Photo by August J Photography
Written by: Matt Vilevac
Not all who Wander are Lost
By Matthew Vilevac
With the warmer half of the year approaching for us, festival and vacation planning has begun in its usual sporadic fashion. It seems every day brings the announcement of a new unmissable show that is somehow just a tad better than the one announced yesterday. 2017 will be my 7th year of festivals and the plan is to make stops in Kentucky, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, New York and Oregon. Every year is a new opportunity to try unusual and wilder adventures! Many times when I tell others of my travels I get the baffled response of, “I don’t understand how anyone can travel so much, how is that possible?” I have ventured to see my favorite band Papadosio 35 times and have a personal record of six festivals in one year.
Now, I am not exactly what one would consider wealthy in the least, however I do work hard to reach my aim. Chances are very high that no teacher you have had taught you simple money management techniques between the grades of K through 12. Simply put, it is a topic that would be extremely useful in your life that the American education system lacks. This is why so many are lost when it comes to buying a car, building credit, and paying student debt. I would like to share some simple budgeting techniques for efficient traveling! We will learn that planning is vital, some hacks of traveling, and maybe some enlightenment along the way.
Scheduling is key, and the trip has to start somewhere…
Did that latest show announcement tickle your fancy? Start by organizing a spreadsheet of all the events you want to attend, including date(s), city, and the venue. Think about what is realistic for you with your personal resources. Organize the events with space between them so you are not requesting off for an extended weekend all month. Think about what you absolutely cannot miss, and see if there is anything else exciting happening within a reasonable driving distance and timeframe.
Is there a concert happening by your relative in Chicago that you have not seen in ages? Songkick is a fantastic phone app that scans your music library and alerts you as soon as your favorite artists announce shows near you. You can also “Track” shows into your own personal agenda. The app also lets you view artists coming to specific cities. Simply add the locations of your relatives and see what is coming to town near them! Family should always be a huge priority, and that priority will probably let you crash for free. Proof that even a stoner can kill two birds at once, or something like that.
Now that you have got the BIG picture, break it down a bit…
After deciding what events you absolutely need to attend this summer, it is time to make a plan of the plan. When organizing your travels, there are the necessities like buying tickets and figuring out how to get to the destination. This is what you should figure out first. There are also the musts such as food, water, sleeping arrangements, and hula-hoops, naturally. Brainstorm how you can lessen or eliminate these expenses. Do not be afraid to learn how to barter at a festival. Maybe you have a couple extra brews you could trade with your neighbor for that jug of water you forgot to pack.
If possible, camping is always a cheaper alternative to booking a hotel, and who would not rather sleep under the stars? There are also legitimate couch surfing websites where users can post and arrange stays at houses free of cost! Be a staple of your community and invite wandering friends into your home. They will most likely return the favor! The positivity will spread throughout communities and you will form hubs all across the country.
Now that you have your survivor Intel, it is time to figure out the overall cost. Let us create a hypothetical budget for the Mad Tea Party coming up this June: $50 in gasoline, $150 for food and beverages of choice, $50 for camping supplies you need, $140 for the price of the ticket, and $110 for what I like to call “fun money.” This makes for a grand total of $500 you need for MTP. Now seeing that you have planned accordingly, you can see there are ten weeks between now and the start of the festival. That makes for a total of $50 you must save every week. Does that not sound like a better idea than coming up with the $500 the week before or slapping it on your credit card?
You know what it is going to take…Time to commit and make the time!
Now that you are devoted to attending this festival by buying your ticket immediately, it is time to figure out the details of the plan of the plan…got that? What is the cheapest way to get there: fly, mega bus, rideshare? Maybe someone you know is rolling through town on their way to the same destination. Do not be afraid of making friends because the journey is half the trip.
My good friend Adam Pohl and I met back at Resonance 2014 in Ohio. At the time, I was living in Cleveland and him in Columbus. Adam has since moved to a small town outside of Knoxville, Tennessee, but I continue to see him more often than I see some friends’ right down the street. He will meet me in Ohio and we will camp together, or I will crash at his pad when we catch Papadosio in his neck of the woods. We have been through a lot together but one constant has remained, and that is our mutual love for musical pilgrimages. Find your partner in crime!
Another vital is meal planning. Eating out and food vendors are expensive and can easily break your budget! Make meals in bulk and do everything it takes to keep the sun from melting the ice in your cooler. I often prepare a huge pot of vegan chili or stew that often results in me feeding all of my neighbors. Substantial snacks such as Cliff bars, kombucha, and fresh fruit are great when eating between sets of music. Make sure to always choose the healthier alternative! Carrots and hummus…mmm. One more must is getting yourself a high quality water bottle, because it is 2017 and water is a precious resource.
We have arrived! It is time to switch off…
Always be conscious of what has brought you to this festival experience and what it took to get you here. Always be in the now, and be satisfied with your accomplishment of making it here! Embrace the challenges you are capable of overcoming as an individual. Start a pre-fest tradition such as meditating or making vows or goals toward the weekend. Most importantly, release and have fun!
Earlier we discussed “fun money” while making your festival budget. This is dedicated spending money and your absolute limit for the weekend, because no one likes coming home from vacation broke. I find it easiest to get all of your fun money in cash and track your spending that way, but do not loose it! You should not feel bad about spending this money because you will be buying artwork and other fun swag to bring home while at the same time supporting the amazing people who make these events happen. If there is anything left over from your fun money, that is a good thing because you over budgeted! This information can also be useful when planning your next getaway. Put this remaining cash towards your next trip or directly into your savings like your momma told you!
Remember that one show we absolutely could not miss? Enters stage left, rainy day fund…
When life becomes an unbearable real thing and you must make that next show, just adjust your budget! Go back and start by making a plan for that event. Determine how much you will need to save per week and add it to any existing weekly savings. If it seems very unlikely you can swing it, what about next year? Most artists’ tour cyclically year round, so chances of an event happening the following year is high. Big trips such as jam cruises and out of country festivals take a huge toll on your bank account.
Envision is a transformational festival that happened late last February on the beaches of Costa Rica. Did you envy those partaking in the salty water, jungle adventures, and mind expanding music? Mark your calendar for next year and every week save that small lump of dough you need. Make sure you include all necessary expenses such as a passport and improved luggage. Getting a credit card is not always a good idea but if you are confident in using it appropriately and responsibly it can be quite rewarding.
Get a credit card dedicated strictly for traveling expenses, tickets, and so on. Set your limit at $500 and never go past it. Following your return from the trip you may also not use the card again until it is completely paid off. I use this method when I get tattooed. I put the entire cost of a tattoo on my card, and once it is paid off I get another tattoo! See how this can be fun? Most credit cards also offer rewards for travel expenditures which translates into more vacation time for you.
Trying to figure out the big picture? Make money while you travel…
We are all exceptional individuals that have something special to offer. What are some things you have always been great at? If your intuition is telling you to trust in your artwork, abilities, and services, make it your life’s work! Meet new friends and form collaborative efforts. Everyone attending obviously has a similar music interest as you, so take advantage of that. Be generous with everyone you encounter because karma moves with momentum. Plus you never know who they know, or maybe who they are.
Becoming more active in my local community is a recent discovery. I am from Cleveland and it seems everyone around here is one of two people: One who will say, “I cannot wait to get the **** out of Cleveland,” or, the one who is content and stays forever like a fly on a very strong adhesive. I have come to realize that I am surrounded by opportunity in this community to serve and make it a better place to live. My dear friends from Advocates of Change (formerly Find Your Cloud) continue to organize food and art drives at dozens of events each month across the country. They are also accepting applications for their inaugural grant program that will be rewarding four separate artists of any medium. Each artist will be rewarded a different amount totaling $3,700 in donations. My hats are off to these amazing young adults.
In May of 2016 I traveled to Red Rocks in Colorado for the first time to see Papadosio. I brought with me 100 keepsake wristbands with the date and show written on them to pass out for free. I was also accepting donations for them to go directly towards Advocates of Change. I was thrilled when over 50% of those who took one gave back to the cause. I was able to raise $55 towards Advocates of Change, and that was just me alone!
Another rewarding way to experience a festival is to volunteer. Feel like you have lost your work ethic? Time to be a better person and get that back! This is especially a good way to eliminate expenses from your traveling budget. Again, you never know who you may come across on your service. Maybe you will run into your favorite musician, or maybe someone who will change your life.
What’s the point? “All roads lead to home…”
The drive of life should be to experience it and the entire splendor the present brings us. If one stumbles upon something rather than finding it, is it as satisfying? Everyone knows that traveling is good for the soul, but that does not take away from the strength it builds in relationships, goals, and dreams. It is never a bad time to start fresh or begin a new cycle in life. Ask your friends if they have read any good books lately. Start a journal or video diary, and compare yourself in a year. Aspire to grow!
This is entirely a reflection of what I seek to share with others. Make goals and strive to accomplish them. Challenge yourself to take off a mask you wear and look for all the moments in front of you. As I tell all of my friends, if you ever need anything I am always here to talk (Vilevacma@gmail.com). I leave you with a quote from the spiritual awakener and an original gangster, Ram Dass:
When the faith is strong enough, it is sufficient just to be. It’s a journey towards simplicity, towards quietness, towards a kind of joy that is not in time. It’s a journey that has taken us from primary identification with our body and our psyche, on to an identification with God, and ultimately beyond identification.