Its time to talk about the experience that Brittany and I had been, more or less, planning for months. We bought the tickets at more of a whim than anything else. It didn’t feel real then. On the way there, it didn’t feel real. It didn’t feel real when I watched her set up the tent, because of course she is already sufficient and efficient enough to do it by herself. It didn’t even feel real as we saw the arch demanding our attention in bright colors of the rainbow stating that we were officially in the grasp of “Bonnaroo.”


For those that don’t know about this strange phenomena that overtakes the small town of Manchester, Tennessee every summer, let me tell you about it. We were seemingly welcomed like celebrities to Manchester. Beer signs stated that a certain type of beer was the only beer for Bonnaroo-vians. The urgent care sign said we didn’t need an appointment to come in; they treated overheated folks and over-sun-burnt folks anytime. There were signs that said that all roads lead to Bonnaroo.

In all reality, the farm was in what seemed to be the very east part of the town, seemingly hidden behind three or four turns that led to the farm where there were close to 90,000 people. Just going to round to 90,000, but the count should be a little over 85,000.

Bonnaroo includes a couple of different stages on a 700-acre farm where all of these thousands of people eat, sleep, pee, and puke together for four days. There’s also the ability to stay two extra days, really, to catch up on sleep, if you can handle all of the sunlight by 4:45 AM – 7 AM.

Brittany and I, mostly me, made it one night camping on the farm. We spent the other nights luxuriously living out of a Quality Inn that has already received my TripAdvisor review for how shitty it was for the price I charged to my credit card. We also stayed at a lovely Sleep Inn in Nashville the night before we went to the farm. Loved it.

Back to the beginning. We left on a Wednesday morning/afternoon, after running to Earth Origins. I got coffee at Chelsea’s before the day even had the ability to start. I was up way too early, trying to decide exactly what to bring food-wise that would work for the farm. If you’re doing Bonnaroo, you better be looking up survival guides.

We headed towards Tennessee. We’ve never wanted to get out of the whole “Georgia State of Mind” as we did that day. I kept saying that that state was chubby, and I was right. Look at that thing on a map. Imagine how many peach stands and Cracker Barrel’s there are. And how high the gas prices are.

Anyways, we finally get to a place just outside of Tennessee, that mixes with the Tennessee line, but we’re actually “still” in Georgia. We entered the central timezone and saw glorious hues of greens, browns, and blues right in front of us. The mountains were worth the wait. They were just so tall. I know that is such a simple sentence, but that’s all I have to give when it comes to mountains, being akin of West Virginia folks, but born in the flatlands (and raised there, too) of Florida. That’s all I’ve got.

We arrived to Nashville in search of a bathroom, a good place to eat and sight-see before bed, and just overall the “city” of it all, rather than all of the trees we had encountered, along with angry drivers and crazy street lights.

We found the Wild Cow Vegetarian Restaurant. I want to go into detail, and I may at another time, but currently I’m just saying: I don’t care if you’re a vegetarian or not, go eat here and get the reuben.

We fell asleep quickly at the hotel, after realizing the pool was very much not working. There was a free CMA round of concerts in the downtown area, that neither of us had the energy for after driving since 10:30 AM until almost 8 PM.

The next day we had a lovely breakfast of dessert that we didn’t eat the night before, CREMA coffee, avocado toast, and quiche. I think we had something else, too, but I’ll stop there. We ate too much and didn’t hydrate nearly enough. CREMA was worth it. Another stop that’s necessary for any coffee lover, the lover of the real stuff not the syrupy junk from Starbucks. Not trying to be posh or hipster, simply saying that most “coffee lovers” love frappes, not coffee.

Brittany and I drove to the farm, an hour and fifteen minutes away from our lovely nestled town of Nashville, with all of its odd architecture, gorgeous mountains and cityscapes, fashion, and coffee. We were onto the more backroads of Tennessee, nestling ourselves into no cell phone service and hot dry air without a whip of wind. That’s what got to Britt and I the most, the thing we commented on the most: we were landlocked. No rivers around, no lakes, definitely not any beaches. We finally felt what it felt like to not have the urgency of the waves pulling towards us. They were just too far away.

Obsessed. I was obsessed with all of the outfits and tents and grass and people in their hats and sunglasses saying “happy bonnaroo”. The kindness was definitely there. We had never noticed this much kindness at a festival before. We’ve been a choice few of concerts, one festival, but nothing like Bonnaroo.

Summing up the first day/night. We met our next door neighbors. I know there is no possible way, even with the world wide web possibilities, that the guys can find this, so we met Eric, Tom, Ashton, and Jamel (Jamal?). Brittany and I were surrounded by dudes with southern drawl accents and good hearts.

Ashton, from the get-go, we learned would do pretty much anything to help. He was pouring out water bottles to use for vodka. We were drinking his water. We took shots with him and Jamel, because we couldn’t sleep in the heat and they were being so loud at 12 AM that we had to do something. I became quite tipsy over vodka that tasted like rubbing alcohol, with only hot gatorade as a chaser. Brittany didn’t sleep at all. With all of the water and vodka, I walked to the port-a-pottie that was about two minutes away, twice, in my sleep filled atmosphere.

The sun was awake by 4:45 AM, as per Britt. I felt it at 7 AM and inhaled the fact and tried to swallow it, by knowing that that was the only sleep I was going to be getting all day. We tried to go into Bonnaroo, specifically for coffee and yoga and breathing classes and meditation, but we thought we forgot our bracelets and walked back to camp, already sweating in bathing suits and shorts. By the way, the bracelets were in the camel pack, which we had with us, so…

By that time, I was feeling massively dehydrated and so ready for shade. We went into “town” and found a weird cafe to eat at, ate too much, dehydrated some more, and went to Wal-Mart. We didn’t really find what we needed and we were going to make-shift it. I took a nap in the sun and woke up feeling like a fish out of water. We got a hotel. Motel. Whatever.

I couldn’t rough it, and I remember the feeling of guilt and dread to tell Britt that I really couldn’t handle it. Because she can handle anything and I wish I could, too. But we went to the hotel, talked, got some junk out of our hearts, and went straight back to Bonnaroo to see Kendrick Lamar, Albama Shakes, and ODESZA. We felt apart of the community that night. We ate a lot of food, drank coffee, had dessert, sat near the hammocks of the Solar Stage, screamed along with the rest of the crowd, hustled into the port-a-potties, and walked back to camp like zombies.

And slept in real beds.

My timing was so off while we were in Tennessee, not so much for the timezone, but just because all of us had stepped away from our lives for four-five days to step into this realm of adult ravers that rage until dawn and sleep in the heat of the morning. Where we were getting lost amongst the herd of crowds and getting lost in the music, or trying to.

That night we saw Childish Gambino and Mumford and Sons, for a good couple of minutes for Mumford. We explored and we also quoted with a small crowd to Mean Girls. It was a great night. We were exhausted when we returned to the hotel. We were exhausted when we drove all the way to Florida the next morning, at dawn, because sleep wasn’t coming to me anymore.

Getting reconnected with Brittany during those couple of days was lovely. Getting out of town and away from the difficulties of work and life and too much “stuff” was fantastic. We were able to breathe and talk and laugh. That was worth it.

Bonnaroo was a lovely place to be. The heat is scorching, but it can be managed with hats and sunblock and water. And if you like drugs, then get drunk and have some drugs because that may help, too, though B and I didn’t go that route. We had the experience of being in the crowds and understanding that we are so small compared to massiveness of a festival. We are just two little people amongst thousands. A realization most of us need to have in life, if not just to help us remember that stress can be put away for another day, but mostly because it reminds you that we’re all interconnected by our foundation. Our humanness. There was no reason to be “mean” or “pushy” in the midst of this huge crowd because we were just two little people that had to work with what was happening moment to moment.

That’s what Bonnaroo was: for the moment. For the experience. For forgetting time and timezones and just living in-between concerts, food, comedians, and hula hoop dancing. Bonnaroo was for a cultivated kindness and a melting pot of people stopping their lives to come to a farm in Tennessee to relax and feel the community of lovers that we all really are.































The day to head off  to Tennessee is finally here. A music festival that includes my best friend, camping on site, every OOTD that I could ever want in my closet, some of my most favorite artists that have helped me survive through the hard times in life, a cultivated “kindness” attitude, clean port-a-potties (I’m telling you this is important), good food, a week long’s vacation from Florida, and discovering a couple of new cities with my best friend.

I’m not even mentally ready. How do you mentally prepare for a music festival that is going to blow your mind? Its going to override all of senses with loud music, loud people, while we’re sleeping, while we’re eating, while we’re doing anything, there’s going to be noise. There’s going to be this overcoming feeling of belonging with these people, the same people that listen to the same music as us and decided to follow their favorites all the way to this 700 acre farm.

All I can say is I’m excited. Overwhelmingly. Brittany and I aren’t prepared enough for it, even though my car is filled to the brim and I have a coffee in my hands and I said good-bye to my boyfriend this morning with some tears in my eyes (six days is quite a time-frame to be physically apart from your soulmate). But the best part of all this is that I get to spend six days with my other soulmate, my “bae”, my girl, B.

This is what we’ve been preparing for since we met each other. We knew that we loved music. We shared an intense desire for music together. We fell in-love with some of these bands together, some of these people. When we first started going to concerts, our parents we sit us both down or at least talk to us as we’re leaving the house, irritated and ready to get on the road, about how important being careful was. How important it is to be aware of our surroundings, how important it is to carry mace, and stay near each other and check in.

Yesterday, all my parents said was “check in daily, have fun at Woodstock!”

With that, we’re outta here!

When Ashleigh Met Brittany

I once thought of food as a treat. I thought of food as the place to escape after a long day, and I still see that many people do. However, when I was growing up, that idea was almost taught. Not intentionally, but my parents would feed me for a reward, feed me if I was sad, feed me if I was mad (we would talk and vent while breaking bread). I became as equally lost inside of the idea of food, as I did of the substance of food. I was a lost child in the habit of food because that’s the only habit I have know my whole life.

I see now that girls say that they just go home and binge. Or if this sounds too structured and makes it seem like a disease rather than just a mindset that can be changed then I offer the thousands of printed t-shirts that say “fries over guys” and “donuts all day”.

I’m not saying that this is an awful mindset. I’m not saying I wouldn’t wear that type of shirt because I totally would. I’m simply saying that that’s the mindset I feel like no one else was in except me.

I was extremely alienated when I ate with friends because my friends were kindly skinny, or only had a little extra flesh, whereas by 9th grade I had already hit the 200 pound range and didn’t know what to do about it besides complain and blame.

I had a close friend when I was young. Her name was Carol and she had Polio when she was young. She landed in a wheelchair and then built herself up daily reminding herself how incredible she was, regardless if she could walk or not. Carol lived down the street and she paid me, a young possibly only around 8 or 9 year old girl, to help her clean her house and dance around to the latest Jams on the radio. She had the biggest sound system I’ve ever seen and she was so goofy. I remember thinking I was grateful for her. And I remember thinking that was one of the most adult thoughts I had ever had, gratitude.

She moved away when I was nearing 6th or 7th grade. She had me over a couple of times after to enjoy dinner with her and just be her company. I told her one day how I was feeling. How I felt isolated when my friends and I went shopping for clothes because I had to go to different stores than my friends. I couldn’t fit into anything from the normal stores, Hollister and Aero and all of those pre-teen brands, and I held her kitchen counter and looked down at her because I was finally taller than her, even with the help of her wheelchair, and I just cried and cried about the fact that I was so different and couldn’t “fit” into anything.

That’s around the time that I realized I had choices. Choices to break habits, choices to not get seconds, choices to walk for thirty minutes a day, choices to learn what it felt like to pick up a free-weight and not be scared of dropping it.

But I was still too young to really “get it”.

I could tell you all about the bullies in 9th grade that I cried over because they were once my friends. I could tell you about how I still pray for them every night and thank God that I gave them forgiveness before they even asked. I could tell you that I felt like every boyfriend I had could have had better, if not a boyfriend than even just guys I was talking to. I could tell you that every friend I’ve ever had I’ve never even tried to compare myself to because I always thought that every other girl was prettier than me. But instead I’ll tell you this, I met my best friend, Brittany, and she changed my life.

She changed my life delicately throughout the first two years I knew her. She still changes my life daily; I still see her effects on me daily by my way of words and my ‘instant forgiveness’ as she calls it. But that first year she changed my mind about food.

Food was a treat. I would eat for any reason, as most of the youth do, and I loved doing it. I loved cheese, tortilla chips, and heavily salted meats. Brittany is a vegetarian that was cutting cheese out of most of her meals, loved tortilla chips but chose to stay away from them, and she obviously didn’t eat meat (hence the veggie in a vegetarian). Before I met her, I didn’t really understand vegetarianism. I didn’t understand that a body could survive completely off of vegetables and healthy fats. Cutting meat out didn’t look hard for her at all.

I won’t go into extensive detail because its her business and this is my blog, but she had problems with food, too. The difference is that she only keeps a certain amount of the food around her tummy, which doesn’t make her look “bad” in the way that I felt like I looked “bad” because the extra food and caloric intake stayed around my whole body. Her momma taught me like my momma did: eat, eat whatever you want.

But she chose differently. Once she began to learn about the food industry, organic foods, the meat industry, the lack of cleanliness in it all, she chose differently.

She helped me choose differently after I encountered an awful case of stomach ulcers. She helped me put together a diet that was going to show exactly (take it or leave it) which foods were bogging me down and giving me a tummy ache.

That diet worked better than the pills that my doctor gave me. My doctor wrote me a prescription for a two years’ supply of Prevacid and told me to be on my way, call her if I felt like something ruptured.

That’s modern medicine. That’s Western. That’s American.

Britt gave me the ideals of a monumental new wave of thoughts and dietary intake: Eastern. Its only new because America hasn’t grabbed ahold of it yet. The East was built on this stuff. And I saw my body begin to flow correctly. I was having regular bowel movements. I was feeling lighter. I didn’t have acid every morning. I didn’t have as bad as breath as I used to. I could breathe better. I wasn’t catching near as many colds.

In fact, since I’ve met Brittany and became more mindful about what I’m putting into my mouth, I have caught possibly four or five colds. All from when I would be around someone that was extremely ill.

I used to get sick every couple of months or come down with a fever as the seasons changed from severely hot to severely cold.

This morning I have another of those adult thoughts. I’m thankful for my momma. I don’t blame her or my father for the habits. They were taught the same and they taught what they knew. I have gratitude that I had food. I have gratitude for Carol and her ear and her support of a small child that was made even smaller through her tears and bad feelings. I have gratitude for bullies, freshman year, boyfriends and best friends that were all beautiful in their own way. I have gratitude for Brittany Ann that came into my life as the Universe asked her to (and I love that we fell into a friendship and there was no choice, it just ‘was’).

Finally, I tell myself that I am grateful for myself for being the strong-willed individual that I am. I am grateful that I was blessed enough with a demeanor that tells me I can even when the thoughts appear that I can’t. I am grateful that I have a choice to eat what I want, but choose to eat correctly. I am grateful that I am now a 160 – 165 pound individual that doesn’t care about the number anymore, or even how I look, but I care about my mind, I care about my body, I care about my heart and soul being nourished to the highest degree.

I am. I am. I am.

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