I’ve just returned from the 11th annual BaliSpirit Festival (April 2-8), which is the second international yoga festival that I’ve attended in the past six months. In terms of presentation, line up, and size, BSF 2018 is definitely different from the International Yoga Festival in Nasik, India.
However, the purpose of my post isn’t for comparison of the two festivals. Rather, it is to remember the significant moments of my first time being a volunteer at BSF when previously I attended as part of the media.
These were the things about BaliSpirit Festival 2018 that stood out for me:
It takes something special to volunteer for BSF. After all, you’re required to work a 5.5-hour shift for six consecutive days, attend a 4-hour orientation session before the festival kicks off, & pay an impact fee of US$70 (Indonesians & those with a valid first aid certification pay half of that amount).
All we receive in return is two BSF t-shirts, one Indonesian meal per day, access to festival activities only after paying attendees have taken their spots, free shuttle to & from the festival venue, & three discount coupons for 10% off food & beverage at Kafe in Ubud (not at the festival). If we wanted to get food at the vendor village, we paid up, like everyone else.
Yet we all turned up, every day without fail for our shifts & performed our duties as expected. We were happy to soak in the vibes, attend the activities, & make new connections.
I met individuals from Malaysia, Jakarta, Malta, Bulgaria, Russia, USA (mainly California), Philippines, China, Japan, Australia. I know that our paths will cross again very soon.
If you’re a shy person, such festivals aren’t for you.
Just from sitting at the communal dining space at the Coco Love stage, I befriended many whom I might otherwise not have met. Then there are the roaming artistes who literally add colour to the festival with face painting, & hair braiding.
So I met a Peruvian who lives in Bali, his French friend who lives in London, a lady from Seattle on her fourth trip to Bali, a Singaporean lady who was in Bali to discover herself, a German guy travelling around looking for his version of a perfect view, a Swedish lady who needed time off from her family (husband, children& grandchildren) to do her yoga, & a French-Canadian artist who was in Bali to check out a sculpture he’ll be collaborating with.
Since such festivals draw a particular type of crowd, everyone is able to connect with each other on the same level, whether it is talking about yoga, world music, dance movement or spirituality. Conversations were easy, and connections were genuine.
In all honesty, I did only three workshops in the entirety of the festival. I came down with a cold on the night of the volunteer orientation, which was two days before the festival kicked off. Add to that daily sleep of 5.5 to 6 hours & warm weather, I didn’t feel like doing any vigorous activities.
Thankfully, there were some slower classes that happened after my morning shift as concluded. Thus I managed to attend a restorative flow session with Tonny Chang, a YIN yoga with Tymi Howard, and a mindful movement with music session with Indra Widjarnako.
I stretched & I moved very gently, enough for my body to release tension without too much unnecessary stress.
I missed all the other workshops & the night concerts as I was too bothered by the weather & my cold to stay late. Nevertheless, there’s always next year!
One thing about the BaliSpirit Festival is that I gives back big to the locals. While volunteers had to pay to work at the festival, the festival paid locals to worked.
From my team at Box Office to the security guard, shuttle drivers, delivery staff, sound & lighting crew, BSF is an annual festival that employs at least twice the amount of volunteers for various positions. It has created jobs for the Balinese, and generated income for the local community.
Each year, people question claims from the organisers that it’s not making money. We may never know the truth. But we do know that money from ticket sales goes towards employing Balinese & giving them a salary for that week.
When I applied to volunteer at BSF 2018, I did it on a whim with no expectations except to be able to attend yoga workshops without paying US$850+.
I came away with less workshops than I thought I would have done, loads of festival work experience, new friendships, and memories to last a life time. And you bet that I’ll be back again at the BaliSpirit Festival next year as a volunteer.