Difference between revisions of "Burning man"
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==My Burning Man Story From 2017==
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Revision as of 12:32, 9 September 2019
- 1 About Burning Man
- 2 Child Pages
- 3 My Burning Man Story From 2017
- 3.1 The Ticket (it's become harder than you think)
- 3.2 Costs (not terrible, but not cheap)
- 3.3 Preparation Time (too little)
- 3.4 My Ride (Jeff)
- 3.5 My Camp (WrongTown)
- 3.6 Contributing to your Camp
- 3.7 Contributing to Burning Man (massage and gifts)
- 3.8 Gift giving
- 3.9 Managing Energy
- 3.10 Drugs
- 3.11 Fleeting Beautiful Moments
- 3.12 Nightlife
- 3.13 Safety (lights and a bike lock)
- 3.14 Hygiene (baby wipes and rare showers)
- 3.15 Embracing new people and experiences
- 3.16 Fear of Missing Out (FEMO) is futile to worry about
- 3.17 From the Man to the Temple
- 4 What I Would Do Differently
- 5 My Burning Man Story From 2019
- 6 Staying Grounded
- 7 Being Present and Daring
- 8 More Photos
- 9 See Also
- 10 Links
About Burning Man
In case you've been living under a rock, Burning Man is an iconic annual week long event in the desert where 100,000 people assemble, an expansive two mile wide city gets built up out of nothing, and at the end everything is either burnt or taken down at the end. The desert is left empty, as if nothing had even touched the dust, let alone hosted one of the largest experimental art, dance and self-discovery events on the planet. It's really extraordinary to see. This annual gathering that takes place at Black Rock City - a temporary city erected in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada. The event is described as an experiment in community and art, influenced by 10 main principles:
- "radical" inclusion,
- community cooperation,
- civic responsibility,
- immediacy, and
- leaving no trace.
Here are some photos from 2017:
My Burning Man Story From 2017
I went to burning man for the first time ever in 2017 (Aug 27-Sep 4). What an incredible experience! I have written here about my experience, so that I and others may benefit.
The Ticket (it's become harder than you think)
Getting tickets wasn't easy in 2017. At my workplace, Google, there was a huge internal waitlist of people who missed out on the lottery-like ticket sales. I almost went in 2016, I won two tickets in the lottery, but instead transferred my tickets to a friend, Vasyl, who came all the way from the Ukraine to visit burning man. Serendipitously, the same incredible man helped me get a ticket in 2017.
In honesty, I should have really been more proactive in getting a ticket in 2017, it was largely luck that got me a ticket! If you have the intention to go, commit to it, buy all the stuff, and put our your intention to all your friends so they can help you land one of the tickets people sell last minute if they can't make it. Be suspicious of any expensive tickets... to buy and sell for a profit goes very much against the principles of burning man and such people should be very ashamed of themselves.
There is a will call option, but having the physical ticket is easier and more reassuring. If even one person in your vehicle has will call you go into a separate vehicle line to get in to burning man, and depending on what row you into you could wait and extra hour to five hours at peak entry. Ouch!
In 2019 I helped our camp leader setup a special system in our trailer over the weekend, and have a project, so I managed to get a camp ticket. If you know a camp well, it becomes a group effort in in 2019 everyone in the camp (120 got a ticket). I'm excited to meet all the new people!
Costs (not terrible, but not cheap)
The ticket itself was my biggest cost (~$500) of burning man, but I also probably spent a couple of hundred on costumes and clothes from Amazon and Ross respectively (more clothes than I needed actually). What I did wear mostly got destroyed by the desert! I definietly had too many clothes, I panicked last minute and threw in ski jackets etc - when in fact you start to admire there the people who just wear nothing or a bathing suit their whole trip... less to clean up. Apparently the average person spends ~$2000 when they visit burning man.
Preparation Time (too little)
I got the ticket so late I really had only a week to rush to prepare. Ideally I should have had time to read more advice, and spent a month gathering what I needed.
My Ride (Jeff)
Fortunately my incredible friend Jeff Carloni, was driving his van to burning man and fit an extra person in the front! What a wonderful score. Jeff is amazing company and his van had so much room I was able to go crazy and bring way more than I needed. Turns out this is actually a disadvantage though... more stuff meant more dust.
My Camp (WrongTown)
Jeff hooked me up with his great camp WrongTown, which was only ~$100 to register + $80 meal plan + $50 to use one of their bikes. Sounds like our camp was cheaper than most, as it's pretty bare bones, using old equipment which has seen over a dozen burns, and not buying copious alcohol to maintain a bar for strangers. Personally I thought that's what gave our camp character - it isn't all new fancy equipment, and people need to pitch in to help setup! Jeff slept in his van and leant me a 8 person tent with was really comfortable.
I really loved being in a camp! Fun people too.... about 100 people, a mix of ~1/3 Japanese (some with poor english) ~1/3 Australians (where I'm from originally!) and a mix of others.
I'm looking forward to 2019, because some of the facilities like the showers have been upgraded (and even privacy screens instead of wide open). And I'm doing a fun project with Jeff which I will upload pictures of later!
Contributing to your Camp
I didn't realize it, but the "real burners" have a tiny animosity towards the people who show up just for the weekend to party and then leave. Why? Well it takes the full week to actually contribute in a meaningful way... to be part of building a camp, or a project. For me, that was wonderful... to be able to help build a dangerous looking structure from metal. Oh yes, and building it was dangerous - as was taking it down... but that was part of the experience. My camp also requested that people cook a meal, so I opted to cook for 80 people on the first morning. Fortunately it was less than that on the first day, because when I woke up at 8am nothing was set up... I couldn't find the gas cylinder, or the food I'd ordered for the big "WrongTown truck" to drive in... nothing was labelled, and my helper chef couldn't be found. So it was a beautiful disaster, but I asked enough wonderful people for help that the cooking on the old dodgy looking elements started to get done. Bacon and scrambled eggs. Only last minute did a guy show up that knew where the bread was hiding, and explain that the salsa fresca I ordered (to try making breakfast fancy) didn't survive the trip. It was actually liberating to be thrown into the deep end.
Contributing to Burning Man (massage and gifts)
In our camps meeting I announced that I had brought my massage table as something I could gift to people. It was a blessing and curse. Lots of people wanted massages, and I had trouble saying no! I give pretty long massages, and although I'm not professionally trained, I felt I was getting better, and enjoyed massaging to the amazing music coming from our DJs... our camp has a big speaker system.
I printed a few "massage coupons" to give to strangers, but in reality it's hard for people to coordinate meeting at a different camp, and I had too few coupons to give away. I think I gave about 20 massages over the week - almost all to members of my camp - some with sore necks etc.
If you haven't read the principles already, there is no money at burning man. Okay, well only for ice and coffee near center camp, but aside from that, people offer stuff for free, not wanting anything in return. Camps that have bars setup to give you drinks with crude names are amazing! During the heat of the day, some of the more refreshing drinks taste like heaven. It's okay that you give these people nothing, but it's nice to know that there are other people you will give sweet gifts to.... either physical or in some cases emotional. I brought with me a bunch of those little koalas that people could strap to their costumes. Jeff had some great scarf things that served as dust-masks... which proved a great gift. It's nice when gifts are not too expensive, but still wonderful.
Your first night at burning man is an incredible experience. I was lead onto the playa and overwhelmed by the number of glowing bicycles and the experience of approaching the man. He was magnificent... towering above us, his face glowing and playing music. Were I not so tired from many hours of driving it would have been a more powerful spiritual I am sure.
During the day it's hot, so people often stay within their tents or camp shade structures, because being more social is nice. My favorite day was Tuesday... we had done out building, and Jeff and I explored during the day, hitting up the many bars, and just loved chatting to people. There are beautiful girls everywhere, and with Jeff by my side, it actually wasn't hard to just chat to some of them. Wonderful connections ensued. One really gorgeous girl and I talked for about 15 minutes before we had each other in tears... it was such a wonderful thing.
With everyone finished building, Tuesday night is electric for partying. People start to unwind, and we had the most amazing night out dancing. Of course... if you stay out really late, especially till sunset, you will be sleepier the next day!
I only did one all-nighter in fact. Most nights I had an "early night" (early by Burning Man standards is still way past midnight - most likely 3am) where I was so tired I fell asleep despite our blaring speaker systems.
Oh yes, drugs are everywhere. There are police around, some undercover, and when driving in I saw a few poor souls pulled over and police plus dogs going through their whole car. People ask for IDs when you ask for (free) alcohol, but as you get friendly and chat to people it's astonishing what they offer you! Just stay smart. My only real mistake was eating a handful of "popcorn" a guy from our camp asked us to try. It was actually "potcorn", and so I spend an entire day sleepy and out of it. One of the lovely girls from our camp, Sophie, walked up to me later to say how stoned she was.... she'd had some of the popcorn too. She passed out onto the couch about 20 seconds later. It wasn't *not* fun, but it cost me some time I could have been exploring.... a handful of potcorn is too much it turns out. Of course cannabis is the low end of the spectrum at burning man.... there really is everything.
Fleeting Beautiful Moments
So I got married at burning man. That happened. Oh, and then I lost the girl two hours later.... which is probably longer than some celebrity marriages last, but bittersweet. This was a wonderful hispanic girl I met and had the most incredible dances with. I lifted her, we swayed, and she had the most magical big smile. I knelt down to pick her up for a dance move, and she said she accepted... and that nobody she danced with knew how to control her. It made me so happy I declared he my playa wife. We then climbed a big (somewhat dangerous) cargo net and an area of netting suspended above the desert nightclub. It was such a beautiful night, and her friend told me the name of her camp, but ultimately, in the confusion of language, I lost her. I waited till morning at the club, but since she just arrived, I suspect she just crashed. Unfortunately for me, she was in one of the only camps which the Information booth (also need center camp - and where they have lost items returned etc) didn't really know the address of. Burning man is in the shape of a big clock, with concentric circle streets labelled by the alphabet outwards... my camp was 2:15 and Dance. I think her camp, Frenzied Serenity was 7:15 and H, so I kept checking out that area, but ultimately I had to realize quickly that burning man is full of these fleeting moments. Even friends I knew were going to burning man, and I knew the address of their camp precisely, I couldn't meet up with. Cell phones don't really work there. I met an amazing guy, Tristan, who had the same dilemma... he met a wonderful girl and left lots of signs at her camp, but probably he missed her to.
Having no cell phones is something you embrace though. You can learn to be smart about trying to keep hold of the connections that matter - taking emails for when you return - but when you are at burning man, unless you commit to meeting at a time and place, you are just enjoying the ride of meeting wonderful people who you'll probably never see again in life. And maybe that's why it's so easy to connect deeply with them. That and the atmosphere.
Nighttime is when black rock city really comes alive. Everyone is out, dancing, partying, hitting each other in a huge thunder-dome structure and just exploring the wonders of this man made city. Considering my no prep time I was lucky to get a half decent bike, and I bought a little cubby for it at the front which I attached with cable ties. You need to bring water with you, plus dust mask and goggles. Fortunately there weren't any big dust storms at night when I was there, but wow, I wish I had more lights. Bikes travel pretty fast, and people who are not illuminated, can easily get into accidents... you just don't see them.
The art cars and incredible! Some people chose to walk and just jump on the cars, but you don't really know where they are going to, and you are not supposed to dismount while driving, so it's a true adventure in trust. Sooo much walking!
My favorite dance moments were the art cars, like the animal cars that met in the middle of the desert. I really love dancing, so this was a treat. Some music was too dark for me, but this was perfect. Actually my perfect moment was "disco fish" car. It's one of the cars I'm sure cost into the millions, with incredible lights and speakers.... it was fun to find it, and walk/dance alongside it while it travelled at a steady 5 miles per hour (the speed limit for cars in Black Rock City) and then stop and have this beautiful little girl call Fay stop to talk. I asked her to dance, and she was incredible! I think my friend took a video of us. If she ever reads this I hope we get to meet in real life so I can learn more about her - she seemed like an amazing girl, and I hope she managed to escape the fish (she contributed so much to the fish I'm not sure she had a chance to leave and just enjoy the desert).
Safety (lights and a bike lock)
Being aware of drugs, and wearing lots of lights at night is the biggest part of safety. I wish I had more bike lights and lights on my person. All that light-wear that may seem tacky inside a nightclub comes in very handy at burning man. People enjoy decorating their bike, and the really smart people put glowing LED poles at the top, because when you arrive at a structure where 1000s of people park their bikes, it's very easy to lose your bike. Jeff and I wasted a hour looking for our bike at one point I remember. Unfortunately lots of bikes are stolen. I imagine not "stolen stolen", but stoned/tired/inconsiderate people might accidentally grab the wrong bike or just decide they don't want to walk. Two people in my camp lost bikes, that's when I realized I should start using my combo lock each time I parked! To be without a bike for even a day would suck. It was awkward enough when my bike broke for half a day, but incredible to learn they have several places who will fix your bike for free!
Also, if you're a girl at burning man, remember that although most people are awesome, this event could easy attract the worst people from society, so having a buddy system can add peace of mind. As they said at our camp: take care of each other.
Hygiene (baby wipes and rare showers)
Hand sanitizes are a must. There are toilet structures all over, which a pretty clean and usually have toilet paper, but in the middle of the night you won't want to walk 10 minutes to a toilet... so have a pee bottle. Everyone does it! Girls often bring a funnel or P Ez to help.
Yes you get dirty. I was lucky we had a shower system. Most days I was too exhausted to use it even, but it felt good when I did. Many people won't have a shower system, but instead use baby-wipes before sleep.
Embracing new people and experiences
One of my most magical moments, started when I travelled with two lovely girl from our camp to the other side of the playa for a big day time dance party. When I left I found a lovely girl looking at strange mirrors. She was on a mission to find a hat her boyfriend had given her and she accidentally left at a camp. Her mission became my mission. On the way, there was a group of amazing people dancing in the street. I didn't realize it, but we were in the "gayberhod" - an area of gay themed camps - so of course the music was great, and before I knew it I was dancing, and making new friends. A lovely girl there told me the story of losing her leg and I cried within minutes. I connected with Laurel very, very quickly. Possibly something only possible in the context of burning man. Wow, what an incredible, generous and beautiful human being. :)
Burning man is a place where you can be very proud to cry - especially when you realize it's tears for another human, and tears of admiration. This particular camp "Dusty Lusty" was so incredibly friendly I crashed there overnight. I guess they briefly adopted me. I loved that their camp all ate together (ours was a little too chaotic for that!) and we all got up to belt out bohemian rhapsody and dance like crazy wild people. Those moments made burning man for me. :)
Fear of Missing Out (FEMO) is futile to worry about
You can't see everything at burning man. Some people take the iBurn app or physical guide (given to you at the gate with your ticket) and read it and circle events / workshops they want to go to. I only went to one workshop and one event I wanted to go to (RhythmWave dance camp), and I was perfectly happy! The adventure is the unexpected stuff you find along the way... and if you don't make it to your original intended destination... isn't that more magical? It really is all about the journey. Having said that... next year I want to see Thunder dome - I somehow missed it this year!
From the Man to the Temple
When I walked around, chatting to incredible and diverse, and open minded people, I would often ask about the temple. On the Saturday, the man burns, and everyone celebrates wildly. On the Sunday, they burn "the temple", and everyone watches in silence. Except for a few drunk idiots of course, but aside from that, the burning of the temple is regarded as beautiful. Why?
Leading up to Sunday, everyone should walk from the man to the temple. Carry with you paper and a pen... or maybe something you've printed in advance. Inside the temple, people write down anything they want to let go of in life. What people have written is so beautiful, it is likely to make you cry. Embrace that.
For me, I kept telling people I wasn't ready for the temple yet... but on Friday morning I realized I couldn't really wait another day. My bike broke, but I took it early to a repair place where they repaired it for free. I rode immediately to the man, in the exact center of the city, and about the middle of the day. Some people had written some lovely messages on the structure surrounding the man, and so for me, that's where my crying started. Such lovely words. Then I decided to walk to the temple at the 12 O clock position. It was wonderfully emotional just approaching, but reading the messages was wonderful. I wrote down my own message with pen and paper. I pinned it near the inside of the temple, high up, and then left. Wow.
Most people will have read in the new that a man jumped into the flames as the man burned in 2017, and died later in hospital (read article). For some that witnessed that event it was traumatic. I guess I was luckily to be on the other side of the burning man at the time that I didn't see anything - I just heard about it later. Seeing the man burn is a very profound experience for some, so it's hard to say if the people who run towards the flames at the end are just excited, or drugged out, or in this man's case, maybe it was premeditated. I guess it doesn't matter. Let's ignore this one man running into the flame.
The fire itself spirals many stories into the sky, and even at the perimeter, a hundred meters from the flame, you can feel the intense heat. The temple is similar when it burns, but the mood of the people is different. Everyone realizes that it is time to let go. For some people, they've written beautiful eulogies for lost loves ones. For other's it's just the realization that it's time to go home... to "default world". Some people exit straight after the temple burn... which means a big wait in traffic, but at least it's in the cool of night.
I like that Jeff and I stayed Monday, to help clean up a little bit, and we were very, very lucky to have almost no traffic on the way out. Cleaning up my own stuff was the hard part really... it took me days. You have to rinse everything in water and vinegar before it's ready for a washing machine. I took way too many bags of stuff.
Even now, a week later, I'm writing this, and it feels like a magical dream. I met amazing people, who restore my faith in possibility for radical self expression and love. I want to build amazing things, and I believe I might find love out here somewhere.... ideally it would have been at burning man, but since those moments are hard to carry across to default world, I can hope to find it here.
What I Would Do Differently
I'm embarrassed to admit how much stuff I took. Most newbies do that apparently, and although being over-prepared seems like a good idea, it meant extra time packing, cleaning and unpacking. Some people say all you need is goggles and a dusk mask. Not even underpants are required. Maybe you can just crash at a different camp each night.
Part of me likes the idea of trying an RV for my second time, but I also love the idea of a camp.... it's comfort versus being part of an actual community I think. I think what I want to contribute to whatever camp I join next year is a wall where people can take their polaroid photo, then add their name. It would be nice to know everyone's names and also have tiny mail pocket to write messages. This ideas is inspired by a wall I saw at one of the gay camps where people put strings joining who they were attracted to. Actually it was Laurel's idea - I knew she was awesome! My friend Jeff and I talked about all other manner of fun elaborate ideas, including art cars, but ultimately I don't want to spend a fortune. I also might try my Idea: Happiness Timeline as a display again, but make it easier in some way... a more prominent display.
For me, I want to mass produce a nice gift which has my camp address and details for connecting with people either in person or Facebook after. Maybe my massage table again, but really, it does *sometimes* suck a little to have a great connection and never see that person again.
My Burning Man Story From 2019
I went to burning man for the second time ever in 2019 (Aug 25-Sep 3). I won't write about that in as much length, but it was also mind blowing. It's hard to compare. The first time is magical because it's the first time, but the second time I had more an idea what I was doing. I guess like sex? My second time was also riding with Inferno and with the same camp. Together we did a really fun project we called Burning man - MyFace project which took up a lot of time. Also we stayed late for takedown and went with the camp leader, Marshall, a few months early to drive to black rock desert and work on the trailer. I learnt a lot and helping with the camp help ensure I get a camp ticket. Lots of camps make camp tickets a group effort and our camp did so well everyone got a ticket (even if they didn't have one when they registered).
So here's some tips I got from the second time:
I packed less than the first time, but I had a chance to get a second hand shiftpod which meant I had heaps of room and even two fold-up chais in my tent. That went great! Notice in my Burning man - packing list however, I'm kicking myself for not bringing storage bins because dust still got into my tent.
I learnt from the first time not to waste time on silly questions. If you connect with someone at a bar go straight for a deep question. Have one prepared.... for me it was pretty brilliant... in fact it's so good I won't tell you what it was, but you'll see plenty of great questions on my app: Dating App Wingman. Be fun and daring. I had a lovely kiss each night because girls in particular love deep questions and someone who listens. I must admit, I didn't cry quite like I did on my first time when I had a truly deep conversation with a girl, but there were many touching moments. Water and time are the most valuable of resources at Burning Man. You can't talk to everyone, but when you do... make it count. It doesn't matter who you talk to - it's what you say. I had some lovely conversation with guys too.
One genius thing I did do: I make a little card that said "can I please have this dance" which I presented to at least a dozen girls over my 7 nights of dancing. Easily 90% of the girls smiled and we had a dance. Of course a surprising number of girls there that look along have boyfriends nearby who were watching me with death-eyes, so I learnt every quickly to ask if I was allowed to flirt or if they were unavailable and I should make the dance very much PG. :)
Some of the magical moment in camp were people who liked the MyFace wall Inferno and I created and we just got to talking. Our camp had an amazing nine-year old girl, Milla, who I thought was especially awesome! A precious moment was when one of the guy in our camp gifted her an incredible backpack he'd had for years, but was too big for him. Super cuteness. :)
What else.... well it's an odd comment, but I deliberately didn't put the heat shield on my shiftpod, because I knew that a hot tent by 10am would help motivate me to leave (relatively) early and seize the day. There are a different kind of magical moment that comes in the day. More special actually. My other favorite memory was with Hawkeye, Bart, Misa and Inferno... just a day of exploring and we came across trampoline dodgeball. So fun!
Our same group attempted a couple of night to go out together, but traveling with >2 people at night it's really easy to lose each other, so each night we barely lasted an hour before we fragmented. Which is fine by me - but next time I think we all have to be clear that separating is just a reality at night. If you really want to keep a group together you need at least one bike with a huge illuminated spike to follow, and write out your destination on people's hands with a sharpie.
Many days I explored by myself... I almost wish I'd seen more art, because I've seen pics of so many great artworks I missed, but that's a downside of doing your own art-project... even if it's small, you *might* get a little delayed in admiring other art. I've heard stories of people with huge projects that break and that's their entire burning man trying to fix. Ouchie.
I had a couple of really lovely romances on the Playa this year actually, so that's kind of magical, and maybe I'll get a chance to visit. And now, it's back to the real world I'm afraid... but I'm glad I quickly typed up these notes, and that by updating my packing list to be even more awesome I'm hopeful I'll hit the ground running next time I'm on the playa.
Staying grounded might mean different things to different people. Remember to breathe and relax when at burning man... but also remember to be humble about the whole thing. There's a class of people who call themselves true burners and actually believe that just attending burning man makes you a better person. They say it broadens your perspective of what's possible in the world - and say "if only all the world was like this". I believe world travel broadens your mind, and Burning Man can broaden your mind to *some extent*, but in reality you're talking about a bunch of predominately white people, blowing a tonne of money in a desert in white American Nevada on drugs and dressing up in elaborate "look at me" costumes. Where is that fine line between ego and self expression? They say the average person spends ~3 thousand dollars on burning man (multiply that by 100,000 now)... plus many millions more for some of the structures, so this one week even easily sees half a billion dollars - the type of money which actually could help make huge changes to some third world cities.... go up in smoke. Getting high and talking about changing the world through love isn't as good as actually changing the world through love. So don't get too high and mighty about burning man. It's a wonderful freeing experience, but it comes at a price tag that the lucky few can afford, so that's something you have to appreciate in itself. :)
The same money that people blow on burning man (traveling, supplies, costume, tickets etc) - people have done round the world trips, with multiple countries, for less. So think on that, and consider that burning man doesn't make you a better person. Being a better person makes you a better person. :)
A wise woman told me that America is, sadly, one of the few places in the world which is just as it appears in TV shows. A country full of stereotypes. So don't fall into the pretentious burner stereotype and assume burning man is something everyone should experience! :)
Being Present and Daring
My biggest advice for burning man is to be present and daring. When I say daring, I don't mean compromise on your safety! Never... I'm the smart guy who sits back while the younger guys decided to show off and hang precariously of trailers or art structures. I don't want to ruin my burn with an injury. Be daring with the way you talk to people.... push your social comfort just a little. When you ask for what you want.... sometimes you get it. If you don't ask, you'll always wander.
Be bold and daring. Some people meet the love of their life at burning man and it doesn't pay to be shy. :)
Hope to see you on the playa!
- Poem - The Burn... a poem I wrote about burning man. :)