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!
She also was quoted in SFGATE, a San Francisco newspaper, about things to do sober at Burning Man.
Like this story about our Burning Man 2018 experience? Check out some previous meanderings through Burning Man 2014 (and here’s Carrie’s take)and Burning Man 2017 (Burning Man 2011 and Burning Man 2016 were lost in space time). As always, please like our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram @laaventuraproject for more travel tales as we meander through this strange and wonderful planet and beyond!