Festivals, it seems, have become somewhat of a passion of mine. I’ve made my way now to several around the world – Burning Man in the Nevada desert, Tomorrowland in a Belgian neverland, Sunjam on the shores of Honduras, Mardi Gras in the heart of New Orleans, and Batabano in the streets of Grand Cayman, to name a few.
But never have I felt so much a part of something as I did at Equilibrio, an intimate hundred-and-twenty person festival that came to life this year on the coast of El Salvador.
Lasting four days in late February, Equilibrio was a blend of meaningful ceremonies, playful parties, yoga and movement classes, and workshops in topics ranging from writing to organic soap making — all set against the backdrop of beautiful El Cuco.
Future Clear, the organizers of Equilibrio and three of my close friends from Brooklyn, created an artist’s playground across two beautiful spaces on El Cuco beach. The first was La Tortuga Verde, the second, a short stroll down the sand away, was Rio Mar, and hand drawn maps directed festival-goers between them. Attendees were organized by locally handmade bracelets embroidered with a number and color based on your element group — fire, earth, air, or water. I was thrilled, of course, to find that I was in the water element.
The numbers on our wristbands corresponded to a tab. While three meals per day, a camping space and all activities were included in the insanely reasonably $150 event price tag, extras like cocktails, handmade cacao balls, restaurant meals, massages, and more were able to be added to a tab, allowing for a blissfully cash-free festival.
As the name of the festival suggests, at its core, Equilibrio is about finding balance. Balance between light and dark, between sunset yoga and sunrise dance sessions, between the community and the individual, between spirituality and silliness, between learning and letting go.
“So this sounds like… a hippie festival,” was the reaction I got several times as I tried to explain the experience afterwards to fellow travelers I met throughout Central America. And it was. If I’d taken a (locally sourced, organic and hand infused) shot for every time I heard the word permaculture or someone alluded to manifesting their own reality, I would have passed out mid afternoon on day one and not come to until long after the hammocks had been hauled up and the scent of patchouli and lavender was nothing but a distant memory. That much is true.
But it was so, so much more. In a future post, I’ll focus on the dark and silly side of Equilibrio – but this post is all about the learning and the light.
Workshops led by festival participants were the beating heart of Equilibrio. Topics ranged from figure drawing taught by a New York based book designer to natural beet dying taught by a Guatemala City expat industrial designer. Other classes that I starred in my program included natural soap making, air gardening, environmental policy, permaculture, and more, more, more.
Each morning began with a struggle over which of the many simultaneous offerings to attend. I’m a natural student at heart and loved this aspect of Equilibrio.
I personally led a workshop on travel writing, which filled me with nerves and excitement ahead of time but ended up one of the most inspiring experiences of my Central America travels. I couldn’t believe how many bodies wiggled onto those benches or into those hammocks, but I shouldn’t have been surprised — this was a group with some serious stories to tell.
The hours spent in this workshop triggered new personal writing projects that I never thought I’d embark on — that previously non-existent type of writing that neither (a) will appear on this blog nor (b) someone is paying me for. Creative, non-blog writing. Writing for joy. Writing for therapy. I’d almost forgotten it existed. Equilibrio helped me remember.
Each day at Equilibrio started with sunrise yoga and meditation classes — though that was just the beginning. Throughout the day there were workshops I attended like Burn Your Buns (where coconuts acted as free-weights!), Partner Yoga, and Acro Yoga as well as workshops I couldn’t quite fit in, like Breakdancing, Twerking, and Slack Lining. Regular yoga practice was a huge part of my Central America travels, and I soaked up as many of the different teaching styles and class types as I could.
In addition, there were workshops on healing arts such as reflexology, acupuncture, and massage, in which participants were able to experience those treatments and in some cases learn to give them. With so many talented masseuses and healers at the festival, a massage tent was set up where practitioners could set their own prices and weary festival goers could schedule a relaxing ocean-front hour.
Equilibrio also had a strong spiritual component, with ceremonies all over the place — opening ceremonies, cacao ceremonies, moon ceremonies, closing ceremonies, ceremony ceremonies, etc. I admit that this aspect was somewhat outside my comfort zone, though I enjoyed challenging myself to try to connect with the moment during these rituals. I have a predisposition to eye-rolling, and I think it’s good for me to give in and just get swept away sometimes.
Most of the ceremonies were conducted by a group called The Healing Caravan who built their own dedicated space in the woods. Upon reflection, I’m sad to say that I only visited it once, during the opening ceremony — however, with so much to see and do, I accept that as with any festival there was no way I could have seen it all.
This is just one aspect of the magic that was Equilibrio. Stay tuned for Part II!
Are you fest obsessed? Would you consider checking out an alternative to the standard music festival?