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I Survived Burning Man


I had always been interested in attending Burning Man but I thought it was out of reach (even for someone that lived in a van for years). I was scared of the required logistics, running out of water, the dust storms, having a major health issue in the desert, etc.

I finally bit the bullet and attended and I am SO grateful that I did. Burning Man really is something that you have to experience first hand. No matter how many videos or pictures that you view, it does not come close to capturing what it is like... I'm going to try my best though!

Burning Man is an annual event where a temporary city of 70,000 people is built in the middle of the Nevada desert.

It is an experimental society that is driven by 10 principles. A few of these principles include radical inclusion ("Anyone may be a part of Burning Man"), gifting, decommodification (no money passes hands at the festival), radical self-reliance and self-expression, leaving no trace (" We are committed to leaving no physical trace of our activities wherever we gather"), and participation.

The first few days I walked around stunned and speechless at the magnitude of the impermanent city. It is SO different from the 'default world' (in a good way) and I seriously overwhelmed.

The grounds are called the playa and the city’s grid is set up to mimic a clock.

Every year, thousands of people come to the playa months before the event to start setting up this complex city with roads, art, civic centers, buildings, neighborhoods, and camps. And every year thousands of people work for months to remove all trace that the event ever took place.

Burning Man is:

  • The most incredible display of installation art on the planet.

  • One hell of a party. It's about being here, now. Immediacy.

  • A city full of the friendliest and most accepting people you'll ever meet. Radical Inclusion.

  • A space where people aren't trying to sell you things. Once you're in the gates, you can only buy a very tiny selection of things - coffee, ice, gasoline, RV pumping, and a couple other services like that.

  • A place to participate, and to eliminate the barrier between performer and audience. Everyone is a participant.

The idea is: everyone works; everyone builds (if only a tent or yurt); everyone fights, and loses to the dust; everyone amasses social capital by giving things and experiences rather than earning or paying for them; and everyone — whether riding atop a massive fire-breathing art car, or simply riding a glow in the dark bicycle — is equally a participant, whether just helping and collaborating with those strangers in your immediate vicinity, or building some massive art installation for all to enjoy.

The dust is alkaline and destroys everything which is why we used blue painters tape around the outside of the RV's windows. Burners bring Mad Max-style goggles and scarves with them everywhere in case of the inevitable dust storm.

The book of scheduled events is full of hundreds of classes and seminars about sexuality, spirituality, activities, connection, fears, dreams, goals, addiction, loss, and everything in between. There is literally a group, camp, or event for everyone.

Each camp is 100% self-sufficient. There is no cell service so no one is walking around looking at their phone.

There is a DMV (Department of Mutant Vehicles) that registers the art cars. There are medical centers (with real medical staff). There are Rangers who are the type of police we all love in the “default world”– they are not looking for people doing anything wrong, they are 100% there to help and support the citizens of Black Rock City.

People dress however they want or not at all. I saw more naked breasts and an absurd amount of penises than I have in my entire life. Pasties are considered clothing.

There are no lights at night except for the art and art cars, so everyone must cover themselves and their bike in LED lights or they risk being run over by an art car.

Burning Man is where people go to be whoever and do whatever they please.

Towards the end of the week, I started to settle in and accept the vastness of the city and the new freedoms. I began to greet others with hugs and finish conversations with 'much love'. The 10 principles gave everyone shared values to live within and by the end of the week, it was like one big Burner family.

At the end of the week, some of the art was burnt. On Saturday night, the Man burns Designed by a different architect each year, the structure is built to burn. The burning is a celebratory event with fireworks, explosives, and partying. It’s the New Years celebration at Black Rock City. It’s the time to release to old and embrace a new start. People wish each other “Happy New Year.”

On Sunday night, the Temple burns. It is a spiritual place for citizens to go to honor lost loved ones and to release emotions. The energy at the Temple is heavy. It is covered with photos of people who have died and notes to these lost loved ones. It was a beautiful, painful place.

Overall, Burning Man opened my heart and I am so excited for next year. We will be bringing more virgins and I might even go out early to help build the city.

I can't thank our campmates and the others who supported us on our journey to Black Rock City - love you guys!

Nathaniel Bruno