When I set off to go to my very first festival alone, I wasn’t sure what I was doing.
I was, to be completely honest, scared. Scared enough that tucked away in my ridiculously heavy rucksack alongside shorts, sandals that the British weather would ensure wouldn’t get a look in, and cans of Strongbow, was a padlock I planned on locking my tent shut with.
So, safe to say I wasn’t exactly throwing myself into the experience with wild abandon.
I’m a worrier by nature and I’d spent the week before the first day of the festival fretting about every little detail. My biggest worry was meeting people and making new friends.
“People go to festivals with their friends”, I told myself. “They aren’t going to want to pick up a straggler.” I had visions of myself arriving at the gates, contemplating the scene and turning right back around again.
But I’m so glad I faced up to my fears. As is so often the case, the reality turned out to be very, very different — and much, much better.
I’d signed up to volunteer at the festival on a whim because I’d recently split up with a boyfriend, and my summer of staring into each other’s eyes magically transformed into a summer of staring at my face in the mirror — and I really, really wasn’t up for it.
The break up had also come as a massive shock, and splintered my self-esteem into lots of tiny pieces. So breaking well and truly out of my comfort zone seemed like a good way of trying to piece it back together again.
Facing my fears
Luckily my fears and anxieties weren’t enough to actually stop me setting foot on the ferry — the festival I chose to go to was on the Isle of Wight, which was a positive if only because it made it that bit harder for me to turn right back around again.
In fact almost as soon as I arrived in Cowes it became pretty clear my fear about making friends and meeting new people was unfounded.
Someone with much more confidence than me asked me if I was volunteering at the festival as we were both getting off the ferry (a massive rucksack and wellies is usually a pretty good give away) and just like that I’d made a connection.
If you’re setting off on a new adventure alone and you want to make friends while doing it, my first tip is to attach yourself to someone with levels of confidence you wish you had.
Their outgoing nature will help you make all kinds of new friends and meet a variety of people, and you can piggyback on their self-assurance skills until yours have had a bit more practice.
As we made our way to the festival we picked up some more people who were just as keen to be friends, and I felt my worries start to slip away. And to be honest they didn’t return once over the entire festival — well until I saw the dreaded queue to leave, that is.
Once we’d actually arrived, me, my ferry friend and the group we’d accumulated on the bus over made our way to our campsite.
I stuck with my new friend all the way through the volunteer briefing, and by the end we’d met so many new people I lost count. Far from being alone, I’d found a group to camp with and even people to help pitch my tent!
A change of perspective
Over the next few days, I got to know the people I was camping with better, I met new people on my volunteering shifts, but crucially I also ventured off to stages to see musicians solo.
Meeting new people gave me a massive boost — I’d felt after my break up as though I wasn’t good enough, but here were all these kind, funny people wanting to be friends with me! My confidence levels were low, and before I set off I’d been dreading even starting a conversation with someone, but by the end I knew I could chat happily away about anything from tent pegs to instant noodles.
But more than the friendships I made, I took something away from the festival which has stuck with me ever since. Even if I hadn’t met anyone, even if I had needed that padlock on my tent, it would have been OK. In fact, it still would have been fun. Some of the best moments I had at the festival were when I was on my own. I explored the sprawling site, its amazing art installations, hippy fields, food truck zones, and of course music tents, all on my own. And I followed my own fun while doing it.
There are some obvious perks to doing a festival alone — one of them being that you don’t have to indulge your mates’ terrible tastes in music, but it also reminds you of the joy of your own company and the value of doing things for enjoyment’s sake alone. I’m a bit of a people-pleaser by nature and for me a festival filled with things I wanted to do and see just for myself, and mostly by myself, was a revelation. But it was also great to find a new group of friends and meet like-minded people, something that I wouldn’t have had a chance to do if I hadn’t gone to a festival alone.
There’s something in the atmosphere at a festival that whether totally alone, with new friends or old, it’s hard not to have fun, and embrace a more care-free version of yourself. Even if you only do it once, it’s worth doing just to know you can.
Thanks to my solo festival experience, I know making new friends starts with a simple conversation, that I don’t need anyone else to have an unforgettable experience, and that nothing cements a new connection like watching the sunrise while stumbling back to your tent. In fact, going to a festival alone gave me the strength to overcome my fears, embrace adventure and meet new people. It restored my confidence, gave me a whole new lease of life, and as cheesy as it sounds, made me a better version of myself. Not bad for a few days in a field.
Feeling the buzz from festival freedom? Here are 3 wanderlust destinations to explore solo:
Soak yourself in the crystalline blue waters of wild Wadis, explore the caves and grottoes between craggy cliffs and absorb the landscape of the Grand Canyon from high.
Sail to Zanzibar on a traditional Dhow boat, explore an underwater world of coral reef and enjoy an outdoor feast on the white sand beaches of this perfect island paradise.
Journey through the heart of the Hakone Mountains, reconnect with the spirit of nature and lose yourself in a land of ancient customs and traditions.