One of my favorite decisions from my early 20s was uncharacteristically spontaneous. After graduating from college, I decided to go to a music festival that summer with the idea that I would live a little before heading to grad school. I had never been to an overnight music festival, nor did I know anyone who planned to be there, but I went for it and had a fantastic time. Before you follow in my footsteps and plan a solo trip to a festival, here’s the things I learned from my solo journey to Manchester, TN for Bonnaroo in 2017 and 2019.
Pick your festival wisely. One of the reasons I felt comfortable going to Bonnaroo solo is the festival’s reputation for “good vibes”. And I learned very quickly that the folks who enjoy Bonnaroo genuinely are the nicest people. Multiple times throughout my adventures on the Farm, people would come up and check in on me, whether I had ever seen them before or not. Spontaneous deep conversations were common and of course everyone on the Farm loves a high five. Before you venture down to any festival by yourself, check the reviews online or with friends; not every festival has the same reputation.
Volunteer. For both my trips to Bonnaroo, I volunteered through their C’roo program – I was given free entrance to the festival, free showers, free meals for shifts worked and all of my shifts were over before the festival even really began. 10 out of 10 would recommend it. Plus, I befriended my neighboring volunteers who became friends that I still talk to regularly. If you’re on your own, the structure of the volunteer program can help you meet people (especially if you’re a little more introverted like I am).
Make your schedule. Most festivals post their schedules in advance for you to peruse, others might post online the day of or give you a printed schedule the day of. Whatever the festival’s system, pick your “most see”s and make sure you know where you want to be and when. Once you know those, be flexible with the rest. One of the great things about festivals, instead of a classic concert, is the opportunity to stumble upon a great new band you never would have heard of. If you only see the bands you came for, you might miss out on the next big thing. But if you find yourself floating from stage to stage based on what your neighbor’s cousin’s best friend recommended, you might be disappointed in your experience. Find your balance.
Use social media to your advantage. Now, once you get where you’re going, you may not have great service. Which is totally fine – you’re at the festival for the experience, not for free time to play solitaire. But I’d highly recommend posting on social media that you’re planning to go. Share the line-up or post a picture of your packed car. Maybe someone you know will see it and be there. Or maybe you’ve just inspired someone else to go too. Once you’re there, meet up! Even if it’s just for a show or two, it’ll give you a chance to hang with someone new. I ran into a former resident from my R.A. days in the bathroom line at Bonnaroo, met up with a friend I met in Australia, and spent most of my second festival with a friend I met volunteering the first time around.
Lastly, don’t forget to check in! Tell your roommate or your mom or just someone you trust where you’ll be. Check in before you leave, when you arrive, during the festival, and when you’re headed home. Even though it’s not as crazy as flying around the world alone, it is still a good idea to keep someone informed, just in case.