Burning Man: What Is It All About?

I’ve known about Burning Man for several years, but it was something other people did. I never felt the urge to go. I was used to hearing stories about naked people running around the desert, dancing to rave music, wearing crazy costumes, camping, and doing drugs. Not that I’m against any of that, but on the surface it sounded more like a party, not the life-changing event people told me it was.

When I asked a friend who’d been to Burning Man several times before to describe it to me, he said it’s like explaining colors to a blind person. How’s that for a tease? Then something else pulled me in. For Burning Man 2011, the 25th Anniversary of the event, the theme was called “Rite of Passage.” The phrase describes an event “which marks a time when a person reaches a new and significant change in his life.” That’s what My Grateful Journey is all about. It was a coincidence too intriguing to ignore. If there were ever a time to make the trip to Black Rock City, this was it.

Once my ticket arrived in the mail, there was no turning back. Survival guide in hand, I was excited and overwhelmed at the same time. I was pumped to be on the Playa and didn’t even know what the Playa was! What was I getting myself into?


We waited for hours in a long line to get in. It’s been my experience at festivals or other big events that people get annoyed and antsy with all the waiting. Not at Burning Man. The atmosphere was incredible! I strolled the line, meeting people from all over the world. Like me, they had come to the middle of nowhere to be part of a city that is erected from nothing, and within a week returns to nothing. This was the coolest party in the world and I hadn’t even gotten in the gates yet.


The sun was just setting over the mountains as we rolled into Black Rock City. We were finally at Burning Man! I was blown away at how massive the city was. The event was sold out for the first time ever. Ticket sales capped at fifty thousand.

My friends and I embraced Burning Man and the full expression of this way of life. Everywhere I turned, I saw someone dressed even more outlandishly than the last person, if they were even wearing clothes at all. As we were riding our bikes down a street someone yelled, “Who wants ice cream?” People lined up craving a tasty cone. At a campsite, I stopped to ask directions. They asked me to stay for lunch. Everywhere I went there was an undeniable sense of community.

There was so much to see, incredible art to admire, people to meet, and plenty of things to do. I danced, practiced yoga, meditated, met amazing people, and wore some crazy outfits! And some of the best times I had were alone exploring on the Playa. It reminded me that My Grateful Journey is about being fearless and confident. It doesn’t mater if I was with friends or alone.

One of the big things about Burning Man is that there is no money accepted anywhere, except at the coffee shop in center of camp. Most things like food, drinks, jewelry, massages, and yoga were gifted to people by generous burners. I was given fifteen cases of Coconut Water by One Coconut to give out as gifts. I became somewhat popular in the desert heat riding around on my bicycle with a basket full of Coconut Water.


So what is Burning Man all about? It’s whatever you want it to be. For me, it was about continuing to trust my path in life; to celebrate how far I’ve come while acknowledging the growth that’s still ahead. It was okay to be lost or alone yet GRATEFUL for the life I live.


What I realized in the end is that the Burning Man community is all about one thing: LOVE. There’s no judgment, just love. As the Beatles famously sing, “All You Need Is LOVE.”


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