After 15 years and 7 hours of anticipation, I finally arrive at my first Burning Man festival. In the an empty dusty desert about 2 hours outside of Reno in the middle of nowhere, a city called Black Rock City grows from zero to 70,000 people for a week and then disappears without a trace.
A seven hour drive from Reno, we arrive on Monday to an already in-progress Black Rock City. After building our shade structure, pitching our tent and building our shower, we settle into our first night. As night falls, the music begins to thump and the lights begin flash. We ride our bikes around the “Playa” feeling overwhelmed. There are flashing art cars, themed camps and bikes with lights everywhere. It feels like a carnival on the moon.
During the day, I attend several workshops on self-discovery, visit the themed camps and check out the art around the Playa. One of the days, I headed over to a workshop on the opposite side and got stuck in a whiteout dust storm. There were a few during our week at Burning Man, but this one was the worst. Crossing the Playa, I kept my fingers crossed no one would run into me, especially an art car. Once at the workshop, we all had to wear our masks and goggles for the entire talk, as did the speaker who by the end we couldn’t see.
Nothing really prepares you for your first burning man. Somedays I was thrilled to be there and other days I found myself counting the days until I would leave. I read a lot of articles before I went to burning man. I read that I would feel ups and downs. I knew I would have to bring my own water, my own food and clothing or rather costumes for the daytime heat and the evening cold. I knew I wouldn’t have cell phone or internet. I knew that there would be a lot of people on different drugs. I knew I would be dirty and dry from the dust. Still somehow I was not prepared.
What I couldn’t imagine was the atmosphere. There was amazing art, innovative camps, interesting people and out-of-this world feeling. I also didn’t expect to grow from just a week in the dessert. Although I don’t feel it was a life-changing experience, there is a piece of me that has been changed and inspired.
As the days go by, it was amazing to see it all unfold; to see each of the camps evolve, the work of amazing artists and minds that contribute to this festival every year. One of my favorite art pieces was a female statue that when you got close you could see (and hear her breathing). Even on the last day, I saw art and art cars that I hadn’t seen yet.
There are two major burns plus a bunch of smaller burns. The man is the main burn. It amazing to see 70,000 people all gathering for the burning of the man to observe how it changes as it burns and anticipate when and how it will fall. This burn is a party. The second burn is the temple. Inside the temple, people write notes to loved ones. This burn is quiet and sacred. It is a beautiful festival that will open your mind to possibilities. I am not sure if I will be back next year, the verdict is still out, but I am happy that this year I was part of this inspiring Interactive creative festival.