When I first planned my trip to Burning Man with my son Eric, he looked into where we should stay and selected Lamplighters. His decision was based on a careful evaluation of our situation: we were going on our own; we had no existing knowledge or experience nor any existing relationships; we were completely responsible for ourselves.
Lamplighters (or any theme camp) offered us a ready-made community, which seemed like a smart way to start our Burning Man experience. Also, Lamplighters was one of the few theme camps with its own kitchen to provide an evening meal. Also, because Lamplighters was a well-established part of the Burning Man tradition, we felt very comfortable joining this group. It also turned out that Eric and I had a great time learning the Lamplighters routine and participating in the nightly ritual of “lighting the city.”
In my second year at Burning Man, when Judie decided she would join us, it simply made sense to go back to the theme camp that had been such a good choice in year one. Judie and I found a niche for ourselves in the morning pickup crew, while Eric continued his role helping to light the city every night. By our third year, Judie and I had become well integrated into the Lamplighter environment, but Eric decided it was time to move on, joining a camp with his brother Jacob who was attending his first Burning Man.
One of the major reasons we feel so comfortable as Lamplighters (where we continue to participate) is that there are both younger and older people in the camp; although, Judie and I are probably the two oldest people there. But because of Lamplighter’s long history as an important part of the Burning Man tradition, there are Burners who have been around for many years and are a little closer to our age. We also love to be around the many young Lamplighters who inspire us and help keep us feeling youthful. I don’t think we’d enjoy a camp of just older people. After all, one of the real advantages of attending Burning Man at our age is that it makes us feel so much younger.
As the years have gone by, we’ve participated in more volunteer activities with our camp. We love to spend at least one night as part of the kitchen crew, to take a shift or two behind the bar, and to take a Greeters shift with our fellow Lamplighters. And because we have been part of Lamplighters for a number of years, we always get advance notice of the volunteer opportunities.
Eric made a great choice when he picked out Lamplighters, and we continue to enjoy staying in this theme camp. But it’s important to realize that the choice we made was based on researching the available camps and sizing up the benefits for our particular situation. There are many ways to find a place to stay, including hooking up with local Burners and finding out about camps that are based locally or are known and recommended by others.
Remember, you’ll be spending a week (or the better part of a week) in the camp you select, so put some energy into making the right choice.