Restival: An Unforgettable Experience

With wanderlust running through her veins, photographer Laura Austin is someone you can’t help but watch. After growing up in small mountain towns in Colorado and Vermont, she is currently based in Los Angeles. The contrast of her roots in nature and the urban environment where she lives now forces Laura to constantly escape the city and explore. Meshing her previous professions as a graphic designer and journalist, Laura’s skill is visual storytelling. She makes the simple fantastical and the fantastical feasible, roaming to all ends of the earth and bringing it back to us every time in hopes of getting you out to experience the world for yourself... or at least make you feel you were along for the ride just by looking at her images. Thus, we thought she would be the perfect photographer to send to Restival, a festival that celebrates the art of rest without cell service, yoga, nourishing food and organic Coyuchi sheets. Read about her experience at Restival below and follow her next adventure here

Where do I even start? Restival is one of those experiences you try to explain, but there just aren’t adequate words in the English language with which to elaborate to your excitement. It’s definitely a “you had to be there” experience, but since it’s my job to spread the word about Restival, I’ll do my best to bring this magical event to life.

It seems like these days wellness retreats are a dime a dozen.  When Coyuchi asked me to document Restival, not knowing much about the event, I was skeptical I would enter a world where people were taking selfies in order to show off how much better their life was, without really taking away anything deeper. I pictured people doing yoga in a beautiful location, drinking fresh-pressed juices, and ending their social media posts with #blessed. Was I ever wrong!

Restival stands out from the pack in so many ways. The most obvious difference from other retreats is the way it incorporates indigenous tribes. The Restival I attended in Arizona was staged right on the border of a Navajo reservation. Not only did we have the opportunity to become familiar with Navajo land, but we also got to meet several members of the tribe that were involved in the event, including artists, cosmologists, horse whisperers, and peacemakers. Through workshops and conversations, Restival attendees got an intimate perspective on Navajo culture, its worldview, ancient wisdom, and daily life on the reservation—something few outsiders ever get the chance to experience, and definitely not something they could ever read about in a textbook.

Restival is considered an “eco-luxe” event, meaning that it is both environmentally friendly and luxurious. And it lived up to that billing. Attendees stayed in either a private bell tent or a shared teepee. Instead of cots, everyone slept on memory-foam mattresses made up in layers of Coyuchi linen. The entire camp was run off a combination of generators and solar power in order to leave the smallest possible carbon footprint. And at mealtime we weren’t eating hotdogs cooked over a campfire. Each each meal was a mouth-watering spread of healthy, delicious dishes, prepared on site with love by Mama Moon.

Rather than presenting a small menu of wellness activities, Restival offers a smorgasbord of workshops, talks, and practitioners, so each attendee can cater the experience to his or her own specific interests and curiosities. Restival provides different avenues along which each person can pursue his or her own personal transformation, from mainstream practices such as yoga and meditation to more alternative methods such as crystal healing and an ancient Taoist technique called Chi Nei Tsang.

Beyond the incredible classes, food, location, and accommodations, what really makes Restival is the people you meet there. After spending five days in close quarters with a single group of people without any distractions or other obligations, you really get to know both the amazing staff and the other attendees. One big takeaway for me was how much the Internet changes social interactions between people.  There was zero cell-phone reception and only one area where you could use Wi-Fi in case of emergency. Without the Internet as a “shortcut” to getting to know someone new, you could form your own opinion about them based on who they were in person, rather than what the Internet told you about them, how they choose curate their life on social media, or how many people follow them. It completely leveled the playing field, making for a sense of community that was incredibly heartwarming.

In a day and age when it seems like there is so much bad going on in the world, Restival is exactly what we all need. A huge thank you to Restival founder Caroline Jones for her willingness to work so hard to bring this event to life. I for one came out of the experience feeling like better person and with more clarity. Humanity as a whole could use a minute to close its eyes, take a deep breath, cleanse out the negativity, and truly appreciate the world around us. Restival is big a step in this direction.