Last weekend I disappeared into Squaw Valley for four days of yoga, meditation, and music.
The festival was hosted by Wanderlust, one of the companies that I currently write for. They have these festivals all over the world, many of which are located in the United States. It’s sort of like if Lululemon and Burning Man had a flexible, vegan baby with a lust for the outdoors and extraordinarily clean chakras.
First of all, you don’t need to practice yoga to go. You can be a newbie and have a blast. I met so many people who came purely to have a mindful, fun experience and they loved it. One guy came thinking it would be an EDM festival. He was surprised by the fact that, yes, he would be doing yoga, but he had a great time and was able to use his glowsticks without shame.
Squaw Valley was likely created when Mother Nature was up at 2am drinking Irish coffee and thinking, “I’m just gonna throw all my favorite shit together and see what happens.” There are mountains, there is snow, there is a lake of deep cerulean, and there are cotton-candy sunsets. There are forests, waterfalls, and fields of wildflowers; daisies and Queen Anne’s Lace cascade down the hills as if someone had once rolled out a sleeping of seeds. It’s the sort of place one goes to drop off the face of the earth. (And if you’re like me, and camping 9,000 feet above the ground, you actually want to make sure this doesn’t happen.)
Wanderlust is not your typical festival. While there are concerts, there’s also meditation classes, workshops on how to minimize waste, dance parties, cacao ceremonies. If you plan on going (which I recommend), here’s your guide:
1. Buying passes
Tickets for Wanderlust are constantly on sale, as the festivals happen all over the world. These are the current festival locations:
Squaw Valley, CA
Sunshine Coast, AU
Tremblant, QC CA
Whistler, BC CA
The upcoming festivals are Whistler (July 28th-August 1st), Tremblant (August 11-14th), and Sunshine Coast (October 20th-23rd). The festivals kick back up with Oahu in February and span throughout the summer.
2. Who to bring (Or not)
Wanderlust will appeal to anyone with an open mind and a willing spirit. I saw folks with best friends, couples, families, and mom-and-daughter duos. I attended the event alone, which I think was really special in it’s own way. (I knew a few online friends from editorial, and we were able to connect.)
Regardless of who you bring, the your guaranteed to make friends and talk to strangers. It’s fun to share the experience with someone you love (next year I’d love to bring my mom), but you can certainly enjoy it solo.
3. Planning your schedule
One of the things that makes Wanderlust different from other festivals are the classes, hikes, and workshops. While the music is awesome, the classes keep you healthy and strong throughout the festival experience. Most of them are taught by famous yoga instructors and meditation gurus, and have revolutionary ideas in their fields. It’s a great opportunity yoga veterans to dive deeper into their practices and for newbies to try one out.
When planning, I recommend having a decent mixture throughout your day. I found myself doing well having two yoga classes (typically one Yin and one heavy Vinyasa flow), a hike or dance party, and a meditation. In the afternoon, there are sometimes pool parties, which is a fun way to grab a cocktail and rest in between classes. Do some research and find out which yoga teacher work in a style that sparks your curiosity. Don’t be afraid to try something new or take classes on your own.
My favorites this year were Sake 101, Wild Women Dance Party, Navel Academy (a core and Kundalini class), and a chakra balancing meditation. Check the schedule even after you’ve planned your days–they sometimes add new events as it gets closer to the festival.
You can also purchase dinners, cocktail parties, and other unique food and drink events. I paid a bit extra to participate in a Cacao ceremony, which was a beautiful and trippy experience. I could go on and on about the tranquility that followed tiny dixie cups of pure drinking chocolate, but I will save that for a separate post.
The classes DO fill up so plan early if you want to make sure you get your first choices!
4. Where to sleep
There are SO MANY places to stay in most of these locations that book a place can be overwhelming. For Squaw I ended up camping, which was lovely and a test to my character. Check the weather. In Squaw it can be VERY windy, so you’ll want to bring good stakes and make sure your tent is in there NICE AND TIGHT! In my experience, campgrounds were typically pretty tame–most people are too exhausted to party and you can do a lot of that on festival grounds.
You can also book lodges and condos through Wanderlust, or use AirBNB to find a place with your friends. Camping only extended until Sunday afternoon, but my new friends and I wanted to stay an extra night so we found an AirBNB in Lake Tahoe. It was right next to the water, and at sunset we wandered out to drink wine, practice yoga poses, and howl at the moon.
5. What to pack
Like Burning Man, Wanderlust is the sort of place where you can get away wearing whatever you want. The major difference is that you will be exercising, so if you want to wear something wacky and fun, be sure that you can move around in it. I mostly wore funky yoga pants and crop tops, adding a sweater or denim jacket at night. (It gets cold!) A bathing suit, layers, sneakers, Birkenstocks or flip-flops, warm sleeping clothes, sunglasses, a yoga mat, and sunscreen are all musts.
As for going out, some people wore dresses and heels, but these are by no means the norm. I went to a Lululemon party off grounds and there were folks in everything from formal wear to Teeki pants.
At Squaw the campgrounds weren’t the type you’d cook on, so you don’t need a stove or anything like that. Rather plan on bringing your favorite snacks, like granola bars and grapes. There are water filling stations but you may want an extra jug or bottle for your tent. Also, I kept a cooler in my car and filled it with ice everyday. This was a lifesaver because it would get HOT and I wanted to keep my fresh fruit, chocolate, and white wine nice and cold.
6. What/where to eat
As I mentioned above, snacks are key. There are typically restaurants and food trucks on the grounds, all of which have kickass vegan and gluten-free foods. Lydia's Kind Foods was my favorite; By the end I had eaten a curry plate, hummus wrap, and truckmade veggie burger. The Lydia trucks travel to festivals all over the country.
I know what you’re probably thinking, “typical yogi, eating only plants.” But Wanderlust is about being mindful, and part of being mindful means eating with awareness. Hippie-talk aside, it really, truly is better for the environment to cut back on meat consumption, and that’s something (even if we love our bacon burgers) I feel we should be aware of. If you can’t be without meat, no stress! Some of the restaurants have things more up your alley.
Also, THE SAMPLES. There are soooooo many health brands who work with Wanderlust and lots of them are giving away little taste treats throughout the day. This was how I ate lunch the entire time I was there, no joke. There were baby protein shakes, granola bars, kombucha drinks, vegan ice cream, probiotic shots, veggie burger sliders, and more. Also, all of the vendors were required to use compostable serving ware. More points, WL.
7. Mentally prepare
At Wanderlust you will do a ton of stretching, dancing, and mindful activity. This encourages a sort of “bliss-like” state, and all of the heart and hip opening can make you emotional. Our physical postures relate so much to our emotional state, and spending a lot of time hunched over, or sitting still can cramp muscles and harden bodies. That rigidity and hardness doesn't just affect how our physicality, but can also leak into our mental space. So by clearing all this, you might find yourself a bit more, uh, weepy, or affectionate than you might normally. (Here's some more info on the science and kinesiology behind this.)
When you’re in this state, your more likely to initiate conversations with strangers, hug your friends, and have public makeouts with your partner(s). It’s soothing. It’s beautiful. It’s getting high from bending your body and HOW FUCKING COOL IS THAT?
8. Don’t try to do it all
Yeah, I had anxiety at a yoga festival. Irony, am I right? Luckily, I was given the aforementioned advice before I went, and keeping it in mind made things so much easier. Wanderlust is full of awesome things, many of them occurring at the same time. It’s a pick and choose situation, and you may not get everything you want, but I can assure you that the experience you end up with will be a great one.
You will be tired. You’re working out all day and dancing all night. Skip a class and take a nap. Hang by the pool. Sleep in. You simply are not yoga superman and thinking about the Wanderlust you “could have had” or “should be having” is just too exhausting for your zenned-out brains to do.
9. Go wild
Do you have fears about being judged? I definitely do, and I threw that shit to the wind. I danced with abandon, sort of like I had just snorted a line of ground coffee, coke, and pixie sticks. (I hadn’t. Save for a glass or two of wine, I was sober.)
I attended the Wanderlust Spectacular, the Wild Women Dance Journey, and a few concerts. At all of these bad boys I, as the cool kids are saying, “let my freak flag fly.” I twisted and contorted and crawled on the ground. I held hands with strangers and did acro yoga on a tram. No. One. Cares. And if they are judging you, so what? Do you like being a judge-y person? NAH, BRAH. Judgey-judgersons are lame and stuffy. You are cool. You are a fucking ANIMAL and it feels good to stomp your feet and howl at moon.
10. Leave no trace
I’m stealing the Burning Man motto for this one: Clean up your messes! This festival would be a huge oxymoron if we didn’t mindfully consume while we were there. Bring a reusable bottle and thermos. Make us of the compostable serving materials. Recycle appropriately and do not purchase or use containers that cannot be recycled.
Even if this isn’t your norm, it’s nice to make it that way throughout the festival. As you reconnect with the earth, be good to the earth. Mama Nature gives us strawberries and wine and pheromones. Let’s show her some love.
Now the above is a detailed list of things you might like to know, but if you want a simpler version, Clarissa Pinkola Estés has a great list. She wrote this for Women Who Run With the Wolves, with the title “General Wolf Rules for Life”, but I like to think you can apply it to many things. Especially Wanderlust.
3. Rove in between
4. Render loyalty
5. Love the children
6. Cavil in moonlight
7. Tune your ears
8. Attend to the bones
9. Make love
10. Howl often