My eyes darted open as the explosive sound of propane igniting blew through my tent. I quickly unzipped the side panel and ran towards the street of Lorenzo. It was there I saw the miraculous tentacles of the mutant vehicle, El Pulpo, blast 10ft flames into the night sky as it casually drove past the backside of our camp. My heart was pounding, as I realized this was only the beginning.
Nothing can quite prepare you for the experience that is Burning Man. A week long personal journey in the middle of the Nevada desert surrounded by unimaginable forms of self expression, liberation, and social experimentation.
Beforehand, I feverishly surveyed friends and begged numerous acquaintances in hopes of discovering what it was like to go to such a mystical, and temporary community in the desert. I had no idea what to pack, how to get there, or what I was even signing myself up for. All I knew about Burning Man before going, which seems similar to what other non-burners know, was that there was a man in the middle who would eventually be burnt down, and there would somehow be art and music involved. That pretty much sums up my total comprehension pre-burn.
My burning man experience is most likely not what you’ve previously read about or heard vaguely from those that may have shared. My mindset upon entering this wild ride was slightly off from the average conglomerate of burner virgins. I had a different perspective on what was important because I had heard the numerous cries of unrest and unwanted change oozing from the resentful veteran burners. Worries that Burning Man is becoming too mainstream. Worrying about all the basic bitches, that role up only for the weekend, just wanting to be seen, take molly, stay up all night, be seen dancing (in next to nothing)… on the heart of Robot Heart, while hardly noticing the art, sunset, and beauty around them… only to do it all again the next night.
Now, I have nothing against raging every night of Burning Man and taking heap-tons of drugs if those so inclined believe that is their burner destination, because as you may know “there is no right or wrong way to do it the burn.” But this road so often traveled this year, was not my path.
As if mirroring my color changes, my journey through the burn coincidentally morphed and shifted as the days of the week rolled on. With each new sunrise I found my personal intentions more focused, my encounters with wild individuals more meaningful, my solo journeys more profound, and my love and understanding of myself and my mind more clarified.
While this may sound to most of you like a load of garbage, or extremely hippie-dippy of me… that’s completely understandable because that’s the beauty of what makes the burn so hard to explain and here’s why:
What is Burning Man?:
Burning Man is a constant experiment in temporary community. A community that you must remember is an average of around 70,000 people. With that comes 70,000 different views on what is best to do with your week in the middle of nowhere. Imaginations run wild and results in a mix of expression, art, creation, dinners, dances, adventures, classes, happy hours, raves, orgies, meditation sessions, pub crawls and too many other wild activities to name.
To give you an idea of just how random your days can go at Burning Man… Here was my Tuesday for you:
While having breakfast at my camp, I overlooked the Burning Man Book. That’s right. There’s a book, a bible, a guide if you will, given to you upon arrival. It’s filled with all the adventures and activities going on that day. It was my beacon of discovery, every morning was like Christmas… flipping through the oddest ways I could imagine spending my day. Things like: Blind fruit tastings, tantric belly dancing, acro-yoga classes, a morning masterbation session, tea parties, couple therapy workshops… I mean yea, there is LITERALLY everything you can imagine in this book.
So on that very Tuesday, after packing my backpack with tons of water, goggles, bandanas for dust, and lots of snacks (like dried fruit leather, granola bars, and nuts) I decided to start my day riding on my fancy bike Petunia, to three huge art structures. The mushrooms, the lighthouses and the medusa.
I gawked in awe of their mass, and tried wrapping my head around the fact that these too were temporary. I was then on my way to a tequila-drinking-tutu-making event (because as all real burners know… Tuesday is Tutu-Tuesday on the Playa) when out of nowhere a girl biked up next to me telling me I had to come to the Kostume Club to pick out my free costume…
The next thing I know I’m in a costume strutting down a temporary runway in the middle of the Esplanade. After my playa-fashion debut, I took shots of tequila and made tutu’s with new found friends. I ended up bumping into an old friend from The Yacht Week, he proceeded to go on a journey with me to find the Disney Sing-A-Long event that I was desperate to find…
Naturally, we stopped to play a massive game of Jenga on the way… I eventually belted out the likes of Hakuna Matata, and A Whole New World with 15 other amazing strangers, I climbed a massive pineapple structure, watched the sunset, ate tacos and drank sangria for a man named Whispering Meadow’s (playa name) 30th birthday and eventually lit up my bike and meandered through the circus of lights back to my camp.
When I finally laid down in my bed, my body was exhausted from the mix of the dust, the heat, and the constant biking around. Yet my heart was full of love, energy, and compassion because my days, like these, were filled with wonder, spontaneity, acceptance, and freedom.
That week I learned and explored incredible things with people I may never see again. I heard amazing stories, laughed with new friends, and cried alone in the spiritual temple. I wrote forgiveness notes from my past, and goodbye messages to all my grandfathers. I learned how to soften my New Yorker edges for the people who deserve it. I found an openness by saying yes and unbelievable memories by staying present.
Burning Man can be whatever your body and mind need it to be. It can be a rave, an outlet, a journey, a practice, a dedication to an intention, a camping trip, a vacation, but most importantly it’s an experiential capsule of love, support, generosity, and learning that truly allows anything to be possible.
I know it still may not be the clearest picture I’ve painted, but I hope it tells you more then the pictures can describe. Until next year…
Ziggy (aka TBV)
© All images are property of The Blonde Vagabond