

If you’ve already been to a camping festival in Australia you’ll know the potential hazards of stumbling back to the right tent in the middle of the night while intoxicated. Overseas the festival campsites are about 3-4 times bigger and there is often more than one site, so knowing where you are is crucial. 

There are systems to help but if you’re jet-lagged, tired and drunk you might need even more help than that. While stumbling into someone else’s tent may turn out to be a rewarding experience, the odds of this are low compared to the odds of starting a fracas. 

Get Some Earplugs

The debate about whether it’s cool or not to wear earplugs at a music festival still rages, but these serve multiple purposes. In my last travel experience I found that sleeping with earplugs in certain instances made sleep happen in circumstances that certainly weren’t helping. This is not a long term solution. Sleeping with earplugs can cause damage to your hearing, so don’t do it every night for crying out loud. 

They will help you sleep when all hope seems lost. If you can, try and steal an eye mask from the plane as well, it will help with the consistent lighting that fills the campsite of a night time.  

Be Somewhat Responsible

Remember that, there is a heavy police and security presence at these events, to scale with the size of these festivals compared to Australia. Have some drinks, but drink sensibly. Do not take drugs into the festival. God knows there are already enough in there. Don’t think that you can get away with being a more reckless version of yourself at these events. If you’re the kind of person that draws trouble here, you’d be the same over there. Keep that in mind. 

Enjoy Yourself! 

You are experiencing a cultural melting pot on the other side of the world. The home you create around your campsite over the multiple nights you’re there becomes a community of people from all over the world. 

You might be tired, jet-lagged, frustrated and/or grumpy but you’re not going to get opportunities like this too often. We all know what festivals have to offer but the camping experience is truly unique. You will make new friends and have new experiences that will stay with you for a lifetime. And then there are the bands!  

Related articles:

A Taste of Germany - Local Brews

Burning Man - USA

Oktoberfest Tips and Survival Guide

About the Author

David Piepers is student of international relations, a foreign diplomat in training, culminating in research at overseas meetings of the minds such as music and beer festivals. Dave’s travel advice is like that of the father you never had. A father who’s slept in some of the worst hostels Europe has to offer. Follow him on twitter @jvanderp.

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Tags: festivals, germany, music, travel, uk

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