Burning Man Will Fly to The Top of Your Bucket List After Hearing About This First-Timers Trip
Towards the end of summer 14' I was in San Fransisco and happen to be in town a week before Burning Man. What's San Fran like just days before everyone hits the playa? People act like the Pope's coming to town. Now, me being naive to the massive gathering in the middle of the dessert, I kept asking those that had already been before how they would describe their Burning Man experience. The following are a few responses I got to that question: “indescribable” "magical" "a spiritual experience" "Something everyone needs to experience at least once."
Whatttt...really? I'll admit, prior to that trip to SF (and definitely before hearing any of that ^ ) in my head I was picturing Burning Man to be some sort of dessert party, where a bunch of hippies danced around a big wooden statue of an actual 'burning-man.'
I was wrong.
A Brief Burning Man History Lesson
Fun Fact: Burning Man first began back in 1986 with only 20 attendees. Now, 30 years later, the event attracts 70,000+ people from all over the world.
What is it? Burning Man is described as an experiment in community and art. Attendees set up a harmonious place to live in the desert, creating a very 'giving' economy and 'free' set of rules. People set up camps with their groups, welcomes strangers into their camps at any time, and give / trade gifts (alcohol, art, drugs, jewelry, pizza, etc) with others that are there.
So, I have to bring a gift? Sorta. Participants go in with the understanding that they'll have to gift one another and share everything with the strangers they meet there. In an interview back in 2014, founder Larry Harvey described the "gift economy" concept to the Atlantic by saying, “Burning Man is like a big family picnic. Would you sell things to one another at a family picnic? No, you’d share things.”
Now, 2 years later...
This year Burning Man celebrated it's 30th anniversary from August 28 – September 5, 2016 in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, and lucky for me, even though I didn't get to go, my close girl friend Shadi did.
Shadi, was a first time "burner" and someone I could trust to tell me how wild things actually get out in the middle of the dessert.
So a few days after she got back I texted Shadi expecting her to give me some sort of crazy story, involving naked hipsters, dancing around a desert, on a sh*t ton of ketamine...
& this is what I got from her instead:
& Just like that it was Shadi's awesomely-intriguing, "no sense of time...following the lights and sounds" response, that lead to the idea of doing this
Beautifully blunt "burner" Q&A:
Aylin: Your Burning Man experience in one word.
Aylin: Damn, okay! Elaborate for us then mama, describe Burning Man for us in one sentence.
Shadi: Haha! Honestly dude, Burning Man is just like a magical wonderland filled with the most amazing people, music, art and where you can do what you want, when you want, and be your truest self.
Aylin: So if everyones being their truest self, there's nobody judging what you're doing? NO FILTER...what's the craziest thing you saw, or the craziest thing that happened to you while you were out there?
Shadi: Oh man! I would say the craziest/best thing I saw was one night I was partying on an art car that was a giant yacht. We were cruising on the playa, must have been around 2am, and we stopped. Just a few moments later, a few guys jumped on our yacht car. They had on a pizza delivery guy uniform, holding a pizza delivery bag. They look at me and the 5 other people on there and ask, "Who ordered a pizza!?" Me and my friend just look at each other , extremely confused and not knowing how to answer, and after about 10 seconds of silence a guy yells "I did!". The pizza dudes then proceed to pull out two boxes of pizza from the bag, opens it to reveal fresh pizza. I was in awe! Hahaha! Definitely the funniest / most amazing thing I could have seen out in the middle of the playa!
Aylin: That's is hilarious. You wonder where on earth someone could have whipped out a freshly baked pizza right haha.
So truthfully talking, are most people at Burning Man on drugs? If so, what would you say the majority were taking there this year?
Shadi: Its prevalent, but its not really a drug culture out there. There is so much to see and so much to do that I feel as though drugs can hinder a lot. There are definitely a lot of people who do drugs out there, but it was never blatantly obvious like it is at other "festivals".
Aylin: That sounds pretty nice especially since we're used to most people acting like zombies at EDM shows/festivals now haha. I actually have a friend whose parents met at Burning Man, so it's interesting to hear that people behaved differently there. Would you say it's easy to meet people at Burning Man?
Shadi: Oh for sure. Burning man can be a great place to meet new people and make friends. I was a part of an amazing camp, where I only knew a few folks, and I got to meet some incredible people. But for me, burning man was more of a solo journey. I wanted to spend time alone and to be alone in my thoughts, but when I was with my friends, I was with amazing company. It really is whatever you make of it!
Aylin: So what type of people go to Burning Man, who would you say are the majority of these "burners" ?
Shadi: All types of people go! But its funny how San Francisco is prettyyy empty during the week of Burning Man haha. I saw toddlers running around to people walking with a cane. I saw a group of Italians, met a guy from Canada, and kids from the east coast too. Burning man has an incredibly diverse culture and thats what I love the most about it.
Aylin: Toddlers! So people take family trips to Burning Man, True / False?
Aylin: Those are some cool a$$ parents! Describe your typical day at ze dessert:
Shadi: Ahh a typical day! Well the days are super hot, so a nap is out of the question, and I mention a nap because I spent most nights out and about till 4am or watching the sunrise and heading back to camp around 7:30am. I would spend my days riding my bike to other camps, or walking around exploring, but mostly going to the camps that had bars and day drinking. Then we would come back to camp, make dinner, and get ready to go out and about again. I never really had a sense of time or a plan. We would just go with the flow and do whatever we wanted that day. At night, we just ride on the playa and ride towards what art car, music, or art installation was calling your name.
Aylin: So Burning Man isn't really set up like most festivals then since people are setting a bunch of different camps with bars/art/music themselves? Are there any vendors? Rules? People working the event?
Shadi: Yea, exactly. BM is an entirely different experience. It's a group of people getting together to create a city in the middle of the desert.
Aylin: Wow, I'm sure it involves so much artistic creatively. Would you go again next year? Should I go?
Shadi: I can't wait to go back. For the first week back, I was constantly having dreams that I was on the playa again. I think about it all the time and really look forward to going again. This time around though, I think I will do a few things differently. And hell yeah, YOU NEED TO COME!
Aylin: But let's just say you were having a shitty time, could you actually leave the desert in that case? How many days is Burning Man?
Shadi: It's a week long, but I went for the most perfect amount of time, which was about 4 days. You can leave for sure, but nothing ends up being THAT bad for anyone to want to leave the playa :)
Aylin: Also, I heard that it's really expensive. How much would you say the average person will spend before they even go and in total overall?
Shadi: Well I will start off by saying I totally depleted my bank account, but hey that was bad planning on my end! I had nothing, no tent, gear, bike, lights, nada! My crew also rented a car to drive there. I probably spent around $1,500. Some people rent RVs which can be pricey, some people have higher camp dues. It all really depends on the person.
Aylin: Lots of celebrities were Instagramming from the playa this year *cough* Cara Delevingne *cough* cough* did you see any? Are celebrities in the same place or is there a seperate VIP camp area?
Shadi: No Cara, but I did almost physically bump into Diplo! I was getting on the Dancetronauts art car, and he was about to get on and DJ. We then got to ride around on the art car while Major Lazer guest dj'd! I fangirled pretty hard not gonna lie. A few of my friends saw Paris Hilton and Heidie Klum though! But I would like to quote my friend Fahim here who said, "we are all celebs on the playa".
Aylin: Next year we'll have to try and find Diplo again so we can jump into his Snap Chat story together! Also I'm not gonna lie, I didn't even know artists like Diplo and Major Lazer performed at Burning Man! Who did you think had the best set this year?
Shadi: My most memorable set was watching Tychos sunrise set. I had a crazy night that night, and we rode all the way out by the trash fence, and I saw the most beautiful sunrise, that I just sat by myself and cried. You just sit and look out in the vast desert, with all these strangers, watching a new day begin. It was one of those moments where I just felt all the feels and loved every moment of it.
Aylin: Yass girl :) I love how heartfelt you got even talking to us about your experience, definitely makes me want to go and figure all this out for myself one day. So I'll end off on a, "see ya next year at the playa" note here! Any last words? Or recommendations for first timers who decide to cross Burning Man Off their Bucket List next year!?
Shadi: Go in with no expectations what so ever! You also won't need as much crap as you think you do, so don't over pack. Just open your mind and experience it; don't think too much. I almost didn't go because I was so sick of hearing everyones descriptions of Burning Man, it sounded exhausting and I was just so worried it wouldn't live up to the hype. I was so ready to sell everything and just book a trip to Hawaii instead, but I am so happy I didn't. Also go with your loved ones, that truly makes a difference :)
Photo Credit: Ali Samieivafa