Burning Man, for the uninitiated.

The first time I heard about Burning Man was 1996. The first time I went was 2003. (You can read about my experiences here).

It’s in an incredible experience in culture design, and like any strong culture, what really makes it great has lasted through the years. Here are a few things that I believe would be helpful to know, especially if it’s your first time going.

Know The 10 Principles

These are the 10 fundamental principles. Like any strong culture, if you resonate with them and abide, you’ll have a great experience.


No spectators. 
Really be part of the art.

My first day I walked around in shorts and a t-shirt and I felt like I was the weirdo! Then we went to a “clothing store” (see next section on Gifting), but it had been ransacked before the fashion show. We were looking for anything we could wear when my friend Mike handed me a dress and said, “Try this on.” … I said, “No way.” He said, “Just try it.”… I put it on and both men and women turned to me saying, “Wow, you look really good in that.”

We all walked the fashion runway and I felt way more comfortable (When in Rome!). The next day I ditched the dress and again, I felt like the odd man out. Until… I passed a body painting station. I got painted fully in red, wearing just a cowboy hat and sunglasses. Suddenly I became “Red Man,” with people shouting out to me… So…lean in, participate. You just might like it.

Choose Your Gift

In the early days people would talk all about the gift they’re bringing. Charms, jewelry, food, massages, hugs, you name it. It can be anything. First I made watches by hand that just said the word NOW, then I made a love potion to give people (but the secret was the ritual made you fall in love with yourself), and the last was giving the red pill to people (which would later turn into the Xpill). It’s so fun if you think about how or what you want to give.

Actually spend time alone

It’s such a community, and always with others, which is great. But spending time alone, whether it be “deep playa” (far into the desert) or wandering the city, you open yourself up to reflection and serendipity.

Don’t always wait for the group

“Let’s go out as a group!” Yes, this works… sometimes. Other times you will find it takes everyone two more hours to get ready, and you’re sitting there ready to go. Just go then… Or go out (day or night) with someone from the group you don’t know so well.

If you partake, do it during the day

If you’re considering taking anything mind altering — First of all, know that you are entering an alternate reality. Nothing is necessary to have an out of this world experience there. If you do partake, then I highly advise you do it during the day, when you feel safe and have your bearings. I have spent nights calming people down as they freak out.

All you really need…

It amazes me that having a Camelbak filled with water and electrolyte powder, a dust mask, goggles, and a bike are all I really need for hours on end. You’d be surprised how little you need to eat when it’s crazy hot out.

The Dust is really not bad

Yes, it will get all over everything, and you’ll see it for months, and yes you want to keep your hands and feet taken care of so they don’t crack (Hand Salve is amazing for this). But if you’re concerned by seeing all the dust masks, don’t worry about it. Last time I went a week early to build a four story structure and we got to the point of forgetting to put our masks on during a dust storm. We were totally fine.

Remember, Safety third.

This is a pun on “Safety First.” At Burning Man, safety is third, after fun and art. That means a great time, but also keep that in mind when you want to climb up a loose 6 story structure with plywood ladders, or jump on an art car that doesn’t look stable. This isn’t a ride at Disneyland. There are no guarantees.

Make it an extended trip

I cringe when people say they are just coming in for the weekend. The week builds in energy and it’s an incredible experience. It’s the most relaxing vacation I have ever taken, because you don’t need to do anything if you truly unplug. And stay for the Temple Burn. It’s a beautiful event that helps you ease back into the “default world.” And get a hotel room in Reno on that Monday night if you can. It’s a blast to have all the burners together one more time.

You get the Burn you need…

More than the Burn you want. So hey, if you need to cut loose and party, you’ll get it. And if you need time alone, reflection, solitude you’ll get that. If you really need to meet amazing people, you’ll get that. Truth is you won’t know till you get there, and if you hold on to a particular agenda you might miss it. Go with the flow and see what this magic world puts before you.

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