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squidcake's avatar

What is the Burning Man Festival really like?

Asked by squidcake (2636points) February 15th, 2010

Is it REALLY just a bunch of hippies on drugs? I’ve been considering going to Burning Man for a long time, because I think the idea of radical self-expression is beautiful. And obviously I know a lot of the people are high the whole time. But would it be totally taboo for someone (like me) to go for a sober experience? Would I be shunned? What is it REALLY like?

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18 Answers

lilikoi's avatar

Great question. I’ve been wondering this myself lately.

rangerr's avatar

I could rant for days.
http://www.burningman.com/whatisburningman/
I’ll summarize with that.. not everyone is high…
There are a lot of families with kids that go.

Check out the website, and read the pages.
It’s not what you think..

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

You have to be ok with electronica 24/7.

Cruiser's avatar

Burning man actually seems to have quite a few exec types who can afford to finance some of the creations that are built. Check out the link above @rangerr posted I do every year and every year it seems to get bigger and more main stream.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

A friend goes every year and loves it.I am almost convinced to go next year :)

The_Idler's avatar

At least do some drugs.

If you’re ever gonna use drugs recreationally, at any point in your life, do it at a place like Burning Man.

CalamityJane's avatar

You need to be prepared to smell worse and be dirtier than you have ever imagined. If you have a hygiene hangup then I would absolutely NOT go.
But if you can kind of learn to love the grime and filth and you enjoy “outside stimulants” then you will have a blast!

rangerr's avatar

@CalamityJane One week of no showers or running water? FUCK YEAH.

wundayatta's avatar

You can go without drugs. It’s not just hippies on drugs. I know at least one Sociology professor who goes. He studies the thing. If you go in a camper, you can haul in your own water if you want to keep clean.

It’s an instant city with instant culture and all kinds of creativity and wildness are abundant. Sometimes wild enough to kill people in various kinds of accidents. I think there was another question here about how many people got killed at Burning Man. I know I did some research then and I think I posted links to some interesting articles.

I think it is the kind of experience everyone should have at least once in life. Well, maybe not everyone, but all the open-minded people. Having said that, I doubt if I will go, because I am too fond of my creature comforts. But if a bunch of friends were going….

tentaclepuppy's avatar

A lot of awful silicon valley elite and hollywood jack-holes go to burning man these days, for the lulz, i guess. It’s still awesome, but sort of passe and full of posers too.

Also sand in places you don’t know about yet.

Trustinglife's avatar

I went in 2008 and it was difficult for me for a bunch of reasons. Mostly, I felt really lonely, which is a lot about my life at that time. If I had gone with close friends or a partner, I’m sure it would have been completely different for me.

I went with a large-ish community of about 60, which was great for what we built and shared together – a geodesic dome for hanging out, a kitchen, and a shower (no walls or privacy). There is absolutely no waste, so we had an evaporation pond to go with the shower.

I don’t do drugs, and that was never really an issue. There were hundreds of things to do everyday. I’m still blown away by the creativity we all expressed that week. The art people created blew me away. The Temple. The burning of The Man. The ever-presence of dance parties everywhere. Such a BIG experience on all levels – the stark desert, human community, creativity, kindness… wow.

squidcake's avatar

@Trustinglife
Thanks for sharing. I’d be really lonely if I didn’t go with friends, but I think the only friends I’d be able to convince to go would be the same ones who’d be trying to get high all the time.

The_Idler's avatar

How could anyone possibly be lonely at a festival!?

Trustinglife's avatar

Mr. Idler, we must have very different personalities. Perhaps it’s not possible for you to be lonely at a festival.

For me, even if there’s 50,000 people, if I can’t connect, I’m lost.

The_Idler's avatar

@Trustinglife well I was actually asking the question. Expressing surprise, certainly, but not disbelief.

How could you ‘not connect’ with anyone – out of 50,000 – in a place where everyone is there to socialize and have fun with everyone else, in an atmosphere of complete participation and inclusion?

Do you just get in “a mood”, where you couldn’t even enjoy the company of someone with a similar or complimentary personality type to your own?

Trustinglife's avatar

I see it’s an open question now, thank you, Idler. For many people, and definitely for me, Burning Man is an experience of EXTREMES. Which includes extreme highs, and extreme lows.

I certainly had many experiences of camaraderie and connection and fun. I went to some fascinating workshops – massage, how to have intimate communication, appreciative inquiry. I played kickball in the middle of the desert. I played Ultimate frisbee at night, in the dark, with glowsticks around our necks of different colors. I walked the playa and saw the art with a buddy and his friend. The Temple was awe-inspiring. Same with the Burning of the Man.

And… I had moments of feeling some real major loneliness and isolation. I think the 50,000 people actually heightened the intensity of the experience, not to mention the electronic dance music everywhere.

In my normal life and routines, I kind of numb myself to that experience of isolation, and avoid really feeling it. In the desert, I didn’t have my normal comforts, distractions, and I couldn’t pick up a phone to call a friend. No e-mail, no chat, no Fluther, no connection to the outside world. Which is why I wondered if I went with close intimates or a partner, if it would have been completely different.

Thanks for your curiosity.

kritiper's avatar

A major Bohemian convention!

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