Set It On Fire: A Week at Burning Man

Burning Man is a magical gathering where 70k people travel from all over the world to the Nevada desert to build and tear down an entire city in a single week.

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Burning Man is a magical gathering, unlike anything else I have ever experienced. It takes place in the middle of the dusty Nevada, Black Rock Desert, where 70,000 people travel from all over the world to the middle of nowhere to build and tear down an entire city in a single week.

This is my third burn, and every year, I am drawn back because of the crazy experiences I share with my friends. We continue to talk about this single week for the entire year because of how many stories we bring back.

What I love most is that the trip starts months in advance, bringing 30 of us closer together as we plan through every detail of the trip; what needs building, what meals we’re going to cook, and how we’re going to contribute to the festival.

The journey down is as unique as the event itself. Filled with anticipation, we pile into Dusty The Bus, driving the 18 hours from Seattle to Black Rock City, Nevada. Even with so many helping hands, constructing our camp takes over a full day of hard work once we arrive – but that’s part of the experience. The effort, cuts, sweat, and dust are totally worth it.

This has become our week.

The chance to bring all of us together, forgetting about the default world, to deepen the connections between us. What started as a group of 12 has multiplied to 30 people over the last three years. Each burn brings us closer as we test, express, and surround ourselves with endless creativity.

Burning Man has an official list of 10 principles. But what we take most from the adventure are the principles of self reliance, radical self expression, civic responsibility, and participation. These principles govern our experience, creating an unparalleled foundation for our everyday lives.

We leave the burn with a humbling realization that the capabilities of human creativity and kindness make it worth going back to the desert every year.

As a part of Burning Man, everyone is expected to contribute to the community.

This year our group had “silent discos” where we handed out 80 pairs of headphones all tuned to the same radio channel. Random passersby’s were able to join, creating a massive silent dance party with everyone grooving to the same beat. We also served snow cones — a huge hit during the scorching desert days.

You will never come across the same thing twice at Burning Man. Every art piece, person, structure, art car, or dust storm is completely unique and fascinating. It’s a sensory overload. A person dressed in a bunny costume might run at you from 50 feet away at full speed, just to ask you if you’ve seen where his carrot went. A colossal lighthouse will emerge with slanted towers connected by functioning rope bridges. A friend will impress the group with a backflip into a giant foam pit. An art car will magically appear through a dust storm, offering Caprisuns to everyone. And you’ll see more ways to play with fire than you ever dreamed of.

I can’t make this stuff up. The possibilities are endless.

The two main burning events are the Man Burn and the Temple Burn, both meaningful in their own way. The Man Burn on Saturday is a grandiose celebration closing out the week which includes fire dancers, fireworks, champagne, and watching the iconic Man go up in flame. The Temple Burn on Sunday takes on a more subdued tone. Throughout the week, Burners come to leave homages, letters, tears, and memories. The immense belly of the Temple hits you with a flood of emotion, regardless of your previous mindset. During its burning, it is time to let go of all grief, despair, and bad vibes. It is a truly beautiful and humbling experience that bonds everyone together to the core.


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