“THE PLAYA WILL GIVE YOU WHAT YOU NEED AND NOT WHAT YOU WANT”
This quote is written somewhat everywhere at Burning Man. The playa is what we call the desert in Black Rock City where the annual Burning Man festival takes place. I never thought much about this quote. Before attending my first burn – yes, I can finally say I’m not a virgin burner anymore – there’s a ton of information to learn and lots of preparation to do. Hence, I never expected anything. However, what I did know is I would have the chance to see amazing art installations. From art that looks like a dolphin, octopus, or steamboat, many of which breath fire, to art that lights up and moves. It is a surreal world how the art, especially at night, keeps moving.
After waiting and driving patiently for 10+ hours, I finally reached Burning Man. The exhaustion of setting up the camp, which took a full day, was completely erased by the view I saw. A city of some 50,000 people emerged in a day. By the end of the week, that number reached an estimated 70,000 participants or as we called them “burners”.
I never heard about transformative experiences at Burning Man. It’s because I didn’t know about Burning Man beforehand. As I read Brody’s article on How Burning Man Changed My Life: Slowly but Surely, and how his 12th year in a row of attendance had changed his life, I realized that Burning Man had changed mine too. This was my first year at Burning Man, but it already changed me.
“YOU BECOME CAPABLE IN WAYS THAT GO FAR BEYOND THE CONFINES OF YOUR COZY, SAFE, SOMEWHAT BORING MIDDLE-CLASS LIFE. YOU BECOME THE BEST VERSION OF YOURSELF.” – CHRIS TAYLOR
An article by Chris Taylor, published by Mashable, explains how Burning Man Sucks. “Burning Man, at its best, sucks. It’s supposed to. In the crucible of the desert, in the process of having to think about the basics of survival in the most inhospitable environment on Earth, a community is formed. [However] You become capable in ways that go far beyond the confines of your cozy, safe, somewhat boring middle-class life. You become the best version of yourself.”
Yes, it is true. At Burning Man you somewhat become the best version of yourself.
As for me, I became more open to new ideas.
More accepting my body.
More direct, honest, and true to my beliefs.
Knew that I’m stronger than I thought.
Learned my personal limit.
Understood that saying “sorry” is not necessary when you stand up for your beliefs.
How to firmly say “Thank you, but no” without feeling guilty.
And finally, that my gut is my greatest asset.
I actively started conversations with strangers. This is one I needed to learn and do that was difficult in the default world. But, Burning Man slowly change this for me. Of course, I don’t start talking and hugging every stranger, I met, especially in NYC (read: why I’m in NYC now). Once in awhile, it’s liberating to connect and share memories with strangers about the mundane things of life.
I made a new friend who spent most of his time participating in dance activities because that was his passion. Another friend said she always discovers herself by returning to Burning Man.
The Burning Man experience will not affect each person the same way. Everyone has their version. Be it a spiritual journey, the best party of your life, the place where you harness your creativity, or it is the place to detach from your 9 to 5 life.
What’s unquestionable is the dust. It’s inescapable.
People will tolerate going to the portapotties, and won’t care that they’re sharing it with 70,000 other people. There will be gifts. Lots of them. You’ll realize strangers will give anything you need in unexpected locations. Food, booze, clothes, a shower or place to get married.
The day where the Temple burns marked a spiritual time for me. I went there alone as I could not find my friends, and was determined to see this beautiful art pieces engulfed in flames. The openness and carefree energy of the playa led me to meet a 12-year veteran burner. I shared this experience with this stranger. We stood, silently watching the temple slowly light up in flames. It was mesmerizing.
The one-week experience at Burning Man was otherworldly.
I’m not saying it will affect you the same way. In fact, as you go day-by-day in the Playa, you will experience something or meet someone that just may have the possibility to change your life. Be open to it. Look at setbacks as another adventure. And then by the end of the week, you’ll see how each and every moment at Burning Man will be the most treasured experience of your life.