People always ask what Burning Man is about, and it’s a tough question to answer. That’s because it can be whatever you make of it. Stated as simply as I can, it’s an art festival that encourages self-expression. It requires radical self-reliance. It’s definitely not for everyone, but with the right attitude and circumstance, the experience can be transformative. For an introvert like myself, it gives me an opportunity to confront my shyness and sharpen the way that I deal with people.
There’s a lot of misunderstanding about what Burning Man is—some of it justified, some of it not. I’ve heard it’s a “bunch of drugged out hippies partying in the desert.” I’ve heard it described as a life altering experience. Others say that it’s a means for emotional release from a traumatic event or loss. There are a lot of opinions out there—which you would expect from a gathering of 60,000—but the means are there to mold the experience into something that’s unique to every participant. Generally speaking it’s a completely judgment-free zone, so you can be comfortable being whoever you are or happen to be during the week. In that respect, it’s a very civilized and emotionally liberating experience.
So how did this all start with me? Well, I started going to the festival because I became very close with a network of long time burners about six years ago. My foray into Burning Man started under their tutelage. This group is part of a larger group of North Americans known as the Outer Ring Collective—or “ORC.”