Make a plan. Toss it in the trash.

When I received my Electric Forest wristband in the mail back in June, it came with this little card:

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In case you can’t read it, the card says:

Greetings from Electric Forest!
HQ cannot wait to spend our 5th year in Rothbury with you. May we celebrate under the branches of Sherwood Forest for many years to come! Here is a small piece of advice for Forest Family old and new as our reunion approaches…
Make an elaborate and detailed plan
Spend a lot of time on this plan
Upon arrival at the festival, throw away your plan
Go towards what you don’t know, not what you do know.
See you in The Forest!

I read this card and it made me angry. I’m a natural planner, obsessive about logistics and details. I’m a great person to have around at a festival because my phone is never dead, I always have a copy of the schedule and the map, and can basically give you the lowdown on everything¬†and everyone and everywhere.

But after thinking about it for a minute, I realized this card is absolutely right.

I’m a big proponent of making festival plans. Look at the lineup. See when your favorites are on. See when those artists you’ve vaguely heard about and would love to check out for the first time are on. If you’re at Forest (as opposed to a different festival), pencil in extra free time for wandering the grounds and finding all the magical little surprises.

And then abide by that schedule. A little.

No matter how much you plan, festivals are unpredictable. It’s impossible to not be flexible because so much is out of your control. Let it go. (And I’m pretty Type A about stuff, so if I’m telling you to just go with the flow…do it.)

Sometimes you’ll intend on seeing a certain set but you decide you just want to sit under your canopy and relax. Sometimes your friends will want to see a completely different artist and you’ll realize that, in that moment, you’d rather stay with the group and discover a new artist than see the person you were intending. Other times you’ll be at a set you were majorly looking forward to and, for whatever reason, you aren’t enjoying it. Leave. Wander around, discover something else. Even if your friends don’t come with you. Exploring on your own is fun. Follow your heart, or your head, or the lasers you see coming from a different stage, or the music from another part of the festival, or just go nowhere and sit and people watch. Someone will eventually sit down next to you. Talk to them.

You should always have a few plans on which you won’t budge. If someone had said to me at Electric Forest this year, for instance, “Let’s go do ____ instead of seeing Gramatik,” I would have said no. I do not miss Gramatik sets. But I did miss many of the second tier artists I was planning on seeing, and I don’t regret it.

Even though it’s November and festival season more or less just ended, 2016 is right around the corner (let’s fast forward through the pain of winter, thanks). Festivals are already starting to release dates, lineup teasers, and ticketing information for next summer. So start getting your schedules ready, and then crumple them up. Put on your most fun festival outfit, and walk into the unknown.

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