Ssssoooooo…. I wrote an essay about traveling, friendship, Coachella, a bunch of other stuff, and blah, blah, blah. I wrote it just before this year’s festival to submit for a travel website, and they didn’t take it. Oh well.
It’s been sitting on my hard drive for a month now, and I figure I put in some time into it, I may as well just post it here. For some of you reading this, you have probably already known a lot about what’s in this essay, or maybe you don’t. Either way, give this a read.
Like I said, I wrote this over a month ago, and I haven’t changed or edited anything since then. It’s after the photo, which was taken Saturday afternoon at the festival.
AN ADVENTURE IN THE DESERT
“There’s always a million reasons to not do something.”
It’s a piece of advice that the receptionist Pam from the American version of the sitcom the Office is given in a pivotal scene of an episode towards the end of the series’ second season. When you’re feeling like shit, or even when you’re not, a line like forces you out of bed in the morning. People make up reasons to not go back to school, quit their job, travel, or anything else, and if nothing else, a line like this is meant to inspire.
Since its inception in 1999, Coachella has become one of the biggest music festivals in the world, let alone the United States,. It is annually held in mid or late April of every year in the desert town of Indio, California. Whenever I have talked with family, friends, or strangers about Coachella, the conversations inevitably turns to talk about the bands that are playing. While it is important, what should matter more is simply that you go. The whole purpose of traveling anywhere is to go off and explore. Second to that, the most important thing about traveling is whom you are with.
In 2008, it felt like my family and I traveled through an epic odyssey not of distant lands, but an emotional and interpersonal one. The first half of the year, we dealt with my maternal grandmother’s failing health as she lay in a hospital bed from February to June. She wrestled with a respirator almost everyday because eighty-seven years on this earth just wasn’t enough for her. After she passed in June, the second part of the year was mourning, and struggling to find a way to fill an irreplaceable void. For much of that year, I sat, pondered and reflected on life because for the most part, it was too painful to do anything else. But in 2009, I bounced back up to normalcy and started living life again, and then some. This came to mean traveling and taking on adventures to new places and experiences I had previously yet to meet, and in doing so, I found a small semblance of myself that I lost when my grandmother died.
My family and my friends are in my life because I want them in life. Dang and Alisha are two friends that I have known for a long time now, and when they attended their first Coachella in 2006, it was just the two of them. Every year since, this Coachella contingent has grown exponentially. Last year, there were sixteen of us that made the annual pilgrimage from the Bay Area to Indio. While most were friends I had known for quite some time, like Dang and Alisha, others were merely acquaintances, or even strangers. Hell, we even befriended another group of festival–goers who had driven all the way from Iowa. They marveled at our homemade “Nor-Cal” flag that we erected some ten-feet high with the help of some PVC pipes. But after singing along to Paul McCartney performing Beatles songs, dancing to Bloody Beetroots, Crookers and MSTRKRFT, and basking in the final moments of the Cure’s festival closing set when the band kept playing even after the promoters had to shut down all the stage lights and amps because of curfew, it’s hard not to reflect on your weekend without thinking each and every one of these people as some of your best friends. It’s hard not to think about such a musically filled weekend of party and debauchery, of nonstop dancing and minimal sleep, and not learn a great deal about the great company you keep.
The people I consider my closest friends are such because we all operate our lives the same way, so much so that we are so much in sync with each other. These are whom I went to Coachella with last year, and if I didn’t meet them until after Coachella, then chances are they definitely became part of this group through our outings and adventures in the twelve months since. The people who were little more than acquaintances are some of my best friends, and the ones that I’ve known longer are now even closer friends. I dare consider them all my soulmates.
Dang, Alisha, and a few others may be Coachella veterans by now, but for a lot of us, last year was our first, myself included. In fact, I should have popped my Coachella cherry in 2008, but I opted to not go so I could save a little more money for my first trip to New York later that summer. It wasn’t until actually going to, and being at Coachella last year that I finally realized what it was that I had missed out on. I regretted missing Coachella the previous year that much more.
Knowing this, I felt helpless in June of last year when Dang, Alisha, and another friend, Alex, as well as a few others, found themselves in Europe for the Glastonbury Festival. After which, Dang, Alisha and Alex backpacked through Italy, Brussels, France, Germany, and Amsterdam. Unfortunately, I just didn’t have the funds to make the trip happen. It was a trip I desperately wanted to do, too. Desperate because even in her final days, my grandmother’s will to keep fighting was unbelievably strong. That kind of grit is something that I can only hope is within my capabilities as well. That same will I hope is within my own resolve to do all I can to make sure that I go to Europe this year.
Although the rest of us did not travel through Europe, there was enough time left in the summer to enjoy it all together. One of the reasons why this particular group is so special is because the same way a lawnmower is built to cut grass, each one of us has an inherit spirit that is constantly in search of adventure. The latter half of 2009 was a constant stream of it. In August, we drove up to Lake Tahoe to hike trails that most of us had previously only snowboarded down during the winter. In fact, it was the first time that I have ever seen Lake Tahoe in the summer. A few weeks later, we went up to Sacramento and river rafted down the American River. The last weekend in October, we drove down to Los Angeles to see Justice perform on Halloween night at a rave at the Shrine Auditorium. Then in the second week of January, we kicked off 2010 right by driving to Las Vegas for a birthday celebration. 2009 was certainly a far cry from 2008.
Of course, all of these places we’ve gone to, and things we have done are always something fun, but my friends and I will always babble on and on to the whole world about how great Coachella, and how much it is king. What makes Coachella so fun is that it boils down to that feeling that this pilgrimage is that special little secret that nobody else knows about but us. That is, until you make that trip yourself, and if you are really feeling adventurous, you’d come with my friends and I. This year’s edition of Coachella is right around the corner, and my excitement is as uncontrollable as an infant’s bladder. I finally made that trip last year, and now all I have to do is look at one of these friends of mine with a particularly funny look on my face, and instantaneously, we both know that the other is thinking about dancing underneath the desert stars in Indio.
There is something to be said about just how liberating it feels to purge yourself of the reasons to not do anything, anything that it is that you want to accomplish. This particular set of friends and I are of like minds, and our adventures traveling and exploring new places is in a fashion I don’t think I could do with any other group of people. A lot of my personal and professional accomplishments I’ve made over the past twelve months are due to the adventures, or in some cases misadventures I’ve experienced. A lot of the people in my life, and a lot of the things I’ve gotten to do these past twelve months have happened because I did not give myself a reason to not do these things.