How (and Why) Volunteering at Wanderlust Changed My Life

Our writer took six long flights to get to her first Wanderlust, and says she never would have gone if she wasn’t volunteering. Here’s what happened.

Interested in volunteering with Wanderlust? We’d love to have you! Apply to be a 2019 Festival volunteer here.

In 2012, I took six flights from Kingston, Jamaica to Wanderlust Squaw Valley. I’m a Jamaican, who at the time was living at home… And yep, I took six whole flights to Wanderlust.

At the time, Wanderlust was on my radar big time. I had a small business called Prana that offered writing and communication services to the wellness industry in Jamaica. I was very interwoven into the country’s yoga scene, and worked for several prominent teachers. Of course, I was also a bonafide yoga girl, who practiced daily. Wanderlust was on my radar big time, as I longed to expand my reach to a global marketplace.

One day, the idea flew into my head… Why not volunteer at Wanderlust? I signed up, received my confirmation email and instructions, and booked my trip. Then, I found another volunteer I could hitch a ride with from the airport, and some I could share a room with at a small hotel across the road from the venue.

It was the first time I had ever done such a thing, and, quite honestly, I haven’t done anything like it since. It was life-changing. Having planned it, stuck with it and carried it through, was a feat. When I got back home and looked back at my adventure, I was proud of myself.

The actual Wanderlust experience itself was transformative too.

In a blog post after the event, I wrote, “My Wanderlust weekend was a blur of inspiration, utter awesomeness, scenic beauty, exhaustion, adrenaline, and all that good stuff.”

Highlight number one:

Jamaica was EVERYWHERE. Reggae music was pumping throughout the marketplace, teachers played reggae during classes, and my eyes stumbled upon my symbols of my culture constantly. Looking back it at, maybe that wasn’t such a big deal. After all, the “hippy-ness” of Rastafarianism is certainly kindred to yoga in many ways.

I remember wearily stumbling into a Shiva Rea class, where she led us to a wild, boundless dancing to massive amounts of reggae music. My heart was stolen. It was just what I needed. I was a seemingly a billion miles away, yet I felt right at home, proud as could be.

Highlight number two:

The people. The team of other Wanderlust volunteers were amazing. Seven years later, I can still remember the face of the girl I spent the most time with at the volunteer booth. Her carefree spirit was the comfort I needed after traveling so far on my own. Even though we never kept in touch, our connection was instant and deep.

My roomies were also great. We were all on interesting adventures, and even though we were strangers squeezed into small quarters, everything was easy breezy.

The word that I think best describes everyone at Squaw Valley is “cool”. The locals were my kind of down-to-earth. The Wanderlust staff was incredibly welcoming, the regular festival-goers were all super mellow, and the presenters were all chilled out, mixing and mingling with everyone else. Maybe the altitude had something to do with it, but everyone seemed simply high on life.

Highlight number three:

Most of all, my experience volunteering at Wanderlust granted me a glimpse into all the goodness happening in the world at the time. As I strolled through the many booths, I was mesmerized by the depth and breadth of conscious businesses and products. It was heartwarming, inspiring and gave me a sense that one day all will be right with the world.

The vibe, energy and tribe that the event had fostered and attracted reiterated that life that can be both free and joyous, while also being grounded and thoughtful. And, that not only can we all live together harmoniously and respectfully, but also in a celebratory honoring of our cultural differences. That there can be heavy dialogue, life-shifting movements of healing, and also wine and mad dancing all mixed in one.

A Gift to Myself

If I didn’t have the opportunity to volunteer at Wanderlust that year, I simply would never have gone. Volunteering is a gift to yourself—it’s a chance to indulge in the plentitude of classes and the good vibes that come with them, but also, to me, it’s a time to immerse yourself fully in a global community that feels like it’s being led from the heart.

My Wanderlust 2012 experience changed the course of my life. I no longer saw the world the same. Two years later I packed my bags and moved away from Jamaica on a whole other adventure. But, the roots for that move were born right there in Squaw Valley. In that space, I was able to get a glimpse into possibilities I had never seen before.


Kinisha Correia is a freelance writer and blogger. She is a contributing writer to a number of publications, and is a regular columnist for the Miami Herald, highlighting local initiatives focused on building social welfare in any capacity. Her blog, Prana Writes, showcases change-making people and projects around the globe doing uplifting work in the areas of yoga, wellness, eco-living, the arts, conscious travel, and ethical fashion. Kinisha credits yoga for altering the course of her life, and dedicates much of work to sharing yoga’s positivity.