Have you ever thought about going to a multi day music festival by yourself?
Chances are, if you are a solo traveller, there have been opportunities for you to visit music festivals overseas at some stage or another. If you are anything like me, then you probably really want to go! You love music and some of your favourite bands or DJs are playing. The only thing is, you can’t find anyone who wants to travel to Croatia or Hungary or wherever you need to go at the time to attend the festival. Dammit!
Well the reality is that you can actually just go by yourself.
WHOA. Is it really that simple? Can you really just go by yourself to a big multi day music festival and camp with a bunch of strangers?
HELL YES YOU CAN.
In reality it’s even easier to meet awesome people at a music festival than it is at a backpackers hostel.
Last year (2013), I was travelling in South America with a couple of Dutch people I met on the road. I was telling them about my travel plans and they told me about the best music festival they have ever been to. Sziget. It’s in Budapest, Hungary and translates to “Island”. It turns out that I was going to be in Budapest coincidentally during the week that the festival was on.
I was pretty nervous about going alone since I had never been to a festival in Europe, I had never been to Budapest or anywhere in Eastern Europe, I didn’t know anyone else who was going and I didn’t have any camping equipment.
In the end, I bit the bullet. The idea which gave me the courage to travel alone initially was the same idea that helped me decide to buy my ticket and one of the ideas which helps me shape a lot of decisions I make.
If someone else can do it, then so can I.
Pretty straightforward. Loads of people go to music festivals alone. If so many other people can manage it, why can’t I? This turned out to actually be the best decision I have ever made in my entire life, (apart from the big one deciding to begin this trip I am on now). I literally had the best week of my life.
Why was it so great?
Honestly? It was because I was by myself. I had the freedom to meet and hang out with anyone I like. I made more great new friends in a week than I ever had in other environments. I have stayed for 3 months in other countries only visiting people I met at Sziget at various times after the festival. Sziget is a magical adventure combined with awesome music and people from all over the world. It’s a recipe for awesomeness.
So how did I do it?
Well, I spent a few nights in Budapest in the week leading up to Sziget. This was a good idea because I really wanted to check out an awesome city and I needed time to buy a tent and sort my things out. The added bonus of this is that I left my small bag containing the valuables and unwanted items I didn’t need at the festival in the luggage room at the hostel and picked them up after the festival. This isn’t 100% essential since most festivals have some kind of luggage storage or locker system for things you don’t want to keep inside your tent.
Generally there are SO many tents around, that it is highly unlikely yours will be broken into. You have to be really unlucky. If it does, make sure you don’t have any valuables like your camera or passport in there. Carry them on you or use the lockers provided. Personally I hate carrying my passport around so I always lock it up. Nobody is going to steal your clothes.
The other thing which happened was that I met a few people at the hostel also going to Sziget. If there is a music festival on, chances are the hostels in the closest city will be full for a couple days before and after the festival. This makes it really easy to meet people to go there with or to camp with. The people I met there and camped with are now friends for life. I have visited them multiple times and even came back to Sziget with them again this year (2014).
If you don’t meet anyone at the hostel, don’t worry. The most important thing is that you CAMP at the festival. Do not stay in a hostel and travel to the festival each day. You will befriend everyone camping near you by default. So when choosing a campsite, look around and try to find a place with lots of cool people around then just set your tent up nearby. You will make friends with them easily! You will also miss out on a lot of things by leaving the festival and re-entering each day.
There are many added benefits to having a set campsite you can go back to anytime. For example, if you lose your friends, you can just go to their campsite or yours and eventually someone will show up. If you stay at a hostel then this option is gone.
You can buy a cheap tent, mat and sleeping bag in most cities. Especially if they have a music festival coming up. Last time I paid about $50 AUD at a big Tescos for everything. It’s pretty cheap when you think about how much 7 nights of accommodation would cost you. I don’t use a tent or sleeping bag often enough to warrant carrying one around with me so I gave them away after the festival. If you can’t find someone who wants them just give them to your hostel and they will make good use of them.
So how do you actually find and meet awesome people at a music festival?
Well it’s not an altogether difficult task, but there is one thing you can do that will make it a whole lot easier and cause you to have a whole lot more fun.
Make yourself stand out from the crowd.
If there is something about you that makes people look twice, you will double your chances of meeting people straight up. You basically want to attract as much attention as possible.
At my first Sziget, I did this by buying an Australian flag from the flag store they had at the festival. There were not a lot of Australians there that year and the flag store sold only one Aussie flag, which I purchased. This meant that I was one of a very small number of people walking around with an Australian flag. I made a flag pole using parts of a friends tent and when I wasn’t waving it around, I was wearing it like a cape. As an added bonus I had a pretty cool self inking rubber stamp with a picture of a Kangaroo and the words excellent that I taped to the end of the flagpole.
I had people approaching me all the time throughout the whole festival, and when they didn’t, I just went around stamping people until I met someone cool. Anytime I got bored or wanted a change of scenery, I would just walk off by myself waving the flag until something awesome happened. And it ALWAYS did.
For me, the more new people I interact with, the better of a time I have. Years ago I used to be a very, very shy and reserved person but not anymore. Sziget 2013 was an important week for my social evolution.
This is just one example of how you can attract attention.
At this years Sziget, I was pretty upset because I lost my flag, then my friend found it and tried to post it to me in Prague, but it never came. When I got to Sziget this year, there was no flag store!! How was I going to do Sziget without my Australian flag?
Well this year me and my friends came up with something even better. His name is Albert. He is a 2m high puppet with a top hat who waves his arms and dances in time to the music. We made him using duct tape, a ball and things we found around the campsite or in the supermarket nearby. He was such a hit! We had him dancing at the main stage and you could see him from everywhere. He was on the big screen many times and started to get a reputation around the festival. People would chant his name as we walked past them, he would high five people and kiss all of the girls. Everybody loved Albert and you really couldn’t ask for a better way to attract attention or to meet people.
You don’t need to come up with something as elaborate as that though, even a costume, prop of some kind or just looking a bit ridiculous (a crazy hat or something) will help you to stand out a little bit and help you to meet more people.
So there you go, armed with this information you should be able to go to any camping music festival and if you follow these tips I can pretty much guarantee you will meet people and have a ridiculously good time. I honestly can’t wait until the next time I go solo to a music festival.
Special bonus tip: Buy a big bottle of red paint of some kind and paint yourself and everybody you meet. Just trust me on this one.
Here are a few more pics from this years Sziget, just for inspiration.
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