Mardi Gras, Venice Carnival, Oktoberfest… Festival traveling is a popular trend nowadays! We’ve decided to look at one of the most famous events in the world to understand what are the perks of festival traveling. Burning Man is an art and subculture festival happening every year in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. We’ve asked Dima, who has visited US Burning Man twice already, to tell us more about it.
Hi, Dima and thanks for agreeing to talk about your festival experience! First, tell us how is going to a festival different from “regular” traveling?
Usually, you travel to see places, but you go to festivals to see people. You stay in one place, yet you meet people from all over the world. You discover a million different cultures and worldviews, you meet new friends and get to know yourself… In a way, it’s much more than you can get even from a most extensive tourist trip.
Sounds great! You went to a huge festival, Burning Man. What’s its idea?
First, it’s an art happening: during the event, a lot of different installations get mounted, some of them fantastically weird. It’s modern monumental art at its best. Second, it is a festival of self-expression. Costumes are encouraged, and you can dress as and be whoever you want. Sometimes you feel like Alice in Wonderland there – surrounded by creatures from an LSD dream. Mostly the festival is about celebrating diversity, friendship, and acceptance. There’s also music, music everywhere! Besides, it’s ecologically friendly, as the rule is that you can’t leave any trace after the event.
Burning Man Program
Let’s talk the timing then: when does it happen and what’s the timeline?
The dates are not fixed, but Burning Man usually takes place in August or September. The exact timing is known at least half a year in advance when the ticket sales commence. Burning Man lasts for a week, but a lot of teams arrive earlier to build the artwork and set the camps or leave late to help with the clean-up.
There are several key moments during the festival, one of them being the burning of the huge wooden Man itself on the night before the last. To mark the end of the festival they burn the Temple – a wooden building where people come to write their sorrows on the walls and let them burn. Apart from that, each camp has its own theme and program. You are usually given a printed program of events at the start of the festival and you can try to plan your time…. But it will never go according to your plan, so just trust the festival to bring you to the right places at the right time :)
Getting to Burning Man
And how does one go about getting to the festival?
Well, the most difficult part is getting an entrance ticket! The sale starts in January – February, and all the 60000 tickets (about 400$ each) are usually gone in, like, 15 seconds. But don’t despair if you don’t manage to get one! You can always line up for the tickets on the forum, as everybody buys 2 – the maximum you can get per person – and sells the spare ones later. On the very same forum, you can ask to join different teams that are looking for hands to help prepare camps and build the objects. If they want you, they will probably find you a ticket. You can advertise what you can do (are you good with electricity or woodwork or painting?) or reply to the teams’ advertisements. Needless to say, it’s much more fun to participate in the building than just going as a tourist!
Second, you’ll have to find a camp to live in. If you’re not part of a building team, you must be admitted (300-1000$ more) to one of the camps that provide tents, food and (most importantly!) water in the desert. The camps often also organize cars and buses from San Francisco to the desert, as car rental services are very reluctant to serve you if they suspect you are driving to the desert.
Preparing for Burning Man
Once you have the ticket and are admitted to a camp, how do you prepare for the trip?
Getting ready for the festival is almost as much fun as the festival itself! First, seriously consider making a costume! It can be done cheaply and will contribute greatly to your experience! Check your camp’s topic and see if you can make something fitting, or just go with something you’ve always wanted to wear, however weird! Sometimes camps and country delegations meet in advance to get to know each other and discuss the preparations. Try to participate in these meetings. Finally, when in doubt, you can always post your question to the forum and people will answer.
When packing, it’s vital to remember that you are going to a desert, so strong sunglasses, sunblock, a hat and a mask are a must! The temperatures vary from 40°C during the day to 0°-5°C during the night, so make sure you have clothes for a wide range of temperatures. The sand will be everywhere so take care of your eyes: take some eyedrops and always wear glasses! People usually pack clothes for the way back in a plastic bag and never take them out during the festival to keep them safe from the sand. Always have some water on you and refrain from alcohol and coffee to prevent dehydration. Wipes, hand disinfectant, and ear plugs are also your best friends. Finally, take some lights to put on you during the night to stay visible for vehicles even in bad visibility. Read the Survival Guide to help you prepare.
The most important thing to prepare is a smile! Remember to be open-minded, friendly and acceptant of everything that comes your way. Be ready to participate and have fun!
Hopefully, this article has given you a good taste of Burning Man festival, and if you have more questions, ask in the comments!Written by Kate