I thought Burning Man was a festival for weird-ass hippies.
I mean here’s what happens:
- People drive hundreds of miles out into the middle of the Nevada desert.
- They endure hot days and cold nights.
- There are no permanent utilities around. So no water/electricity/phone.
- They must bring everything with them, and leave with everything also.
Who the hell would do that for FUN??
But then I was constantly hearing of people I admire going to Burning Man over-and-over, and it got me curious that maybe there’s something more to this event.
SO this year (2014) I got invited by a couple of friends who had already been many times.
They got a hold of a couple of nice RV’s and also got a ticket for me (which are generally quite hard to get a hold of). They also had everything planned out.
Essentially all I had to do was pack a suitcase and get myself to Sacramento, CA.
My interest in going to Burning Man was right about here:
If my friends hadn’t invited me with the promise of relatively low effort on my part, I wouldn’t have gone.
They DID say despite the fact we’ll have a nice RV and plenty of supplies, it would STILL be uncomfortable and difficult to be there at times.
But hey, I’m an Eagle Scout. I should be able to handle this!
(If you can wear THIS in public without getting beat up, you can handle some dust and heat)!
Our plan was to meet in Sacramento, pickup this nice RV, raid a Whole Foods, raid a WalMart for general supplies and bikes, then drive out to the desert. We were like a yuppie version of the Beverly Hillbillys!
So anywhoozle, the day before Burning Man I started gathering supplies. I went to a costume store called Lucy In Disguise With Diamonds and bought some outfits and masks. I gathered up warm clothes for the cold nights, and protective clothing for hot days.
I took along plenty of toilet paper and portable Wet Wipes. I bought a CamelBack for water on the go. I bought synthetic fiber boxers that would withstand long walking commutes mixed with very hot weather.
In general I over-prepared for the event. Not necessarily a bad thing, but I’m gonna travel way lighter next time (keep in mind having an RV helped with this a lot).
I watched about 3 different documentaries about Burning Man that day, and read about 10 different articles.
After consuming all that information, I was still confused about what the hell Burning Man was! However it seemed cool and I started getting more and more excited.
So on a Thursday I hopped a flight to Sacramento, CA. and took an Über over to the Whole Foods parking lot 30 minutes from the airport.
The parking lot was not fit for large vehicles, so I kind of insinuated my ride was here when this massive 40 foot RV pulled up:
So basically we brought a house with us and filled it with good food (some of my camp-mates complained they only brought really crappy food one time, so this time we loaded up with good stuff).
We stuffed up two full shopping carts from Whole Foods, then jaunted on down to a Wal-Mart.
At Wal-Mart we picked up goggles (a MUST have at Burning Man), bicycles (another MUST have), lots of water, lots of glow stuff (a MUST have at Burning Man for safety reasons), and other general supplies you’d normally associate with camping.
Besides the obvious stuff like water and food…..I think the GREATEST purchases I made for the Burning Man trip were: A cheap $79 bicycle, glowing stuff for the bikes, my CamelBack backpack, eye goggles with a nice tight seal around your face.
So now we were finally ready for the trek out into the desert.
We thankfully got to the entrance gate very late at night, so there was no traffic. Otherwise it was common to wait in the hot sun for 6 to 12 hours just to get through the FIRST gate!!! Yikes.
I’m gonna fast forward now over some details, but I’m gonna write this short bullet-point list for my own personal memories for the future when my brain forgets:
- The “Lost Tickets Incident” and how we pulled it off with the W Hotel concierge selfie with our tickets.
- Our not-so-welcome entrance in the wrong spot and our very drunk neighbor from Amsterdam.
- Team Proton RV.
So finally we get parked and settled (keep in mind most people are already at Burning Man, and we were late-comers, so people don’t particularly like it when you park a 40ft RV next to them mid-way through Burning Man.
We had a rough (but fun) entrance into Burning Man. We were a 4-person crew in our RV and we all worked well together. Everyone pulled weight and no one complained. It was a solid team.
And then….it was time to explore!! I believe we went out around 11pm, which is super early to go out. We walked for our first excursion.
- Goggles. Check.
- CamelBack. Check.
- Weird costumes. Check.
- No ID. No money. Check.
- Time to go!
The sheer amount of “stuff” just going on around you at Burning Man is incredible. Whether you’re in a “residential” area with camps, or the main playa……there’s literally stuff everyyywwwhheereee.
Want to find a party? Walk 8 ft.
Want to see people in crazy outfits. Look in any direction.
Want to howl at the moon like a crazy person, go for it. No one will bat an eye….and people might even join you.
Want to go up to a random person and hug them? They’ll hug you back.
Want to climb up on a giant moving art sculpture that seems really dangerous? Go for it.
The idea behind Burning Man is radical self-expression and self-reliance.
At night every single person is glowing in some form, because it gets so damn dark in the desert at night that you can’t see a thing. So if you’re not glowing, it’s actually kind of a hazard to yourself and others. You’ll probably get clocked by a bicycle.
Across the main Playa there are art cars, pedestrians and bikes all zipping around in all different directions. And if you’re not lit up in some way, no one can see you.
On top of that it gets dusty outside sometimes, so everyone is wearing goggles on their face. So you look around as walk, and it’s like you’re at a big glow-party on the moon!
Then you might see a MASSIVE pirate ship with a concert-grade sound system and thousands of lights slowly chugging along the desert floor. And naturally you run after it and join the dance party as it traverses the desert.
I’m not exactly sure who funds these massive art cars or how they even get here (the quality of engineering and sound and light coming from those things was incredible), but they are awesome.
It was mainly a big party at night.
I would have no phone, no camera, no cash on me. Just the elements for survival (aka water).
It was also cool to see the love in the air at Burning Man (that sounded way hippie).
It would be very frequent to see this occurrence play out:
Two people lock eyes. They say “Welcome home brother.” Give each other a big hug. They both go on their own separate ways.
Seems cheesy, but it was quite nice. It has no sexual connotation to it. Rather it was very loving in the agape sense.
(FYI “Welcome Home” is a common phrase there because the story is once you go to Burning Man, it is your home). I thought it was a cheesy thing at first, but it quickly grew on me.
You are friendly to everyone.
You are surrounded by creativity.
It just physically looks crazy awesome.
You are self-reliant, yet need everyone else there to make it happen.