Block parties, camping festivals, transformative gatherings, boutique events, carnivals… regardless of the title, it’s clear that we love meeting up with thousands of like-minded people who just want to dance and enjoy themselves. There’s a lot to be said about the freedom to be who you want at a festival, and the opportunities for personal growth in such an environment. Despite the associated stigmas from those who think molly grows on trees, festivals have gained a distinct importance as our personalities become pinned down through social media and the constant pressures of the everyday. Disconnecting for a weekend, forgetting to take pictures, and making genuine connections with other humans is a damned good way to re-discover yourself and gain a new perspective of the world. Go ahead and think that sounds like new age hippie-talk, but we speak for many when we say that festivals have changed our lives.

“Festivals are practice for a better way of life. They allow us to connect with strangers in a deeper and less needy way. We share incredible moments with people we may never see again. We take care of each other. We dance together. And yes, let’s bring this back to everyday life, please. The time is now. And we are the people who will do it.” – Dream Rockwell, Co-Founder of The DoLab

It’s becoming clear that the world is catching on, with hundreds of new festivals sprouting up this year alone. While it’s wonderful to see people warming up to the idea, motives for organizing an event are important, and it’s all too obvious when companies are just trying to cash in on the trend. Sure, profits are necessary, and yes, the event is a business at the end of the day, but there are festivals that go above and beyond for their patrons. In no particular order, here’s a list of 9 festivals that we think owned 2015 and are leading the charge toward a better future.

Shambhala Music Festival

Salmo, British Columbia

Tucked away in the Kootenay Rockies of British Columbia, Shambhala Music Festival is nothing short of breathtaking. Family owned and devoid of any corporate sponsorship, Shambhala has been running since 1998. Sure, the mountains and forest are startlingly gorgeous, but what really makes the festival is the people. In my experience, I didn’t see a single frown, heard zero rumors of stealing, and witnessed the farthest things from confrontation. Six incredible stages are nestled perfectly into the Salmo River Ranch, including the Living Room adjacent the beach, and the Village with its Mad Max-esque tribal theme. The land is owned by the organizers, so the stages and installations are permanent, only become grander with each passing year. The humble festival helped Datsik and Excision break into the mainstream, and this year hosted Skrillex, GRiZ, JAUZ, and the entire Dirtybird crew for nearly a week of vibes.

Envision Music Festival

Uvita, Costa Rica

Set on Costa Rica’s Southern Pacific Coast, Envision Festival is a beacon of light for eco-conscious events. Taking the environment into serious consideration, they’ve banned single-use items such as plasticware, but they’ll teach you how to make silverware from bamboo. In addition, the organizers donate to the local community of Uvita, helping build a police station, sidewalks, and donating funds and computers to schools. Approaching their 6th year, Envision has now secured the grounds at Rancho La Merced year-round to plant and tend the terrain. There are nearby waterfalls to explore, cuisine to taste, unique merchandise, and an incredible number of workshops, speakers. Groundation, The Polish Ambassador, Shpongle, Beats Antique, and more are amongst the talent gracing the stages, with music pumping nearly 24/7. One of the premiere transformational festivals in the world, consider Envision Festival for next year’s plans.

Wonderfruit Music Festival

Pattaya, Thailand

Now in its second year, Wonderfruit Festival is Thailand’s answer to the transformational festivals of the West. It’s already asserted itself as the premier lifestyle festival of asia, incorporating sustainability, music, arts, wellness, and more into one incredible event. This year’s Pattaya location boasts “natural adventures” for patrons to participate in, such as cycling, swimming, and ultralight aircraft rides. The Farm to Feast program is headed by renown chefs to deliver gourmet feasts made entirely from locally grown, organic produce and meat; and aside from the now standard yoga and wellness sessions, they offer a speaker series and workshops, hosted by the world’s most inspiring minds. Of course, there’s great music, too. This year’s lineup includes The Faint, Mos Def, Goldroom, Rhye, Daedelus, and more over Wonderfruit’s four days.

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