Why Burning Man is so Much More Fulfilling than any other Vacation
In a world of limited free time, isn’t it hard to decide where to go when you are available to travel?
Why do we travel? Here are a few good reasons:
- To get away
- Experience new things
- New Perspectives
- Create memories and meaningful relationships
Burning Man 2014
(Photo Credit: Mckay Jaffe)
There are places we can go that fulfill these needs, but up until this year, I had not found a place I would rather go until I finally made the trek to Burning Man. There, in the midst of almost freezing cold temperatures at night and 50 mph wind dust-storms, I discovered what true freedom feels like, and I found myself. I immersed myself in a forward-thinking culture of thousands of people who live life based on true passion, limitless possibilities, compassion for others without expecting anything in return, and eternal love. I partied past sunrise four days in a row, dancing more than I ever have to innovative beats pumping from numerous concert-worthy stages, and sailed on a massive yacht art-car over the desert without any water in sight. Adventure was everywhere I turned. I climbed down a rope into the dark unknown, survived the most intense week of camping I have ever endured, and rode my bike miles and miles to be stopped for offers of unlimited free alcohol and gifts from complete strangers, and to meet an abundance of worthwhile, new friends.
My first Burning Man was the most fulfilling and inspiring experience of my adult life.
I gained so much more from attending the art, music, and community festival than I have on any vacation or anywhere I have traveled. There, I got to know myself so well, It is hard to imagine having bad days moving forward. What I found there is as powerful as what I can imagine others feel when they discover a religion that makes sense for them. I have become so enlightened from the trip, I felt it necessary to write this blog to share my experience with you in hopes you can gain some new, insightful perspectives from it, or compel you to go to the event yourself to find your own transformational journey.
(My favorite Burning Man style songs – Press Play)
THE MAGIC OF BURNING MAN
Burning Man is one of the last places on earth where people from all walks of life, all social strata, and all points of the compass can come together and share a common and primal experience, surviving as a group in a challenging environment, creating a temporary culture of their own design, and sharing one of the most elemental experiences of our species, the awesome mystery of fire. And, on top of that, it’s also one hell of a party.” (BurningMan.Org)
These are things I have often heard from people who have been to Burning Man:
“BURNING MAN WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE.”
“WHATEVER YOUR QUESTIONS YOU MAY HAVE FOR YOURSELF OR YOUR LIFE AT THE TIME, YOU WILL FIND YOUR ANSWERS AT BURNING MAN.”
“BURNING MAN IS A TOTALLY UNIQUE EXPERIENCE FOR EACH PERSON BASED ON WHAT THEY ARE GOING THROUGH IN LIFE AT THE TIME.”
WHAT IS BURNING MAN?
Burning Man is an annual gathering and extreme campout of open-minded and adventurous people in The Black Rock Desert of Northern Nevada (United States) which takes place for seven days during the week of Labor Day weekend. It is known as a transformational festival, or a counterculture festival that espouses a community-building ethic, and a value system that celebrates life, personal growth, social responsibility, healthy living, and creative expression. The land on which it takes place on is a large dry lake bed made up of dust called “The Playa” and people who go to Burning Man are called “Burners.”
It started as a ceremony in 1991 where a couple friends burned a small wooden construct of a man figure on a beach in San Francisco. It is rumored Larry Harvey, the event’s original creator, burned the first man after he had a rough time separating from his wife. To him, the man symbolized burning the past and embracing the next chapter of his life. This act became an annual tradition that grew, as friends, co-workers, then eventually others as word-of-mouth and simple promotions spread. Eventually, the organizers moved the tradition to 110 miles north of Reno, NV where the culture and crowd has grown and evolved to what it is today: a temporary community of 70,000 per year. Black Rock City has its own zip code, post office, and other functions all other cities have.
Its camp/city area itself is 1.5 miles in diameter, not including the far-out stretch of land/dust called “The Deep Playa,” a total of five square miles of sensory overload to explore.
THE 10 PRINCIPLES OF BURNING MAN
Participants live by 10 principles that reflect the community’s ethos and culture:
- Radical inclusion
- Radical Self-Reliance
- Radical Self-Expression
- Communal Effort
- Civic Responsibility
- Leaving No Trace
These are described in greater detail here: http://burningman.org/culture/philosophical-center/10-principles
GIFTING AND ART
Gifting is one of the key principles of Burning Man and it gave me a whole new perspective about art. At Burning Man, the only things you can buy are ice and coffee; everything else you may want or need, you either have to have brought it with you (radical self-reliance) or is gifted to you by others. Each attendee (or better referred to as participant) is encouraged to bring something to gift to others, especially strangers. Gifts can be clothing, jewelry, food, alcohol, tarot card readings, forms of entertainment (singing, fire-dancing, drumming, music), teaching a skill, or for artists, creating a work of art as a gift for all to enjoy.
All kinds of art are meant for appreciation: murals, paintings, architecture, sculptures, pottery, and one form unique to Burning Man are the art cars which I will elaborate on later. I’ve never thought of art as a gift to others. What an incredible gift. Burning Man is the largest interactive art gallery in the world. There is so much art there that one could probably spend the entire week with the sole purpose of photographing it all. It compels me to create my own works of art / creativity for others to enjoy.
BURNING MAN INTERACTIVE ART INSTALLATIONS
“Serpent Mother” by Flaming Lotus Girls
(Photo Credit: Reuters / http://www.dailymail.co.uk)
BURNING MAN: THE PARTY
Burning Man is one of the premier party destinations in the world. The sound camps are groups of campers who set up stages at their camps that feature DJs and live music performers of all genres. DJs primarily play electronic music.
Sound Camp Stages:
BURNING MAN ART CARS
Art cars are mobile forms of art, built from cars, trucks, buses, RVs, and even boats! Hundreds of them joyride The Playa, and many have banging stereo systems with DJs performing on them. No matter what, there’s always a dance-party somewhere at all hours of the day. And if you can’t find one, one may arrive at where you are in just a few minutes.
Art Cars with DJs I Enjoyed:
These art cars are no joke. Some are equipped with enough speakers to rival nightclubs. Check out The Kalliope Art Car’s top-of-the-line sound and lighting system: (Click For Video)
An eclectic collection of DJs grace these stages and art cars at Burning Man. Some bigger names I got to enjoy without even planning on seeing them included Carl Cox, Diplo, Lee Burridge, Thomas Jack, Bunny (Rabbit in the Moon), Beats Antique, and Ill-Gates (who had the best performance in my opinion), but the most fun I had was dancing my heart out to DJs I may never know names of.
There is so much variety of nightlife at Burning Man that my friends and I were up past sunrise every single morning. It’s the most liberating feeling being able to freely ride your bike from one stage to art car to art display at your own free will. You’re as free as a bird, whisking to wherever your heart and dancing feet desire. If you don’t like the music playing somewhere, you can kick back your kickstand, pedal, and you’re off to somewhere else. If you thought Las Vegas or South Beach Miami had a lot going on, think again. Burning Man is a land of entertainment and fun, the ultimate playground.
Wednesday night was a mission trying to locate Opulent Temple’s White Themed Party. We discovered from burners we met where this art car normally parks, yet it was moving. You get a really funny and exciting feeling when you’re looking for a party that moves.
My favorite place to be at sunrise was in front of the famous Robot Heart art car. There, the DJs play the most satisfying and enchanting House music beats all night until 11am. This is a very special place, as I feel this is one of the few spots in the world I can meet the most people who are similar to me, because it takes a unique breed of person to want to go to Burning Man in the first place, and then only a tiny population make a point to stay up until sunrise and make the long trek into The Deep Playa to Robot Heart.
THE MAN BURN
Everyday was full of fun parties building up to the climatic Saturday night, the night of the burning of the man. As the sun starts going down Saturday, one can feel the enormous energy of the city growing. As you make your way to the center of all the camps, you witness an entire city making it’s way to join you. I’ve been to tons of festivals with large crowds gathered in front of stages, street blockades on The Las Vegas Strip, seen marathon spectators crowding certain blocks, but never have I witnessed an entire city moving and congregating to one focal point for a massive celebration. And at night, everyone is glowing. You have to wear some kind of lights/glowsticks/etc to glow so others can see you in the dark, so you see the glow from every person, bicycle, and art car traveling to the same place, it’s so exciting.
The over 60 foot tall wooden man, lined with pink and green neon, stood in the epicenter of attention, looming over all of us. The sun had set, and so had the stage, with everyone in attendance being part of the show.
I’m not sure how large of a diameter the people surrounded the man, but it was as far as you could see. All the art cars are out this night, hundreds of them, with small ones closer and large ones creating the outside perimeter around The Man. Half my group was closer to the center, able to witness what could be the largest collective of fire dancers performing in one place ever simultaneously, while I took a perimeter tour of half the art cars, enjoying the beats banging from each one and fire shooting from many of them.
The Most Fire Dancers You Will Ever See In One Place
(Video by: Ezekiel199 from Burning Man 2009)
The excitement and shouts start as fireworks begin, surrounding The Man. I thought Electric Daisy Carnvial in Las Vegas’ fireworks from 2014 and past were incredible but this beats them. The most epic non-musically choreographed firework show I have ever seen commenced. All you can do is scream at the top of your lungs or howl like wolves do to the moon in excitement.
Video Footage of The Man Burn and Fireworks
(Watch Until At Least 7:30, You May Want to Pause Soundcloud Above if Playing)
(Video by: Kyle Barboni)
It was this night that my friend Ian said this was the best night in his entire life. All of us kept talking about how it was some kind of incredible and joyful dream and we were wondering when we would wake up from it. I’ve been going to all types of events for 16 years and I cannot imagine any party being better than The Man Burn at Burning Man and all the endless places we could find ourselves afterwards. It was heaven. I’ll never forget it. Sunrise was wondrous. I never wanted to sleep because I never wanted it to end.
BURNING MAN EVENTS AND ACITIVITES
However fantastic Burning Man parties are, there is so much more to the event, which is why its organizers refrain from calling it strictly a music festival. There is an endless variety of events and classes involving but not limited to: yoga, gym, pilates, massage, meditation, 5K run, speed-dating, human connection/interaction, disc golf, tarot card readings, confession booth, motivational/topic talks, ghost stories, AA Meetings, gladiator sports in the Thunderdome, mirror maze, naked glow twister, christmas caroling, free-style rapping, jewelry making, scavenger hunt, skateboarding, knife-throwing, hula-hooping, fire dancing, tap-dancing, belly dancing, welding/camp building, and even weddings are listed for the public to join.
THERE IS SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE AT BURNING MAN
You can learn how to fly (Acro Yoga)
(Photo Courtesy of VadimuZ)
Gaze at The Stars Through Telescopes at Black Rock Observatory
(Photo Courtesy of www.blackrockobservatory.com)
Get out your aggression Mad Max style in The Thunderdome
(Photo Courtesy of http://www.stuckincustoms.com)
Jump out of a plane with Burning Sky, The Skydive Camp
Photo Courtesy of Join The Teem
Bring Your Kids to Kidsville (Kids are welcome at Burning Man)
(Photo Courtesy of www.sattlers.org)
From the time gates open until they close, there are non-stop things to occupy and entertain yourself with at all hours of the day, unlike other vacations where you may wake up at 5am and not have anything to do but just go back to sleep. There are so many things you can learn to do, you may find a new, serious hobby or find out you may have exceptional skill in something you never imagined yourself doing before. (Click Here for the Directory of events from Burning Man 2015)
BURNING MAN HIGHLIGHT EXPERIENCES AND INSPIRATION
Now that I have done my best to describe to you what Burning Man is like, even though words, pics, and videos don’t do it justice, I’ll share with you some of the reasons why Burning Man was so endlessly profound to me.
Most cell phones don’t work at Burning Man and because of this, people are actually present when they are talking to you. All real conversations with eye contact and no distractions; you are completely in the moment. It’s the most beautiful thing in this day and age. There are significantly less people taking photos and videos than other large events because they cannot Instagram nor Snapchat what they’re up to. Instead, they are living it.
For those of you who know me, you know I’m ALWAYS on my phone. The most I’ve gone without my phone is I’d turn it off on my birthday (for one day at a time only). For this trip, I didn’t have a phone nor watch for eight whole days! How did it feel? Emancipating. I wasn’t worried about what was going on with work, others’ needs except for those in front of me, nor if I missed some kind of event. I wasn’t trying to meet up with anyone, and I wasn’t living off anyone else’s but my own schedule. To give you an idea of how big of a deal this was for me, I paid one of my staff members $300 to answer all my calls and texts that week and the volume was so high, he said he would never do it again. Without my phone, I was not only in real-time conversation with my friends and all the amazing people I met, I could also hear myself think. And I wasn’t at mercy of worrying about who I needed to call back or who I hadn’t talked to in a while. I was free. Think of all the times you have been on vacation yet you were still glued to your phone. Were you truly on vacation?
What better way to take everything in without distractions? What better way to listen to your inner self, grow, and reflect on your life. What better way to become one with nature than completely disconnecting. Phones typically save us from boredom yet even without them, I was never bored.
What time was it? I had no idea. No watch meant I was not on any pertinent schedule. The only timed plan I had the entire week was to see my friend Bryan (DJ Husky Lingo) DJ at Camp Illuminaughty Thursday at 5pm. I felt completely unrestrained to sleep and wake up whenever I felt like it, venture out into this mind-blowing world and find fun on impulse and spontaneity. I didn’t know when the sun would be setting nor rising for an entire week except with light in the sky to guide me.
That is living life.
Life Happens in the Present Moment at Burning Man.
People are encouraged to bring items, services, or art to give away or let others enjoy without any expectation of receiving anything in return. Burning Man’s economy is based almost entirely off gifting, as the only things you can purchase are ice and coffee. Some items people were gifting were: water, alcohol, adderall, jewelry, tarot card readings, silly sunglasses, chapstick, sunscreen, and I gifted fortune cookies.
You probably wonder, what do people do if they want to get a drink if pretty much nothing is for sale? The answer is be cool to others and bring a cup! We went to a couple camps that were giving away free Bloody Marys at certain hours. There were tons of bars near our camp like The Petting Zoo that gave out free drinks all day everyday (how they do it I do not know). Our camp Beats Boutique had a boutique with free clothing giveaways all week. It was great working for the camp and having a girl thank me for a sweater she picked up from us because she didn’t have anything warm to wear that night. One impressive thing I heard was one camp gave away 20,000 free grilled cheese sandwiches! Can you believe it?! This is how much love there is there.
Being a business man, I look at life a lot by way of transactions. I do give a lot, but sometimes I give with the expectation that a person I help will help me again in the future. Burning Man has influenced me to not hope for anything back in return, but just to gift because I can and to do so with love. Obviously for business I have to deal with mutually beneficial transactions, but when it comes to gifting, I now see them as a worthwhile one-way street and won’t be disappointed when gifts are not reciprocated.
Impermanence is not a principle but is something portrayed and important to Burning Man culture. A lot of the art displays are shown and then burned during the event.
“Inflection” by Trevor Schrock
Inflection is a suspension bridge. “It goes nowhere, but the goal is the journey, not the destination.”
Here I am seen walking on it in the middle of a dust storm. My other friends wanted to try it but
couldn’t the next day because it had been burned already. Much of the art at Burning Man is
burned during the event
My interpretation of impermanence as applied to life and art was: enjoy life and what is in front of you while it is there, because at any moment it can be taken away. We should each show our light as much as possible while we are here on this Earth. Then, when we pass away, no matter how big or great we become, we are reduced to nothing more than the dust that surrounds us. It’s a rather humbling way to think.
I love that the art is burned. I can see how artists can get attached to art they have created or feeling egotistical about how great they are that they can show it off. But, if the art has been burned, there’s nothing left to show off. Instead, it is a gift to those who did see it and then gone. With no past art to be fixated on, artists can be more compelled to want to create new art rather than sitting back satisfied at what they already created. Another great benefit to the art being set ablaze is the experience of Burning Man will differ year after year with new art created and shown, which keeps the event fresh and stimulating even for those who have been ten years in a row.
Synchronicity / Everything Happens for a Reason
Synchronicity: an apparently meaningful coincidence in time of two or more similar events that are causally unrelated (Carl Jung). I’ve also gathered that synchronicities should be interpreted as signs that you are on the right path in life.
Before Burning Man, I used to challenge the saying: “everything happens for a reason.” I often felt the statement was a cop-out for those who don’t try hard enough for things they want and not getting them rather than being motivated to try harder. I’ve been reinforced to believe in will over pre-determined destiny because I’ve so far succeeded with so many accomplishments that I intentionally sought out to accomplish. It wasn’t until Burning Man that I’ve become more open to the idea that things do indeed happen for a reason, based on the signs and coincidences that kept presenting themselves to me while there.
Before I left for Burning Man, I wrote down the locations where all my friends going were camping so I could meet up with them. I ended up forgetting my list. As a backup without my phone, I planned to log into my email on my friends’ phones on our way there to retrieve it, yet coincidentally before I could do so, I ended up becoming the final driver who drove us into the event gates and we all lost complete cell phone service after that. Without the list, I wasn’t able to see the friends I planned to see, but miraculously still saw some due to fate.
In a city of 70,000 strong, we somehow ended up sitting next to Brittany who sold our group three out of our four Burning Man tickets at our camp one day totally unplanned. We felt so fortunate to be able to hang out with the person who made our trip possible and watch the man burn together. Tyler and I met a new friend Libby and somehow ran into her every 12 hours despite how hard we looked for other friends and couldn’t find them. It was as if the universe meant for us to connect. Even when us campmates lost each other, we would randomly run into each other in the most uncommon places such as streets nowhere near camp or places we planned to go to.
There were meaningful coincidences too. In the middle of a dark night on an art car, we met a girl from Australia who came to Burning Man in hopes to release after her boyfriend had just passed away two months prior. She was a wonderful and positive soul, and while trekking through the deep playa without any visibility, she stuck her open hand out and somehow caught a single dandelion flower and offered it to us. Where the dandelion came from we have no idea, as no life exists in The Black Rock Desert. We took it as a sign that despite whatever darkness we may be going through, there is always beauty that can be found. Claudia realized one lesson she was supposed to learn at The Burn was patience. She and Ian got in the only conflict our group had all week when she couldn’t be patient with him on his first try at Acro-Yoga, having to learn how to hold her body in the air. She was later approached by a girl who invited her to pull a card from a large stack of cards and the one she drew had a lesson about patience on it!
A major synchronicity for me was involving the timing of my first burn. I first heard about Burning Man in 2001 and had been wanting to go since then. For different reasons every year due to work or the people I wanted to go with not being available to go, I kept missing it and before I knew it, 14 years had passed. Finally this year, work opened up in a way which would allow me to go so I took it as a sign, carefully chose my ideal friends to share it with, and made it happen, yet going into it, I had large regrets about not being able to go earlier and dreaded on what I could have missed all those years.
They say: “You don’t get the burn you want, you get the burn you need.” Not only did I feel I had the perfect time at my first Burning Man, I feel now it could not have come at a better time for my life. The experience has given me the inspiration, confidence, and direction I need for my next paths, and I wouldn’t have received the spiritual perspectives I gained from it as well had I gone any earlier. Everything that happened was supposed to happen, including not knowing where my friends were camping. Had I known, I would have drastically changed how I spent my time and would have had a completely different experience. The thought that things happen for a reason has been a blessing for me now, as when things don’t seem to work out based on my intentions, I am more at ease with them, realizing there could be a greater reason why.
Despite how social I am, I often feel alone. A lot of my best friends do not share lifestyles similar to mine, and in the nightlife industry I work in, I don’t get a lot of real chances to have real conversations and get to know people well. I used to find myself seeking companionship and others like me without knowing where to look. Burning Man makes me feel I am no longer alone. From it, I have made bonds with my three friends I went with that are closer than a lot of bonds I’ve had my whole life, and I have found a place where I feel I can find others like me.
I picked Ian, Tyler, and Claudia who I went to Burning Man with very carefully. They are each positive and amazing souls who I knew would be prepared for the hardships yet excited throughout the entire event. I am so eternally glad we went together because our synergy with each other was so perfect. We camped with a big camp of others but really only needed each other because our bond was so strong. Thank you guys for listening to my every word, story, desire, and emotion with your undivided attention, and being there for me through every struggle for the entire week. That was probably the best quality time I have ever experienced with anyone. I am so grateful of how well we all got to know each other, as if we have all been a family forever. I love you guys.
I have a lot of reasons why I often feel alone. A lot of my friends I grew up with and of my age range of 30’s are married, have 9-to-5 jobs, and a lot have kids. I feel a lot of them see my lifestyle of promoting nightlife events and always socializing as chaotic and impractical, and I know a lot of them wonder when “I’ll grow up,” and live a “normal” life. What they don’t understand is this is my passion as well as my professional career. I’ve lived life highly according to my passions for a long time now, and thus far, it has guided me down a successful and most gratifying path.
At Burning Man, I found an entire society that lives off passion and love. There is nothing practical about creating art all year round to end up burning it, or spending so much more than it would cost to purchase a regular car to build an art car for strangers to enjoy for just one week out of the year. I felt less like an alien as I found many people with the same perspectives and lifestyle choices as me, most driven by immense passion. At and outside of Burning Man, I’m now thrilled to find and connect with these people, and am happy to know so many of them exist, I just have to sift through and find them. I have found my tribe; I am not alone.
Burning Man: The Fountain of Youth
When I first started going to raves at 16 years old, I found it really gratifying to meet people older than me because of how much I could learn from them and how stimulating conversations were compared to conversations with my high school peers. But, as I grow older (now 32) I’ve had less and less interactions of this sort because the people I meet in the clubs and raves now are now much younger than me.
Luckily for me, Burning Man attracts a wide range of ages, from children 18 and under, who get to go for free, to much older burners who have been going for 20+ years. According to the Burning Man 2014 Census, Burning Man’s crowd is significantly older than most comparable music festival events: the largest age group are 30-39 years old, second largest are 40 and older, and the next are 20-29, while very few are under 20. The median age is 34. I talked to so many older people, it was great!
As I rode my bike by a camp, an older gentleman offered me ham and crackers so I stopped. I learned he was a father and got to meet his wife and three-year-old daughter. We got to chat about how happy he was to be able to bring his kid there.
One of my favorite conversations I had at Burning Man was with my new friend Rob who was from Canada and 62 years old! We talked about culture, music, love/relationships, and of course Burning Man. It was cool to discover how big of a Trance music fan he was and how he recently went to an Andy Moor show. I don’t always expect people of his age to be into Trance, and was happy to give him a list of Trance producers I felt he should listen to.
He was impressed that I asked him detailed questions about his marriage, his relationship with his sons, and other deeper things and not just superficial and generic conversation points. He felt a lot of the youth today doesn’t know how to communicate well because they hide behind their phones and social media, and he told me he appreciated that I was willing to walk up to a stranger and have a conversation. After we talked, Rob told me he hopes his youngest son grows up to be like me and he said meeting me gave him hope for the next generation. His compliment greatly flattered me. So glad I met and shared time with him.
Through Burning Man, I have found my own personal Fountain of Youth. After meeting such awesome older people and seeing others dancing all night through sunrise, I have seen more than enough proof that age should not hinder your ability to have fun. I am so glad that despite getting older and outgrowing other nightlife events, I will always feel comfortable coming to Burn events where I won’t feel out of place. It’s not the end of the road for me! I know Burning Man will be my home for many years to come.
A Place of So Much Love
There is so much love at Burning Man, there is no place like it. It reminds me about what PLUR in the rave scene is supposed to be or used to be, but to a much higher scale. Whenever anyone meets anyone, they don’t shake hands, they hug. We asked a woman to take a photo of our group and her response was: “Only if you give me a hug…” Now when would you ever hear that in the real world?
At the Lucent Dossier cirque performance, people in the back asked the crowd towards the front to sit so they could see and hundreds of people sat seconds later without hesitation!
MUST SEE: After a couple got engaged, the biggest group hug ever forms between perfect strangers
(Video By: Evan Halleck Timelapse & Nature Photography)
A Culture of Non-Judgment
Come as you are to Burning Man and you are completely accepted. Society programs us to act and look certain ways. What is acceptable? What is strange? What is beautiful? At Burning Man, radical self-expression is emphasized, whether it be from works of creative art to even your style of dress. Many dress to withstand the tough weather conditions (dust storms of up to 50 mph winds, bolstering heat, or 40 degree freeze at night) while others dress based on how they feel. Some frolic completely naked, and it’s completely socially acceptable. On “Tutu Tuesday,” even guys are encouraged to wear tutus. Burning Man’s culture is one of non-judgement, so the only person you need to care to conform to is your own self. And with no judgment, you can represent yourself in any way you so choose each day.
One day I was patriotic, one night I was a scary carnival clown, one night I had
long, light-up white hair, one night I was a stealth ninja, and this day, I was
me. Everyday I was me. I invite u to check out this illustrious hashtag on
Since Burning Man, I’ve been collecting costumes and accessories like crazy. Any chance to dress in costume, I’m in, and any way I can differentiate myself from the norm, I do it. I express myself to show my personality amid society’s uniforms and also so others like me can more easily find me.
Learn to Let Go
The Temple is the most sacred and spiritual creation at Burning Man, and it offers it’s own lessons. Here, I learned about compassion, gratitude, positivity, and most importantly, letting go.
What you are supposed to do is place a picture or write in the temple regarding something or someone you intend to let go. People placed pictures in of loved ones they’ve lost, and wrote on matters of utmost seriousness. There were stories of pain, anger, resentment, regret, and guilt.
Reading these intimate thoughts gave me so much perspective about what is truly important. No one writes about the car they crashed or anything material; it was all about people, experiences, and emotions. It allowed me to realize a newfound gratitude, as things that bother me may not deserve as much attention as I thought, especially when I saw others going through so much more intense suffering. Furthermore, I really appreciated the self-less compassion of strangers comforting and consoling each other.
I have a hard time letting go of certain aspects of my past. This is because I don’t give myself enough alone time to truly reflect and process things. I often let things inside linger, which is detrimental because they hold me back from moving forward and welcoming the new into my life. I have always relied on the passing of time to move on from things I am dealing with, which is not efficient because you have no control over how much time you need to get over something such as a break-up, a grudge, or an argument. It could take me an unnecessary amount of years to get over something that way.
I wrote what I needed to in the temple and watched it burn Sunday night. As it did, I closed my eyes and began self-meditation. I started to hear my own voice speak to me, as if it were giving me advice similar to how I sound when I’m giving advice to others I care about. It encouragingly walked me through the process of each thought I needed to let go. For the parts that were more of a struggle for me, the voice repeated certain necessary statements of release and I mentally chanted along with it. This repetition did not cease until I felt I could mentally and emotionally let each item my mind had dwelled on go. After completion, I felt a euphoric calm and quiet peace, and knew my tie-ups were now behind me.
Moving forward, if I ever need to let go of something, I now have a method of doing so. I imagine myself writing in the temple, watching it burn, and meditating on it as if I am there again. I’ve tried this since and it totally works for me.
I am so grateful.
The Temple Burn, an emotional experience
“From build to burn, the Temple of Promise at Burning Man 2015”
(Video by Mark Day)
Revelations of a Stealth Ninja
One of my favorite adventures on The Playa was dressing like a ninja on the climatic man burn night Saturday, which became an insightful experience on its own. I didn’t wear shoes; my feet touched the playa dust directly with two pairs of socks to keep warm in the near freezing temperature. I was in mostly all black. My identity was unknown, my eyes the only visible part of my body. I slipped from place to place completely anonymous, unrecognizable by those who may know me, and not capable of being judged in a place that already emphasizes non-judgement. I loved this. Sometimes, people couldn’t detect I was there in the darkness of night. And when they could see me, they couldn’t tell who I was, how old I was, of what race I am, if I were happy or sad, or if I were tired/bored, nothing. I simply existed.
When I first started going to raves, my friends and I created our own dance crew and I was all about dancing: popping, tutting, candy walking, side and house stepping, glow-sticking, and liquid. I regretfully haven’t been ardent on dancing for a long time, but at Burning Man and this night especially, I became a machine. As we migrated from dance floor to dance floor, my only guarantee to keep warm in the 40 degrees was to dance, and dance I did, more than I had in years. The moon was large, glowing, and prevalent in the sky, and I felt this primal feeling take over my body when I heard some of the best tech house and techno I’ve ever heard. All my old rhythm, swag, and skill came out in full-form. When I stood still, I was a mysterious statue. People double-take stared at me, wondering what my thoughts were or what I would do next, trying to read the only thing they could read, my eyes. And when I danced, crowds took notice and gathered around. I was a performer, I was an entertainer, and in the Burning Man spirit, I was a gift to those around me.
At one point, I locked stares with blue eyes from a girl I was very attracted to. I was dancing right in front of Robot Heart as the sun was coming up on the horizon, basking the two of us and everyone between in the glow and beauty of Sunday morning. I loved her brilliant blonde hair and fair skin. She was wearing something quite fashionable and angelic, but all I can remember now is her face because it was so gorgeous. Our eyes met multiple times from afar as I put on my show, casting only movement, vibe, and light from behind my mask and dance moves. She looked at me in this erotic, lustful way and when my eyes locked with hers, we stared at each other for what seemed repeated eternities of seconds at a time. I liked that she could not deduce much about me, being able to only size me up by the energy she picked up on from me. The polarizing pull between us grew exponentially; I felt it, and I know she could too. It was at this moment I realized how powerful energy can be. Others can pick up your energy and hone in on it. It can be magnetizing, able to draw people to each other, no words needed.
Sun rising over The Deep Playa
Photo Credit: Claudia Launer
Just as I planned to make my way over to introduce myself to this enchantress, a test of timing presented itself as Ian came to me exhausted and distressed, seeking help to find his bike so he could return to camp. It was somewhere between six and eight am and Claudia was falling in and out of sleep too. I had to make a decision fast. Do I go for the girl or do I help my friends? However tempted in the situation I was, I couldn’t ignore how perfect the synergy and synchronicities between my camp-mates and I were. I could not disrupt this perfect flow and of course chose my friends. I trusted in the signs before me and embraced the idea that timing did not intend for her and I to meet. I bowed to the object of my eyes, admiring her awe-striking beauty one last time, then, in the form of a true ninja, vanished…
I forgot how much I love to dance. Following suit of Burning Man principle Radical Self-Expression, I felt like I unlocked a big part of myself that had been missing for too long. Dance makes me happy, it’s a physical and mental release, and it very much is something that makes me unique. I feel everyone should be aware of the ways they like to express themselves and to never let go of these things, for they make us who we are. Even if you are a DJ that is too busy now to pursue your music as a career, you shouldn’t let go of it as your unique form of your expression. Since Burning Man, I’ve taken a few dance classes and have felt more like myself again. I’m so stoked and will continue to take more classes and dance more.
So, The ninja never met his playa wife, but I am totally okay with that. After what I’ve already shared I’ve learned with things happening for a reason and now how timing showed me I wasn’t supposed to meet this girl, I now see life differently in regard to dating. In the past, I’ve unnecessarily spent a lot of energy fighting timing. I mistakenly pursued women who were fresh out of relationships and not ready to date, and I continued to be interested in a girl who moved away long distance. No longer shall I resist the current.
I know I am a very unique person with a whole lot to offer, and whoever my soul mate is will also have to be a very unique and special person in order to match with me, like I mentioned earlier how only a rare type of person can be found in front of Robot Heart at sunrise. I am confident I won’t find her in everyday life and I need to stop putting effort out as if I will. Even though a lot of my other friends are already married, it won’t be too late for me. The best thing I can do is stay focused working on what is in front of me, which will allow me to shine more brightly so I can positively touch a greater number of people over time without distractions from casual dating. I am confident that whoever I am supposed to end up with will see beyond what’s superficial on the outside, like with the ninja, and be so greatly drawn to my light, she will be compelled to find and pursue me. I will be patient, and when timing permits, we could then help each other build and therefore shine brighter together. I have faith in this.
New Idols / New Paths
Being a full-time nightlife event producer and marketer for a decade, I have looked up to certain event organizers that have pushed the bar for The EDM scene in The United States, groups I will keep anonymous. They are amazing and super successful at what they do, yet I’ve felt there has been something lacking in event experience for quite some time now. Their events were original when they were new and fresh, but now I feel there is a lack in innovation, with each event regurgitating what has already been done before. The only noteworthy change is the switching of DJ lineups, and even then a lot of the DJs end up playing the same Top 100 Songs everyone else is playing. Due to music becoming excessively mainstream like pop culture, entertainment becoming the same thing I have seen a million times, and target demographic of people much much younger than me, I have lost a lot of interest in attending these EDM events, which is shocking because my strongest passion used to be to want to produce events like this.
Burning Man was more than a breath of fresh air compared to other events, it has inspired me career-wise, making me want to produce large-scale events again. I’m impressed at how dynamic and innovative Burning Man is. First off, unlike its music festival competitors which are strictly limited to the budgets of their production companies (meaning there is a cap to the level of entertainment and experience they can provide), Burning Man has the ability to supersede its competitors in experience provided because it’s not only built by the minds and budget of Burning Man Organization, it is a much wider collective of expression by the thousands of minds of its participants as well.
Burning Man is not limited to one person’s mind nor one company’s ideas, but rather is a collective of expression by the thousands of minds of its participants
With its artist grant program that allows new artists to create new, never-before-seen art installations every year, and its requirement of Art Cars to be modified or upgraded before admittance to the event the next year, no two Burning Mans will ever be the same. This ensures the event’s longer term success and it shows, being able to attract so many people to return even after 10 plus years of going.
Another thing I really appreciate about Burning Man that is different from all other events is the event coordinators intend to inspire and move you, yet they don’t try to “spoon-feed” or dictate the type of experience they feel you “should” have like how other events may put out messages like: “see this DJ, he will change your life, this is the main stage therefore it is the best, watch these fireworks, it’ll blow your mind.”. At Burning Man, you are greeted by staff at the gates and once inside your experience is completely up to you. The book of events you are given is only a directory, not a suggestion for your itinerary.
One industry shock I found is Burning Man is one of the few large-scale events that does not rely on monopolizing the entertainment talent booking market for success. Full DJ lineups are not released until a week prior to the event and are not the main draw to attend but rather the experience. I feel relieved to know that us event coordinators can be successful without having to book the big talent that only a few power players have access to. This event is created by the people and for the people. I am more proud to be an American knowing Americans created such a massive, dynamic, enlightening, and truly outside-the-box event.
I am grateful to have new idols to look up to in the scene, and am more motivated as new paths are forming in front of me.
Endless Creativity and Innovation
There is so much creativity at Burning Man you couldn’t hide under a rock and not catch it. It’s contagious too. You can’t help but start brainstorming ideas for your own art car, theme camp, or art installation. And even if you don’t do art, the experience makes you want to. A populace of human beings are creating so many things at Burning Man, things often seemingly unimaginable. To see that many people creating from passion, living out their imaginations, and becoming professionals at their crafts is so inspiring. If I ever doubt myself that I can’t do something, I can now think of all the people at Burning Man that have done remarkable things and remind myself anything is possible, so all of us should just pick something and do it. No limitations, no excuses. The only true disappointment is to not live to man’s full potential.
“The Only True Disappointment is to not Live to Man’s Full Potential”
Uchronia by The Uchronia Crew at Burning Man 2006
(Photo By: Splatworld)
“R-Evolution,” the larger-than-life woman art sculpture by Marco Cochrane. She is “intended
to be a catalyst for social change, … to make room for women’s voices in society. She is
intended to challenge the viewer to see past the sexual charge, the power and control that
has developed around the female body, and into the human
being behind the body.” (Fest 300)
Burning Man, The Ultimate Vacation
True, if I had traveled anywhere else in the world, I would have found a lot of the things I love about traveling, yet at Burning Man I found it all and so much more. The trip cost me total about $2000, but no dollar amount can be attributed to all that I have gained from it. It was so worth it.
Although Burning Man isn’t for everyone as it’s a huge commitment to plan for along with harsh conditions to withstand, I highly recommend going at least once in your life. To all my personal friends who are interested, don’t ask to come with me simply because I have gone. My recommendation is to do what I did and choose the people closest to you that you feel you would have the best experience going with and then start planning. Tickets go on sale in February.
And if you cannot make it to Burning Man but want to have a similar experience, you don’t have to wait until the next Burning Man. There are a number of regional burn events (click here) all over the world that uphold The Ten Principles and are sanctioned and overseen by Burning Man Organization. I plan on attending these too.
I feel you can be cultured from traveling to a plethora of vacation destinations, yet at Burning Man, you will not only find culture, you will also gain a lot of valuable self-discovery.
Burning Man showed me so much. I’ve formed new perspectives on life and spirituality, and have found who my true self is. I’m finding there is so much more adventure in this life to experience and this is only the beginning. Feeling old is a controllable mindset. I now have a stronger connection with nature, energy, vibes, and the undeniable flow of life and the great things its meant to provide for us. I know more than ever the distinguishing differences between my work self, my social media self, my inner child, my ego, and my true and present self. Many of these selves listed are not who we really are.
Burning Man is an “immersing and persuasive environment that attempts to produce conversion experiences that lead people to make big changes in their lives.”
-Larry Harvey (Burning Man Founder)
My priorities have shifted and my purpose is more defined. Things that used to matter don’t. I’ve learned to let go of things that hold me back. I have healed. I’m still me, but I also feel reborn like a phoenix. I have undeniable focus. My mind is in the best place it has ever been. I don’t question myself. I just do; I just live.
I feel limitless. And now with my newfound passion and excitement for being creative, I am that much more motivated for the projects I am currently working on. I am further setting out to create environments that bring like-minded people together, allow others to inspire and be inspired, educate people about the music I love, and to give others platforms to express themselves. It will be my gift, my light, my contribution to the world.
No matter how negative the world can be, there is a beautiful place of love and moralistic values, a place many of us call home.
I thank Burning Man for the invaluable enlightenment and influence, and I thank you for reading my blog. I hope you enjoyed and hopefully gained something from it. If you have any questions, comments, or feedback, please do reply below. I love connecting with new people! Please feel free to share this blog.
About The Author: Vincent Do
Vincent Do is from Orange County, CA and currently resides between Las Vegas, NV and Scottsdale, AZ. He wrote this after his first Burning Man experience in 2015. He owns a nightlife event production and marketing company called Nytehype Entertainment and has been active in the industry for 14 plus years. When asked what it means to be a burner: “A burner isn’t just someone who shows up to Burning Man and consumes the experience, they participate in it. Outside of the playa, they either take what they learned there and spread the good word about it, or they take their inspiration and create things from it.”