You may have purchased your first set of Burning Man tickets, or you may be thinking about doing so (yes, there are still opportunities to buy tickets – more about that later). Either way, you might also be suffering through some serious doubts about whether you really want to attend a notorious hippie retreat out in the hot, dusty Nevada desert this August. Trust me, you do.
While Burning Man may or may not change your life, it will definitely alter your perspective. The harmonious environment alone is enough to let you know with certainty that you’re not in Kansas anymore. Burning Man is a hugfest. Every stranger loves you, and you love them in return. That sense of caring for each other is such a radical change of pace from the constant frictions of daily life that you’re bound to return refreshed, if not altered. The desert may be a harsh environment (and it’s not recommended for those who suffer from asthma or other breathing disorders), but it’s tolerable; not only that, sharing the harsh desert environment with fellow Burners binds you to the people you meet and thousands of others who have shared the experience with you. You’ll find it somewhat akin to the bonding among members of the military who served together in stressful situations. Of course, no one will be shooting at you at Burning Man, so the main discomforts are the heat and dust of the desert.
But beyond survival, you’ll also experience an unmatchable sense of freedom to express your inner self. Maybe it’s the presence of so much art (more than you can ever take in – especially if it’s your first year), the sense of whimsy that permeates the playa, the unstated imperative to “let go” of your default world hang-ups, or the erotic atmosphere that surrounds the entire event; but when you walk through the gates of Burning Man, another “you” is bound to emerge – a persona that has always been present, but that life and its constant pressures has kept bottled up.
You are totally free at Burning Man. Free to wander the Playa in search of art (it’s everywhere, not just on the canvas of open Playa, but within the city as well); to people-watch; to sit with friends and share food and drink; to dance your legs off at one of the many disco installations; or to join in one or more of the interactive installations that range from bumper cars to roller disco to Thunderdome (ouch!).
It’s a “come as you are” event as far as attire is concerned. Bring your most relaxed clothing, or create a costume or costumes that represent your inner self. You can even pick out something truly unusual from one of Burning Man’s many free costume camps such as Kostume Kult. And if none of the above interests you, you can always go naked or nearly so. Nobody cares.
In your Playa ramblings, you can stop for food or drinks wherever they are offered. You need only bring your own cup and plate: the offerings are all gifts. And though gifting does not equate to bartering, it’s always a good idea to bring gifts of your own to give out randomly as the feeling strikes you. The best gifts are always hand-made expressions of yourself, and frequently include the date and theme of the current Festival.
So, if you’re feeling a little more excited about attending, but have not yet bought a ticket, here are links that will allow you to sign up for the two remaining official Burning Man ticket sales: STEP (Secure Ticket Exchange Program) at http://tickets.burningman.org/secure-ticket-exchange-program; or the OMG sale in August at http://tickets.burningman.org/#omgsale. The sign up period for STEP is on now, and you must have filled out a Burner Profile to be eligible for either of these sales. These are the safest ways to buy a face-value ticket, but you can always look for tickets on Craigslist or eBay. Craigslist tends to offer more tickets at face value; eBay tends to have more ticket scalpers who want to make money (in some cases a lot of money) on their tickets. But you can always be assured that tickets will become available as the festival approaches, because many people change their minds or experience a change in their plans and seek to off-load their tickets at the last minute. If you really want to go, you can usually find a way.