The Entrance Portal by the artist of artists Carey Thompson

We first attended Envision in 2016, and 2017 solidified it as one of our favorites. I can’t imagine ever missing this event again. Festivals are generally not easy to attend in terms of comfort and Envision challenges even the most experienced of festival veterans. The heat, the distance, the remote location, it all makes it a challenge. But with good preparation, proper packing and an unwavering positive attitude, this festival is exactly the kind of adventure that will change your life. When you go through all that you will have gone through to make it to the entrance of Rancho La Merced, you will feel like you truly earned it. And I believe that dynamic could be felt in the community of that weekend. The memories we created, they feel like they were possible because those who came, ‘chose’ to come. We didn’t stumble onto Envision, we arrived at it. So where did it all begin …

All great festivals begin with a vision; with a stirring spark of imagination. A yearning to bring to life something the founders practice, see and feel already in their daily lives. And such was the case for Miami-born co-founder Stephen Brooks in 2011, when Envision sprung to life.

As a lifelong Deadhead fan and Burning Man attendee, who studies the relationship between humans and plants during his day job as an ethnobotanist, Stephen simply saw this as something that had to happen. He told David Garber of Thump before last year’s Envision, “Everything I’ve done has been dedicated to creating transformation… [and] creat[ing] experiences to wake people up, so they can live differently and take a different path.” Read David’s full interview of Stephen here: Co-Founder of Costa Rica’s Envision Explains why Transformational Festivals Matter. That spark, stoked and cared for over time with effort and teamwork became a roaring flame that brought goals ever closer and made a core group of stewards ever stronger, emboldened to continue to grow the dream, year after year.

A music festival is no easy feat to manifest, and just to put it together in a semblance of function is a herculean task. So imagine then, one that is created in a remote location such as is the Envision Festival in Costa Rica, where almost every structure is built from scratch, often with what is laying around in the jungle, and then mostly dismantled with no trace left. They build the festival with parts of banana trees, bamboo stalks and palm trees. Read more about their green building in this article by Green Building at the Envision Festival, Costa Rica.

This year the Village stage was enveloped with live plants and it was enchanting to look upon as the speakers spoke and the musicians played. The natural beauty of the surroundings adds an element that you do not often see at other festivals. You feel it when shopping in the Global Mercado, or hanging out at the Elixir Bar, or dancing at the various intricately crafted musical stages. The festival is one with the jungle and it’s a beautiful scene.

The Selina Tea Lounge

If it was up to us, every music festival would find itself being produced in a tropical setting. The tropics are healing, lush and verdant. ‘Sweating it out’ to the heat leaves you feeling fresh, clear minded and connected. That this festival actually even happens is astounding, and then that it has become one of the most beautiful festivals you can attend in the world is simply the definition of spectacular.

Before we go further, we feel the need to distinguish that Envision is a ‘transformational music festival’ as opposed to a ‘commercial musical festival’. At Sparked we will go in-depth to explain the difference in future articles on how to distinguish the variety of festivals out there, but for now imagine a transformational festival as a well-rounded experience of learning from workshops and speakers, with sound tracks of music ranging in styles and genres both live and electronic, and with the exploration of ideas and insights into a better way to live through eating organic/quality food, eschewing that which is processed, and the discovery of your body through movement, dance and yoga.

If that’s all new to you, it won’t feel that way. You will pick it up as if it was second nature. You will not get that at a city festival or a festival created as an accumulation of concerts and the sale of mass-produced corporate goods. In the Thump interview, David asked Stephen, “Do you see festivals like Envision as an escape from real life?” and he replied, “I wouldn’t say that it’s an escape from real life, I’d say It’s a recreation of a new life. What is real life? I think we’re being tricked into a life that’s not serving us, and is supporting wars and chemical food, and a system that’s broken. What Envision is trying to do is show that it’s possible to live good and thrive, and not do that.”

Visionary Art by Blake Drezet and Autumn Skye

To show us what creativity can bring to our reality, legendary and visionary artists Ernest Doty, Autumn Sky, and Blake Drezet gave onlookers a glimpse into their creative process as well as their psychedelic minds via paintings featured outside the Envision Gallery situated in the zone of the Luna stage. Tuffy Luffuss, visual curator for both the gallery and for all visual artists, did a phonomel job with the breath and reach of the artistic representation for the festival. It’s a rare treat to have a true gallery at a festival. The Reliquarium, a collective of artists dedicated to facilitating environments for expression of the creative impulse, made the Luna stage something to behold this year. I could simply not take my eyes off the octopus and the projections created onto it after the sun had set. You just had to be there! The live music stage, Sol, created by Zebbler Studios and Alchemy Arts came to life each night as projections onto the large wooden parrots created a magical mirage in the jungle’s night. And as the only daytime stage with shade, the Lapa stage stood apart with its intimate design by Tigre Bailando: Arte Vida (member of The Reliquarium), a spirited sculptor who used local branches to build a towering teepee with a dj booth in its crown.

The Luna Stage crafter by The Reliquarium & Magnetic Melt

For those that wanted to take in some learning, 3 shaded areas offered a variety of workshops and seminars ranging from John Perkins speaking on ‘Indigenous Shaman meets Economic Hitman’, to Rob Greenfield on ‘Minimal Living & Sustainable Travelling’ and ‘How to Be an Environmental Activist’. We also really liked Erin Shrode speaking on ‘Redifining Politician’ and ‘Breaking our Plastic Culture’ by Chloe Dubois. Both insightful and earnest in their delivery of subjects that we are well aware of, but needing in the reminder that it never hurts to stand up and do the right thing. If we all did it, the world would change very quickly. Permaculturist Stephen Brooks, one of the founders of the festival, was constantly active, lending a hand, introducing acts, and giving inspirational speeches such as ‘There is No Time to Wait’. More subjects over the weekend included, “Defining Personal Purpose’, ‘Eat Right for Your Type’, and ‘Heart Centred Entrepreneurship’.

One corner of the Global Mercado, where ethical fashion could be purchased

But what we really loved was this year’s focus on Slow Fashion. We attended the Ethical Fashion Panel discussion, moderated by co-founder Sarah Wu, where we heard from various voices on the need for us all to care more where our garments come from, how they are made, and how powerful voting with our wallet truly is in making a difference in the world. We heard Francisca Pineda, a New York fashion designer, speak on ‘Fast Fashion’ and how she has taken a step back in her design business to offer a more tailored ‘slow fashion’ service where she can meet the kinds of quality standards that truly make her leather shoe line something to be proud of, so it can be worn as a true status symbol: the symbol of caring. And then we heard Summer Rayne Oaks, an eco-model, speak on ‘What Fashion Can Lean from Slow Food’. As you can imagine, we process fibers for fabric even more than we process food for humans, and the pollution we create in doing so is incredible. It’s so astounding, that it’s very difficult to even wrap our minds around it. At Sparked, we will delve deeply into ethical fashion and what impact ‘fast fashion’ has on our world. We will make lists of which companies are worth supporting and which are not, and we will show you easy ways we can all do our part to do better each day as we strive for a better future.

Because in the end, this is what this is all truly about. A festival is a festival. We come to have fun, to dance, to live, to express. But what happens to us inside that festival is what matters the most. It can bring us joy, love, epiphany, self-discovery, or just simply a good time with friends, leaving us invigorated, like a good night of laughter would do, with the glow of happiness on our cheeks. I believe these kinds of experiences change us. These kinds of settings, with people from all over the world, with intentions to be better, to do better, learning something that we can use to help ourselves and our neighbors, they are what make our world stronger. We are the change we want to see, and every single one of us had a part in it at Envision 2017. Pay it forward to our future.

And finally, we want to send out a deep, heartfelt thank you to all the builders, fabricators, artists, organizers and volunteers who showed up early each and every day before we even all got there, to give their time and energy in creating what was a truly beautiful experience for us all. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Keep being amazing and we will see you all again next year.

Feel free to let us know how Envision touched you this year in the comments below or on our Facebook Page.