In high school, I was a lonely, stressed-out, video-game-addicted ass-hole. I had so little emotional intelligence that I lost my first job, my first girlfriend, and all sense of belonging. I had very few real friends.
This all changed after I arrived at University. I started partying. A lot. Putting myself into new social situations changed me forever. Because during every party, I faced my fears and forced myself to develop social skills… I was doing it all sober.
It’s a long story, but while attending my first music festival, sober-partying became part of my identity. This was before I knew about party science, its ancient history, or its positive effects on the brain. This was before I was convinced that it was a solution to many public health problems.
It was in 2015. I found an artist pass while volunteering back-stage at Squamish Valley Music Festival. With encouragement from my side-kick Julien Hart, I decided I would do something crazy with the pass.
At prime time that night, I went to the main stage, entered back-stage, positioned myself right below the DJ, and launched myself off the barricade into the crowd. Not a single drop of alcohol in my system, I crowd-surfed for almost a minute. I lost my phone and both IDs.
I had never felt so alive and connected to everyone in my life. Thank god I have a video of it.
This experience was my first experience of flow state, and it led me down the path of becoming a party scientist. I wanted everyone to feel as alive and accepted as I did. And I knew it was possible sober.
During my pharmacology degree, sober partying was my classroom for learning how to release stress, get into flow, and overcome self-consciousness. I would literally be so ‘High’ on life at some university parties that people would ask me what drugs I was on, sometimes the whole party would cheer me on, and other times I would get the whole crowd following my lead while smiling and laughing.
I loved partying so much that I decided to work as a festival medic for 4 years. As a medic, I realized that most people did not know how to release their inhibitions or get high-on-life without drugs and alcohol. I realized that party culture was plagued with disconnection.
In one instance, I arrived on-site to respond to an alcohol poisoning in the campground. I found him after charging through a sea of tents, unconscious, face-down. In his vicinity, there were fifteen people taking shots in a circle and no one cared to check to see if he was alive. It disgusted me and showed me how unconsciously people were partying.
Responding to overdoses, suicidal episodes, and fights traumatized me, but also inspired me to change how people were partying. Partying for me was an antidote to stress. It filled my life with meaning and electricity. It gave me a sense of belonging. It was healthy. It helped me thrive.
For so many others, it did the opposite. It was unconscious. It was superficial. It was inauthentic.
With a new mission, I started studying public health. I forsook the path of becoming a doctor and launched a renegade party company called Party4Health instead. The mission was to create a world where partying was healthy.
This is when things got interesting. Under Party4Health, I led renegade sober parties. Hundreds of them. Hike raves, beach parties, barge parties, train raves. I got to the point where I was leading thousands of strangers through the streets. During these parties, all demographic differences dissolved. The group harmonized. This was group flow.
I honed my ability and techniques for giving people healthy highs. Running parties became this laboratory for me to experiment with all the ways that humans can reach a ‘high’ state by connecting with each other.
My first party… was actually an underwear party.
After two years of throwing massive parties, getting interviewed by VICE and Global TV, and partnering with festivals like the Vancouver Pride Society and Shambhala, I decided I wanted to think bigger.
So, in 2018 I did something crazy. I planned a grand tour, called Party Sober All Over. I took my best friends with me and we traveled through the US in a big RV. In every city, my friends cheered me on as I threw a party at the local university.
Brad filmed the entire thing.
But, there was something wrong. People were not resonating with my message. They kept telling me to stop judging people for drinking. On this trip, I learned that I was judgemental, and that I was preaching sober partying. I was alienating the people I wanted to serve.
This hit me during a meeting with one of the founders of SOUNDBOKS, Hjalte. My mission was not to promote sober partying. My mission was to develop a new form of partying where the connection was more meaningful, the energy higher, and the egoism lower.
In this realization, the VYVE movement was born. I embarked on a new mission: invent a new form of mental health practice based on partying, but different. I called it vyving.
The new mission attracted another mad party scientist, Christopher, whose passion for mental health motivated him to join as a co-founder.
You may be wondering. What the hell is vyving? At this point, it was still in its infancy. I still didn’t know what it was. Chris didn’t either. We still didn’t know much at all about human connection or party science.
All we knew was that we craved the flow state we experienced when we led massive parties. It gave us a high that lasted for days.
This was not for long. With the birth of VYVE, I started researching partying seriously. I read books, interviewed party starters, and did experiments. I learnt that humans are hard-wired for sharing joy with another. I learnt that even cavemen did it. I dived into the mental health implications of a practice of ‘vyving’ and I was convinced it had the potential to transform our emotional well-being.
With my aspiration to become the world’s first International Party Scientist, I embarked on my first international party research expedition.
And this is how I earned my Ph.D. in party science. I stayed with locals, ignited hundreds of parties, researched hundreds of others, got invited to private retreats, and met dozens of professionals facilitators and researchers of human connection.
One facilitator who had a massive impact on my trajectory was Adam Wilder, whose retreat on the mediterannean island of Malta accelerated my maturation into a party scientist by years.
My lessons, interviews, and adventures laid the foundation on which vyving is based, a framework for reaching flow states through human connection. I was slowly figuring out how to hack peak states by leveraging group celebration.
Returning from expedition, the pandemic hit. And it was a blessing.
I took the party science insights collected during 400 parties in 13 countries and distilled them into a full framework and belief system. The philosophy of vyving was created because of COVID.
It took over three years for vyving to crystallize into what it is today. The experiments took place on the mainstage of festivals, the subways of New York, the streets of Amsterdam, the beaches of Vancouver, and the airplanes of west-jet. Too many party starters to credit. And an unknown number of hours of silent reflection.
Today, vyving is its own form of practice that leverages concious partying to hack the well-being benefits of group flow state.
to vyve /vīv/ (verb): to reach a state of flow through dancing, singing, and playing with other humans.
Everyday, people ask me what is vyving. I get a flashback to the moments of flow states with hundreds of others. Then I respond: “Vyving is a practice for your health and happiness. A weird one.”
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In our world today, the quality of our human connections is being attacked; we’re growing addicted to screens, we’re rewarding fakeness and materialism, and we’re working ourselves into depression.
Toper and I started VYVE to revive the joy and life in our human connections.
And this is why Chris and I will be building the movement until the day we die.
Human connection is the antidote.