Once upon a time, a blonde-haired wanderer heard of a magical place called Tomorrowland, in the faraway land of Boom, Belgium. She listened to dreamy tales and watched, transfixed, a beautiful thing called The Aftermovie, and she knew that someday, somehow, she too would join the sweaty, flag-swathed masses for her own Tomorrowland experience. Though many obstacles stood in her way, she slayed them mercilessly in pursuit of her goal. It can only be described as a magnetic pull, that thing which inspired this fairy tale sojourn to Tomorrowland; an irresistible urge that began with pressing play.
. . . . . .
I hope you guys read that in an appropriately wistful, Brothers-Grimm-narrator-style voice.
I mean come on, I can only keep up the third person fairy tale speak for so long! Yet it seems inexplicably appropriate, because from the moment I stepped foot in Boom — yes, the name of the town holding the festival is, indeed, Boom — I did feel that I was in some sort of magical fantasy land. This sensation was aided, no doubt, by the almost surreal lengths we’d gone to get there. Not surprising, we weren’t the only ones captivated by Tomorrowland’s charms.
Reportedly there were almost 1.8 million people pre-registered for ticket sales for Tomorrowland 2014 — the infamous EDM festival’s highly anticipated tenth anniversary. For those 1.8 million people, there were just 180,000 tickets up for grabs. So, statistically speaking, Tomorrowland is harder to get into than an ivy league university. After flirting with the idea of attending for almost a year, eventually wrangling fellow Yes Girl Heather into signing on board, and then spending months in an over-excited planning frenzy, I had more than a few sleepless nights in the week leading up to general sale wondering what I was doing hinging an entire summer in Europe on odds like that.
Well, Heather and I must have aced our karmic SAT scores, because pretty soon we were on our way to Belgium to take part in what I can only describe as a harmlessly hedonistic Alice in Wonderland-esque playground party.
Our planning and ticket purchasing saga — and trust me when I say that is was a saga that you’ll be hearing all about someday — involved choosing where to rest our heads during the three day festival. The choices ranged from pitching our own tent in the slums of DreamVille to staying at hotel in nearby Brussels or Antwerp to glamping in an affluent neighborhood of luxury tents. After much reflection on the merits of financial responsibility versus unrestrained indulgence and perhaps a glass of wine or seven — which, keeping in mind we were in different countries for the entire process, took place over Skype — we decided it was go big or go home. And going home wasn’t really an option.
Which is how we became the proud temporary residents of our own little yellow Dreamlodge on Sunset Boulevard, in the DreamVille Campground. The happiness we felt camping — okay, glamping in our case — alongside 35,000 of our fellow festival goers was such a profound part of our experience that it deserves a post of it’s own.
But if we thought we were ecstatic as we checked in to Dreamville on Thursday night, we had no idea the wide-eyed giddiness that lay ahead of us for the next three days as we passed through the rainbow-arched gates of Tomorrowland. With a maze of fifteen magical stages, a star-studded DJ lineup, a drool worthy list of edible experiences and smile-inducing surprises around each corner, it’s no wonder Heather and I spent the majority of the weekend sprinting around the festival like over-caffeinated toddlers at an attention deficit symposium. We quickly coined a catchphrase for the festival that summed up both our dumbstruck excitement and our insatiable appetite for more.
This is awesome… let’s go!
And go we did. To an almost transcendent set by Kygo at the intimate BlueFlame stage.
To mail tipsily-composed complimentary postcards to our loved ones around the world.
To giggle at the so not-actually-naughty Chapel of Love. (Sorry Tomorrowland, but Burning Man has you beat when it comes to orgy tents.)
To marvel at the innovation that went into creating the various stage environments, from the nest-like Qult structure to the ever so intimately sized and hilariously named Rave Cave.
To be pampered at the giggle-inducing Refresh Stations, which achieved the amazing feat of somehow making porty potties bearable.
To stumble on tucked away surprises like a mystical palm reader, a forest of trees made for hugging, or a Wall of Love photobooth for our camera-hamming pleasure.
To feast on a shockingly high-quality array of cuisines of the world, from Texas-style pulled pork sandwiches to soy sauce-slathered Asian stir-fries to a particularly indulgent Belgian chocolate dessert.
And finally, over and over again, to make our pilgrimage to the epic main stage.
While we often made our way up to the front to get lost in the mosh pit of mayhem, on one occasion we treated ourselves to Bubbles with a View. For the mere price of a ridiculously overpriced bottle of champagne, we were spoiled with VIP views, a bit of breathing room to recharge in, and a bowl of strawberries to toss in our bubbly.
And recharging was often what we needed. Four nights and three days of hard partying is not for the faint of
liver heart, and so with the festival open for thirteen hours a day, we often returned to DreamVille for a few hours of what we dubbed “The Middle Party” before re-entering Tomorrowland after dark with a group of our new camping friends in tow.
And upon return, we’d find a completely different universe to explore. If things were playful and lighthearted during the day, it was safe to say a bit of chaos seeped in as the sun set.
Riding the Ferris Wheel that marked the far side of the festival and looking out in awe over a video game-like explosion of fountains, fireworks, neon lights and color was a moment of euphoria that I won’t be forgetting in this lifetime. But while our days consisted of endless exploring and wandering, our nights belonged to the mainly belonged to the mainstage.
Can you blame us?
This year, Tomorrowland tickets came in the form of electronically-chipped bracelets, and at certain special moments throughout the nights, a selection of them would start to pulse light in unison with the music. Then there was the time Steve Angello made 60,000 people crouch down on the ground and hold, hold, hold, just so we could all spring up together in roaring unison as the beat dropped.
These were moments that again, I fail at finding words to describe.
And while wild dancing, uncontrollable stomping and general raging made up a fairly impressive portion of the evenings, there were a few moments where Heather and I made our way to a relatively quiet spot on the more sparsely populated section of the hill, took a seat, and just let the insane sensory overload sink in.
I have lots more to tell you about Tomorrowland — practical stuff like what it cost, what Dreamville was like and how to get tickets — but first, I wanted to start with a story.
Because once upon a time, there was a girl who dreamed of going to Tomorrowland.
And this fairy tale had a very happy ending.
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