BURNING MAN – SO MUCH MORE THAN A FESTIVAL
I’m somewhat of a “festivaler”. I’ve been to all the big, mainstream festivals all over the world. But I was a Burner Virgin. Which means I hadn’t so far been to the best one. The one I just had to go to before I die. And what I found was sooo much more than a festival.
I was fortunate enough to go with experience burners who also happened to be my friends. I’m very thankful that they told me do’s and dont’s as Burning Man is not something you just show up to. Make sure to read this Beginner’s Guide.
First of all you need a ticket. I was not one of the lucky ones to get a ticket on the general sale on the Burning Man website for $425, instead I managed to get a ticket though a friend’s friend. That way I paid way more than the ticket originally was, which I later got to know is against the Burning Man principles. Which is why it is also easier to find a decently priced ticket even after the ticket release. But I wanted to go at any cost, so to me it was worth it!
One of the many art installations. The amazing Tree of Ténéré with 25,000 LED lights
When you have the ticket, you need to find a camp. I thought that it wasn’t necessary to join an excising camp. But oh, IT IS! Your camp will not only provide you with friends and company. They will also provide you with food, toilets, showers, water etc. It is possible to go to Burning Man on your own. But to me this would ruin the whole experience as you would have to take care of so many thing yourself, and you would most likely not be able to shower for a full week…
If you don’t know anyone with a camp there are several ways to find a camp to join. You can check on the Burning Man website, forums such as Reddit or Facebook pages. Try to choose a camp where you feel you will have like minded people around you! Because these people will become your family for a week.
When you have found your camp it is time to organize how you will sleep. RVs are very popular at Burning Man. But I am really happy with what we ended up with, a yurt! It was easy to build, had AC (I don’t think I would have survived the heat without it!) and it was pretty big for three people.
If you rent a car or an RV, keep in mind that most rental car companies know about Burning Man and the dust it brings. So they will add huge fees if it is returned with any signs of dust. Staying in the car will definitely make it even dustier, which can be very costly for you!
You can also take the Burner Express. But to be honest, I would not recommend going to the desert without any transportation of your own. You are very isolated if anything happens. On a positive note though, you will skip the awful line outside of the festival area (we had to wait 7 hours to get in).
Our hexayurt in our Camp “Second Star/SHLTRD”
The amazing first sunset in our camp. I’ve definitely seen the most beautiful sunsets at Burning Man!
Things to get before the festival
There are lots of thing you need to get for the festival. Things you will not be able to get there! Remember that this is a cashless festival where you will not be able to buy anything (no cards either). So come prepared! I would definitely recommend these items:
- Food and water (if not provided by your camp)
- Snacks! If you get hungry late at night it might be hard to get your hand on anywhere else
- a bike with a bike lock (bring an extra in case you loose the first one! I did haha)
- Somewhere to sleep (a tent, a yurt, RV etc.)
- Something to gift. Read more about gifting HERE. I brought vitamins. But chap sticks, wipes or an art piece is also very appreciated!
- Funky clothes. Honestly, ANYTHING (or nothing! I saw lots of naked people every day) works! You need a warmer jacket at night as it gets really cold in the desert.
- a water bottle. You will bring it to bars and they will fill it up with drinks, to avoid garbage
- ID! Preferably a copy of your driver licence (so that you don’t loose your driver licence). You will need to show it in every single bar in the festival area
I got some outfits from Ebay. But I wish I went a bit more crazy! This is your time to shine 🙂
I flew into San Francisco and a friend drove me to Reno where I met up with my burner friends. That would be the cheapest way of getting there from Europe. But there are also flights straight to Reno. In Reno you will run into lots of other burners as it is a connection point and the closest city to Black Rock City (where the festival is held). This is also where you could actually find a ticket if you don’t have one. I saw lots of people selling and buying tickets there.
We started driving early (6 am) Saturday morning before Burning Man to avoid traffic. We were lucky enough that we didn’t get stuck in any traffic on our way there. But the real struggle started when we arrived outside the festival area. As Burning Man only lets in a restricted amounts of cars every hour (to reduce dust), you may have to wait several hour for your turn. And so did we. We had to wait for over 7 hours (not moving at all) in 43 degrees Celsius/110 F heat (!). So plan how you are going to get there in time!
While you wait for your turn outside the festival area, walk around and socialize!
When the fun begins!
When you have been planning and longing for months, it is finally time for the fun part! Make sure you have downloaded everything you need on your phone (music, maps etc.) as you will most likely not have any service on your phone (I didn’t have service for the full week). The app iBurn (ios) is really good as you can save your favorite events, see where your friends are staying etc.
When I arrived to the festival I though I knew what was waiting. I had an idea of what Burning Man was. But that was about to change. To be honest, my first thought was that this was a flower power hippie fest, where I definitely didn’t fit in. I saw lots of naked people, everyone was hugging each other (do not attempt to shake anyone’s hand, hugs only!) and there were people in ALL ages (I think I met people between the age of 2 and 85).
As we reached our camp I realized that people were actually just genuine. I think I was just so used to nice people being fake, that I thought that the burners also just had a “mask” on. But they were just truly friendly and nice to everyone! And everyone fitted in. No one looked twice at gay people, disabled people or just people being different. And everyone hung out with people of all ages. I remember one night were we had an amazing time with two men in their 60s. They had such great stories to tell and they loved the age mix of Burning Man.
I also saw lots of kids! They do have a seperate area for families. But you will run into families almost all over the festival. I did feel a bit sorry for them though, not only because of the heat and dust storm, but also because of drunk people… I would not recommend bringing your kids, especially if it’s your first time.
I found a gorgeous little girl in the main camp. Her makeup was on fleek!
Biking around at night, you will see 1000s of lights. As Burning Man doesn’t have any lights at all (except some art installation), it is important to always were some sort of light on you and your bike. Otherwise you will crash into a bike or person. It’s also part of the fun to pimp out your bike with lights 🙂
Biking through the festival the first night, I could barely see where I was going. I was so mesmerized by my surroundings. It was really a magical view seeing all the lights!
One of the many art cars driving around the festival area. Make sure to get on one!
What I didn’t know prior to Burning Man was how amazing the art installations were. And there are SOOO many! I definitely did not see them all in a week. Make sure you bike around to see as many as you can.
Biking is your only mean of transportation for the week. Make sure you have a good one!
You can climb almost all of the art installations for amazing pictures
When you have to leave
Leaving is never the fun part. But make sure to plan it well. You will want to leave when you can avoid traffic, as getting out of the festival area is just as hard as getting in. Also remember that you need to bring all your trash for the week with you (So don’t bring unnecessary packaging etc. ). “Leave no trace” is one of the 10 principles. So look for MOOP !
You can fly out of Reno or you could go back to San Francisco. Just make sure to book your flights well in advance! When your home, it is just time to start planning for next year 🙂