A Very Amizade Family Vacation

by Torey Siebart

Outreach Coordinator Torey Siebart reflects on a recent family vacation, where she and her family employed Amizade reflection techniques for a successful trip. 

In June, my two siblings, mom, dad, and I took a vacation together for the first time in a few years. Family vacations are meant to be fun, memorable, and bonding, but that certainly doesn’t mean they’re always easy. There’s logistical and financial stressors as well as family dynamics to manage. We’ve never been the type of family to take a vacation that is just about relaxing either, and this summer was no different. This family vacation was in Manchester, Tennessee, at a music festival called Bonnaroo. 

It was the first time my parents had ever done anything of the sort, and it required lots of preparation and lots of packing. On top of that, it involved a long road trip, four nights of camping in the middle of a field, walking in Tennessee’s summer heat, and in general, lots of patience and flexibility. Even though we would be in an incredibly fun and positive environment, I knew we would be challenged.

In order to avoid a potential disaster, we had to be intentional about this unique vacation and approach it just like an Amizade program. 

While no formal pre-departure call with slides was held, we had many conversations leading up to the trip to discuss what to expect, what to pack, what food would be like, sleeping arrangements, what concerts we were planning to see, etc. Like a typical Amizade program, I think all of us felt excited and also slightly nervous.

My brother, dad, and I walking into the center to see some live music.

We arrived on Thursday morning. We had prepared everyone for up to 4 hours worth of waiting in line to get in, and to our surprise we were through the gates within 25 mins.

We were in one of the farthest campsites from the music, however, so we had our first “OK, good.” moment. While this meant we had to be more strategic in deciding when to head out for the day and a longer walk to music, it also meant we would experience more of the festival, see more vendors and artists, and have more time for conversation and meeting new people. 

We set up camp and kicked off day one with a group agreement activity. First, I had my parents, siblings, and friends answer aloud: 

  1. What is one thing you’re most excited about?
  2. What is one thing you’re most nervous about? 
  3. What is something you can do to make this experience as beneficial as possible for others?
  4. What is something you can do to make this experience as beneficial as possible for yourself?

Starting off this way and hearing each other’s excitement and anxieties was a really great way to see where people were at. We were collectively worried about getting enough sleep, about staying hydrated, about not getting sunburnt, etc. We were excited about different things, which was really cool — from different artists to different parts of the festival experience. We pieced together a group agreement which included positive statements like “be open to new experiences,” “stay hydrated,” “respect one another,” “be present,” etc.

Starting our day with coffee at the campsite!

We talked about how we could use our strengths to contribute positively to the group. My sister would be in charge of time and let us know when we needed to leave camp in order to see the music we wanted to see. My dad would walk and get ice every morning. My brother would be in charge of keeping the “good vibes.”

We put fist-to-five to use too! If you’re familiar with Amizade programs, you’ve likely been asked to do a fist-to-five. It’s a quick way to check in on ourselves and others by using a scale of 0 – 5. A fist signifies zero, or you’re not doing very well and need help or support, and five digits in the air means you’re doing great, the best you could be doing. We employed this throughout the week, celebrating when we were all fives, and seeking shade or taking a break when we had some ones or fists in the group. 

The music was phenomenal. All of the musicians seemed to have an Amizade-esque message to share too. We saw a set by Sampa The Great, who shared her culture with us as the first Zambian hip-hop/rock band to perform at festivals of this size in the US. Sheryl Crow sang a song that she wrote 30 years ago, when she witnessed transphobia and was inspired by the bravery of a trans woman. She encouraged her fans to stand up for others and to create positive social change. GRIZ spread his message of empathy, love, and solidarity. 

Beyond just the music, the art, food, nonprofits booths, workshops, and expressive festival-goers added greatly to the Bonnaroo experience.

At one point, my mom said that even though she was taking photos of everything, the pictures didn’t capture the experience, because it was more than that — it was a feeling. And she reflected that when she got home, she would be different — which is a sentiment many Amizade alums can relate to! 

When the festival was over, it was clear that each one of us pushed ourselves outside our comfort zones, made friends with people from different backgrounds, became inspired, and had an incredibly joyous time. I will definitely be incorporating Amizade activities into future vacations! 

Interested in having an Amizade family trip without having to plan the itinerary and lead reflection? Check out our 2024 family and open-group programs!