Resonance: My First Festival (Karamea)

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If you’re a regular festival-goer, none of this will sound crazy to you.  If you have never been to a festival, like me before this, then my post may sound a little out of this world.  Going to this Karamea-based event on the South Island of New Zealand was one of the coolest, most unique things I have ever experienced in my life. 

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Having grown up in New York and having lived in Asia, Africa and Australia, I thought I had seen most types of lifestyles.  When I went to Resonance, I was absolutely blown away being a part of a community that was so full of love and genuine kindness.  Tucked in the beachside tussocks of Karamea, a small town located 96k (60 miles) north east of Wesport, New Zealand, was a small, colorful, humble festival called Resonance.

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People from all over the world annually gather together at this three-day, grassroots, community driven celebration set amongst nature as “an immersion in a ‘heart felt’ space of expression through music, art, knowledge and community” (Facebook quote).   There are musical performances in multiple locations around the grounds throughout the days and nights, arts & crafts workshops, yoga sessions, skill-learning opportunities to practice things like juggling, riding a unicycle, and hair braiding, massage tents, and chances for spontaneous happenings such as having your chakras cleared or tarot card readings.  It is truly an incredible affair.

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This event forbids alcohol, which seems unique to most festivals these days, but certainly adds to the purity of the occasion.  There are coffee and tea shacks, snack stops, a community board displaying the days’ schedules and map, as well as a lost & found post with notes saying things like, “Sarah, meet me at the beach at 3,” scribbled with flowers around the edges. 

It’s quite a small festival compared to the notorious Burning Man or Wanderlust-type festivals, so it felt like a good introduction to living in the bush for days while letting my inner hippie shine through. Everyone attending Resonance very obviously arrived with good and pure intentions instantly making me feel comfortable there right from the start.  I never once had to worry about my camera being stolen if I left it out unattended or worry about my car being unlocked in the middle of a field, nor did I ever feel uncomfortable or unsafe in any setting I found myself.

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Walking through the festival, I would often see people sitting in circles telling deeply intriguing stories, playing the drums, dancing wildly without care, bathing naked in the sea, practicing acro-yoga, laughing, smiling, hugging, playing cards, laying under the sun listening to someone singing, or hearing someone try playing the guitar for the first time knowing no one would judge his/her amateur fingers.  It was, to this day, one of the most beautiful expressions of humanity I have ever witnessed.  It was also the longest amount of time I went without observing a single symbol, feeling, signal, gesture, or word of negativity, hate, anger or sadness.

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Strangers spoke to each other like they had known one another for a lifetime and old friends laughed together like it was the best days of their lives.  It caught me by surprise when I saw an entire family – mother, father, two children – playing naked in the shallows of the sea.  At first I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing, but my surprised reaction was an anomaly to the rest around me. 

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No one batted an eye, which also took me by great surprise.  To see a group of people so accepting and unfazed by such blatant, public nudity...that’s just not a thing in New York!  I realized then that I have not actually seen all lifestyles in their most naked and pure state (pun intended) and I was ashamed I thought that I had.

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I had just left behind a first class family in a first world country and the more distance I got from it all, the more I could see the planet more clearly – naked and free, yet sheltered and layered all on one globe.  I never felt I belonged in the world I left behind in New York, but when I attended Resonance, I finally felt a huge sigh of relief sweep over me that there are other worlds out there and I can be whomever I’d like to be in any and all of them.

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As the festival went on, I felt myself loosening up and becoming more accustomed to seeing dreadlock donned breasts and big 70’s bushes casually walking through the camp.  I sat and played cards with strangers, learned some Hebrew and how to juggle, heard about how my friend, Alice, had her chakras cleared, danced with complete abandon, took naps in hammock lined trees, swam in the sea, and laughed a lot.  Alice took part in many of the workshops and later taught me some crazy acro-yoga moves and how do intricate hair braiding.  She also said she took part in a TED talk that she got to speak at whilst wearing a raccoon on her head.  Every day something new and incredible was happening around the camp.

On the last day of the festival, you could tangibly see people had made lifelong friends and it wasn’t easy to say goodbye.  I watched as a Dutch man hugged a Canadian woman that he met only days before.  He expressed how he hadn’t felt as much inner peace and human connection that he did then ever before in his life; he thanked her for being a part of that.  I heard people discussing which festival they were off to next or which country they were going to explore after New Zealand.  All of our worlds had collided in quite an extraordinary way and the experience was enchanting and down right liberating.

 The Resonance Festival community board for lost goods or people

The Resonance Festival community board for lost goods or people

Just when I thought I had seen it all, I was presented with the opportunity to attend Resonance, a colorful mess of random puzzle-piece-people beautifully arranged in a mosaic of weirdness.  And yet again, I remembered why I love to travel…for it’s in those experiences that you grow more than you ever would if you stayed at home.

 The best toilet ever! Compostable and there were fun photos posted on the inside!  No need to flush, just drop some sand down the hole to cover up the smell.

The best toilet ever! Compostable and there were fun photos posted on the inside!  No need to flush, just drop some sand down the hole to cover up the smell.

Share below what your first festival experience was like or which festival you'd like to attend in the future!

Happy traveling!

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