Guest Written by Jillian Love
Photos by Bhaktifest
Bhakti Fest West is happening September 7-11th in Joshua Tree, CA, and since this will be my second year attending, I know just how much fun and exhilaration lie ahead of me. I’m more excited than ever to pack up my van and get on the road. I am an experienced camper and festival-goer so last year was all good… but now, having a year of Bhakti Fest under my belt, I definitely have some tips to make this 2017 Bhakti experience even better, so I created a top ten Bhakti Fest checklist to share with you below.
- NUMBER 10: Bring SHADE. This festival is in the desert. If you intend to camp, you should be aware that Joshua trees are few and far between and don’t actually provide much shade. Having some shade over your tent may give you that extra hour or two of sleep in the morning if you stay up ecstatically singing kirtan into the wee hours. I personally liked being up to enjoy the morning yoga classes before the full heat of the day, but it is always nice to have the option. Additionally, having a shady area of your own to retreat to for a quick snack or afternoon siesta is a nice bonus. And don’t forget personal body shade—a good sun hat or umbrella work well for this.
- NUMBER 9: Bring your favorite WATER BOTTLE. Again, this is the desert and in the daytime it is HOT. You need to drink lots of water, and you will find yourself making frequent refill visits to the water station where you will find plenty of free filtered water. I brought some of those electrolyte vitamin packets to add to my water to help fend off dehydration, which can happen quickly in the hot dry air. Water bottles are not only a necessity but also can be a fashion accessory. You might want to think about decorating yours with your favorite stickers or get one of those fancy water bottle cozy bags.
- NUMBER 8: I like to bring SNACKS. There are a plethora of incredible food vendors, but buying food can get pricy and lines can sometimes be long. If you want to grab something quick between classes it is a good idea to plan ahead and bring some of your own treats. All the food at the festival is vegetarian. They have everything from pizza to kitchari to nori wraps. There are smoothies, juices, and they even have butter coffee. I’m a healthy herbivore so I was in absolute food heaven, but if you are a meat eater you may want to plan for your needs. There is ice for sale if you bring your own cooler, but it is the desert so you will likely need to replenish your ice supply daily if you really want to keep your stuff cool.
- NUMBER 7: You may want to bring a PICNIC BLANKET or a camp chair. Many people stake out a little spot in front of the main stage with a picnic blanket or chair. This is especially nice if you are there with a few friends, as it serves as a little meeting spot or place to leave your stuff while you wander around. There is a feeling of absolute safety at this festival and really no worries about leaving personal items out unattended. That said, I probably would not leave my iPhone sitting out. You know what they say, “Trust God but lock your door.” But as far as yoga mats, shoes, and sweaters and things go, I would not even give a second thought to leaving those items around.
- NUMBER 6: A BATHING SUIT, yes a bathing suit. Well, I suppose you could show up to yoga class in your bathing suit, but yoga class is more of a place to show off your best Lululemon yoga wear. The bathing suit is for the swimming pool. There is a swimming pool on the grounds and it is not a bad idea to take a dip during the afternoon heat. There is a bathroom just next door with hot showers too, if you want to rinse off and get ready for the evening activities.
- NUMBER 5: A JOURNAL is a nice item to have with you. Not only can you spend your days in yoga classes but you can also drop into any number of incredible workshops. From breathwork to tantra to accessing your authentic power and spirit. There is plenty to explore and it is nice to have a journal on hand to document your experience and reflect on the transformation you might be experiencing. Of course, it is also nice to have a place to write the phone number of that new friend or cute yogi you sat next to in class. Don’t forget your pen, too!
- NUMBER 4: MONEY. Cash or credit, whatever you prefer. There are plenty of vendors offering fabulous goods. With all the festivals nowadays, there has developed a wonderful niche culture of traveling festival vendors, and I look forward to the annual opportunity to shop for unique artisan wares that you can only find at these events. There will be plenty of options, from devotional deities, to singing bowls, to handmade jewelry, to boutique designer clothes and of course all the yoga accessories you can imagine. Oh, and don’t forget a little extra moolah for all the tasty food and beverages.
- NUMBER 3: DANCING SHOES… well, desert dancing shoes more precisely. Expect to be jumping up and down ecstatically dancing to incredible world music and Kirtan often, as well as hiking up and down an easy dirt path to get to and from the camp area. All the yoga classes and even the main stage area are shoe-free, so shoes that can be slipped on and off easily and can be quickly distinguished from a large pile of discarded shoes are a definite plus. So, you may want to consider putting a fluorescent pink polka dot ribbon on your plain black flip flops if that’s what you plan to bring.
- NUMBER 2: Don’t forget your YOGA MAT!!!! It is a yoga festival after all. You need a good mat to seriously do yoga. Plus you need to lay down your mat to hold a space in the classroom. Sometimes there will not even be any space between the mats. The best teachers’ classes fill up, so be prepared to get close with your neighbors. You might also plan to get in line early for the top teachers, as well as jump online to reserve your spot in some of the classes before the festival starts. A nice bag for carrying your mat is a plus, though there will likely be some for sale there too.
- NUMBER 1: Your OPEN HEART. Ahhh yes and finally, if you forget to bring this, I can pretty much guarantee you will find it within a day or two of being at the event. There is something magical about being amongst several thousand people coming together for four days to live healthy, do yoga and sing mantras of love and devotion to God, that has the side effect of blasting your heart right open in the most pleasant and inspiring of ways. I suspect if you have made it to the end of this article you are planning to go to Bhakti Fest, and you likely already have this OPEN HEART thing covered.