THE GUARDIAN GUIDE TO BURNING MAN: Tips and resources to get the most out of Burning Man
PLAYA PREP This is a crazy time of year for burners, when they begin to realize just how overly ambitious their art projects actually are, when the August calendar seems to shrink as to-do lists grow, and when procrastination morphs into panic — all of it laced with a giddy, distracting excitement about the dusty adventures to come.
Don't worry, fellow burners, Scribe is here to help. I'm way too busy right now to actually come help weld your art car or hot glue your costume (unless you've got stuff or skills that I may need, in which case we can maybe work something out) but after years of deep immersion in this culture, I do have a few tips and resources for you.
The most important thing to bring to the playa with you is the right attitude. It's right up there with your ticket at the very top of the list. As I worked on this guide, I posed the question "What's the most important thing you bring to the playa?" to online burner hives, and most of the answers I got back had something to do with attitude.
Whether you're a nervous newbie or salty veteran, it's important to leave your expectations at home and just be open to whatever experiences await you. Intention is everything out there, and if you try to always maintain an open mind, a loving heart, and a sense of humor, everything you need will just flow your way.
It isn't always easy. When your project breaks, or the dust won't stop blowing, or your lover squashes your heart, or some yahoo behaves in a way that strikes you as somehow un-Burning Man, it's natural to let your anxieties creep up. But you've got to let it go, because it's all going to be OK, it really is. When all else fails, just breathe.
It is the breaking through those difficult moments and coming out the other side — enduring through things that feel like they may break you — that makes Burning Man feel so transformative. It is a cauldron, and you may not come out in the same form you went it, but that's part of why you go.
You'll need a motorized vehicle to get to Burning Man — and art cars can be a fun way to get around when you're there, a sort of surreal public transit system — but if you don't have a good bicycle then you're at a decided disadvantage in fully experiencing Black Rock City, the most bike-friendly city on the planet while it exists. And that's never been more true than this year, when early reports indicate that the wet winter has left the playa packed solid and perfect for pedaling.
Form and function are equally important when it comes to your bike. It needs to be in good mechanical condition (and with enough tools and patch kits to keep it that way) and correctly sized to your body, ideally with a comfortable, upright position and basket for your stuff. And you also need to decorate it and make it unique, both because making art is the essence of Burning Man and so you can easily find it amid a sea of bikes. Form and function, they're like two wheels rolling together.
Although the Borg, a.k.a. Black Rock City LLC, recommends that you bring a bike lock, I've personally never used one and never had a problem. Sure, bike thefts happen, but I believe they're almost always crimes of opportunity or drunken mistakes involving nondescript bikes, not unique rides like mine that I could spot 100 yards away.
I'm convinced that half the people who think their bikes got stolen actually just lost them. The playa can be a very disorienting place, with art cars and other visible markers moving around -- and even one's own brain conspiring against locating one's bike. So illuminate your bike well, ideally with something that sticks up high the air, and leave your lights on as you explore on foot.
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