When you indulge in Burning Man you realize this is about a culture of art, self-expression, sharing, gifting and surviving the elements. By Pamela Hulse Andrews
It’s a tremendous amount of work to prepare for Burning Man. The only thing you can buy to help you survive in the middle of the Nevada desert is…ice (and an ice coffee or tea at the one and only venue).
You must provide your own shelter (tents, RVs, travel trailers, trucks or vans). You definitely don’t want to sleep under the stars, as an intense windstorm can arrive with no notice. You need at least a gallon and a half of water a day to survive well along with food and clothing to fit the sweltering dry heat and the chilly nights on the playa.
And once there, don’t forget that you need to get home, they don’t sell gas, food or water at Burning Man. The entire ordeal is a lesson in survival, albeit you will be doing so with another 68,000 people who come together at the end of each August and build a city from scratch….party and reflect for eight days, and then leave no trace that they were ever there.
You must learn to survive without a shower or even washing your hair, dirt rubbing into your skin and baby wipes becoming your best friend for days.
The Burn can be a giving and spiritual experience, from sharing food and supplies with new friends from all over the world to honoring loved ones recently passed at the architecturally inspired Temple of Transition where chanting, chiming bells and tears are abundant.
While some photos project a circus-like party, the city is carefully laid out in an organized clock-like blueprint, and there are rules. You cannot sell, barter or trade anything. You give freely of what you have to share and you accept gifts readily (such as Burning Man jewelry, scarves to cover your face from the dust and cocktails, served openly in various funky tents, thumping art cars or double-decker contraptions).
The artistic creations of Burning Man from large wooden cutting-edge structures to intricately designed sculptures are strikingly noteworthy. At any moment you could encounter cup-cake cars, dragon-flaming vehicles, water fountains on wheels or a giant octopus with flames spewing from large propane tanks.
The people you meet run the gamut of doctors, lawyers and other professionals to athletes (there is actually a marathon organized), college students and musicians.
My fellow Burners were particularly kind and generous (this attitude is really the center force of the event), many are talented artists and nearly everyone encountered possessed a poignant free-spirit that lends itself to sweeping self expression and entrepreneurship.
It’s not an inexpensive experience with a ticket costing a minimum of $380 and all the supplies you need to survive.
Of course you could take that unapologetic $1,500 and go on a trip somewhere, but you will miss the thrill of burning restlessly inventive and awe-inspiring wood-based art to the ground. If you have any pyro in you at all, you’ll be thrilled at the night time shenanigans of burning up the art, the man himself and the temple.
And all the while you will be completely off the grid. No cell, no email, no texting…the outside world will be wondering what the hell you’re doing there…but the only way they will ever truly know is to show up as well.
You will spend leisurely time in the desolate desert on a dry lake bed of cracked dusty earth building a temporary city, sharing everything from food and water to wine, music and trailer parts, viewing (or building) exquisite works of arts, taking part in diverse forms of celebration and then, before departing, burning most of it up and exit leaving no trace.
This is Burning Man.
While rumors of drugs, sex and nudity abound, it’s not paramount to the festival-like event. When you indulge closer you realize this is much more about a culture of art, self-expression, sharing, gifting and surviving the elements.
My simple lessons from Burning Man: interaction and generosity while promoting tolerance, compassion and kindness.
To see personal photos from Burning Man see below: