With Burning Man quickly approaching, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about how my first trip to Burning man in 2014 broke my self-identity, rebuilding me into who I am today.
This story deserves to be told it its fully glory, so this will be a mini series. To make sure you don’t miss parts 2 & 3, subscribe via email using the menu on the left (below for mobile).
*Jurrasic park voice* Welcome…. to part 1!
If you’ve never heard of Burning Man, you were just like me.
I had just gotten my first ‘big-girl’ job working in downtown Chicago. As such, it was my first job with paid time off. I didn’t know what to do with myself! I’d been working there for a while and had saved up enough money to take a vacation. Where was I going to go?
To be honest, I had never thought about places I might want to visit someday. Has that ever happened to you? You have something awesome but don’t really know what to do with it? That was me. Derp, derp, derp.
Before this job, I was working multiple minimum wage jobs and could barely afford to eat (I was on the weed and spaghetti diet). When I dreamt that I had extra money, the dreams were about a better internet package – not vacations. Vacations, and travel, were experiences I had accepted would never happen for me.
Since I was struggling to come up with my own dream, I decide to steal someone else’s. Naturally, as I do for all things, I turned to Google: “Popular bucket list vacations”. I click through the first few results and browse various lists of amazing places I should go, things I should see, or experiences I should have.
Some of them are a little too crazy for my first vacation. A trip to Iceland. Living with monks in Thailand (I did about everything in Thailand except that!). I didn’t even have passport at the time so I needed to tone it down a bit. A domestic trip was much better suited to what I was looking for. Of course there was skydiving, the grand canyon…and Burning Man?
Hmm…a weeklong festival in the desert, known to be a major party, where you have to bring all of your own food, water, shelter and supplies? Now that sounded like a challenge I could conquer. I’d never been camping before. Or to the desert. Or to a festival – but hey, I knew parties!
Tickets would soon be on sale. I set a calendar reminder and patted myself on the back for getting a vacation idea all sorted out. Sale day came, I bought my ticket and voila! I was going to Burning Man.
Upon later reflection, this trip was obviously meant to be. It’s extremely competitive to get a Burning Man ticket – they sell out almost instantly. At the time it didn’t even occur to me I wouldn’t be able to purchase one. I realize now how lucky I was!
Setting the scene: about Burning Man
Having acquired my ticket, I went into a researching frenzy about Burning Man. I was eager to learn everything I could.
In short, 70,000 people make their pilgrimage to the Black Rock Desert located the state of Nevada, USA. A magnificent, fully functioning city (known as Black Rock City or BRC) is erected for the one week duration of the event.
When I say city, I do mean city. Complete with newspaper publication, radio, temple, movie theater, bars, bowling, roller rink, restaurants, town center, medical care facilities and of course, citizens. Black Rock City is so large that without a bike you have no hope of seeing the whole thing. Even with a bike, I doubt anyone has ever seen all there is to see during a Burn.
The attendants of the festival, or citizens, live within BRC completely self sufficient for one week. We are charged with bringing our own food, water, shelter, medical supplies and other necessities of life. I learned that this concept, called Radical Self Reliance, is one of Burning Man’s 10 principles. The 10 principles are a set of ethics and guidelines that serve as the foundation for the Burner culture and community. It was at this time that the first crack in who I was appeared.
I spent the next few months researching, packing, panicking and researching more. Through the Burning Man forums, Eplaya, I managed to meet a gentleman who ran a camp for newbies. This was perfect! I’d be in a camp with other newbies, some of which were traveling alone too, blended with the camp leader and some of his veteran friends.
Our camp would be the ABC Camp (Alphabet Block Camp) and we would have giant life sized alphabet blocks that camp members and other BRC citizens could interact with. Little did I know that this group of people would end up becoming a second family to me. In fact, the leader of the camp – Joe – is generously hosting this site for me!
Flying from Chicago, I arrived at the Reno airport in Nevada. I was to catch the Burner Express from the airport out to the playa. It was at the airport that I had my first taste of what the playa was going to be like.
Getting on the Burner Express, we left the airport and began to roll out to the playa. It was about a three hour ride and the energy on the bus was tangible. After what seemed like 20 minutes, we were surrounded by dust.
We had arrived.