Have you ever sung out loud, full on harmonizing with Motown during Savasana? I hadn’t either, until the last day of Wanderlust Snowshoe 2019. They say Savasana is “supposed” to be completely still and silent in a meditative state, but when Justine Malick is finishing up a soulful hips practice, DJ Drez is playing Easyby the Commodores, and you fully understand the lyrics for the first time in your life there’s no stopping it. It didn’t matter what I was supposed to be doing. Singing was what my heart and soul needed in that moment. And it was OK. At Wanderlust the boundaries are pushed, curved, and stretched to create space for individuals to do and be exactly what they need to in each moment. And my, did I need it.
At the age of 29 I was content, having checked off all the major milestones I’d laid out for myself: college, job, husband, kids, house, savings accounts, and retirement plans. Then life stepped in, as it is known to, and within one calendar year I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, Bipolar Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, I had a miscarriage, and I lost my dog. I think that’s what is referred to as a wake-up call, right? I was forced to confront my mortality and evaluate the quality of the life I’d been living. It turned out I was not content at all. I was just complacent. I started asking myself “who am I, what brings me joy, and what is worth fighting for?” Changes were made. That string of events set me on a wholly unexpected, yet incredibly fulfilling journey of healing and finding my way back to myself—finding my true north. Enter Wanderlust.
At Wanderlust the boundaries are pushed, curved, and stretched to create space for individuals to do and be exactly what they need to in each moment.
From the first moments of my full-day immersion with Glowmaven Latham Thomas, creating a safe space with 20 other women whom I’d never met, I knew I had made the right choice clearing my calendar months in advance to attend the festival on the weekend of my 32nd birthday. At the end of that day, by those same women, I had been heard, held, supported, and loved. I felt the same sense of safety in every interaction I had with attendees, instructors, vendors, volunteers, and staff throughout my whole weekend at Snowshoe and again two weeks later again at Wanderlust Stratton.
Among thousands of people, I felt no pressure to fit in. I practiced alongside children and seniors, people of all and no genders, every beautiful hue of skin, hair, and eyes, witches, mermaids, gypsies, and stars; all learning from each other how to navigate this human experience. I felt an overwhelming sense of freedom which allowed me to delve deep into my soul and explore.
I was introduced to an incredible array of food, drink, music, and wares. I ate Kitchari for the first time and drank vegan protein shakes that tasted like chocolate milk. I purchased a goddess jumpsuit that will stand out perfectly in my small hometown and fell in love with a handmade mala from all the way across the world. I danced with fire and moved my spine like water. I balanced several feet in the air on a 1 inch line and felt the power of a mountain beneath my bare feet. I meditated in diamond sound baths and let my body move freely to Chicago House beats at a silent disco. Each new opportunity I took advantage of delivered gifts I could not have imagined, pulling me out of my self-made niche and enriching my life.
What I found most powerful about the Wanderlust festival experience was that were no preachers on soapboxes, or mystics promising to share the secrets of the universe. We were all there as seekers with our eyes and ears wide open. The presenters I had the opportunity to spend time shared vulnerably about their passions and beliefs, using their personal stories to form connection. More facilitator than teacher, each focused selflessly on the experience they were creating for the participants. Instead of giving answers, they asked questions. Instead of instructing, they offered tools to help move through the most stubborn blocks. They created space in which the hard work could be safely done, then stepped aside to let us do it.
During the two festivals that I attended this season I took about 50 pages of notes. There’s no need to go back and study any of them though, because what felt worth writing at the time were universal truths I had needed to be reminded of, and poignant questions I already knew the answers to. The act of writing was simply a way to honor the power of each gem and let it forge a warm home in my heart. There they will linger, like embers from last night’s bonfire left to glow through the night until tended back into a blaze which heats the breakfast griddle.
Part of me dreaded leaving the mountains and the beautiful things I found on them, but as I drew nearer to my familial roots it became ever more apparent how much I was bringing home with me. The real magic of Wanderlust is not the actual location or the stuff, but rather learning how to create the feeling of Wanderlust wherever you may be. I don’t need vendors outside my back door to feed me new healthy options every day. I can walk to the local market on a Saturday, pick up a new vegetable, and ask the farmer who grew it what I could make. I don’t need to drive eight hours to have a conversation with someone about their challenges and how they make the best of it. I can walk next door and say hello to my neighbor.
Diversity exists in all places, to varying degrees, you need simply seek it out. Prioritize fostering personal growth through immersion and openness. I’m home now, but it doesn’t feel quite the same because I am not. My heart is open and I’m lovingly stoking the embers of memories and friendships I’ll forever cherish, building a fire of passion and progress. I don’t know any better way to cultivate one’s best self. If you, too, are willing to seek, you will find your true north with Wanderlust.
Elyse Palmer is a writer, yogi, and mother living in Pennsylvania. Read her blog or follow her on Instagram for more.