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5 practical skills I learned from bush raves (Opinion)

Candyland 2012, photo by Astrid Nicolson

Please note: I do not recommend or advise throwing illegal parties deep in the woods. Please always respect your environment, be safe and be smart. Always get the proper permits respective to your chosen venue, harm reduction is key and keep in mind your area’s tendency to wildfires and other natural hazards.

This is a personal review of my subjective experience as a (much younger) raver. So, what do I mean when I describe a bush rave? Basically, an unlicensed, underground gathering usually held several kilometers into the forest, powered by generators and with varying levels of complexity and attendance. Some may number in the hundreds with multiple stages, others only a small group of close friends plus a sound system.

In any case, here is a short list of practical skills I acquired from attending such events, to name but a few.

A small bush rave on Vancouver Island, photo by Astrid Nicolson June 2013

Know your backcountry!

A working knowledge of local back-country roads is important. I spent a good chunk of my teens and very early 20’s attending underground raves on Vancouver Island. Most of these were held several kilometers into the boonies, necessitating knowledge of forestry roads and how to navigate them safely.

Many of these were heavily potholed and really should only have been managed with an ATV, but I saw many a Honda Civic and Pontiac miraculously weave their way around logs, large puddles, and small boulders. To this day I can also recount which roads are gated, private property or genuinely crown land (basically, land that belongs to the province)

Sunup at a Canada Day rave, July 2013. Photo by Astrid Nicolson

General camping knowledge is intents!

How to properly assemble a tent within minutes and improved camping skills are also important. I was never the outdoorsy type in the slightest before I started raving. Packing away a sleeping bag into the most compact and neat fashion possible is an underrated skill, as is how to fold up a tent and make sure that all the parts are indeed in the bag. This came in handy for many grown-up camping trips, and for more elaborate setups at Shambhala and Bass Coast several years later.

Early in the day, a Canada Day rave July 2013, photo by Astrid Nicolson

Those classes at summer camp will pay off

Tying knots, climbing trees and fixing holes in a none-too-underused tarpaulin. About a decade had passed since the time I was in Girl Guides, and besides, in those days (in my home country, at least) there was more of a focus on domestic skills and bake sales than traditional Scouting activities. I renewed my interest in climbing trees (safely!) and how to patch up tarps and backdrops with either my Granny’s sewing machine, a patching kit or if all else failed, that great Canadian favorite, duct tape.

June 2012 rave, photo by Astrid Nicolson

Get some real world experience out of all of this!

Photoshop, the finer points of promotion via social media and organizing lines of communication with large groups. Inspired by my friends’ artistry in making flyers, posters and online banners for event pages, I started to try my hand at my own Photoshop and Dreamweaver creations. It was a great learning experience and definitely helped broaden my horizons as far as digital art and marketing were concerned.

Neon Steve at Candyland 2012, photo by Astrid Nicolson

Break out of that shell!

A better sense of self and improved social skills. This tags onto the communication aspect: I have always been a very shy person, and as a kid, I was very timid and wouldn’t say boo to a goose. Promoting and getting more involved in the rave scene did wonder for my confidence and social skills, and I made many friends that I am still close to nearly a decade later. I feel that in this way I gained a better sense of self, a bettered ability to think on my feet and the confidence to do so. And for that, I have much to thank my time as a baby raver on the Island for.

Making Kandi, May 2013? Photo by Astrid Nicolson

What do you feel you learned from your early rave days, for better or for worse? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter!

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