Burning Man is a community based music and arts festival out in the middle of the desert in Nevada. There is literally nothing in this particular spot of the desert except for the weeks leading up to and shortly after the week of Burning Man which is always the last week in August leading up to Labor Day. Last year, when I went for the first time it was the highest attendance ever, attracting some 68,000 people to a place known as the Playa in Black Rock City, Nevada. As I am writing this post I am getting chills; truly, this place is magic.
Considering that Larry Page of Google, Marc Zuckerburg of Facebook, P. Diddy, Anne Hathaway and Sting have all gone to Burning Man I think I am in really good company. The very first time I heard of Burning Man I was a 19 year old girl living in Los Angeles looking for an apartment. It was July 2007 and I responded to a craigslist ad titled “Rent the Big Red Room,” or something like that. It was an ad for a 3 bedroom apartment in Santa Monica, CA that was filled with 3 dudes in their 30’s. It was 2 months before the Burn and these guys were talking about this place that is everything you can’t imagine where people freely gift one another and share in creativity and self-expression. I had no idea how to interpret that except that clearly this was a place I needed to go to. Against my parents’ wishes I moved in with these dudes and helped one of them sew a floor length fuzzy blue jacket with a hood with my sewing machine. Let’s just say the jacket was awesome but my sewing machine did not survive the project.
Flash Forward to July 2013. I had just got home from a two week adventure in Thailand and met up with some friends for happy hour who were getting ready to go to The Burn and insisted I come. I believe that timing is everything and there was a reason why all my years prior of trying to get to the Burn had failed. Even though I didn’t understand it at the time, I was not ready to go. At the moment, over mojitos with my friends, I knew the time was finally right. I mustered up the courage to ask my boss for more time off and he said yes (because he’s cool like that) and everything else was a game of dominos. Did I say the timing was right?
I had three weeks to find a ticket and plan to spend a week in the desert. I bought a bike off craigslist, hot glue-guned lavender fuzzy fabric all over it and purchased flashy blinky things off amazon.com by the dozen. With the help of my friend I sewed my own leg warmers and fuzzy hood to match my bike, borrowed a tent and gathered up my favorite camping foods like garbanzo beans and avocados. I told myself to not have expectations even though I knew it would be insanely amazing. And it was. I can honestly say that the experience of Burning Man changed who I am, it changed my soul and my heart. Although, parts of me were already in the process of changing, Burning Man put some areas of much needed work (like self-acceptance) into overdrive. Burning Man 2014 is only a few weeks away and I found myself reflecting on all that I had learned form going.
1. You do not need to be completely drunk and wasted to have fun. If you feel like you do, you are in the wrong place.
2. You are the most beautiful when you are being yourself. (No matter what you are wearing). Burning Man was the first time that I fully let myself go, I wore what I wanted, kissed who I wanted to kiss and danced in the way that felt most right. I felt beautiful every second I was being myself. Be yourself, you won’t be disappointed.
3. Creativity is an endless resource. Use it, use it, use it. Yup, the dudes were right, this place was everything I couldn’t imagine. I was blown away by the beauty and creativity that was freely shared with me; Burners are a unique kind of human who create art and experiences solely to share with other Burners. That’s really beautiful because no one is paid to bring art installations or Art Cars to the Playa, these people do it and expect nothing in return except the opportunity to share it with others.
4. Giving to others never takes away from you. Share. Give. Playa Gifts are the best. I ate and drank practically for free for an entire week. Yes, for free for a week. That is besides the point though. At Burning Man people do not give because they expect something in return, someone gives you something because they want to give you something. Give them a hug or a smile back but by no means feel obligated to give them anything more, if you do then you have made their gift awkward and seem like it had a motive. Give freely and recieve freely.
5. Watching the sun rise is one of the greatest privileges afforded to us. It will make you feel alive.
6. You can create anything you can imagine. Dream, believe, and achieve it. Seriously, anything you can imagine can be real. Trust me, have you seen an Art Car? Pablo Picasso said “Anything you can imagine is real.” This most certainly is true at Burning Man.
7. Your sexuality is not something to feel ashamed of. Be sexy and be open to others. Remember to be the powerful woman that you are and be proud of it. You can be sexy and smart.
8. Seek out new experiences. Being a Virgin Burner is literally like being a virgin. Everyone cannot wait to share with you that which you have not experienced. 😉 You never know what you are going to learn from a new experience so it is important to break out of your comfort zone.
9. Do not waste time caring what other people think. Burning Man was the first place I didn’t feel judgment from others. There is no judgement at Burning Man, everyone there comes knowing that they can be themselves and they create the space for others to be that way as well. When I was there I learned how good it felt to not give a second thought to what other people think. Although, I always knew you shouldn’t care what others think I really experienced what it feels like to not care when I was there. It feels unexplainably good, it feels like freedom.
10. Embrace the adventure, release expectations. When you release your expectations you can never be let down and everything becomes an exciting experience where you have the chance to learn and grow (this is my best friends mantra).
11. Do not make assumptions or have preconceived notions about anything. You think you know, but you probably don’t. You don’t know what you don’t know.
12. Burning Man is whatever you want it to be. As is almost anything in your life, your attitude affects your experience. Have an open mind and an open heart.