A few weeks ago Zach and I set out to do what I like to call a “location redemption.” That’s when we go somewhere that we’ve been before, back in our drinking and partying days, and experience the place again through our now-sober selves. If you’re not in recovery it might be hard to understand, but I really love going back to some of the places where I partied particularly hard and made some not-great memories and “redeem” them by having a more conscious, mindful experience as a sober traveler.
Sedona was high on my list for a location redemption. I’d been there so many times, but I’d never really looked into the vortex phenomenon or any of the many spiritual aspects of Sedona. Enter Mark Griffon of Sedona Mystical Tours. I found Mark’s tour company online and knew immediately that having him guide us through Sedona would be the perfect way to finally experience the sacredness of the red rocks. And I was totally right. Mark’s expertise and gentle nature make him a perfect guide for seekers in Sedona. Mark took us off-the-beaten-track to some locations where we were the only people there, even during the crazy tourist season! Here’s the video we made of our Sedona Mystical Tour experience.
As you can see in the video, we had a truly remarkable experience in Sedona this time. We had started the day feeling stressed and anxious due to outside factors, but after a short while of hiking and feeling the vibration of the land with Mark, we both felt cool, calm and heavily meditated! It was wonderful.
This post will the first in our series on vortexes and spiritual places in the USA! Next on our list to visit and film are both the Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz, California, and the other Mystery Spot in the Upper Penninsula, Michigan! Where else should we go? Leave your recommendations in the comments!
This August, we again found ourselves waiting in a dusty line, inching onto the Playa. Burning Man 2018 was about to begin and we felt calm and ready to view and take part in the madness that is BURNING. Unlike Burners of the past, we wouldn’t be setting off explosives that leave massive craters, or eating piles of LSD and firing machine guns off of cars driving nearly 100mph. Burning Man was different now, still a deadly beast but a beast that was maybe, could you say manageable? This year, our 4th and 5th burns, respectively, Care Bear and I (Scattered Showers) planned to have a completely sober, and spiritual adventure in the desert. What took place was far greater than we could have ever imagined.
The first night of Burning Man 2018 we were greeted with a gloriously giant and red full moon. It was a great chance to let go of the last month of struggles and usher in the new month of possibilities. I saw my first glimpse of one of my favorite art pieces, a large helium balloon floated anchored from a bicycle. Half painted black and half illuminated, the balloon spun through the moon cycles beneath the real thing creating a trippy dual moon effect that was stunning simplistic perfection among the larger and more complicate attractions.
Here is a video of our adventure. We tried to be respectful and only film with consent. We did film inside the Temple which I have mixed feelings about. However, I tried to keep the camera focused on the beauty of the Temple itself, and not on the people or what they left in the temple. We only filmed on a couple excursions, as I feel it violates one of the 10 Principles of Burning Man – Immediacy.
We Burned, we Burned hard. Skipping the bar scene, skipping the raves, skipping the hours wasted staring at shiny things (mostly), we found ourselves with an abundance of time for self care and personal growth. We attended cacao ceremonies with ecstatic dancing. It was so very refreshing to dance with so many beautiful souls who were not smacking their lips on molly or shoveling cocaine up their noses. The connection was so much stronger, deeper, the energy in the space feeling more intoxicating than adrenaline pumping straight to the heart.
We attended gong baths, 1.5 hours long but they felt like they were over in the blink of the eye. We stretched in dusty yoga classes, embarked on shamanic drumming meditations, breathwork meditations, manifestation trainings, and even a workshop on sensually manipulating the energy of your partners’ chakras. After packing into the geodome with around 100 people, we were told that we could take off our clothes and play with each others “chakras” any way we pleased. We laughed and left, not feeling like having such intimate chakra play in front of so many strangers. We are weirdos and usually say “yes” to new experiences, but we found where our boundaries lie and are happy to keep the line drawn.
After a good night of sleep, we woke before Thursday’s sunrise to catch the yearly Tycho sunrise set on the Dusty Rhino art car in deep Playa at the Trash Fence. Tycho makes some of the least pretentious and most beautiful electronic music that exists, bringing in the new day in a way only a master could. As the sun popped over the horizon, new life filled the tired crowd, the loving smiles so infectious. Check out the set on Soundcloud through this link to relive the beautiful moment in time.
This was the first year that I felt that I accomplished all of my goals. I never (almost) felt FOMO as in other Burns, and slept enough to stay happy and healthy throughout the week. We ate well every day, showered several times, had time to give each other love and were able to give of ourselves to help others who had less fortunate experiences than us. Abundance and gratitude continued with us throughout the week as we lived lifetimes quickly and expanded our thinking to higher and higher levels, once thought unimaginable. We truly are boundless souls, only limited by our own thoughts and desires.
While Black Rock City is the closest thing to a utopia we have experienced, it isn’t perfect and we experienced several dark and unkind moments in Burning Man 2018. We had a sober campmate who was dosed with LSD, ruining several days of their Burn. They ended up recovering fine, but giving anyone mind altering substances without their consent is sick and cowardly, no matter how much you enjoy the substances yourself. Having been roofied ourselves in a different environment, finding yourself under that spell is a hell that I wish for no one to ever endure.
I have some other gripes to submit to the complaint department. MOOP (Matter Out Of Place) AKA litter was everywhere. This is becoming more of an issue every year and I believe that this is because of the overall rise of infamous “PLUG-n-PLAY” camps (sherpas that get paid to set up luxury accommodations for the wealthy) which litter Black Rock City like the moochers that stay with them. This different crowd of people don’t care about the principles of the city and their camps don’t explain to their guests about the importance of leaving no trace on the Playa (or the 10 Principles in general). These plug-n-play camps also eliminate another of the 10 Principals– Radical Self Reliance– which is an essential part of the Burning experience. When you lose the need to take care of yourself, it pulls energy from other parts of the city and collectively lowers the vibration of the entire infrastructure.
These MOOPing, radically RELIANT “sparkle ponies” (Burner lingo for people who show up with nothing but their pretty smiles and a bag of shiny clothes) are NOT Burners in my book and for all I care they can take their glitter, feathers, Segways, and douche-ey DJs straight back to Coachella where they belong. This would free up A LOT of tickets for the good Burners who belong in the city and contribute to our glorious dusty way of life.
Rant over. Besides those points, you can still have the classic Burning Man experience in 2018. Just don’t trust anyone who looks like they’ve had a few too many showers, combs their hair, or wears glitter or feathers (super MOOPy and culturally inappropriate unless you are in fact a Native American). This isn’t to say that all of the people who look like this have bad intentions, they just haven’t been ridiculed into submission yet by real Burners who abide by the rules. I just follow this simple to remember rule: DUSTY = TRUSTY. This rule along with some well-timed mockery which can go a long way 😉
The Playa is a place where you can rediscover an intense connection with your self. This can be frightening in its own sense but, if you can get through it, can be one of the most rewarding experiences that radical environments like Burning Man can offer. The default world (what we Burners call real life) can separate even the strongest spiritual souls from the magic the human experience, and coming back into balance has deeply altered more than a few destinies.
Some other highlights of Burning Man 2018:
Being chased by a man on 5 foot stilts. He was stamping passer-bys with his camp logo. I pulled away on my bike at top speed, the chase lasting longer and growing faster than I could have imagined. It was a great race but I won by an arms length, stilts man missing me by an arms distance as I reached full biking speed.
Finding all you can eat ice cream (3 flavors) about a kilometer out into the deepest part of the Playa under a giant statue of a chameleon.
Finding a tribe of people who don’t drink but have more fun than all the wasted people combined.
Getting magically gifted an In-n-Out burger on Friday night.
Leaving with a clear mind and easily reintegrating with the default world, hopefully bringing what I’ve learned back with me and leaving my negativities in the dust.
Controlling the giant Sextant Tesla Coils with a piano keyboard. I played some deep scary bass and received an unexpected applause at the end (it’s in our video above).
I’m not here to tell you to go to Burning Man, in fact quite the opposite. Its hot, long, dirty, and loud, with lots of unruly individuals. You shouldn’t go unless you have time to research how to Burn properly, being respectful to the city and those who have giving so much of their love to create it. There are already far too many people out there who don’t belong or deserve to be there, so if you have any doubts then stick to your local music festival. Burning Man is NOT a music festival, hint hint.
If you think you have what it takes to be a real Burner, consider checking out a regional Burn first. These events are numerous and take place all over the world. They are easy to get tickets to, less environmentally challenging (sometimes), and can have much more intimate atmospheres. Many Burners much prefers these smaller events to the BIG Burn, as they are usually shorter and as said, much more accessible. A Google search will help you find them, figure it out yourself.
To all those wild-eyed weirdos out there who made Burning Man 2018, my 5th Burn, my best Burn, I thank you. Although we have a different kind of strange and epic adventure planned for 2019, we will see you in 2020. As our camp neighbor Fermat liked to flirt, “Wanna get dusty with me?”
Carrie recently wrote an article for The Fix about how to have an awesome time at Burning Man without drugs and alcohol. Check it out here!
Hi lovely readers! You may be wondering what we have been doing in the months since we posted! It’s been so long! Our digital nomad lives have brought us home to the USA for a summer of roadtrip camping adventures, visiting friends and family, and running some workshops and retreats for our yoga retreat company Bigger Life Adventures. It’s been fun to live “Dirtbag Life” with our Prius and our tent again and explore the beautiful nature of our own country. It’s almost VanLife, right? Here’s a video we made to show you our road trip through Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado.
The highlight of the trip was definitely the Via Ferrata in Telluride, Colorado, which you watched at the end of the video above. This amazing adventure course is bolted into a rock wall hundreds of feet above the stunning Telluride Valley. It’s super thrilling and LONG, with sections of hiking and sections of scary iron steps and a sheer dropoff below! It took us about four hours. So worth it for the views and the adventure though!
The other huge highlight of our summer so far was hosting our Mid-Summer Reset at Laguna Mountain retreat campout! We had 13 guests and it went super well! I got to teach yoga in the beautiful mountain meadows of east San Diego County and Zach cooked amazing plant-based meals for everyone! We can’t wait to host our next retreat in Sri Lanka!
BURNING MAN 2017 – The dust, oh the dust. I can still smell it if I think hard enough. The Playa sticks to everything that’s ever been there. Like a tattoo, it never comes off. Whenever Burners are feeling sad or nostalgic, they can open up their dusty costumes bin and give their dinosaur print tights a shake, Playa poofing out. The memories we make out at Black Rock City stick to us the same way. They change who we are, and who we were at the same time. The person you are when you are waiting to get into the city will never return to the default world. Accepting this fact and letting it happen is one of the most important things you can accomplish at Burning Man. The ego must die for us to truly be alive.
This is not a guide like “How to go to Burning Man” or “My Favorite Photos of Burning Man 2017″and this is not a memoir, but merely a reflection. Not everything is rainbows and unicorns in Black Rock City. Things get hard and there are hourly challenges. However, it’s these moments of struggle that make it all worth it. If easy is your thing then go to Coachella, because I don’t want to hear you whining when I’m having a good time.
“Welcome Home,” oh how nice it was to see those words! Burning Man 2017 started with a bang and took off at the speed of light. We somehow missed the gate line, getting in in under two hours. We set up in the night, a windless night perfect for assembling our shade structure. Before dawn we were all up and running, so we went for a bike ride to give our virgin Burners a sense of direction. The stars were clear and you could see the Milky Way, letting us know things were good, beacons of normality in a city of the unimaginable.
The first few days we had perfect weather, then a huge windstorm came out of nowhere. The normal dust blows in a shade of grey, but this was a deep orange tan. Our shade structure was strong, but I yelled for everyone to grab a corner. For what seemed like eternity we held onto that tent as I couldn’t see my hands that were holding the poles in front of my face. I crouched down, fearful of less stable shade tents flying through the air like deadly weapons. The storm left as soon as it came, leaving us to make some quick repairs. My hand was bleeding but I didn’t feel it, the adrenaline pumping hard and WE WERE ALIVE!
We sure had some crazy nights. A particularly memorable night went something like this: rode our bikes to the center, left them near Pink Heart then wandered by foot. Found a black light camp with a fish theme, they gave you 3D glasses than made you walk though a sort of 3D maze. Upon exiting, we noticed the Charlie The Unicorn art car not far away. We walked out towards the light and had a really good dance party; Charlie was a great host. From there were heard the “crack clack tak tak tak ztaaa cap” of the giant Tesla coils. I stared at them for what seemed like hours, unable to convince myself that they weren’t shooting electricity to the sounds of Charlie’s beats. Eventually we went back to camp for a water refill or something, then stayed up all night laughing with our campmates. Around 4am we went searching for the Dusty Rhino art car. After about an hour we found it and followed it off into the desert where Tycho played his annual sunrise set. The music was chill and when the sun peaked over the horizon, shining though the dusty haze, it was one of the most spectacular things I’ve ever seen.
By the time the man burned things had already gotten out of hand. Everyone was strung out (Carrie interjection —not everyone! Sober burners do exist!) and the weekend warriors had arrived the night before with their RVs, and drugs, and moopyness. MOOP, (Mater Out Of Place) is one of the most important words on the Playa. Not one piece of anything should ever hit the ground and one must always be watching for moop. Some people are born moopers, leaving an ugly trail of trash through their entire lives. Once you are mindful of mooping, it’s easy to avoid. The Playa is generally spotless until the weekend warriors arrive. Not really Burners, they just come for the party and fail to notice the details, the point of the whole thing.
Saturday night, everyone is sitting around the Man for the big burn. Firemen made a circle at a safe distance to keep back the crazies. The whole ritual is very pagan feeling, with masked fire baring dragons who light the fuse. There were fireworks and, as always, a huge explosion that you can feel from the edges of the city. Fortunately for us we watched from the 6 o’clock side as viewers on the 12 o’clock end had to witness a man break through the perimeter and end his life in the flames.
We didn’t hear about this until the morning. The man didn’t make it to the fire, but collapsed from the heat far away from the flames. When the structure had fallen, a team of volunteer firemen risked their own lives to drag the man out of the heat. He was still clinging to life but died soon after rescue. Many people had seen it, and it had affected them greatly. Sunday is always a day for tears, but this time was different. There was pity and grief, but lots of anger as well. Suicide can be viewed as selfish, but it touches too closely to home for us. Carrie and I have both had loved ones take their own lives and we have helped friends though times that they felt were the end. There is always hope, never give up, never give up.
In the United States our health care is terrible. Our mental health care is worse. There are no cheap ways to get help and most sufferers of depression keep the feeling locked up inside for years, embarrassed or their weaknesses. It’s our society as a whole that creates this feeling, this lack of spirituality, empty living without purpose. We are always striving for the next material thing, next vacation, next promotion, because then we will be happy! But the truth is, these rat races are fueling the sadness, perpetuating the emptiness that our lives have become. Only through turning off, tuning out, and releasing ourselves from the chains of modern desires can we truly be free to be free from pain and suffering.
The Temple burn on Sunday is always a somber event. The art cars mute their beats and its the first silence you’ve heard it weeks. The fire burns slowly, the structure strong. One soul in the middle of the crowd let out a howl of the wolf. This howling spread organically through the masses until we were all howling at the moon, upset at ourselves and our inability to control the world around us. Tears flowed from many of our fellow Burners that night; it was one of the hardest days I can remember in Black Rock City.
The experience ended in a rough way. There were always mixed feelings when leaving, but this was not the way it was suppose to go. We were supposed to be happy, high on life and our experiences, excited for next year and sharing our ideas for it. But we were left far more questions than answers, the uncertainty of the whole things growing deeper. What were we even doing out here, where life shouldn’t exist? The idea of a shower and the comforts of home kept us going as we used our last bits of mental fuel to navigate the dusty exit road and reenter the hard pavement of the default realm.
We arrived at Burning Man 2017 as seven friends, and left as one. The experiences you share create a bond that can’t be broken. Once you truly see and you look into someone else’s eyes and you just know that they see it too, there is no turning back.
We were long overdue on a trip to Portland, Oregon. Over the years we’ve met so many friends who’ve lived there or who were moving there. It always sounded like a place that we would love. And we did!
Portland is one of the most vegan-friendly cities in the world, so food was our number one priority! Of course our first stop had to be the super-famous Voodoo Donuts! They have regular and vegan donuts there. I never used to be a huge donut person, but somehow in the last couple years I’ve become a super-fan of these creamy, dreamy delights. With their funky creative looks and flavors, Voodoo did not disappoint.
The rest of our two days was spent mostly wandering around seeing some of the sights and eating more. Highlights were vegan chicken wings (really!) from Fire on the Mountain Buffalo Wings, shopping and coffee and pie from the Vegan Mini Strip Mall (which consists of a coffee shop, a grocery store, a vegan clothing boutique, and a vegan tattoo shop), ice cream from Salt & Straw, and the most amazing vegan pizza ever from Virtuous Pie. Seriously, go there.
We also enjoyed checking out all the amazing street art around town! We especially loved the Alberta Arts District where we each found a mural of our favorite animal that perfectly matched the shirt we were wearing. Crazy!
Oh, and Portland also has a vegan strip club, which we didn’t have a chance to make it to. I guess it’s great to be able to support veganism no matter what other activities you’re into!
We took a break from the city one morning to drive down the Columbia River Gorge, checking out several beautiful waterfalls along the way. We ended our drive at Bridge of the Gods in Cascade Locks, a PCT and road bridge spanning the river and crossing into Washington state. Sadly, about one week after our visit, the whole north side of the gorge area was set ablaze in a careless human-caused wildfire and the views will never be the same.
Back in Portland, we drove up to Pittock Mansion to watch the sun set over the city. Our visit was too short so we’ll definitely have to go back for more someday!
As soon as we entered Oregon we could tell that this thing was going to be huge. Every car was loaded down, tents and coolers strapped to the roof. The Great American Eclipse, as it was being called, was turning small towns across the nation into giant festivals with fields full of thousands of campers. Several years before, a few farmers near Madras, Oregon had noticed that the eclipse would pass right over their fields. More than 5000 campsites were sold just in those fields, with other farmers hosting similar events nearby. We arrived on Saturday in the evening; the big event to happen Monday morning. The place was already a mad house and I believe we took the last available space, with many more people circling for spots. Solar Town was the name of our event and Solarfest was happening in the town a few miles away. We were already super efficient and competent campers so we had ourselves some chuckles at everyone struggling with their new tents. The town was simple with portapotties and free showers, along with a variety of food vendors that we never sampled because of the long lines and our tight budget.
We had fun meeting our neighbors and even got to hang out with our friend from home Kelly, who ended up being camped in the next field over!
We made a short video about our experience so you can get a taste of what it was like. We didn’t actually get a shot of the eclipse happening because we didn’t really try to. We wanted to be fully present. But you can see Solar Town and see our reactions to the wonder! We both cried when totality happened. There was nothing that could have prepared us for those moments. If you ever get the chance to witness an eclipse, DO IT!
Entering Oregon was something we were super excited for. Carrie hadn’t been there yet, so it was her 44th state. Headed towards Crater Lake National Park, we found a free campsite in a quiet spot on the shores of Klamath Lake and set about relaxing for the afternoon. We had been using a site called FreeCampsites.net which was hit or miss. Make sure to read the reviews and find recent ones. The sky was again smoky from distant forest fires which created a cool haze. After dark we had to escape into our tent because the mosquitoes were intense.
It the morning we got an early start and made our way north, passing through beautiful empty spaces. Getting close to Crater Lake National Park we passed many cyclists racing up to the lake. It looked like a fun ride, but grueling. Our first view of the lake was very impressive. I had been here before as a child and enjoyed it then just as much. My family tells me stories of how I talked about it for weeks.
Crater Lake was created almost 8,000 years ago by the collapsing of a volcano. It is the deepest lake in the United States, at 1,949 feet deep. There are a couple of beautiful islands, Wizard Island being the most prominent. We drove around to the north side, which took a lot longer than expected but was a stunningly beautiful drive.
We parked at the top of the Cleetwood Trail, the easiest way to the bottom. I had also heard from my father many times about how he had to carry my brother and I back up this trail after the whole family went to the base. It was much easier now with full-sized legs. There trail was just over a mile one way and we were quickly at the bottom. The water was icy cold still even though it was August, but Carrie just had to get in so she cliff jumped off an awesome rock. You’ll see it in the awesome trip highlights video we are making! You can never complain about blue blue water and rocks, no matter how cold.
On the way out we joined the traffic headed north for the big event. It was eclipsing time and we were pumped. Stay tuned for stories from Solar Town…