A Trip and a Half: Envision Festival 2016

My partner Erin and I decided we were going to embark on an unforgettable journey to Envision Festival 2016 late one cool evening late last fall. It was not entirely clear what was drawing us to this communal event but we could not deny that something powerful was calling us there. We had been contemplating booking a trip to Southeast Asia for some time but once we discovered Envision we shifted our focus entirely to Central America. It seemed like a consciously fueled gathering that would prove to be as much of an educational seminar on sustainable living and community as it would a transcendental music festival. The whole idea excited us greatly. Personally I thought it would be the perfect chance to connect with likeminded souls, have intellectual conversations as well as confirm my own sanity. Fortunately our journey to Envision not only met but greatly exceeded our lofty expectations as well as restored our faith in humanity.
Over the last year or so I have become significantly more privy to some of the heartbreaking truths about our world and those who run it. I know now, especially with the help of events like Envision, that I am not alone in possessing this knowledge of truth. Not even close. Any individual with even an open mind and an internet connection can google topics like agriculture, healthcare, global economics, free-energy suppression, the pharmaceutical industry, politics, and the list goes on to come to an inevitable realization; there is massive collusion and corruption surrounding these connected issues that almost without exception can be traced back to the abuse of power and greed. These are issues that need to be addressed and discussed more openly between the masses. Thankfully, I now know they are. More and more humans are awakened every day to the realization that we live in a corrupt world that needs change. I have come to learn that the change must come from within before it can be experienced externally in the world around you. It may be a bit cliché but as Ghandi said “Be the change you want to see in the world.” After we experienced the Pre-Envision Tour followed by the Envision Festival it has never been clearer that thousands upon thousands and likely millions of fellow humans have taken that quote to heart. The abundance of beauty, creativity, music, connectivity, sustainability and love that we experienced on our “Journey to Envision” was truly inspiring. Envision felt like the most collective, conscious, compassionate, and powerful group of human beings all gathered in the jungle to express themselves and share.
Music is what brought Erin and I together, music brought us to Envision and provided us an opportunity to express ourselves and share our experience at Envision with others who will hopefully relate to our story. I met Erin at a music festival on the beach in Chicago called “Mamby on the Beach”. We felt an instant connection to one another and did not let life’s obstacles or circumstances stop our infatuation with one another from growing. I think it is important to stress that this was not easy at times. Anyone can create a thousand fear based rationalizations disguised as practicality as to why they cannot do something, just remember anyone can just easily create a thousand rationalizations based out of love to chase their dreams as well. I left my lucrative and secure corporate insurance sales job in late 2015 to pursue a life filled with more happiness. Erin left film school and her hometown in Canada with the intention of traveling more of the world and pursuing film/photography further in her own direction. She is an absolutely beautiful and talented being inside and out with a unique perspective of the world we live in. We both moved out of our apartments in Chicago and committed to embarking on this adventure. We also both were blessed with a unique freedom that enabled us to go or do whatever we wanted. We had the tickets to Envision and were stoked for the Pre-Tour but decided to start the journey early to explore more of Central America as well as avoid the harsh Chicago winter. Not to mention spread the word about Envision!
We started our Journey to Envision in Tulum, Mexico on New Year’s Eve for the Desert Hearts gathering in the Dos Osos Cenote. What an incredible night. One of the more memorable sets of the night which made us even more anxious for Envision was delivered by the English born DJ, Lee Reynolds, who moved to California in 1988 which is where he started spinning. Looked at as “Papa Lee” by the Desert Hearts crew Reynolds brings over twenty years of house music experience to the table. We were blown away by Lee’s set at Envision last Friday which occurred at the trippy Lapa Stage. The psychonaut deep-house vibe bumped through the jungle as the crowd danced passionately and long to the positive vibes being sent out. I know for a fact that Lee personally inspired a 35 year old Navy veteran turned successful salesman who lives in Seattle to start making music again. I know this because that 35 year young man was in our Pre-Envision Tour group and became a dear friend. He proclaimed after seeing Lee Reynolds for the first time that if “That old dude can still bring it with that much energy and at least twenty years on me I no longer have an excuse for not making music.” The Pre-Envision Tour created an inclusive environment of 25 inspiring and deeply loving people who quickly evolved into an Envision Family. Erin and I are genuinely grateful for the journey that led us to that special group of people.
After spending New Year’s Eve in Tulum, Mexico we took a bus to Chetumal, Mexico followed by a water-taxi to Caye Caulker, which is a small island off the Eastern coast of Belize. After spending a week or so in the ultra-relaxed environment we took a sailboat from Caye Caulker down to the Southern point of Belize to Placencia. From there Erin, myself, and three other friends we met on the tour formed a traveling family and took a long bus to Flores, Guatemala. We were from the USA, Canada, Iceland, Holland, and Australia respectfully, knew each other for just a few short days, and yet we already felt like a family. Traveling is an extraordinary transcendental experience. For those who haven’t felt the magical bond between travelers I am referencing, I encourage you to get out and chase that wanderlust that may be brewing inside you. If there is one thing we learned on the road it is that people want to help people. Between locals and fellow travelers it was surprisingly difficult to feel lost once I truly embraced that connection. From Flores, Guatemala we wandered into the majestic Mayan Tikal Ruins. Words cannot do justice to the awe-inspiring energy felt while on those sacred grounds. From there we took a long and very bumpy bus ride to the tough-to-reach Semuc Champey. Overwhelming beauty illuminates this natural waterpark filled with cool spring water and caves you can explore. It was easily one of the most memorable days of the trip leading up to Envision Festival 2016. From Semuc Champey we took another long bus ride to Antigua, Guatemala. Antigua is an old, resilient colonial town that has withstood the test of both time and numerous earthquakes to remain a strong city with character. It was here that we climbed Mount Acatenango standing nearly 13,000 feet tall. We camped on the mountain and woke up to views that are indelibly burned into our memory cells. We also spent some time in San Marcos on Lake Atitlan. Another unforgettable place with high energy that can feel out of this world at times, perhaps for good reason. It seemed that both of Erin and my own wishes were granted in this unique city as we learned that we officially were going to be able to cover Envision for Chicago Music Festivals. Erin and I had relentlessly been promoting Envision to anyone we would encounter and felt tremendously grateful to find out we would be able to share this story through our collective passions of writing and photography as a team. It was here we made even more friends that were also journeying to Envision. One working as a chef, some volunteering, some working in plant medicine workshops, and we even met someone who was working at the Zendo Tent at Envision. The Zendo Tent provides a safe place to relax and chill out for those who may be experiencing a “bad trip” from psychedelics. A concept that is widely and justifiably being adopted throughout the music festival scene.
From Antigua, Guatemala we bussed down to a small surf town in El Salvador called El Tunco. Party vibes filled this town as we enjoyed two nights here before heading to Leon, Nicaragua. Leon is another old colonial town that was rich with culture and art. We spent some time at a hostel in Las Penitas outside of Leon right on the beach. We left Leon, Nicaragua on another bus which would bring us into the most visited country in Central America and our final destination; Costa Rica.
Erin and I spent a romantic Valentine’s Day weekend exploring Montezuma and Santa Teresa, Costa Rica before heading to San Jose to meet up with the Pre-Envision group. All of Central America is ripe with beauty but in my opinion Costa Rica is in a league of its own. The lush jungle is so vast and vibrantly filled with so much life we often felt like we were in a dream. The Pre-Envision Tour was led by Chad Carson and Brooke Rochester who both did a fantastic job. They essentially acted as loving, caring parents with an abundance of patience as twenty five Envisioners filled with wanderlust explored innocently through a new world. The Pre-Envision Tour started with a bang as we went White Water Rafting through the Picuare River. It was the perfect combination of releasing adrenaline and bonding with new friends as we rowed, splashed and drifted down the natural rapids. The next day we were lucky enough to be shown around a Bri Bri Farm that also acted as an Iguana Sanctuary. Iguanas have been hunted to the point of extinction so this native family of Bri Bri decided to be the change they wanted to see in the world. Not only did we get to see and learn about this Iguana Sanctuary but we also got a hands on demonstration of how this group of people live completely sustainably on their land. They make bowls out of leaves, medicine from various plants that grow naturally, tools and weapons from different types of trees. It was incredibly eye opening to see how connected these people were to nature and their land. We also enjoyed a delicious vegan lunch when we finished our tour. It was a lot to take in as I realized further how privileged we are in “Western Civilization”. It is saddening to realize how disconnected we have become from nature and how reliant we are on an unsustainable system. Planet Earth will survive with or without us, it is humanity that needs to make drastic adjustments. That being said I personally believe to my core that millions of people are on the right track and mindful events like Envision help reinforce that belief. As Ben Franklin said “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”
Between the myriad activities we experienced on the Pre-Envision Tour it is difficult to choose a single highlight. If we had to choose one however I think we would have to point to the time spent at the Permaculture Farm, Punta Mona. We took an educational guided hike through the jungle for four hours to reach this off-the-grid Permaculture Farm. Chad, the guide, had spent seven months there himself and you could tell it was a special place for him to come back to. Stephen Brooks, public figure and co-founder of Envision started this Permaculture Farm. His inspiration came from visiting Costa Rica and seeing a plane fly over a group of children spraying them with pesticides from bananas. He has said that this was his own personal “ah-ha” moment that led him to be the change he wanted to see in the world and start this sustainable project. At Punta Mona they live and honor the Permaculture Principles and all of the meals served were Vegan. All of the meals served were also delicious! They compost all of their waste, including human fecal waste, and even make you take your trash with you if you accumulate any before you leave. Picture a treehouse playground in the middle of the jungle that has plants, fruits, and vegetables from all over the world growing in it. They have herbal remedies and cures for any illness or irritation that may arise. It is as if some of these utopian like ideas I dreamed about when I first learned how upside down our world has become already exist. Countless brave souls have already been dedicating their lives to building sustainable communities that can give back to the environment. We felt a tremendous amount of gratitude to experience such a place mixed with motivation to help spread this message of sustainability and love throughout my life.
The Pre-Envision Tour all stayed in a comfortable hotel in Domincal, Costa Rica as we prepared for the jungle on Envision Eve and ate dinner together as a family with eager anticipation for the magical weekend we were in store for. It is so peculiar how close and connected you can feel to people you just met when you share such special moments together. It felt like we were flying as we rolled into Envision on our Pre-Tour Bus midday on Thursday. Stephen Brooks kindly welcomed us into the festival and took us right through the line into the campground that would turn into our village home for the weekend. Stephen’s passion for what he was helping build could be felt from a mile away as he spoke to us about what Envision meant to him. The layout just outside of Uvita, Costa Rica, setup, stages, vendors, bathrooms, showers, mud baths, and tents all rose up together to form the epic jungle village that became Envision Festival 2016. It was a mindful conscious gathering of over 5,000 Envisioners and over 2,000 staff/volunteers/artists that formed the 2016 Envision Family. These 7,000 plus consisted of people from all over the world; gender, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, occupation, bank accounts, age, and experience all meshed together and blended to form any reality you wished to create. All different types of yoga, workshops, massage therapies, healings, witchcraft and music from deep house to folk could be found throughout the day. The San Francisco based Random Rab again delivered his coined sunrise set at 5:30 AM on Sunday Morning which was not a set to miss which took place at the trippy Luna Stage. Comprised of troopers who were at it all night mixed with folks who just woke up to catch the sunrise set melodically grooved together as the psychedelic trance vibes carried all of us into the last day of Envision. David Wolfe’s talk on top soil Saturday during the day at The Village Stage gathered one of the larger crowds of the weekend as he taught, motivated, and then planted a tree in front of the engaged crowd. Thursday night at the Luna Stage had some extra funky vibes brewing as the Colorado based DJ Defunk had a large crowd grooving to his set which set the stage for the rest of the evening. No matter how hot, sticky, wet, or uncomfortable the conditions became, the overall positive vibrations were consistently brewing throughout this important event. To be able to share this experience with my partner and grow together on the road is something I will cherish forever.
If Envision taught us anything it was that we should never stop fighting for what we believe in and chase the life we dream of with everything we have. In this moment I no longer have a clear career path and some of my life decisions are surely questioned by those who care about me. We spent over two months taking buses and rides from strangers through some of the most “dangerous” parts of Central America. At the same time I know I am loved by my family and friends infinitely, and that infinite feeling of love is reciprocated. I have never had a greater appreciation for life. I am excited to continue to learn, live, grow and love as I continue to work towards being the change I want to see in the world. I do believe that dreams come true on the other side of fear so I urge anyone who feels that itch to chase their dreams to do so. Let’s continue to Envision a world where all can thrive as humans with divine power as I believe we were intended to do so. Thank you to every party involved who helped make Envision a reality in our world and here’s to many more Envision Festivals and like minded communities thriving in the future.

Check out the entire photo album here!