After a Summer of traveling, fabulous weddings, and other adventures, I had the biggest adventure of them all— Burning Man! I bet you’re wondering, “why would Pamela go to BURNING MAN??? Isn’t that for crazy hippie kids and electronic music junkies?”
All my friends sure thought I was crazy when I told them! But many of them…( and you know who are are…) had always wanted to go. I was their guinea pig. Listen up people!!!
Well, the first reason I went to BM was that our Summer home was rented out, and I needed an activity to keep me busy after leaving Sicily in the middle of August. Burning Man takes place the last week of August. The more important reason, though, was my son, Zach.
My son and musician Zach Maxwell has been going for two years and can never stop talking about how much Burning Man has changed his life. Each year, he tells me how badly I need to see it for myself.
Zach and his girlfriend Sally both work for the Handel Group, a life coaching firm where many of their employees make trip to Burning Man each year. I knew if I went with them, I’d have a great group of soul-searchers to rely on. Although the mantra of Burning Man is “radical self reliance”—I still needed some guidance! Additionally, I knew going would be the perfect opportunity to bond with my son to become closer than ever. Boy was I right.
Prior to going, I’d heard all about the heat and the dust and the port-a-potties. But I thought—how bad could it be? I’m an adventurer, I can handle it! After all, I was staying in an RV with (partial) air conditioning for goodness sake!
Well, I sure was in for some surprises. The first one? Just getting there! After driving hours from Reno to Black Rock City, we waited in 4 hours of stop and go traffic at the entrance of Burning Man. Welcome to BM!!!!
The festival is organized in a very logical system, with “playa” forming a focal point for the camps. Our camp, Camp Imagination, was a network of about 100 people staying in RVs and tents alike. I arranged to stay in an RV with a few girls I’d talked with beforehand— they were absolutely fabulous.
Day 1 began early the next day. After breakfast, I was immediately taken away by Zach for my first day of bike exploration. That’s how people get around. I’ll be honest; the happenings and sights over the next few days are simply too vast to cover. Instead, I’m going to give you this: a list of my most significant Burning Man discoveries.
You’ll Never See it All
From art installations to workshops to all night disco parties—the world is your oyster at Burning Man. Anything you could possibly want is there, including this Barbie Death Camp (see below). I was able to take an amazing workshop by Dr. Mark Hyman, a leading doctor on integrative medicine and I took yoga classes on the playa and another fabulous workshop by Beth Weissenberger of the Handel Group. One of the most unique findings were these “art cars”— elaborately conceived pieces of art atop fully functioning vehicles. And most of them have music blasting out of their cars! It’s a phenomenon only known to Burning Man.
When you arrive at Burning Man, you’re given a booklet full of workshops, activities, and happenings. You’ll never believe what is offered: bloody mary brunches, armpit farting symphonies, sunrise yoga, spanking workshops, and SO much more. Hundreds and hundreds of quirky events are going on all day, each welcome to the public.
At night, Burning Man comes alive with electronic dance parties, light shows, and all-night raves. It’s a wonder I got any rest the entire time I was there. No one wants to go to bed!!!
It’s All a Give and Take
At Burning Man, commercialism is outlawed. Nothing is for sale, sponsored, branded, advertised or at all commercialized. But that’s not to say that everything is free. When you go to Burning Man, be prepared to offer things to others in exchange. Our camp gave away DIY magic wands, while the Handel Group gave away life coaching sessions for hours each day. This is what makes everything go round; everyone contributes.
It’s a Mix of the Most Eclectic People on the Planet.
I knew this was true the moment I met my unbelievable roommates (RV-mates?). Yet their wild costumes were mild compared to some of the other outfits we saw! Luckily, they were nice enough to lend me some threads— I had no idea how important costumes are at Burning Man!
Your Body Takes a Beating
Between the sun, the heat, the sandstorms, and the partying, this experience is a rough one. I must have inhaled an entire desert during my three day stay, which turned into a nasty cold. Let’s not forget I was lucky enough to have a few hours of RV air conditioning each day. I soon learned this wasn’t nearly enough, as the struggle of heat exhaustion is REAL. I kept drinking water though. That’s the most important lesson!!!!
I Need to Be Fierce!
At Burning Man, I received not one but TWO of the same fortunes. The first was from a round wooden art piece with many doors. I was told that the door you open is the lesson you need to learn. My door read: “Drive Your Destiny.” To me, this meant taking charge of my own desires in life. The second time around, I encountered a woman who read taro cards. The card I chose said “don’t back down, stand up for what you believe is right.” There it was again! More encouragement for me to take command of what I want and believe. Guess I’ll be channeling my fierce inner-goddess this next year!!!
Art Takes On a Whole New Meaning
From art cars to the wooden sculptures built in the center of the playa, Burning Man is abound with art. Everywhere you go there is a new outlet of self expression. I’m still haunted by the image of “The Embrace” (above) burning to the ground before dawn. Most people know that the name “Burning Man” comes from the final moment in the festival when a huge wooden man statue is burned down. What people may not know is that that many of these sculptures took artists years to build, and in a few hours they are destroyed. There’s no way to describe how watching that makes you feel. That’s another lesson. Everything is impermanent!
There is No Way to Explain It
I never understood why it was so difficult for my son Zach to describe the Burning Man experience. Wasn’t it just a crazy festival in the middle of the desert? Certainly that can be understood!
But now, after seeing it for myself, I get it. Burning Man is a completely experiential place. As much as I can try to share photos and experiences, it doesn’t come close to capturing how it felt to be there.
Will I go back? At first I wasn’t so sure—I figured maybe once was enough. However now that the dust (literally!) has settled, I’m starting to think of costume ideas for round two! Who knows! To anyone thinking about going, I encourage you to be brave and go for it. If nothing else, it’s an experience you will never forget.