If you haven't heard us raving about Restival - the unique concept which combines a retreat and festival - now is the time to listen up. Here we interview founder Caroline Jones about how she chooses the unique locations around the world, her most magical moments and why it's the perfect experience for a solo traveller. If you like what you hear, register for Arizona Restival in September or Morocco Restival in February 2017 here.
How did the first initial idea for Restival come about?
It came to me on the underground, I often daydream on the tube. Watching people with no signal still using their phones, I thought, what if you combined a retreat with a festival? A fun event combined with wisdom which is wifi free! Rather than getting out of your mind, you found out more about yourself and others by switching off.
What are four different reasons someone should experience Restival?
Finding happiness by switching off completely. Meeting a diverse collection of people from around the world. Reconnecting with the earth. Connecting with an ancient culture.
What are the key pillars of the concept?
Wellness - We focus on nutrition, nurturing the body, taking care of yourself through yoga, meditation and a spa with excellent body workers.
Comfort - in order to disconnect I think you have to be comfortable and truly feel looked after. Tribes - for centuries we have ignored so much tribal wisdom and I think it's time to wake up to what other cultures have to say. I've learned so much from the Navajo. They have an gentle, yet infinite wisdom that's delivered with humility coming from their love of the earth. We can learn without technology, by simply listening to people who respect the laws of nature and understand the cosmic order of the universe - better than any TV show or video can ever demonstrate.
Discovery - this happens on many levels, from the land, to the tribe, yourself and of other people. Guests who attended last year's Restival called themselves the Restival Family - they created their own clan through discovery and truly connecting with one another.
Has the concept evolved since its inception?
Yes, we're constantly evolving since we work with different tribes and learn so much from them. In the US we're collaborating with the Navajo and in Morocco the Berber. You learn so many wise ways from indigenous cultures - Restival is all about evolution and reconnection to yourself, others and the earth.
The Restival clan (the team who produce Restival) are constantly evolving with the movement. It's so wonderful to see everyone growing, including myself - I'm learning and evolving too, I'm a work in progress. I love my clan, Restival wouldn't happen without their dedication to the movement. We work together incredibly well with a lot of patience, kindness and laughter. We don't always agree either, which is good. They know I love them, I tell them all the time. It may not be the corporate way, but Restival is about doing things differently and so, I also swim upstream.
Why do you aim to link with tribes in specific destinations? What does that bring to the experience?
Restival has been granted rare and privileged access to indigenous cultures who have immense wisdom on life, Mother Earth and how the universe works. Their abundant knowledge is utterly captivating. We can adapt these learnings into our every day lives, and that's what Restival's wishes are - to equip people with the tools to handle modern life by learning from an ancient culture and helping the people of the land by educating the future generation.
Part of the proceeds from Restival will go towards education facilities such as the STAR School in Arizona. These unforgettable moments with the Navajo bring wisdom, history, undiscovered magic, pure light, creativity, energy, laughter and much more to the experience. The Navajo are incredible artisans with a wicked sense of humour.
What were you doing before you started Restival?
I started working in events in 1994, starting at the Shepherds Bush Empire during the Britpop era. For the last 10 years I have been running my own events company, Miss Jones & Co.
Why did you want to create an experience for solo travellers.
I actually wanted to go on holiday on my own without going to a retreat or a 'singles' holiday. So I created a place where you can connect without feeling awkward and not be labelled this or that. Just a place where you can be yourself and have a laugh, dance and create. Plus rest. We all need to rest more.
Restival is currently only for 100 people at a time. Do you think this would ever change?
My friend who's a festival promoter and I had a big debate about this recently. You lose the intimacy when you tip over a certain number of people, so I'm loathed to make it into a big event. Guests develop cliques and stop interacting with people they haven't met when events are on a bigger scale. Walking into the dining tent in the Sahara was like someone turning the volume up - everyone was talking, discovering something new about a stranger and truly connecting with one another. They sat on cushions, eating close to the ground on round tables, tribal style.
What makes Restival different from other retreats/festivals out there?
I think we're completely different to anything out there. That's why some people can't quite get their head around it! The clue, I suppose, is in the name. Restival is not your average festival of staying up all night and pushing your body to physical limits. At Restival we find new highs in camping under the stars in the Sahara and discovering the cosmos with our astronomer, before dancing with the Berber around a campfire. You're in the hands of a sage and surrounded by satisfied people, and you'll have something new to go home and talk about. There's nothing wrong with a rave, but Restival isn't a rave. You're likely to discover more about yourself at Restival than a standard festival.
Is yoga a massive part of the Restival experience?
Yes it is part of it but not a must do - there are no musts at Restival. We practice yoga every morning and evening but nothing's prescriptive. You can choose to do whatever you wish at Restival. Sit and watch the view and reflect or go to a writing workshop. There's lots to do and nothing to do at the same time. We just want you to recalibrate and be happy.
Do you think people should think more about why they travel rather than just where to?
I think people should be more conscious about the experience that occurs when they travel. It's not a badge, it's a journey that stays with you long after you're home. The problem these days is that we're so busy when we get home after a couple of days it feels like you haven't been away. That's why I created Restival - to make a difference, to create a movement with a legacy.
What are some of the most magical moments you have experienced at Restival?
Watching the sun rise over a dune, dancing with Morning Gloryville. The gratitude I felt from the guests. Walking into a room and seeing so many happy people in the Sahara.
What type of person goes to Restival? Were there any unlikely guests at the last one in Morocco?
A managing director of a big multi-national company who had never practiced yoga before is now a regular meditator. He was pretty skeptical but joined in and my abiding memory will be of him rolling down a sand dune laughing his head off. We just had so much fun together as a tribe and it doesn't matter where you're from or what you do - we all come from stardust as the Navajo Astronomer told me.
What is so special about the destinations that you have chosen? And why did you expand to Arizona?
The uniqueness of the destinations comes from the vast plains that you look out onto, with no aeroplane trails in the sky, no traffic noise, no advertising. Pure silence and energy from the earth as it's untouched by humanity. We found Arizona by mistake. My friend was looking for the Roden Crater and found the Ranch which sits beside the Crater. Whilst spending time with the owner, she realised what a perfect spot this would be for Restival Arizona. The owner also runs the STAR School where the Navajo children are taught the Navajo way, so that's where the tribal connection was made.
The land in Arizona is a perfect mix of majestic beauty and eccentric artworks in the middle of nowhere with a gigantic meteorite crater as your neighbour. The vista is jaw dropping. It sits atop an ancient native American reservation and you can see rocks where their old dwellings used to be. We find crystals in the ground all the time, it's just bursting with energy.
The Sahara Desert also has this incredible vastness to it and the sky at night is phenomenal. Almost everyone sees at least two shooting stars. You could easily just sit and look at the sky all night with the music from the Berber nomads in the background. That's a theatre show in itself. Pure nature on display.
Can you describe the way the Arizona desert makes people feel?
Grounded. Totally, the geological history of the place is so dense with grounding energy you feel completely connected to the earth. Also it's at quite a high altitude so you sleep so soundly. It really is a place to rest and connect.
Register for Arizona Restival in September or Morocco Restival in November here.