Why I Will Never Go To Burning Man.

Via on Aug 26, 2010

(Yet I still dare to call myself an artist.)

I respect the concept of Burning Man and think it’s a pretty cool idea. I say “concept” and “idea” because I’ve never actually been to Burning Man. I can’t remark with confidence on something I’ve never done. And as a rule, I don’t think you can judge something until you’ve experienced it. But I can say with 100% confidence that I will never go to Burning Man.

I’ve lived in the Bay Area since the dawn of “the playa” and have many friends who go every year. I have to live through their waffling for the weeks and months leading up to this August event, and also endure their endless, “You’ve never been to Burning Man? You HAVE to go. YOU would LOVE it!”

I bite my tongue every time a person I just met a minute ago takes me aside, holds my hand, looks me dead in the eye, and tells me with utter confidence that they know for a fact that Burning Man is going to be my personal spiritual salvation. Followed shortly thereafter by some smug commentary about how I can’t possibly know what Burning Man is like, what it’s really all about, until I go and experience it for myself. The convincing is relentless, insistent, and a bit presumptuous.

While I am generally a big believer in trying everything once (except skydiving, crystal meth, and murder), I am quite sure that Burning Man is not for me.

These might be the reasons you think I don’t want to go to Burning Man:

  1. Because I don’t like art. Au contraire, mon ami; I love anything creative! Yay for Burning Man and creativity! With that said, I don’t necessarily think that donning glittery hotpants and phosphorescent platform shoes (and nothing else, for a week) necessarily renders you an “artist.” (And yes, I get it; there’s more to it than that. But, there’s also that.)
  2. Because I don’t get it. I definitely get it. I grew up in a very progressive part of The Berkshires (Massachusetts) where even our summer camps were like mini Burning Mans.  My parents were young idealistic hippies who let us dress ourselves from day one and insisted that we call them by their first names. Our “costume trunk” held more outfits than we had real clothes.  We lived in a tent in the yard for an entire summer while the foundation was being laid for the house my parents built—with their own hands—with wood from an old torn-down tobacco barn. We barely had plumbing, and to this day my mom doesn’t own electric appliances. I think it’s safe to say that my entire upbringing was a prerequisite for Burning Man.
  3. Because I don’t like to get dirty. I’ve heard other people say that they don’t understand why anyone would want to spend a week in the desert getting dirt in every orifice (see below). I actually don’t have a problem with that. I’m not overly attached to showering and quite appreciate the idea of a hot, dusty, dirty week in the desert. Alone.
  4. Because I don’t like camping. I love camping. Again, alone.

Here are the actual reasons why I’m sure Burning Man is not for me:

  1. I don’t like people. Well, let me qualify that. I like people; I just don’t like big groups of them in one place. Especially if that place is locked in by miles of desert and horrible traffic jams.
  2. I don’t like festivals. See above, and also, they are loud, and frantic, and filled with people whose drug ingestion has hindered their perception of appropriate personal space. (Disclaimer: I’m not specifically talking about Burning Man here, since I’ve obviously never been to attest to this myself. I’m just talking about festivals in general and my experience of them.)
  3. The air of preciousness around it. Not long into high school I developed an aversion to clique-ish situations. The moment the world was divided into “been to Burning Man” versus “haven’t been to Burning Man” camps, I knew where I stood. The same place I stood in high school: on the outside.
  4. Because I have an aversion to situations that masquerade as non-conformist when they are actually the norm.  If you’re going to do what everyone else does, don’t pretend like it’s some radically new and different idea that’s going to rock the establishment and start a counterculture.

I’m not the only freak who doesn’t want to go to Burning Man.

I asked a few of my other really cool, creative friends why they won’t go to Burning Man, and here’s what they had to say:

“It seems like the place where repressed people go to give themselves permission to act with abandon.  If I wanted that I’d hang out with Republicans at a rave. ” – Vanessa

“I’m 40, that is why. If I went to Burning Man I would arrive on a private flight, party for 24 hours and fly straight out.  I don’t think I embrace the spirit of the Burn when all I want to do is check out the shit show and shower ASAFP.” – Kevin

“I can see why people go to Burning Man and have a blast.  BUT SORRY, NOT FOR ME.  Where do I even begin?   The idea of spending days in the desert with the sun beating down on me and sand blowing in my face is not my idea of fun.  I would consider going when Four Seasons opens a hotel there.   I could then try to have fun during the day, and then go back to my hotel for a spa treatment, followed by a gourmet meal, and end the day sleeping in a comfortable bed with air-conditioning. ” – Tom

“I’ve never been to Burning Man because it operates on a bartering system and most people want to barter drugs and I hate doing hard drugs in crowds with Port-O-Potties and no showers.  And I hate people that are on drugs.  And I hate Port-O-Potties.  Even though I’m fine with no showers. ” – Leslie

“Burning Man is the king of all icebreakers. Remember in school, or in groups, when the teacher would say, ‘Ok, now I want you to break off into groups and come up with…’ Or, ‘Ok, now we’re going to go around the room and introduce ourselves and say one thing nobody knows about us…’ There are those who cringe and want to cut themselves under the desk when they hear this, and others who are secretly ecstatic at the idea. There are ‘icebreaker lovers’ and ‘icebreaker haters.’ Guess what I am?” – Jen

“It’s a cult started by some man who’s discovered a way to charge thousands of people approximately $300 to go camping. Also, I would die of thirst and starvation out of fear that everything was ‘kool-aid.’ And the freaky ginormous ‘Burning Man’ seems a little too KKK-ish to me. I mean why burn him? At night? Why couldn’t they paint him with glitter or use all that wood to build houses or something?”  – Christine

So yes, I hear you when you say that I would LOVE Burning Man, but trust me on this one, I wouldn’t.

Brilliant illustration uptop by my very talented friend Vanessa Fiola: www.vanessafiola.com

About Joslyn Hamilton

Joslyn Hamilton is a freelance writer living in beautiful Marin County, California. She is one of the co-founders of Recovering Yogi and also launched Creative Truth or Dare. Joslyn has an imaginary spice + skincare line called SimpleBasic. She is a functioning craftaholic and counts hiking, cooking, reading and rabid tweeting among her many chaste vices. Reach her directly at joslyn@recoveringyogi.com

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151 Responses to “Why I Will Never Go To Burning Man.”

  1. Aves says:

    My ex-boyfried is crazy, obsessed with Burning Man. I broke up with him four months ago but from the very beginning of our relationship he had waxed eloquent about what life-changing experience it was. He’s gone every year for the last three or four years and is committed to being a lifelong Burner.

    The whole idea on the face of it sounds distasteful to me. I don’t like crowds of people at festivals either, nor do I care for ports-potties or being in the presence of people who are obviously tweaked out on something. I’m only thinking about Burning Man now because I still spend far too much time obsessing about my ex, and I just got reminded that it starts on Monday the 25th. I was to have gone with him but we broke up in April. I’m sure is going to be there with someone new.

    My ex talked about Burning Man being an opportunity to strip away all your usual roles in society and discovering “who you are not”. That actually makes sense for my ex-boyfriend who, if he were ever to submit himself to clinical evaluation, would be diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Of course, he would never do that because he’s perfect just as he is. It’s everybody else that has the problem.

    I shudder to think what my ex-boyfriend has “discovered” about himself during all these Burning Man(s). That he’s not just an emotionally abusive narcissist but a TOTALLY emotionally abusive, UBER-narcissist. That’s useful information I suppose, if ever he chose to take it on board.

  2. luv says:

    Love your article.
    The NUMBER 1 reason I will never go to burning man: We're in a DROUGHT so….playing in the Desert sounds reasonable?!?!? AM I missing something????
    Does Burning man remind anybody else of the elite city people in The Hunger Games?
    I do appreciate the art I've seen online at burning man.
    Burners seem to be full of ingenuity and ambition which is beautiful and inspiring, so can they move from unsustainability to the other side of that and promote it as wide spread as Burning man? I'm sure some people are trying and bravo to them =). Every Man needs to evolve to survive right? How About "Sustainable Human" and we can still get dirty, work hard, and make art.
    Disclosure: This is my first comment ever of this nature and Idk if there is some kinda etiquette but here you go. Love to you all weather you like my two cents or not and weather I like yours or not. Bless.

  3. ARCreated says:

    Yeah why can't i just not want to go? I'm open to it…I'm just not interested :)
    I express myself just fine…I don't feel repressed, I have no burning (pun intended) need to go…what's to get??? Some of us are happy doing what we are doing, expressing ourselves the way we do and living…it would be like me telling me people that same line when I invite them to a kirtan… if they aren't interested fine…just because I get something from it doesn't mean someone else would — hell it doesn't even mean they NEED to get something at all…

  4. Joslyn Hamilton says:

    Whoa.

  5. elephant journal elephantjournal says:

    Let's keep it nice, ya'll, agree to disagree.

  6. I love this account. Thank you so much for sharing. Super courageous and well-spoken point of view! Sometimes, if you really want to be DIFFERENT and YOURSELF, it means not doing what everyone else thinks is "different."

  7. cnc says:

    thanks this was very illuminating as to what theexperience is like.

  8. jon says:

    don't know why you didn't do enough research to realize you needed goggles and a gas mask…

  9. jon says:

    not exactly shocked she works in yoga and lives in marin county…what a bore!

  10. Yes. Don't take steroids. K?

  11. Julie says:

    You should go to Burning Man

  12. Yes! Thank you for expressing this. At a certain point in your life I think you let go of the insecure need to "try everything once." The more I get to know myself and trust myself, the more I can intuit what's for me and what isn't. Sounds like you and I are kin.

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