This was by far my best experience at Burning Man. I attended this event in 2015 & 2016, took two years off. My return “home” to Black Rock City in 2019 was nothing short of phenomenal! Here’s what I did to set myself up for a great burn!
It’s no secret that people get wild at burning man. I’m not sure if it’s something in the dust, or just the transfer of energy from one another, but the boundaries and walls that people have in the default world are expanded or seemingly nonexistent in Black Rock City. Not only that, but emotions are heightened from being in survival mode. Do yourself and your partner a favor by talking about the hard things before even going to burn.
In my previous years, my relationships were already rocky leading up to the event. Instead of talking about our boundaries together or having a necessary conversation about ending things before burning man, we tried to ignore it, and it blew up in our faces. This year that was NOT going to happen for me. Even though my boyfriend was not attending the event with me this year, I knew it was important to discuss what we were comfortable with and not comfortable with for my week in the desert.
Someone posted this list in one of the burner newbie groups on facebook – it’s a very thorough document that my partner and I used to start the conversation of what our expectations were with each other. We skipped over the bits that didn’t pertain to us but it was a good tool to start the conversation.
In our discussion, we found that we were very much on the same page, which allowed us to both feel more relaxed about my trip to the desert. If we weren’t on the same page, we knew that this conversation would allow us an opportunity to either make the decision to compromise, or to discontinue our relationship if our boundaries were not aligned. (Thankfully it didn’t come to that for us, but beware that it is a possible outcome!)
If you are in a relationship that you aren’t absolutely sure about – or you’re pretty sure that you want to end things – do it BEFORE burning man. I can’t tell you how much it sucks to find out that your partner wants out of a relationship by finding them cheating on you AT burning man when your emotions are already on overdrive and you’re stuck in the middle of the desert with them with no great way to get out. You may be saving them heartbreak up front, but you’ll add insult to injury by waiting. Plus, your camp mates and friends will loose massive respect for you because you not only ruined your now ex partner’s burn, you likely influenced everyone around you with your drama. Leave that sh*t at home, your friends will thank you!! ((Important side note: Don’t pay for your partner’s burning man ticket or experience unless you are willing to gift it (Gift: Something given voluntarily without payment in return – including payment of love or other non-monetary means). If your relationship doesn’t survive the burn, you likely won’t see that money.))
If your partner cannot go or just isn’t interested in experiencing burning man, it’s 100% ok to experience the playa solo! In fact, by not bringing my partner this year, I believe it “leveled up” our relationship by strengthening our trust and allowing us the space to further explore ourselves as individual people.
Leading into burning man this year, I was feeling like I wasn’t involved enough. Mostly because I was traveling so much for work, I didn’t have time to be as “hands on” as I had in the past. I replaced my physical contributions with a gift that, for me, was actually quite fun to give. I helped my camp by creating a ticket needs list that I “cleaned up” after each major ticket sale and every few days in August leading up to the burn so that tickets could find their way home much easier than an out of date list. I can proudly say that everyone in our camp of 160 people and tons of people not in our camp that were added to our ticket list at least a week prior to burning man received the tickets they requested. By participating, I was able to meet new people and expanded my connections beyond my camp, which enriched my experience once I arrived on playa.
This was my contribution pre-burn this year, but there are tons of ways to get involved with burners year round! (Warning: Tons of links that you’ll want to save coming up!!) You can go to regional events that take place all over the world (some that are FREE, and there is even a way to attend a cyberspace burning man event!!) You can also connect with established regional groups close to you (many have links to facebook groups or other social media networks).
There are also many opportunities to volunteer, especially closer to the main burning man event. By connecting with your local or regional chapters, you will hear about local artists requesting help for big projects and have opportunities to be a part of some really amazing things. And if there is nothing happening that interests you, then you can CREATE IT YOURSELF. That’s the beauty of burning man and the community!! There are no limits or rules on how you can participate!!
If you cannot participate before you attend burning man, try to volunteer on playa. I’ve heard some really great feedback about volunteering for Greeters, Lamplighters, Rangers, Burner Bus, MOOP team, Man or Temple Builds and many many more! Whatever your skills and interests are, there is absolutely a way for you to volunteer and enjoy what you’re participating in!
Once I arrived on playa this year, I became very passionate about expanding a gift that I had received the two years prior by contributing to the burning man webcast. This live video of burning man is a way for people who can’t make it to playa to still be connected to the event. Our fearless leader, “Motorbike” Matt Reyes did an awesome interview discussing the webcast that you can read here. This was the biggest scale gift that I have participated in giving at burn and the extreme positive emotions that I received from participating in this were a reflection of that. I have never felt more grateful and full of love. ((For those of you that watched, and especially those of you that contributed in the chat rooms, thank you for your participation this year)).
Before heading to burning man, I meditated, journaled and blogged about my intentions for my burn. Every one and every year is different. Maybe you’re intention is to let loose, be open to new experiences, make new friends, challenge yourself by getting outside your comfort zone, explore things alone for the first time, climb something tall, share a special moment with someone, play a game, bar hop, dance until sunrise, find your center, get inspired, grieve, laugh, be of service to someone, dress up in a crazy outfit, dress down to nothing or get some dust in your hair. Whatever your intentions are, putting these thoughts to paper seems to solidify them. It’s almost like booking a flight to a specific destination. Once you pack your bags, make sure to fasten your seatbelt for takeoff!! Sometimes it can be a bumpy ride, but you’ll find that you will end up exactly where you were meant to (even if it’s not where you imagined, exactly).
During the week I found it really helpful to write or journal a few things. One was a letter to my mom, which she hasn’t read yet, but I’ll share here (Hi Mom! I hope you enjoy this!):
Thank you for making me the strong woman I am today. I sense BIG changes ahead and am blessed to still have you in my life. I can’t imagine being where I am today without you. Love Always,D
I found that journaling, especially moments of gratitude were so crucial to my amazing experience this year. Taking the time during the week to knowledge how fortunate I am for having these experiences and relationships allowed me to decompress from the craziness of burn. I actually believe that this helped me once returning to default world as I had already began processing some of the emotions to combat “post playa depression” (trust me, it’s a thing).
Your Presence is a Present
I’m realizing as I write this list that all of these are good advice for daily life as well. I would say one of the most important things that made my experience at burning man this year incredible was being present in the moment, which is also so important to ones happiness in any time or place. I did the things I wanted to do, when I wanted to do them, and I said no to things that didn’t interest me. I didn’t over commit myself because I didn’t want to be stressed about keeping a schedule with anyone and it paid off! I was free to give my time how I wanted to. I helped friends without having to rush off to other commitments. Remember to be in the moment and experience whatever is happening right NOW and I promise it will be incredible!
The man burns in 333 days. Utilize these tips over those next 10 months to make your Burning Man 2020 as epic and wonderful as possible!