I remember the nervous excitement I had waiting for our ride at the Reno airport. Did I pack the right things? What should I expect? We had never been to Burning Man before. I tried to prepare myself for the extreme conditions and lack of “normal” amenities. I kept being told to not worry, “The Playa always provides.” After surviving my first Burning Man I’ve learned a lot. In honor of Burning Man starting this Sunday, here are 4 Burning Man mistakes I made my first Burn.
Before we get started, it’s important to know what Burning Man is. A common misconception is that it is a music festival. While there is definitely music and performances it is much more than that. Burning Man is a temporary city that exists at Black Rock City, Nevada for 8 days at the end of August every year. Black Rock City is in the middle of the desert and ends up attracting on average 80,000 people a year. The community comprises of themed camps that people create. There is art everywhere, massive sculptures, art cars, music being performed. There is no money exchanged at Burning Man. It is based upon 10 specific principles you can read about here.
I went into Burning Man being as prepared as we could be. Brian was booked to perform for a camp called Root Society. They were going to be providing a tee-pee tent for us to stay in.
But no amount of reading online or talking to past burners could truly prepare me for the sensory overload that was/is Burning Man.
The playa is a difficult place. It is hot during the day, cold at night. It gets incredibly windy. Sometimes the dust storms were so bad I could not see my hand in front of my face for an hour. It is loud all of the time. The playa is almost designed to be uncomfortable. And after attending, it is honestly something I love about it. It forces you out of your comfort zone. Everyone is the same and truly looking out for one another. A lot of the mistakes I made for my first time were lessened by the help or compassion of others on the Playa. Take a look at my 4 Burning Man mistakes I made, so that when you go to the Playa for the first time, you can have 4 less Burning Man mistakes to make yourself.
Burning Man Mistake 1: Fashion Over Practicality
Something that is so fun about Burning Man is getting to be anyone or anything you want. So much of being adult takes away the ability to be creative or imaginative. Burning Man allows you to play and imagine like a child again. A huge way to do that is through what you wear. I had so much fun planning funky outfits to rock on the Playa.
That being said, there are things I wish I had with me that maybe don’t look as festive, but serve a purpose better. Goggles are something every single person should have with them on the Playa. The dust storms get so extreme and protecting your peepers is completely necessary. I had a super cute pair of pink spikey googles that ended up not doing a great job of keeping the dust out. They also had super tinted lenses that made it difficult to see at night time. I would go for something like this next time.
Burning Man Mistake 2: Underestimating the Cold
I’ll keep this short. It gets cold in the desert at night. Colder than I anticipated. Yes my light up furry jacket was cute, but I stayed cold nearly every night. Next time I would have a warmer coat, but I would also pack hand warmers. Someone gifted me these one night and it helped so much. Definitely pack hand warmers to help you or someone else who’s cute light up jacket isn’t as warm as they’d like.
Something I missed during my research planning was having my own reusable cup. One of Burning Man’s principals is to ‘Leave No Trace.’ Meaning every single piece of trash you create while you’re there, you take with you. Many of the camps have parties or other fun events and have drinks for people. Wether a camp is giving out craft cocktails or frozen slushies, you need a cup. A friend of ours gave me a cup, but next time we go I will make sure I have my own. Seems silly, but it’s a huge thing to have. A clip on cup like this one would be perfect to keep clipped to your bag.
Black Rock City is about 7-8 miles in size, which is not including what is the “deep playa.” Getting around on foot is a really terrible way to see what Black Rock City has to offer. Bikes are the primary way of getting from place to place on the Playa. We did not have our own bicycles and had to borrow bikes from our camp. This wasn’t a sure fire plan because there were not always extra bikes to use. Having your own bike allows you to see much more of the Playa and explore anything you’d like. How else might you stumble upon a roller skating rink in the desert? A bike with ‘fat’ tires would be awesome. The playa is tough on bikes and thick tires could handle the terrain better I think. Dress it up with some fun lights and you are good to go. Next time we will definitely be bringing a bike like this one. (Make sure to pack a lock for your bike. They tend to disappear without one!)
Ultimately your first Burn is going to have some bumps along the way. It may sound cheesy, but I think that is part of the journey. There were times during our week there that I found myself questioning why in the world did I come to this? It was hard. Uncomfortable. Stressful. Overwhelming. It was also inspiring, beautiful, surreal and healing. The idea of bringing something you are holding on to and letting go of it at Burning Man is cathartic. I revisit Burning Man in my mind often look forward to when we can go back.
P.S. Pack baby wipes. Loads of them. Trust me!
Did you see last week’s post about Microblading your eyebrows? Check it out if you missed it!