Searching for the Meaning of Life at Burning Man Festival
So you’ve heard of a crazy place called the Burning Man festival and you’re thinking of going? Well my friend, you’ve picked the vacation of all vacations, an experience of a lifetime! I like to call Burning Man “Vegas on crack” because it is bigger, crazier, and everyone glows at night.
For those of you that haven’t heard of Burning Man, it’s an annual week-long festival in the middle of the Nevada desert. 60,000 people come to create a city of epic proportions. The festival is very art-centric and artists from around the world bring huge installations that you can walk through, climb up, interact with, or just stare in awe at. Known as Black Rock City, this is a true city indeed. There are street signs, medics and police, a radio station, newspaper, post office, a census, plenty of nightlife, and even a temple. This place is really magical and you can find anything you’re interested in here.
That being said, nothing can prepare you for the actual event. When you arrive, forget everything you learned and just be open to the experience.
I personally came in search of the meaning of life. I was drawn to the fact that this huge city lasts for only one week! Many large art installations burn, the symbolic man that stands in the center burns, the temple burns–it’s all so impermanent. So I set out with my video camera and asked people why they do all of this for such a short amount of time? Why do we do anything we do? What is the meaning of life? I found the citizens of Black Rock City to be extremely knowledgeable on the subject. Well, most of them! My documentary, Burning Man & The Meaning of Life is available on iTunes in the United States, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland.
I suggest watching videos and reading about the festival as much as you can before you first attend. That way you’ll have a seed of an idea of what to expect. That being said, nothing can prepare you for the actual event. When you arrive, forget everything you learned and just be open to the experience. It will come at you fast. It will come at you hard. It will be the most magical thing that will transform you in whatever way you want it to. Ask and you shall receive. Many people feel transformed after attending.
The gifting culture especially touches many people in a powerful way. People think it’s a barter system at the festival and while that may happen, it’s more about gifts. If you’re walking down the street thinking about how thirsty you are, don’t be surprised if a stranger offers you a beer. That’s just how it works.
It’s the largest Leave No Trace event and they event scrape the ground with electro-magnetic devices to ensure that literally nothing is left behind.
The festival is founded on several principles and one of the most important ones is self-reliance. Bring what you need to survive in the dusty conditions. That means food, water (at least a gallon a day per person), and anything else that makes camping more comfortable. I prefer to bring an RV because I like to shower and sleep in a bed, but many people sleep in tents, hexayurts, etc. Bikes are a popular form of transportation so bring that too.
This isn’t a great last minute trip, so it’s best to plan ahead to share resources and possibly find a theme camp to join. Tickets are about $400 and are purchased well in advance. (Although you can find some on craigslist and such, you should always check the registration code on the Burning Man website to make sure they’re real!) The main website is the best place to start in general–they have tons of amazing tips and tools that will help you through your first time.
And when the week is over, everyone leaves without a trace. Anything you brought with you, you must take with you. And that includes stinky garbage. It’s the largest Leave No Trace event and they event scrape the ground with electro-magnetic devices to ensure that literally nothing is left behind.
Don’t you wish “real life” was more like Burning Man? If not, trust me, you will.
Searching for the Meaning of Life at Burning Man Festival photos by Unsplash.