I first went to Burning Man in 2002, with my ex-fiancée. It was a fantastic time, great adventure with great memories – we returned fulfilled, but didn’t really see a need to go back. Inside though, I told myself that if I ever found myself single again, I would return to the desert.
Last year I found myself single again, and went back – it was a completely different event, but worth every second.
Lots of people talk about making the epic journey to the desert, but not nearly as many actually make it down – well, at least not so many from Canada, seeing as it’s an eighteen-hour drive. One trick that I’ve employed both times now which seems to work pretty well is to purchase a ticket, even if you’re not sure you’re going to actually go. I know, it seems so simple, but it works – just having a physical reminder of your plan makes it much easier to save the money and buy the gear.
Last year I was in a bit of a strange space – my entire world pretty much collapsed. In the span of a few months, my job of six years went away due to a corporate buyout, my relationship of eight years went away, and I thought I’d have to sell my house. Fortunately I got a large severance package from the buyout, and was able to take a few months to get my head on straight again. Burning Man was a huge reset switch for me, and made me rethink a lot of my personal comfort boundaries; specifically boundaries regarding time and scheduling, imparting to me a new desire to rid myself of scheduling whenever possible, so as to allow myself to jump on plans that sound like adventure whenever they present themselves.
The biggest example of that desire would probably be in the form of a beautiful young girl named Suzy, with whom I had a whirlwind romance that lasted months after the end of the festival. We met on Friday afternoon and danced through the weekend; on Sunday morning, returning to the campsite to get some rest, we discovered my campmates packing up to leave ten hours before our scheduled departing time. We decided that we hadn’t quite had enough time together, and she suggested that I could get a ride to Los Angeles with her and her friends and that she’d drive me back to Vancouver in a few days. A road trip on the California highway with a beautiful girl in a brand new Mini Cooper sounded like a lot of fun – but having been awake for days on end there was a good chance that I wasn’t thinking clearly. I discussed it with my campmates, and to my surprise they agreed that it sounded like a fine adventure. So, with my backpack and a few days’ worth of clothes, we waved our goodbyes to the Vancouver caravan as it pulled away, and wandered over to meet up with the other ride “home”.
Unfortunately, upon meeting the other ride we found that they didn’t actually plan to leave that day, and would instead be leaving two days later! This threw a bit of a wrench in the plans, given that I had just sent all my camping equipment, water and food home in the Winnebago. We stuck around for a few hours, but after a week in the desert we were both dying to get out of there. So, in the spirit of adventure, we sent her equipment home with her friends, biked to the front gates, and began hitchhiking!
Fortune was with us, and I doubt we hitchhiked for more than two minutes before being picked up by a single driver in a Lexus SUV. He gave us beer and fresh steaks, and dropped us off in Reno at a fleabag hotel. In the morning, we wandered to a café, rented a fast car over the internet, and then picked it up and drove to Lake Tahoe where we had the swim we’d been planning for days. Then we drove through the night to Los Angeles – and a day later, I found myself attending a Cultural Anthropology class at the University of Santa Monica.
That experience cinched it for me – great adventure is out there to be had, though it won’t find me hiding in my basement. I need to put myself in the way; the river may well carry me somewhere cool, but not without throwing myself into the current first.
I haven’t figured out any plans yet, though I know that most if not all of the friends who went last year will not be going again this year. I do know of a few folks who are going down from Vancouver, and while they’re not close friends, they’re friendly acquaintances that I’d like to know better. I know that last year I spent a good portion of my time at the burn at a daytime dance club called “The Deep End”, and that if I make my way back there again I’d like to volunteer to bartend or help with their soundsystem.
This could be good, or this could be bad – a part of me is very excited about the idea of going down completely alone, and the adventure that that could represent. Another part of me thinks that’s crazy, and wonders how the hell I’ll get seven days worth of food, water and camping supplies into the desert on my back.
…but I’ve bought a ticket.