Sometimes we see ourselves differently than others. I often check my own barometer to see if I’m still a fairly low maintenance girl. Don’t misunderstand, I enjoy a good 5-star experience but a few nights under the stars can remind one of how to stay grounded!

Several years ago an old friend from high school reconnected with me on Facebook. One of our common threads is seeing live music. This friend had mentioned the Wanee Festival to me the last three years stating that it was an experience beyond all experiences. A “must do” for me. I wanted to attend but wasn’t sure the scene was for me. I went to the website. I checked out the forums. Should I be a “Wanee Virgin…a first-timer? Could I handle four nights and three days of continuous music in Live Oak, Florida? The festival is held on part of a camp ground that has over 700 acres of land with three miles on the Suwanee River bank-side. There’s primitive camping, slots for RV’s and a few hotels in the area. There’s two stages where bands play, the Mushroom and the Peach. The line up of music has tempted me for years. Will I pull the trigger this year and make it happen? 

When I was younger, I camped. When I was younger, I could go a day without a shower. When I was younger, I could sleep anywhere. I’ve run marathons and had to make pit stops in the woods. What are you made of girl? What are you afraid of? You can do this, right?

More questions entered my thoughts as the event approached. A few voice mails with a taunting voice singing “Waneeeee” had me laughing and negotiating with myself. Could I be totally immersed in this music festival with 21,000 other people from Thursday evening until Sunday morning? Could I sleep in a tent under the stars with all that Mother Nature created? Could I be my most natural self? No make-up, no shower or toilet without a line, no refrigerator with an iced cold beverage of my choice. 357 miles away from all the comforts of home. Hmmm. Check off the box? Purchase the ticket? Make it happen? Create another entry in your virtual scrapbook? Make a few new memories with an old friend? The answer came on a walk with a friend. He said, “Do what you love. Life is about being the person you are…you seek these experiences.”

Created my list, packed my truck and took off with my eyes wide open, freshly bathed. Four hours later I was sitting under the most beautiful Oak trees dripping with green leaves listening to music that made my heart filled with joy and watching an intense laser light show! Friday’s line up was beyond exciting. 12 hours of music, six standing in the rain with my yellow slicker on. I was determined to hear the Allman Brothers close the show at midnight. I was wet and cold! And, I survived. My rain slicker did not. Neither did my clothes. I toughed it out. I returned to my tent only to find a group of mosquitoes looking for dinner from all the rain. I made a decision at that moment to sleep in my Sequoia. I had taken the third row of seats out before leaving home and could tilt the second row up to leave well beyond five feet of sleeping area. Two layers of sleeping bags, one layer of a college comforter, two pillows and dry clothes, this chick was set. I dipped into my stash of comfort treats for some Twizzlers and a Vitamin Zero. Washed my face with wipes and off to sleep I went. Nine hours later I awoke to the most glorious day filled with sunshine.

Day three, completely immersed, I found my truest self. I can’t articulate well what happened that day but at some point I found a peace inside myself that had been hiding for a while. An easiness I had been looking for. There were many people I chatted with over the three days. Everyone was so kind to one another. I felt so connected. People danced, sang, swayed and hung their freak flags out together. There was no judging, no arguing, no pushing or shoving. At times I found myself with tears running down my cheeks as I listened to guitar solos. I looked over and saw the same happening to others around me. There were moments when I laughed at myself because I had my groove on and I didn’t care what it looked like. There were conversations with others that were raw and uncensored about what we were witnessing. I met a new friend, Leann, who traveled by herself this first time and was having the same moment I was while we sat on a picnic bench. We were meant to meet each other. Of that I am certain. There we were, looking at the stage from way in the back having a drink just soaking up the day. We saw the swaying of a thousand bodies. It was an overwhelming visual. Beach balls being bounced in the air, Frisbee’s being thrown, women doing the hula hoop around their hips and the “Sound of Sunshine” playing. I introduced her to a bathroom with a door. It’s amazing how grateful you can be for something that simple. We exchanged contact information and remained connected.

Long talks and storytelling late at night by the RV’s with old and new friends, laughter that filled the air, lights in the trees that sparkled as people swayed in their hammocks are forever etched in my memory. Raw and uncensored. There I was, day three, Wanee girl. I made it. And, Wanee is in me. I am forever changed. So when you are at crossroad trying to make a decision about what is ahead of you, ”Do what you love. Life is about being the person you are…seek those experiences.” Pull the trigger and bathe first!