Imagine a place where you can truly be yourself. If your heart told you to belt out a song at the top of your lungs no one would blink an eyelash. You could spend all day wearing a bikini made of fur or nothing but a sparkly tutu. In fact, clothing is optional here. Although the harsh desert climate of scorching hot days and cold nights will probably dictate your dress code.
Your time is spent discovering fantastic art, music, workshops on endless topics, knowledge and experiences reaped from complete strangers who soon become friends. This is just a small snippet of Burning Man, an extraordinary event that happens each year at the end of August where over 50,000 people gather in Black Rock City, Nevada to create something that simply cannot be described in words.
It’s more than just an art festival, more than any music festival or ‘hippie’ festival that’s out there in the world. It’s a city of indescribable creativity and diversity that rises from the desert, or as the participants affectionately refer to as the “playa” and flourishes for one week before everything returns back its normal state.
One aspect of Burning Man that makes it so unique is the gift economy. Money becomes obsolete once you enter the playa. This doesn’t mean that things are exchanged because to truly give something is to expect nothing in return. Generosity thrives on the playa with people gifting all sorts of things from free hugs and compliments to blueberry pancakes or even a spank on your butt if that’s what you want.
You do have to spend money beforehand on the event ticket, transportation, shelter, food, water and clothes. Camping tents and RVs are the most common forms of housing while you’re on the playa, but more experienced burners often build domes as their temporary home. No one is exempt from the playa dust that gets into your hair, nose, food, and all your nice clothes. It’s a liberating experience that teaches you to let go and just enjoy living in the moment.
Natalie Glebova went to Burning Man in 2013 all the way from Thailand. She describes one of her favorite experiences, “Riding [a bicycle] at sunset in the open playa, being alone with my thoughts, headphones on, listening to beautiful music, was incredible. I never felt so care-free and peaceful as I did then. I got so carried away that I lost track of all time as it got dark. At night, the whole city transforms into an ocean of lights, and what a sight that is! You can spend hours just walking around enjoying all the fire, lasers, lit up art, bikes, costumes, art cars, and people. It can get almost overwhelming with so much visual and audio stimulation that makes you feel ecstatic and filled with immense child-like wonder.”