It is impossible to truly describe the magic of Tomorrowland. I come back every year feeling like a crazy person because I talk about this place as if I have been taken away to some magical land that is so wonderful, it's hard to believe it even exists.
But yet again, for the third year in a row, this place has left me feeling changed for life.
I caught a flight directly out of Ottawa to London a few hours before my sister. In hindsight, this was a bad idea because not only did I get next to no sleep on the flight, but then I had to wait 6 hours in Heathrow for Adrienne to arrive.
The first few hours were fine. I grabbed a coffee, watched Lord of the Rings on my tablet, and enjoyed some quality people watching.
Within about an hour of Adrienne arriving I started to get that over-tired crazy feeling. I was eating random food to try and give myself more energy or just think of something else besides how tired I was.
The arrivals screen announced that Adie's flight had arrived to so I (foolishly) went to the arrivals area. While waiting there I was sneezed on by a kid and overheard a very angry phone call between someone and a very patient baggage claim guy.
Stress levels are rising and patience is wearing thin at this point.
Finally Adrienne walks through the arrival doors and we found our way to the underground to make our way to St. Pancras international train station.
It should be noted that as I am writing this I am getting goosebumps just remembering those few hours before the festival.
Anyways - We found our way to St. Pancras, and were off to our hostel. I don't know how this happens every time we are in London, but we always manage to be there during the heatwave. This year was no exception.
We got ourselves cleaned up, picked up some dinner, and watched The Great British Bake Off, as you do when you are in London.
Being that it was a heat wave, the room was quite warm when we arrived. But given that they squished 6 beds into essentially a college dorm room, the body heat of the 6 of us really started to become evident.
It was pretty impossible to sleep, so Adie and I tossed and turned, watched a few more episodes of The Great British Bake Off, had minor meltdowns, but eventually found ways to get a few hours of sleep.
My strategy: dampen a towel and fall asleep under that. Works like a charm!
Then the day came. Thursday, July 25th.
Again, it should be noted that my heart has started to flutter thinking about that morning.
Adie and I were both very tired, and I have to admit I was finding it tricky to be my perky-self. But we made it to the train station, and found our check-in line. I cannot really describe the magical feeling of getting the Tomorrowland goodie bags. Knowing that this is the first step of getting yourself to the festival.
The day prior to Adie and I taking our train to Belgium, the Eurostars were all being cancelled because they could not handle the heat, and so systems on the trains were breaking down.
Thankfully, our train was early the day, so we didn't really run into any issues, besides having to slow the train down a bit before arriving in Belgium.
While on the train we tried to contain our excitement but even that was becoming increasingly difficult, despite being so tired.
So we went to the train bar and grabbed the very last mini-wine bottles, and a gin and tonic and got the party started.
Once we were in Brussels, it was a quick walk through Brussels Midi station to a Tomorrowland shuttle bus.
Again, I have to let you know that as I remember this moment I am getting goosebumps all over.
So here we were, on the bus to Dreamville, the official Tomorrowland campsite. It was definitely hot, but that was no match for our excitement.
We arrived in Boom, Belgium, and were greeted by the usual residents of Boom who seem to all be just as excited as we are about the festival. They all have Tomorrowland flags in their windows, have set up shops with ice, and are playing their music while sitting outside and watching the excitement unfold.
Adrienne and I arrive at the gates of Dreamville and It. Is. Hot. Without humidex, it was 40 degrees celsius, the hottest day on record for Belgium. Even though we get that kind of heat in Ottawa, this was different because we had no escape to an air conditioned home. We were fully exposed to the heat.
With a little Canadian innovation, Adrienne and I were able to shade ourselves and get ready for The Gathering.
The Gathering is the pre-party for the all of the campers. They typically invite Belgian DJ's to this and then close out the evening with surprise guests. This year was Sunnery James & Ryan Marciano, followed by W&W. It was hectic but fun.
We were also blessed with some surprise rain as well! Out of nowhere it began to rain and it was the break from the heat we all needed.
Adrienne and I were waiting on a few friends from Britain that we had met the year before, but their train was later and so they ran into some of the heat issues that I spoke about earlier.
They did eventually arrive and it was SO nice to see them again. The friends that we make at this festival every year are so special to us. We literally see them once a year but their friendships are more precious to us than some of our longest friendships back home.
The next 3 days went by way too quickly. From the first pre-drink with the guys, to coming the mainstage hill to have the most beautiful and intricate stage be revealed, to the amazing DJ's we saw.
I saw the stages ahead of time on social media but it really never does the in-person experience justice. The size of the mainstage, all of the little details they work into it... you'd never be able to take it all in from the livestream or the pictures online.
The grounds are huge and take about 15 minutes to walk through, but it is never a dull moment walking through the grounds.
Maybe you're passing another very cool stage, or you pass by a bunch of Aussie's doing the Aussie chant, or you meet some of the characters from Tomorrowland. Every moment is part of an immersive experience.
Our very first year of Tomorrowland we met a few lovely Belgians and while walking home from the festival he made the perfect comment "The whole festival has all of these little details. They don't have to do it... but they do." It kind of became our mantra for the next 3 years when we would see something amazing.
They literally print a newspaper for every camper, every morning after the festival that is filled with pictures and stories from the day before.
When we come home and go to festivals afterwards we just feel like we're being cheated by the other festivals. No other festival puts in this kind of effort to create a constant environment. While you are at Dreamville or on The Holy Grounds of Tomorrowland, you are living and breathing the story. You become a person of Tomorrow.
To share every story from Tomorrowland would take ages. There's just so much to go through, but I do have to mention that every year, the best reminder we get from Tomorrowland is that all of the political drama that exists in the world doesn't have to exist. At the gathering there were Israeli flags beside Palestinian flags. Mexicans, Americans, and Chinese flags all flew together.
One of the moments that brings me to tears every year is when a DJ at the mainstage, with 150,000 people from around the world, plays a song and everyone sings along. Everyone's hands are up, and there are 150,000 smiles in the crowd.
You cannot experience that anywhere else in the world, and in that moment I feel more connected to the world than ever. All anyone wants at Tomorrowland is to enjoy the music, maybe make a few friends, and have the best 3 days of their summer.
Monday morning is always tough. It's crazy to think that that'll be the last time waking up at Tomorrowland. For my sister and I we always had the promise of going back but after this third year, and with me moving away and my financial situation changing, we've decided this was our last for a while.
We feel incredibly grateful that we have even been given the opportunity to experience Tomorrowland 3 times, but it is still sad to say goodbye.
The 4 British boys we were with were also the best people. They took good care of us, and loved that we took care of them. There was no drama, just 6 people who had an awesome weekend.
I am still feeling a bit fragile after leaving Tomorrowland. On my morning walks I have been listening to Tomorrowland livesets and when the DJ says "How are you feeling Tomorrowland" I get a little choked up.
I do have a pretty exciting adventure coming up in a few days though, so its time for me to turn my sights towards Sweden.
Actually, by being on that side of the ocean, it will be much easier to visit my friends from Tomorrowland, and I'll be even closer to the european dance music scene, which I am very excited about.
The good times just keep on rolling... :)
Riri's Discoveries blog documents Riri's most recent research, her travel adventures, and her personal fitness journey.