I was born and raised in the Noord-Brabant (North-Brabant) province in the Netherlands. This is where I went to school, made friends and worked during my college time. Especially when you’re born and raised somewhere you tend to take the places you visit most for granted. It’s nothing special anymore, there’s nothing that can give you that sense of thrill that you have when you visit a place for the first time. At least, that’s what I always thought.
Then on a Summer day in August, I received a text message stating that I was invited to go on a hot air balloon ride, departing right next to my hometown. Something they didn’t have to ask me twice. Of course I wanted to come along, what do you think?!
Nothing was stopping me. Okay, maybe the weather conditions. The night before departure we all received a text message again stating that due to some sort of wind or air pressure conditions (I’m no meteorologist), we were unable to fly out the next morning. That was a slight bummer. But hey, we were given a second chance the week after that.
The next week, I was with my phone in hand the entire night, hoping and praying that we would be able to go the next morning. No disappointing text messages came in and that next morning we were all up and on our bikes almost before dawn. This was really happening at last!
After a short introduction, we were all led to a field of grass where the hot air balloon would depart from. With butterflies from excitement in my belly, I watched as they filled the balloon with gas, making it grow bigger and bigger.
The moment of take off followed not long after and after a few literal touch and go’s, we were off into the sky! The wind directed us quickly towards the city of Tilburg and the neighboring villages of Goirle and Hilvarenbeek. Tilburg is where I went to high school and university, and we actually saw the university from the sky, which was pretty amazing to say the least.
I also noticed that there was so much woodland and that it stretched much further than I had always thought. How strange though, I passed that forest daily in the past, but never knew the size of it. Not just the woodland, but EVERYTHING looks different from a hot air balloon. It’s like being at a whole different place, and the thrill and excitement that comes with visiting something knew filled the air.
Everyone was excited and pointed out landmarks that they knew, being it houses, or offices or roads. At a sudden point though, the ride was having a calming effect on almost everyone, and even though we were with roughly 15 people in the basket of the hot air balloon, it became quiet. Only the sound of the gas filling the balloon from time to time was noticeable. That to me personally was the best moment of the entire experience. Since we left this early in the morning, the dew rose up from the ground and flew into the air, leaving a mesmerizing sight for us to enjoy.
Before we knew it, it was time to land. Somewhere at the grounds of a farm in Hilvarenbeek, the pilot decided that that was the place we were going to land. There were the butterflies again, this time displaying the thrill that came with the landing. Luckily, everything went smoothly and before we knew it, we were standing with two feet on the ground.
When everyone was out of the basket and we were officially granted permission to land on the farmer’s grounds, we had to help ‘folding’ the hot air balloon into a smaller package and hop it on a truck. I say ‘we’, but I meant the other passengers, as I was the one taking photos and therefore being excused from the task at hand. 😉
When everything was ready, we were transported back to the starting point where a fantastic breakfast was waiting for us. But we weren’t getting anything before everyone who had never done a hot air balloon ride before was ‘crowned’ in some sort of order of hot air balloon riders. That was a hilarious sight as it included being ‘baptized’ with champagne and putting some grass on top of everyone’s head.
But after this ceremony it really was time for our luxurious champagne breakfast and the morning flew by. We met up with some of the furry friends of the organization and then it really was time to go home.
What a wonderful way to get a whole new perspective of your local surroundings! Do as the Locals Do, but different.
Have you ever go on a hot air balloon ride? Where did you go?