Months turned to weeks, weeks became days. Now I’m no longer counting the days, but the hours before until Burning Man. This will be my fourth trip to the playa, and I couldn’t be more excited. Each year I’ve been there, I’ve picked up new tips that come in handy the next year. I want to share my tip list with you today.
1. Bring gifts to the neighbors
Two years ago, I drove to Burning Man from my Colorado hometown. My parents gave me a box of peaches for the road, but by the time I made it to my camp it was clear the fruit wouldn’t last much longer. I didn’t want them to go to waste, so I visited my neighboring campsites to hand them out. This was totally the right thing to do. It was a great way to meet the neighbors. Each of them hooked me up over the weekend in different ways.
2. Go solo for an entire day.
During my second Burn, I went with a giant group of people. I spent the first few days adventuring with them, and I had fun. But I quickly learned that it took forever to get everyone to agree on what to do next. I spent a lot of time just waiting around. On the third day I decided to go solo, and it ended up being my favorite day of the entire Burn. It also taught me an important lesson: it’s much easier to make new friends when you’re alone. Because you have to.
3. Watch your favorite artist
Music at Burning Man can be a touchy subject. Burning Man is not a music festival, and if you spend the entire time going from sound camp to sound camp, then you’re doing it wrong. That said, there is incredible music at Burning Man, and you’ll create some of your favorite memories while dancing your ass off to your favorite artist. Make sure to download my mobile app, FestEvo, so you can listen to each artist and decide which ones you want to see.
4. Watch the man Burn from on top of an art car
Watching the Man burn during my first Burning Man was an incredible experience. The energy of 60,000 people and the sight of hundreds of fire dancers left a Burning Man-shaped imprint on my soul that will never fade. The fireworks show afterwards blew my mind, too. My second year, I was lucky enough to watch the man burn from on top of a friend’s art car. This view was otherworldly. It’s something every Burner should experience at some point. (Photo Bryan Liscinsky)
5. Put away the bike for a day
Biking around Burning Man is one of my favorite things to do. You feel like you’re riding around on the moon. It wasn’t until last year, when my bike was stolen – always lock your bike! – that I discovered how much better the experience is when you explore on foot. You’ll discover each camp in more detail and make more connections as you go.
6. Fully appreciate the art
The art at Burning Man is stunning. It wasn’t until my second Burn that I really grasped how amazing each piece is. The big moment came when I was riding my bike across the playa and passed a big boulder. I kept going, when it hit me. (Not the boulder.) I realized that someone had worked really hard, and spent a lot of money, to cart that boulder to the playa. This experience changed my view of all of the art at Burning Man. Don’t just appreciate the art for its beauty and creativity. Appreciate the fact that it had to be designed to withstand harsh conditions and transported for (potentially) thousands of miles so that you could enjoy it. (photo by Bryan Liscinsky)
7. Learn From Your Elders
I was 27 when I went to my first Burn, but I was a young 27. I didn’t have the life experience that most 27-year-olds have. I hadn’t learned that there is no such thing as age. Burning Man changed this for me. Not only are there people of all ages at Burning Man – the older crowd are a big part of Burning Man’s magic. These people are true examples of awesome, and can give you stories and experiences that will change the way you live your life.
8. Learn People’s Names
Remembering people’s names has always been something I’ve sucked at. This becomes a real problem at a place like Burning Man, where you meet so many people. Last year, someone showed me a trick that has essentially fixed my name-forgetting problem. It’s this: when you meet someone you want to remember, ask them to play this game with you. You say, “My name is _______ and I like _____ (something that starts with the same letter as your name). Please do the same with your name.”
For example, I say, “My name is Tucker and I like Tyrannosaurus Rex.” I even do a hand motion to mimic the dinosaur’s front claws. So people can think of the T-Rex and then backtrack to my name.
9. Self Police
Burning Man is a community where all participants are expected to take care of themselves, yet do what’s best for the community. This means you’re responsible for yourself, and for ensuring that the people around you play by the rules as well. If you see someone drop a beer can or a cigarette on the playa, you need to pick it up, give it back to them, and explain that this is not how we do things here. Together, we are what makes Burning Man the wonderland that it is.
10. The most important thing to do
When I went to my first Burning Man, I didn’t have anyone to show me the ropes, so I spent much of my time figuring things out. It wasn’t until the second-to-last day when I went to a camp and asked one of the people there if I could sit on their shaded couch. His response completely changed the way I looked at Burning Man. He said, “That’s why it’s here. We brought this couch from Michigan for you to lie on.” That’s when it dawned on me: every last piece of Burning Man is there for you to play on.
People refer to Burning Man as “home,” and my biggest advice is to treat Burning Man as your home. If you see a ladder, climb it. If you see an art car, smile really big and ask to get on. If you see a bar, bring your ID and your cup and drink whatever’s being served. Everyone worked hard to bring these things to this magical place for you. By using these things, you’re thanking the people.
See you in the dust, my friends.
PS: I’m leading a talk titled How To Go To a Festivals For Free, Wednesday at 2 pm, at my camp Ego Trip: 9:15 and E. I’d love to see you there.