Burning Man Lessons: 2011 Edition

Now that it’s been nearly a week since re-entering the ‘default world’ I thought I’d take a few minutes and share what I learned this year at BurningMan.

As you know, I complain each year about how hot it is, and that was just as true as it was the first I went to the festival four years ago – so nothing on that front.

But other things I did learn?

First off drum solos are boring to listen to after five minutes. A neighbor played a live song from Eric Clapton. No I don’t know which one, but at some point, I could hear nothing but drums. At first I thought ‘oh, that’s cool.’ Dum, dum, ting, dum….’I like this.’ But after 15 minutes, my thoughts turned to ‘he’s still going?’ and ‘does this ever end?’ It then hit me since I can’t see the drummer in action I was missing out on everything visual. I learned two senses are needed to enjoy drums.

On the same note (!), I also learned some Frank Sinatra songs have a lot of base. I never considered him to be overall bassy, but guess what? He is. Only in the desert can you learn those things right?! 

Time slows down during the day. I swear to God some afternoons it felt like an entire afternoon had passed until I peaked at my watch to see only five minutes had sneaked by me. Everyday around 1pm I had to take a nap. I had to it was so hot and exhausting – and that’s only after I ate breakfast! Yes, it was unbearably hot in the tent, but I was too tired and somewhat scared to exert myself too much. So I sweated it out in a small nylon-walled popup triangle.

The opposite is true for nighttime. Most nights it just seemed to slip by me. But – the later the hour the colder the temperature. Several nights it got down to around 40 degrees. We had a thermometer at our campsite, (which conveniently only displayed temps in Celsius!), but one night it read 3 degrees C. I know nothing about nothing, but low numbers in any language don’t look good when describing temperatures!

Oh, just a note to pass along, sweating and shivering are not a good combo. Just sayin’.

This is a given but still important to stress – fireworks are dangerous. A different neighbor thought it’d be fun to shoot off fireworks near us one night. I actually remember thinking ‘God, I hope that doesn’t hit our camp.’ Then it stopped the next night and the night after and the next night. I didn’t know why, but was happy. And then I found out the guy who shot them off burned half his face and lost an index finger.

Bikes are nice, but they need proper fitting. What does this mean? I had a mountain bike with the most God-awful seat ever. It wasn’t new, but I still should have ridden it a few times before I left to know that I needed to change the seat. Duh. The first ride – I swear to God I bruised my bones. Excruciating pain the next day. Told boyfriend I don’t want to ride again until later in the week. And you know what? Think the rest worked out. Felt nice and somewhat easier to deal with.

Bikes are basically a necessity inBlackRockCity. For the past four years we walked everywhere – which is still fine, but you can travel a hell of a lot faster and farther on bikes. Deep Playa doesn’t seem as far now. Invest in two wheels! You’ll be happy you did. Plus, it makes it way easier to lug back ice from the plaza.

‘What You’re Looking at is Not What You’re Looking at.’ It’s a lesson my mother taught decades ago and it still resonates today. The day before we left we met a third neighbor who looked like a burner-for-life type. My boyfriend asked who many times he’d been to Burning Man – none. He was a virgin. Goes to shows stereotypes still exist, even at art festivals where open mindedness is supposed to rule. (By the way, he said he’d come back next year!)

Take an interest in others. What do you do? How did you find out about Burning Man? Man from India told us his friend about a ticket and asked if he’d like to go. He had no idea what it was, but he took a chance and flew across the globe! Ask questions – people answer back and appreciate when you take an interest in their lives. It’s how friendships are built. In fact, we made a lasting friendship with the French couple behind us and we plan to email each other a lot!

Lastly, I learned that even after four years on the playa it’s still hard to describe the event to people at home/work when they ask about it. It’s truly something people need to experience once in their lives. Even if it is very hot  )*(


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