Out of the Hotel and into the Woods

At the time I wrote this it is June 25th. I’m sitting in an air conditioned hotel room, observing a panoramic view of Anaheim, California. This is the first vacation I have enjoyed in years outside of LARP. I partied with celebrities, enjoyed the best pampering that a large and famous convention had to offer for its featured guests, personally drank at least one month’s worth of my salary in free, top shelf scotch, and had every personal need of mine anticipated and provided for.

I have been pampered, doused in care and affection from observant staff, and professionally served in every way imaginable. Yet… my mind is in a different place right now. I look down onto the lobby below. Families hurrying off to Disneyland, Universal Studios, or their flights hurry in a brisk pace that the normal “I paid too much money for this” vacation desperation sets into the professional relaxer. The price is steep for these trips. The anxiety is high, and there is a quota of pleasure and relaxation to be met if their trips are to be successful.

I head back into my large, too-soft-to-be-of-this-earth bed. In less than two months, my view will be different. Instead of decked out in the latest chic fashion- as is expected at events such as this- I will be in my old, familiar armor. Instead of sharing my social media, I’ll be sharing mead with a sweaty, exhausted fighter who had just finished exchanging shit-kickings with myself and my friend- and laughing about it until the early hours of the morning.

Instead of pampering, I will be working, fighting, sleeping under a non-air conditioned tent and feeling the heat of a hot sun bake me in my armor. I will be without a phone, camera, Instagram account, twitter, or any other social media. For all intents and purposes, the fictionalized, LARP hardened and battle ready version of me will be eager and ready to kick the soft, lily ass of the relaxed and severely underprepared professionally vacationing nerd sitting on the unholy soft bed in a five star resort.

Every fiber of my body aches for this feeling.

There is something intrinsically different about a LARP vacation. Something primal, profound and exhilarating about these trips that excite every sense of my imagination. There is something open, vulnerable, and precious about it. The friendships I have made at these games, whether they exist at Bicolline, Chronicles of the Realm, Dystopia Rising, or any other LARP have always stayed long-lasting and deep. They aren’t the short-term vacation friendships made over the course of a Lauderdale Spring Break or a Summer in Cancun. They’re made through a tearful roleplay, a great fight, or even a ridiculous inside joke made in the depths of insomnia. Through enjoyed intimacies and community enjoyed with strangers. The openness of others, and the understanding that every person could be a source of adventure.

I get up from my bed and pace around, waiting for an UberEats order to arrive at the hotel, and take a moment think about these moments. These short intimacies that last well after the tents are packed up, the NPCs go home, and the week of stories end.

 I wish I knew where that came from. Where that difference exists and how to apply it to other vacations. I guess there is a magic that exists in LARP that doesn’t exist anywhere else. A rupture that exists between the game world and our own, where that magic pools through and creates something real out of the imagination, and allows us to make friends in a way we have not since primary school.

In one and a half months, I won’t be pampered. I’ll be exhausted, under slept and in a hot tent one quarter the size of my current hotel room with three other people. I’ll be replacing my phone with a sword, my Starbucks with a shield. I’ll be making friends who don’t care about my online following, my hometown, or even my birth name. I’ll be on an adventure with friends, sharing mead and stories around a campfire. Crying real tears over the fictional death of a made up person, and charging into a battle where no one will die. Unlike any other vacation, though, I will be living my best, most authentic self.

And that is the real magic of LARP.

 

Article by Michael Kollen

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