Envision Festival will take place on the luscious coastline of Costa Rica in a few weeks time. Preparing for a festival of this size in a foreign country comes with it’s own set of rewards and challenges. It takes a special kind of person to manage this type of event. For Envision, Reuben Walker is the man behind the curtain ensuring that the festival runs smoothly. From finances to logistics, he role touches almost every aspect of the festival. As he and the team prepare for the festival, we got to talk to him about everything from how he helps alleviate problems to what it’s like to manage a festival in Costa Rica.
Before he landed in Costa Rica, Reuben had quite an adventure. Not knowing what he wanted to do with his future, he began travelling. He first worked on cruise ships. Then he hitchhiked around the United States (from Florida to Colorado to California), spending sometime with an alternative theater company. He got his first taste of festivals by volunteering at Lucidity Festival in California. The experience was, he says, “Illuminating to say the least.” Reuben found that he enjoyed managing all the details and ensuring that everything that gets started is finished. He worked with Lucidity for a few years, growing his responsibilities every year. Now, he has grown his reach to other festivals. He believes that it is very important to “cross pollinate.” Every festival is different. Over the years, Reuben has varied his skill sets. He has been working with Envision off and on for about five years.
A Ghost in the Machine
Reuben is the General Manager for Envision Festival. His role is simple in nature but has a variety of responsibilities. Mostly, he acts as the centralized position of authority. His main job is to help provide direction to the group. This can manifest itself in various ways. Sometimes it can be managing finances or determining positioning inside the company. He helps alleviate problems that were previously thorn in everyone’s side by taking them on himself. He focuses on the macro, while his team focuses on the details. He trusts his team to curate an experience for attendees the way they trust him to make major decisions. His favorite part of this role is that he can free up stress from others. He can help people that are too hyper focused on one obstacle by getting them to step away and try a new strategy they might not be able to see.
“There’s a difference between fail and failure. You’re not a failure if you fail.”
One thing he finds very important in his current role is to make sure that he spreads the attention and praise to all parts of his team. He likes the flip the organizational triangle so that he is on the bottom, the trunk upon which all the branches are built out from. To him, it’s important that people on the ground feel good since they are doing the real work.
According to him, if he is doing his job right, then you never see him. This is what he means when he calls himself the “Ghost in the Machine.” He believes that it is best to put systems in place that can function for themselves. It is also a reminder to him to be humble, to remember that the event is much bigger than himself. In a few weeks, thousands of people will be coming to the event, all with their own hopes, dreams, and expectations. Its good to find something larger than yourself to work towards but it’s also important to keep yourself in check.
Flourishing in Costa Rica
While the festival is not for a few weeks, the preparation is in full swing. The build started a few weeks ago. In order to support the festival, the team has built a mini city consisting of bamboo huts that the team can stay in. Reuben likes to refer to the space as a “summer camp for adults”.
“For every inch that life can exist, it does.”
The festival grounds themselves are a rich part of Costa Rica’s luscious coastline. Over the years, the festival has planted a good amount of vegetation and it has grown, fast. The area was once a deserted cow pasture. Now it is rich with life. Partially because that’s how Costa Rica is and partially due to the care the festival has given to the space. Every piece they have put out onto the land has blossomed in response. They are sure to be conscious and aware, to treat the space with respect and intention. They do this by planting trees, reusing structures, and working with locals. They integrate into both the environmental and cultural environment of the space.
A festival in the tropical oasis that is Costa Rica may sound like a dream, and it is, but is also comes with a few challenges that hosting a festival in the United States does not. The first being learning a new language. Reuben has had to learn Spanish and has encouraged his staff to do the same through lessons and everyday engagement. He hopes they can all fully immerse themselves. The other major hurdle is logistics. They do not have the luxury to run to a major store to get whatever they need. Since they are a bit off the regular path they have to plan out everything they need in advance. They also have a very international team. Creatives fly in from all over the globe. In addition, they have also aligned with a locals to ensure that local customs and requirements are being followed. This also allows the people who live there to have more input than just attending the event.
Words of Inspiration
Our conversation with Reuben’s concluded with this inspiring message:
“I would encourage everyone to believe. I think we need to hear that a little more often. The world can be a lonely place. A really challenging place. We can believe in each other. Believe in what we are doing, cultivate and nourish and feed that. The more we can contribute to that. Envision is a great opportunity for people to be inspired and believe.”
Envision Festival takes place February 22-25 in Costa Rica. Get your tickets today.