“It was the best week of my life,” I find myself saying at a Burning Man decompression party in Los Angeles. “I don’t really know how to describe it,” I continue on to a fellow more seasoned Burner, whom just like me is having a difficult time letting go of his costumes. I notice we both have remnants of flash tattoos, body paint, and feathers littering our lightly playa-dusted hair.
“The dust doesn’t come out after one wash,” a lovely little Burner lady explains to me. I’m not worried I think of it like dry shampoo now. I embraced my playa-dusted existence on the second sunrise, and now I feel slightly hesitant to come back to the “real world.” Do I hug the people who greet me, or do I shake hands? Is the conversation I am getting into going to be deep and meaningful? Will this human I am talking to help me grow and learn as a person, and vice versa?
“Describing Burning Man to someone who has not experienced it is like describing the color fuchsia to a blind person,” says my new friend. I smile and cheer his words with a fresh green juice, I am detoxing after all.
Burning Man is what you make of it as is everything in life. Some people take it as an epic party, a place to let loose, have as much sex as possible, and drink for free. Others take it as a spiritual experience, a chance to go to meditation workshops, attend Ted Talks, and run marathons. Yes, there is a marathon on the playa. And there are those who just want to run around the desert naked, while others rock the “shirt cock.” Yes, you should Google shirt cocking, if this is new terminology to you. To each their own energy field. I doubt anyone could disagree with me about the high levels of intensified energy streaming around the desert, like el-wire lights on art cars and bikes.
Manifesting things and people isn’t an entirely new concept to me; however, I have never seen it occur with such immediacy as on my first day. I forgot my mug-a must-have when you walk into a bar. You will not be served without one. Within fifteen seconds of realizing it wasn’t attached to my belt, a sweet blue-haired girl appeared and asked me if I needed a cup, as she had an extra one. Later on that day I was speaking with a girlfriend about an estranged friend with whom I traveled around India. “It has been years since I have seen him,” I casually stated as we entered another camp with friends we made at the previous camp. After parking my bike, I looked up and saw my long lost friend staring back at me. This was a moment of sheer awe, and yet it was only the first day
Like everything I do I wanted to absorb every element of what Burning Man is into my life. Allowing yourself to be open to new experiences and meet new people is just the tip of the coveted sunrise. Each member of the Burner community had something special to gift to the group. In my personal experience with gifting, I quickly noted that giving someone a gift is better than receiving one. That moment- when a sparkle comes to stranger’s eyes-is another part of the playa magic.
My Burning Man experience enabled me to rekindle a relationship with my best friend Cara. We met in NYC ten years ago and have been dubbed “the dynamic duo” by nearly anyone who gets to know us. I recently moved back to The States after 4 years in Sydney Australia. Whilst I was in Oz Cara and I seldom communicated. It was a painful existence without her, and it put unnecessary bitterness in my heart. She is inspirational-with a vivacious personality, and a true gift to love and live life to the fullest. By all definitions of soul mate, I believe she is mine. And that is what Burning Man brought back to me; along with many other people I will now call (ok fine, text) on a regular basis, because I really do want to see how their lives are going.
Burning Man promotes self-preservation, creativity, ingenuity, love, magic, manifesting your deepest wants and needs, all while loving and respecting your neighbor, and the environment. You have choices to make every moment that will bring you in a direction you somehow know you should be going; whether it is sitting in on a Ted Talks, climbing an art installation, roaming around by yourself, or dancing to the most amazing music your ears can conjure up, while watching the sun peak over the far away mountains… refueling you for the day ahead, which you know will somehow, once again, be the best day ever.
When the temple burned on the last day, a special kind of magic brewed within the city. Cara and I were atop our friends’ shoulders-hugging and confessing our love and admiration for one another, a moment I will cherish as long as I live. Then, silence reigned-save the crackle of burning wood. During this silence, you are encouraged to cast into the fire (metaphorically, or via written notes) whatever is ailing you, or stunting your growth or hurting your heart. I threw in fear, and let it burn away-while gripping my friends’ hands tightly. We all formed a circle and hugged each other in the most loving and giving way. My heart felt like it could burst-like a fortune cookie, and trickle down little love scrolls on each of these people. I then felt like celebrating. Ten seconds later a person walked up, handed me a bottle of champagne, gave me a hug, and left with the benediction, “Happy Burn.”
I suggest checking out the website for inspiration. Beginning in January of the year you want to attend, ticket registration begins. First register your email and personal information on the dates given. Then join the queue-to purchase on the ticketing site. When the day comes to purchase the tickets, make sure you have strong Wi-Fi connection.
Beginning the last Sunday of August, and ending the first Monday of September, the annual gathering takes place in Black Rock City Nevada. It is a 3-hour drive from Reno, a 6-hour drive from San Francisco, a 9-hour drive from Vegas, and a 10-hour drive from Los Angeles.
Burning Man has ten principles:
“Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community.”
“Burning Man is devoted to acts of gift giving. The value of a gift is unconditional. Gifting does not contemplate a return or an exchange for something of equal value.” Instead of cash, participants at the Burning Man event in the Black Rock Desert are encouraged to rely on a gift economy.”
“In order to preserve the spirit of gifting, our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising.”
4. Radical Self-reliance
“Burning Man encourages the individual to discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources.”
5. Radical self-expression
“Participants at the Burning Man event in the Black Rock Desert are encouraged to express themselves in a number of ways through various art forms and projects. The event is clothing-optional”
6. Communal effort
“Our community values creative cooperation and collaboration. We strive to produce, promote and protect social networks, public spaces, works of art, and methods of communication that support such interaction.”
7. Civic responsibility
“We value civil society. Community members who organize events should assume responsibility for public welfare and endeavor to communicate civic responsibilities to participants. They must also assume responsibility for conducting events in accordance with local, state and federal laws.”
8. Leave No Trace
“Our community respects the environment. We are committed to leaving no physical trace of our activities wherever we gather. We clean up after ourselves and endeavor, whenever possible, to leave such places in a better state than when we found them.”
“Our community is committed to a radically participatory ethic. We believe that transformative change, whether in the individual or in society, can occur only through the medium of deeply personal participation. We achieve being through doing. Everyone is invited to work. Everyone is invited to play. We make the world real through actions that open the heart.” People are encouraged to participate, rather than observe.
“Immediate experience is, in many ways, the most important touchstone of value in our culture. We seek to overcome barriers that stand between us and a recognition of our inner selves, the reality of those around us, participation in society, and contact with a natural world exceeding human powers. No idea can substitute for this experience.”
Throughout the city you will see many interactive sculptures using many different mediums. The symbolic sculpture of the man is in the middle of the city so it is a reference point for you to navigate around. The man ritually burns on Saturday evening. There are other burnings that take place throughout the week. The art showcases human creativity, ingenuity, and integrity.
The best way to get around BRC is by bike. Mountain bikes are better than road bikes: it can be a bumpy ride, and if it rains it becomes even more difficult. I have fallen off my bike many times from hitting loose dirt. Most everyone has a bike at the burn so it is a good idea to decorate yours to make it unique. Hundreds of bikes are parked at one place. Because it is so dark at night, it is highly recommended to decorate your bike with plenty of lights so you can find it, see where you are going, and others can see you. Elwire is good to use around the frame. From personal experience make sure you have a comfortable seat on your bike. I duct-taped a pillow on mine. It turned out to be the best idea ever! Do not leave camp without your bike lock, as it is common for people to take the wrong bike-which can put you in the unfavorable position of a long walk home.
The weather on the playa is always unpredictable. Dust storms come out of nowhere-creating mini tornados. High winds can throw tents in the air if they aren’t properly secured with stakes/rebar. Rain can cause a whole new set of issues. Temperatures can drop drastically when the sun goes down. It is best to be over-prepared when it comes to the elements, because you will be exposed to them. Preparing for the elements-and learning to embrace them-is all part of the personal development you will feel after leaving the playa.
There are many ways you can enjoy the burn-depending on who you are, and what kind of experience you are seeking. One way is to rent an RV and set up shop yourself. Or, you can brave the elements by driving your car and pitching a tent. Alternatively, you can join a theme camp. Theme camps can range from literally anything under the sun, and cost can range from~$300 to $25,000. If you want to join a camp, have a look through the Burning Man website, and Facebook chat about the camps available to get to know the members. At most camps you are required to contribute in some way for the good of the group. Common tasks include: helping in the kitchen or bartending, helping setting up camp or striking. The connections made at camp will be long lasting. If you want to create a theme camp, this tells you all you need to know: http://burningman.org/event/camps/resource-guide/
If you are like me-and love any excuse for a costume party-this is where you can shine. The more creative and outlandish the better! However, you must keep in mind the elements within your self-expression: the days can be very hot and dust storms are prevalent, the nights can be quite cold. Boots, carabiner, belts, goggles, and a mask/scarf for dust are must-haves.
Another mode of transportation around the playa is an art car, also called Mutant vehicles. These are creatively-altered cars and trucks, which are limited to 5MPH. The art cars are an expression of what creative humans can collaborate on-to bring people together. Get ready to hop on the ride of your life-whenever you see an art car stopped. And dear sir or madam with the teapot art car, I would love a ride in that vessel!
Drink water. Drink water even if you aren’t parched, even if you drank water 10 minutes earlier, keep hydrated. The best way to check that your properly hydrated is to make sure your urine is clear…the common phrase you will hear at the burn is “pee clear.”
Staying up every night until sunrise to see Robot Heart and the Mayan Warrior will cause you to miss a lot of great daytime activities.
Bring a dry erase board for your camp-to write down destinations you plan to visit for the day (for visitors reference), but don’t expect things to go exactly as planned. You will find what you need, when you need it. It’s good to have some plans, but more often than not, it’s best to follow your nose (and ears.) Be present, live in the moment. And bless your heart, Turn off your phone!
DON’T FORGET YOUR TICKETS
Lets first start with what the body needs to survive.
It is recommended to bring 1.5 gallons of water per person per day and some Gatorade/Pedialyte to prevent dehydration.
Plus, whatever else suits your fancy to drink.
You are responsible for bringing your own food; so whatever you are in the mood to eat and drink, pack it up. Fruit and vegetables can go bad after a few days. Consider packing food that can sustain the environment you are in-like trail mix,cereal, homemade granola. Here’s a list of recommended items:
Things you need that you may not think you need
What to bring with you will roam the playa
Here are some fun videos to watch to get prepared for the Burn.
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