Are you a Burner?

The Pro’s and Cons of Burning Man from a Non-Burner

Every Burningman Story kinda sounds the same:

“I was in the desert, like, ½ a mile outside the main community, and OUT OF NOWHERE, there was this tequila tower, made of repurposed moss where we all got hugged by angels’ wings!”

The Main Community at Burning Man

Sounds CRAZY. No really, these stories sound crazy. When it comes to adventure stories, Burning man stories always stand out, and it’s not always a great thing for the reputation of the event.

If you’re one of those people that has spent some time, what I call, “adventuring”, or living alternatively, you might get a special pang in the adventure center of your brain listening to Burning Man stories.

Adventurers tend to self-educate. You learn a lot while adventuring, and tend to hang onto the things you learn from experiences:

  • You learn how to plan.
  • You learn to immediately adapt to the failure of your plan.
  • You begin to avoid the expectation trap: Expectations are a common enemy to us in many, unseen ways.
  • You have a good time by focusing on the good things around you.

About 5 years ago, as my 20's came to a close, I moved back to LA from Hawaii to get more serious about my work and embark on the next adventure, which incidentally, wound up being marriage, fatherhood and entrepreneurship.

Living in Venice, a strong “burner” community, I was encountering burners with their amazing stories ‘on the reg’.

I was always the one guy railing against Burning Man. I didn’t get it. My anti-burnerism reached a peak at a dinner party when our host’s Burning Man outfit arrived. It was plastic and shiny and involved some giant heeled boots. I found myself thrown into an anti Burning Man tirade. I realized then I needed to develop some understanding of this thing so many people adored and really valued, or else I would just accept my new reputation as that a-hole that hates Burning Man.

I still haven’t been, but as Burning Man matures into a place for professionals to “really get away”, and I mature into a person that treasures getting away more now than ever, I’m seeing new value in Burning Man as a practical event.

A view of the Pro’s and Con’s of Burning Man from a non-Burner.

Pros:

Safety: There’s an element of danger to being in the desert, away from traditional cities, but unless you have a major, major issue, there’s enough infrastructure around to supply you proper attention. So you get that far-out feeling, while there’s a well staffed medical tent on premises.

Art: As far as experiencing art, this must be one of the most inspired venues to view and participate in all forms of art installations. The best part is anyone can make their vision a reality if they prepare amply.

Kindness: The one thing you hear time and time again is this is a place where everyone is accepted and kind to everybody. That’s not something you get in everyday life, and if you’re out, getting kind of loose and crazy in the wild with friends really testing the boundaries on your own adventure, kindness goes to the way-side when survival and eager discovery take hold.

Timeliness: You can plan around Burning Man. That’s a big deal and is probably a major reason you hear another theme in Burning Man Stories: “This is the one time a year I can totally escape everyday life”.

Meeting Strangers: How often in real life do you meet strangers? At Burning Man, meeting and connecting with strangers seems to be one of main attributes of the event. It acts as currency as you “trade” things for other things, making strangers your best friends. This has to be a good thing.

Cons:

But is it Genuine? On one end of the adventure spectrum, you head to a town, or natural space and plan for anything (or nothing). At Burning Man, you have some fairly specific expectations and therefor probably aren’t “adventuring” as hard as you could, but at least you’re giving it a good natured try.

Costumes: They aren’t fashion, aren’t function, and are just kind of maddening.

The Stories: I accept the fact it’s a really fantastic experience for you, really. But your stories play out like a big inside joke you’re telling to an outsider for 20 minutes. It’s just not that awesome to hear about it. Let’s work on truncating the stories m’kay?

Conclusion: Burning Man is perfect for beginner, busy or retired adventurers, and that’s aspirational enough for me, and it should be for you too. If you’re still not convinced, just try not to be an a-hole about it.