August, the month where final preparations are being made by virgin and veteran burners alike as the mecca into the Black Rock Desert for Burning Man approaches. Once again the gates will open and Black Rock City will rise from the dust, creating a temporary metropolis where nothing is too far fetched for the imagination. Preparing for the journey can seem daunting, but if done correctly, can be a much smoother ride than one would think. But the journey doesn’t end when you get to the playa, and it doesn’t start right when you embark on your trip. The journey begins when months before, as you begin the very first preparations for your burn, and doesn’t end until you’ve unpacked the very last dusty bag afterwards.
- Finding your way to participate.
The first step in beginning your journey to Burning Man is figuring out how you want to participate. That’s right, Burning Man is not a festival – it’s a community, a cultural movement guided by a set of 10 practical principles (which you can find and familiarize yourself with here). What happens at the burn is totally up to you – you are expected to collaborate, be inclusive, creative, connective, and clean up after yourself. The first step in your journey is realizing that you will be participating actively as a citizen of Black Rock City. There are multiple ways to participate – you can volunteer, find or join a camp, make some art….the possibilities are endless.
2. How to be as over prepared as possible.
Next, you need to prepare yourself for some playa living. There is plenty of information and preparation that comes with getting your living situation sorted out. Everything from the weather, to what you’re sleeping in (whether it be an RV, tent, structure, etc.), to gray water disposal, to generator tips, to communal kitchens, and beyond. It’s a lot to take in, so it’s best to start reading up as early as possible. Figuring out which means of living works best for you as early as possible ensures that you can get everything you need done, bought, and booked well before it’s time to actually start your journey, giving you more time to prepare in other ways.
3. Leaving No Trace.
Familiarizing yourself with the 10 Principles is important, but the most important of these principles is arguably Leaving No Trace. But Leaving No Trace is not just about the playa, it’s a guiding ethic about the whole planet. Burners are environmentalists by nature; whatever you bring onto the playa with you must be brought out. That goes for even the smallest of MOOP (matter out of place) like sequins, feathers, buttons, and even glitter. Nothing that wasn’t out there before Burning Man should be there after. Leaving No Trace requires commitment, as you need to learn how to green your burn, conduct a line sweep, build & burn without consequence, recycle & compost effectively, etc. It may sound like a lot, but leaving the playa more beautiful that we found it is what allows us to return every year. You can check out last year’s MOOP map here.
4. How to survive and thrive.
Health and safety is also of the utmost importance. It’s crucial that you understand the environment you are putting yourself in, to be aware of the risks, and to be prepared for any eventuality. Learning what to pack in your playa first aid kit (radical self-reliance people!), how not to get sick from the extreme conditions and temperatures, rebar safety, what to do if you’re asthmatic/diabetic/pregnant, and so much more. Knowing how to survive and thrive at the burn is essential for your health, happiness, and safety.
5. Mapping your trip.
While it’s been said “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey,” Burning Man is definitely a little of both. Every year 60,000+ people make the journey to Black Rock City, a good portion of which is on a two lane rural highway, so knowing how to beat the traffic can be extremely helpful. There are tips for driving from any direction, from New York to the Pacific Northwest to Canada to LA to Reno, which is the closest large city. There are many ways to get to and from the playa and it’s important to familiarize yourself with whichever method makes most sense for you, whether that be the Black Rock City Airport, the Reno Airport, Burner Express Bus, or general driving/traffic information. You will also need to know the procedure for Getting In: The Gate and Getting Out: Exodus to ensure a smooth ride in and out of Burning Man.
6. How you’ll get around Black Rock City.
Black Rock City is a big place. You can get across on foot if you have to (and are able to) but it will definitely take you a while. Fortunately, there are alternative ways of getting around the city: bicycles (you must decide what kind of bicycle you will bring to the playa and how you will transport/take care of it), vehicles (there are various types of freaky, mutant motorized vehicles in Black Rock City), and wheelchairs (everything BRC’s wheelchair pilots need to know).
All of this information is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a complete first-timer’s guide, FAQ, and plenty of preparation videos all available on the Burning Man website. But you can never be too prepared, and thanks to the power of fellow burners, the internet is chock full of preparation videos, packing lists, helpful tips, and so forth. While it might be too late to start planning for this year, it’s never too early to start planning for next year…or any year! And for those who have been preparing for 2017…..the Burning Man gate opens in __ days, the man burns in ___ days!
FEATURED PHOTO AND ALL PHOTOS BY SCOTT LONDON