After years of wanting to go, in 2015 I finally made it to my first every Burningman Festival. Nothing can compare you for this overwhelming, uplifting, crazy week in the heart of the Nevada Desert.
What is Burning Man festival?
6 months on from going to my first Burn and I’m still not sure what to make of the experience. For those of you that don’t know, Burning Man is a week long festival that occurs once a year in Nevada’s Desert. Tens of thousands of people gather to create this temporary metropolis dedicated to self-expression, art, self-reliance and community – creating a semi-circle city that centres on a giant wooden structure of a Man. There is no exchange of money, everything at the festival is ‘gifted’ meaning passed on for free, and everyone contributes something and must bring enough water and food to survive a week in the desert.
Everyday there is a wealth of things to do including workshops, talks and performances. People dress up in elaborate, expressive costumes. There are huge pieces of art dotted around the deep Playa (the space beyond the man) and art cars – moving sculptures with giant sound systems and impressive themes that you can jump aboard for a ride (think gigantic pirate ship, with a working carousel on board, that spends it’s days driving around the city).
A Rollercoaster Ride
I’m normally very quick to adapt to things so thought I would be fine with Burning Man but actually, it was the first new thing in a long time that I just couldn’t settle into. It’s just so different from anything else I have ever done or seen before. While everyone walked around in their strange outfits (or just naked), I felt too weird to dress up just for the sake of it. That’s ok though as there were loads of people who wore their ‘regular’ clothes.
My week was a real mix of extreme highs and lows. One thing I would experience something amazing and the next second I would suddenly feel very confused with the whole thing and lost about what to do or where to go next.
Looking back I can see that it is the experience that you go for. Regardless of if they are good or bad, they are always different and there to make you question, grow and change. I came definatley came out a different person. I really hope one day to go back as I’m certain my second experience would be entirely different.
1. Dust, dust and more dust
Endless sandstorms and no running water on site. It gets EVERYWHERE and does not leave.
2. Visual overload
At night the city turns into a electric mix made up of thousands of neon lights, flames and endless raves.
3. A real desert
Just past the Deep Playa you are surrounded by endless desert and rocky mountains.
4. Flying high
The city has it’s own airport and where we discovered pilots ‘gifting’ flights – an amazing moment, although I almost had a heart attack when, without warning, the pilot suddenly dropped the plane!
5. A different norm
This photo says it all
6. Inspiring art
This huge sculpture was just sat their peacefully in the middle of the dessert.
7. Tough desert conditions
As well as the endless dust, the desert brings bitter cold nights. The only way to stay warm is to huddle by a fire.
8. Moments of calm
Amongst all the mayhem, I had some real moments of calm and self-discovery, sometimes following a workshop or talk and sometimes just sitting and taking it all in
9. Sunrises like this
Staying up all night, freeing and tired, but worth the wait to see the sunrise.
10. Appreciating the hard work
I got a sense of how much work went into building things like the art cars which take years and thousands of $ to put together and maintain
There were numerous temples and spaces to explore spirituality away from organised religion
12. The burn
At the end of the week the Man, along with a lot of the art pieces, are burnt to the ground – it was a sad but fitting way to end my week and the moment I officially became a Burner
How to get to Burning Man as a foreigner
Burning Man tickets are sold on a lottery that involves a lot of pot luck and is even harder to organise from abroad. If you have missed out on the lottery there is still a way to get tickets and that is to travel with the Green Tortoise – the only organised group at Burning Man who are also allowed to arrange tickets.
This is how we went and although it seems expensive at $909, excluding the $390 ticket cost, this includes transport (from either San Fran or Reno), all your water and food for the week and a comfortable base at the festival with a shaded seated area (doesn’t sound like much but you will appreciate it).
After working out the costs of going solo and paying sky high prices for a car hire, this option worked out cheaper and had a huge amount of benefits. The biggest being that if you book on their tour they will hook you up with a valuable ticket – even after the lottery has ended.
Flight: $1200 (from the UK to San Fransisco)
Green Tortoise Tour: $909
Burning Man Ticket: $390
Alcohol: $60 (brought from a supermarket on the way to the festival)
Equipment: $40(I already had all the camping gear so just needed ski goggles and dust mask)
Bike: $100 (brought through Green Tortoise)
TOTAL: $2699 (or £1770)