It’s been more than two years in the making and several in the dreaming. This summer, I will finally make my maiden voyage to Burning Man Festival.
Taking place over a period of seven days on the ‘Playa’, the alkaline crust of an ancient, arid lake bed in the centre of the Nevada desert, it will be survival on the grandest of scales.
There will be no shops and no commerce, therefore money will not change hands for the duration. This means we have to take everything that we need with us for our entire stay – food, water, accommodation, heat, shade. As we will be flying in from London, that mostly means what we can fit into one piece of hold baggage – the rest we need to source onsite in the USA in less than 24 hours. Yikes.
The first Burning Man took place on Baker Beach in 1986, when Larry Harvey and Jerry James built a human effigy out of wood and set it on fire. You can read a recreation of events on the official website site here. Since then, Burning Man has been evolving and metamorphosing into the giant sprawling community that it is today – and one which exists both on and off the Playa. Events happen year rounds to raise funding for the themed camps, art installations and ‘mutant vehicles’ that set the backdrop for the Burn. Now, 29 years after the original spontaneous event, Burning Man has spawned regional ‘burns’ in many other countries, such as AfrikaBurn and Burning Nest and all have their local flavours..
We, however, will be going to THE Burning Man, a temporary metropolis known as Black Rock City with the wooden man at it’s centre. At the end of the seven days, the man (along with several other temporary structures), will burn. When we strike camp, not a particle of glitter or a single feather will remain on the desert floor. Penalties for MOOP (Matter Out Of Place) are severe. When we depart, we must Leave No Trace. Ephemera is the watchword here.
You’ve probably gathered by now that this isn’t your average festival, rather it is an ‘experiment in community’, a ‘crucible of creativity’ and an ‘exercise in radial self reliance’. It is based on the Ten Founding Principles, a cultural manifesto which reflect the ethos of the festival and includes sentiments such as radical self expression, radical self reliance, decommodification and participation.
I’ve been plotting my attendance at Burning Man for a long time now. It is a huge undertaking: you need time to plan (we’ve been doing so for 12 months+) and money to go (tickets are relatively cheap but it’s the flights, the costumes, vehicle hire, gasoline and resourcing an entire camp that you need to consider). But lots more on the logistics to follow…
I’m going with a group of five friends and my boyfriend and it is with some trepidation that, two week’s shy of my departure, I prepare. Burning Man is said to be on of the hardest things that you can endure – not just emotionally, but physically and it is testing on even the strongest of relationships.
Somewhat appropriately, I’ve reignited my long dormant travel blog for this once-in-a-lifetime trip. Sit tight – and hold on for the ride…