Why I Will Never Go To Burning Man.

Via Joslyn Hamilton
on Aug 26, 2010
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(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



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

  1. Very glad to know that I am not the only person who has zero interest in Burning Man 🙂

    • deni gottlieb says:

      If you dont want to go, then don't go. To say you don't want to go because of some egoic principle, then you are cheating yourself out of an amazing experience. Prejudging anything is ruining your experience before it happens. Btw this is a general comment not directed at anyone.

  2. ali says:

    my sentiments, exactly. 🙂 (If i was to ever experience it, I agree with Kevin's statement.)

  3. Emma says:

    Oh, I have been and never had people try to barter with me, let alone with drugs. Everyone was very generous.

    BRC is my favorite city, a vacation from commercialism, excess in a different way. But we go there for different reasons than to worship our creations.

    • Jenn says:

      Exactly. Most of the quotes operate on misconceptions about Burning Man.
      1) It is NOT a barter economy, it says that explicitly in the survival guide. It is a GIFTING economy. It is not allowed to give something with the condition of getting something in return. So the Jen quote is just plain WRONG.
      2) Every theme camp I have ever been associated with has solar showers with an evap pond. WE DO SHOWER.
      3) I would say that none of the burners I know feel repressed. Quite the opposite we are all very successful and powerful people, partially because we were empowered by what Burning man showed us what we were capable of by telling us not to be afraid to give our dreams a try.
      4) I wore normal clothes my first few years there. Many do. For some people it is about costumery, for others it is about art. It is not a cult because it means different things to everyone who attends.
      5) As for the clique thing: yeah, people like to talk about shared experiences, it is how people relate. Burning man is no different from anything else in that way. If that makes you feel left out, maybe you need to be a more interesting person so you can be more capable of steering a conversation and choosing interesting topics, or maybe you arejust too much of a pussy to take control of the conversation.

  4. mletag says:

    So glad you wrote this! I have also been told, very seriously and enthusiastically, why I would love it the same way the pentecostal kids used to try to get me to go to their church when I was a teen growing up in the bible belt. I am so glad Burning Man is there for the people who need it and feel at home there, but it is sooooo not for me.

  5. Andrew says:

    The sculptures there look awesome, and I admire the radical freedom ethos, but I am with ya Joslyn. Waving my pee pee around while wearing furry knee-high boots, a pink boa and devil horns like everybody else is not my idea of self liberation.

  6. zuko says:

    Thank you, Joslyn. This article provides affirmation for me(and others) 🙂

  7. Joslyn Hamilton says:

    I forgot to mention one of the most important reasons I don't go to Burning Man — because I can't stand costume parties! Oh lord, I hide in a dark closet on Halloween.

    • Chuck says:

      You too? Oh, thank God. I thought I was the only one. Halloween is for children, and I didn't even like it when I was a kid. As an adult, the whole idea makes me cringe. On the dating sites when I see pictures of grown women in their costumes, they're automatic rejects.

  8. Kara N says:


    And the conclusion that it follows from a lack of interest in burning man that there is a lack of creativity or artistic sensibility is just daft. Not only does that conclusion require an extremely narrow understanding of art, but it fails to note that most of the artistic endeavors taking place at burning man are mediocre. It isn't exactly Bildung out there.

    In any case, actual liberation requires discipline.

    • ARCreated says:

      In any case, actual liberation requires discipline.

      WOW so true — I hadn't thought about it but amen Thank you

    • guest says:

      I would wager that preparing to camp out in a dry hot climate for a week is discipline, so I don't agree with you there.

      I don't care if you go or not, I don't think you're less artsy if you don't. I go and I don't consider myself at all artistic. I plan on programming for a living.

      That said, don't insult the experience if you haven't actually gone, most of the artistic endeavors aren't profound because they aren't made by professional artists, they're made by 20-somethings looking to have a good time.

      Just because it wouldn't be liberating to you doesn't mean it wouldn't be liberating to someone else.

      Don't respond to narrow mindedness by being narrow minded yourself, if someone is honestly judging you for not going then fuck them, but I feel like that actually happens less than people say it does.

  9. ARCreated says:

    where have you been all my life? I LOVE LOVE LOVE your posts! 🙂

    I think about 5 years ago I still had a vague thought about going to burning man…now? nah when I go camping I'd rather be alone or with my husband and my dog…I have noise and chaos in life — camping is reflective.
    I don't need to express myself in over the top ways and "let go" been there, done that … I have a quieter way now.
    I seek peace and tranquility now…I used to do things like ren fair and punk rocks concerts and festivals …. I'd rather weed my garden LOL I guess I'm old?
    PS I no longer poision myself with drugs, and i don't miss 'em and now that I'm "straight" drugged people kind of annoy hehehe.

  10. Kara N says:

    Pretty sure burning man is a nightmare for very introverted people.

    • ARCreated says:

      actually maybe not…it may be the one place they can let go…I am the opposite of introvert and I am sure that is why I don't want to go to burning man…my off time I prefer to go in since I spend so much time "out there" .

      • Joslyn Hamilton says:

        I can only speak for myself, but as an introverted person to the extreme, the very last thing I find enjoyable is the thought of "letting go" in the vicinity of other people. Oh hells no. Needless to say, I don't do karaoke either.

        • ARCreated says:

          I get that jh but seriously I was once a shy person (UBER shy) and what brought me out of my shell was theater because I could be "outrageous" because it wasn't me. burning man is exactly the kind of place that allows for some introverts to feel a level of anonymity to "let loose"
          Karaoke is a spot lite so horrific for the introvert but Burning man? everyone is nuts all at once you can blend 🙂 Well maybe not you, but other introverts might see it as a vehicle 🙂

          • I think there is a difference between being shy and being introverted. Shy, in my mind, is wanting to let loose but being too self-conscious or timid. Introverted, on the other hand, means you actually prefer solitude and the company of your own thoughts. Of course, those are just my personal definitions. I was once called a SHY EXTROVERT by my yoga "guru" ex-boss. But actually, I am more of an OUTGOING INTROVERT. I'm friendly, but given my druthers, I'd rather be alone 🙂

          • ARCreated says:

            I think I have been both…I agree with your assessment…some days I feel shy others I feel introverted…in my youth I was more a shy extrovert but now I'm an outgoing introvert…I think this is our answer too…Shy Extro = burning man good; Outgoing Introvert = burning man not so much 🙂

          • Joslyn,

            I can relate to that. I'm a Gregarious Hermit.

            Bob W.

      • Liz says:

        It's obvious from your first sentence that you're not an introvert. No need to spell it out! 😉

  11. Guy Liesure says:

    Sorry Kara but can you explain how liberation requires discipline, with precision please? It seems antithetical to me.
    If by mediocre you mean common or ordinary then you may be right because everything here or at Burning Man is art. These days the standard search for Bildung gives about 3 pages of cartoons and no classic citations, so iam not sure where you are going with that.
    No love of costumes how about going straight and making your contribution in service to the many functional groups?
    Pink Boas don't liberate you? The point is to find out what does liberate you and explore it.
    Tom your gift could be to take people as close to the Hilton as you can get in the middle of all that is not.
    Don't get caught up in the star power of the veterans go and have your opinions and preferences, but go with the attitude that if it sucks it may be because making magic out of nothing is hard and go to celebrate those that have provided you with the raw and cooked material for that liberation that was mentioned earlier.

    And ultimately your are right ,please stay home because the whole thing is founded on participation, acceptance of other peoples creativity and reflexive participation. It seems that is a hard place for some to go.

    Rebuttals please.

    • Kara N says:

      "These days the standard search for Bildung gives about 3 pages of cartoons and no classic citations, so iam not sure where you are going with that."

      I would suggest not attempting to use google image searches to understand the concept of Bildung and its relation to art.

    • Kara N says:

      Liberation is the *process* of attaining freedom. It is a transitive state. Furthermore, a person must be liberated *from* something. If you want to think about it, you might start with working definitions of liberation and freedom as well as some indication of what it is you believe people at burning man are being liberated *from*.

      In any case, I'd really rather not get into a pissing contest with a guy who cannot spell "leisure."

      • Guy Liesure says:

        If it is transitive what is it's direction or destination? If it is a state can it also be transitive?

        The liberation and its associated freedom are unique to each person so my definition is useless except for me.
        I would also like to not pin any one thing or reason or cause on Burning Man remember it is about your individual liberation they just provide a crucible for you to craft your own process.

        Don't be mad I like what you have to say, it just seems a bit rigid.

        Dam I cant spell I have dyslexia for specific letter groups.

        I still want to know what is so cool about Bildung.

      • ARCreated says:

        I am liberated…I guess that is the point I feel with this whole line of thought…I don't feel the desire to attend because I have nothing I feel I need liberating from…I have always felt free to dress up in costumes when the mood strikes me, I have opportunities to express how I feel about life and spirituality everyday… My life is one big celebration of liberation…so I'm good…if YOU get something you feel you are missing when you go to burning man AWESOME!!! enjoy it, love it, relish in it and celebrate it…but don't assume everyone is seeking what you seek, needs what you need. Just because we don't seek our liberation in the same way doesn't mean we "don't get it" … we just don't need it….I had a similar conversation with a church going friend who couldn't understand how I didn't need church…what about a sense of community? HUH?

        • ARCreated says:

          One persons church is not another’s… one person's liberation or art or spirituality or expression is not another — and if someone expresses differently doesn't make them inferior or clueless … and PS spelling constraints suck 🙂 I used to really judge people on spelling and grammar and then I got liberated LOL (no what I got was a dyslexic son that taught me the ability (or lack there of) to spell has no bearing on intelligence or intent 🙂

        • Devin says:

          One of the many reasons that some "veterans" decide to return to the Burn/Black Rock City is precisely that they enjoy facilitating the process of other people's exploration of their personal liberation. As most teachers will tell you, helping others with the basics that you think you have mastered usually teaches a decent teacher as much as the student learns.

          And yes, pigeon-holing the experience into a peer-pressure group to get glitterier-than-thou is an applied exercise in missing the point (not that that does not happen A LOT).

          But PLEASE tell me if you can honestly tell me that you have ever experienced a creative/artist community/culture/movement/school that did not involve much of the masses involved getting completely lost in the process of following/emulating/trumping eachother/p*ssing contests – rather than staying "true" to the idealized intent and goals of the "faithful"

          Yes; I am a burner that has been for 7+ days 5 times, I aspire to be a better artist, I even spin fire pretty regularly, and yet I too do not feel the need to return to B-man in the remotely near future for a host of reasons.

      • Rita says:

        Instead of a smarmy response, can you answer the question Guy asked? These are forums for discussions and learning, not a place to write off good solid points because of something as trivial as grammar and spelling.

  12. Guy Liesure says:

    I guess its just interesting to me.

    Even easier to understand if we remember the Bildungsroman genre of literature. The hero's journey towards wholeness, accumulating companions, skills, tools and experiences.

    Also very much what many people are able to experience at BM. You help and interact with others meeting your needs and theirs while sharing resources within an artistic and symbolic world. Cool.

  13. Guy Leisure says:

    Don't be sad NellaLou some people can express themselves with props and if you pay attention you can understand why.
    I would like to see how you express yourself without them. It is not an other defined place it is a place defined by the all of who shows up. With props or without (including the mental propping everyone is so concerned about).

  14. Hi, Joslyn. I'm so happy you wrote this.

    I have a close friend who lives and breathes Burning Man. Every time he tells me another of what he considers to be an irresistibly intriguing anecdote, I become even more convinced that I would never want to be there.

    Like you, I have nothing against people like my friend who love it. Thank God people are different. But it will never be for me.

    I'm with you on all your reasons, but I'll do you one better–I would also not like it for three out of the four reasons you listed as "These might be the reasons you think I don’t want to go to Burning Man": I like art OK, but I don't really get Burning Man, I don't like to get dirty, and I hate camping!

    There's a reason why I make a great Yoga Cyber Hermit. These are them.

    Bob Weisenberg

  15. Jhon says:

    The naked women freaks there r HOT

  16. freddy says:

    too many tripping burn-outs for me. good piece!

  17. Sam says:

    My best description of Burning Man: Whatever you're into, there's a lot of it there.

    There are hundreds of yoga folks who are on a very different schedule to the hard party crew you hear so much about. I just go and make as much music as my poor body can stand in the elements, no drugs for me! Burning Man is the only place I know that people who are scared of crowds can go and freely assemble. Yes, there are a lot of people, but there is also a lot of SPACE. If you want to be alone there, you can, within the context of the community.

    But I support your decision not to come. You should not go if you're not open to it. Burning Man is a not an easy place to be, physically or emotionally. It is the best of times and the worst of times, rolled into one. For me, though, it is one of the precious few things that gives me hope for the world. And that is why I go back, every year. And that I why I try to give others the opportunity to share in it.

    Know that you will be welcomed, if you ever change your mind. "Never" is an awfully long time to hold on to your judgments.

  18. Kert Hubin says:

    Amen, sister. Never been a joiner, never will be.

  19. Robin says:

    For someone you consider to be a "really cool, creative friend", your friend Leslie seems to have a lot of hate in her…
    This article appears to be an excuse to talk about yourself.

    • Joslyn Hamilton says:

      Actually, Leslie is just being funny. And I would venture to say that anyone who writes an article about their personal experiences is entitled to talk about themselves. It's called self-expression.

      • danielle says:

        Uhhh, how is the fact that Joslyn has chosen to write about herself a problem, exactly? Particularly since it's titled "Why I Will Never Go to Burning Man" (and not say "Why You Should Never Go…" or "Why No One Should Go…")?

        • Robin says:

          The problem, exactly, is that the article is written in a "i know better than those fools" tone and is just a blatant act of self promotion. And while i may have lowered the tone with my second message, I am not going to keep quiet when someone gets all "Actually," and "It's called" as a response. I don't agree with Joslyn writing an article about not experiencing something and saying its about personal experience. There must be lots of folks who thought themselves too uptight to enjoy an event like BM, got dragged there by friends and ended up running around naked and laughing with joy. The article is only going to reduce the chance of people letting go and learning about themselves. There are countless wonderful things to promote or dreadful things to warn people about, such http://www.killercoke.org/ but "why I won't be going to Burning man" isn't one them.

  20. anon nonburner says:

    THANK YOU!!! I am so tired of hearing people tell me why my life will not be complete until I go to burning man. I seriously lost interest in going the second someone told me there's now an airstrip to land private planes…what?! I like costumes. I like art. I like intelligent, nonconformist discourse. I like yoga, I like people, I like festivals, I like parties, I like the desert, I like camping, I like music, hell I even like drugs, on occasion…but at the end of the day, for something that's supposed to be a statement against our oppressive society…it seems pretty similar to society to me, or at least the society/people I see around me. The clique-yness, the competitiveness in creating themed camps, the conformist "radical self-expression" (really? so you ALL are so RADICAL you can't think of a better costume than the feathers, the goggles, the tights? every single one of you?), the drugs, the cliche of it all. All of the pictures I've seen, all of the firsthand stories I've heard (and believe me, it's a lot, I swear every year the number of friends I have going doubles, as they recruit one another!), make me think it's just like any other rave-y festival, on a city-sized scale. I agree most with the poster who said "But for the money, you could easily travel somewhere new and learn about something real." I guess I just think if I wanted to spend a week with my friends and/or masses of strangers "expressing myself," I might try to pick somewhere/something that every single college kid whose ever done ecstasy isn't attending, as well…something that (gasp) I actually individually thought up and that will allow me, myself, just as I am, to discover something new about myself and the world, without the need for fitting myself into someone else's idea of what kind of setting I need in order to properly "self express." Thanks for posting.

  21. Robin says:

    Having been to Burning Man, Ill say that Burning Man is a metaphor for life, its whatever you make of it. You can make it a drug laiden party fest, you can make it about connecting with community, you can make it a spiritual experience, you can make it about expressing yourself artistically or appreciating art or you can get overwhelmed by it and just complain. In the end, we choose how we see the world. Burning Man is just a microcosm for our life perspective.

    • elephantjournal says:

      True, true. I ran into a very non-stereotypical non-raver style friend of mine in the "green" "outdoor" biz this morning, and she was on her way. She works with Leave No Trace to make sure the event has less of an impact than such a crazy week might otherwise have. Not sure how "eco-responsible" the event is overall, but good to know that she was taking part in a whole camp devoted to such, and that they were holding workshops.

    • clara says:

      So true, thanks for posting this, it reminded me of a simple truth, applied to everything.

  22. Mary says:

    Glad that you made this self conscious decision, and staying in town. We do not need another whiny yoga instructor on the playa. And seriously, who cares why you go, or not go to certain places? I don't go Nascar racing, roller derby, americn football and other crap that i have no interest. But write an article about it?

    • cnc says:

      "we do not need another whiny yoga instructor on the playa" — ? really? that was just mean.

    • Michael says:

      apparently you care why she doesn't go, because you read the whole article and felt the need to post a comment. . . That being said, Burning man is AWESOME! I'm really glad that it happens. . . someplace I will never be.

    • talynk says:

      If you don't care why she would go or not go….why did you read the article? Also if it bothered you so much to read where she prefers to go or not go, why contradict yourself with telling us where YOU wouldn't go (Nascar , roller derby, etc.).
      And actually, I think a grounded yoga instructor would be a breath of fresh air amongst all this pretense and condescension. There was nothing "whiny" about this until your comment came up.

  23. Shy Sayar says:

    I might actually go one day, but I haven't yet for so many of the same reasons. Thanks for giving voice to so many of us plenty cool people who just don't feel the need.

  24. mike m says:

    the grateful dead parking lot scene is the catalyst to the burning man scene as well as the summer camping music fests. the grateful dead parking lot was like bonnaroo/burning man at every one of their concerts.

  25. thomasina says:

    great article,

  26. Bonita says:

    Wow. Thank you! Your reasons ring true for me.

  27. Dana J says:

    Interesting perspective. When we lived in the Outer Ave's of SF in '88 or '89, we happened upon one of the first BMs .
    After wards, we considered attending @ BRD several times, but in the beginning, it was a lot different than it is now, and we decided that the desert was not for us. Now you have RV's & private planes. Not the same at all.
    But I respect those select few that do attend, one of our friends is now going for the first time. I hope she has the experience of her life.
    But its still not for us. Dana from Costa Rica

  28. clara says:

    Joslyn, I really enjoy your posts which dare to question the sacred cows of life (esp among spiritual circles). I esp admire you for risking putting your thoughts on this blog – like Wayne said recently, it really does seem to attract some mean folks. Opening yourself up to that kind of attack is courageous as far as I'm concerned.Keep those blogs and letters coming!

    I have no point of reference on Burning Man but have heard many talk abt it in glowing awe-filled terms. Looking at the crazy pics and knowing abt all the fun substances being consumed, I was thinking it was like "spring break" for all the highschool misfits lol.

    I really can't deal with the desert so it is a no-go for me from the outset. …… But When I think abt how controlled our lives are IN THE MATRIX I guess I can see why such an experience could be compelling – I think it could be worthwhile to eat gruel and live raw & wild for a few days just to feel free of the machine.

    Cheers to all who go and Cheers to all who don't!

  29. Kelsey says:

    i have thought this for a while (i think it was the whole moving to france thing we have in common)…..that you are my long lost twin sister. thanks for the laugh and although i too prefer to be alone, it's nice to feel the opposite sometimes.

  30. Rosalind says:

    You're right. That was one of the things I liked about Burning Man: it really did have a lot of spectacular art. Especially at night. Of course, only Burners could see it. Why can't it be put in public spaces so EVERYONE can enjoy it?

  31. Bryon Suet says:

    I am enchanted with the idea of the liberation treatment to cure multiple sclerosis. From what information I can acquire about doctors that provide treatment, I can only find one nebulous list repeated on a dozen websites. Is there a more preferable way to find treatment, per say in North America. There are places that offer Liberation Treatment for the United States that no one knows about, such as Liberation Treatment Now

  32. BryTee says:

    I do go to Burningman, and have been many years, and gone to regional events.
    I think you have assessed what it is through what friends have told you and the photos/video you've seen. My experience is nothing like any of the reasons you don't like it. I also think most of the photos and video do not capture the place. I guess not many people photograph the emptiness as it's not going to make a great photo!
    Consider, if you're on a mission to go see various pieces of art, there's at least 15 minutes of cycle ride (more if you're walking) between each piece. I find I am alone for all that time! But maybe that's because I don't camp with anyone. Others (probably your friends) like to do that, ie join some camp – I don't. I did join a theme camp once (on my 4th year there), it was my worst year there, and that's why I know (and am happy) to not do that again.
    However, I'll admit I don't camp out in the middle of nowhere (but some people do, and maybe you would), as I do like to be near the potties, and despite what others report, unless you're in the packed in camping areas (within a few blocks of center camp), they're pretty clean, and well stocked.

    Burningman is only a festival if you go to those places, if you don't like festival style, then don't go to the places there that emulate a festival environment!

    I read your non-Burner friends don't want to go for a few reasons that include "it's too dusty" or "their friends experiences are not what I'd want", ok, good, but don't judge something based on what others tell you about it. I hear stories from friends about their experiences and it rarely matches mine. But I don't do drugs, I don't buy anything (no ice, no coffee for me), I don't dance, I don't wear fur, nor tutus, I'm not naked. Actually the idea that "everyone" is naked or dresses up, does drugs, or has random sex with strangers, pure BS. I didn't even notice any sexual aspect my first year, and was almost offended when someone claimed Burningman was a sexual environment!
    FYI: I do come form Europe, nudity does not mean sexuality, and is no big deal. I understand most Americans cannot disconnect nudity and sexuality in their minds, I maybe wrong. But anyway, my guess is only 10% of people have some sort of nakedness.

    I think Burningman is what you make of it, or where you go there. And if you want to do what your friends think you'd do there, then… yes you'd probably not want to go. I'd not want to go if I went by what much I read/heard about it. But you don't have to do what they think you should do, you can really do your own thing, and that's why I like Burningman.

    • BryTee says:

      There are reasons I'd not go:
      1) The coffee area in the center camp because a) it's make an otherwise soothing place WAY too noisy, b) there's money trading hands. One of the things I like about Burningman is "gifting" (which is NOT barter – to understand it go watch YouTube: "Halcyon tips and tricks gifting" video). Gifting does not include money. I feel center camp gives out a negative vibe because of this. So I simply avoid that place. If you like coffee, bring your own, or visit the free coffee camps.

      2) Creepy guys who take photos of nudity.
      But they can be ignored or told to go away, and they mostly do.

      3) Too much law enforcement and too many Bureau of Land Management (BLM) "little Hitlers"
      But I can see why they're there, people give the (I think false) impression that there is much drug activity going on, and while it might be the case if you search for it, I'm sure the people who do it, do it outside of Burningman anyway.
      I think the fee the BLM charges Burningman (for the location use) would be reasonable if there was no clean up, but since time-after-time the place is reported by the BLM to have been left cleaner than it was before the event, I think the BLM should be paying the Burningman organization for cleaning the land for them.

      4) Ticket price.
      I have not seen the outgoings increase over many years, there's nothing new provided, they still get free labor to do most of the work, the number of potties is about the same, yet the ticket price has gone up and up. So I believe they are making serious money from this. I wish they'd admit it, but… if they revealed this, many would not volunteer, many would not go, and they'd lose their cash cow.

      5) It's almost a repeat every year
      People expect the "firework show" and many got angry when someone semi-burned it early. I think the arsonist was wrong, but to go after him legally was not in the spirit of Burningman. Me… I don't watch the man burn. I'm not really into that party atmosphere. The temple burn is far more reasonable. Even with tens of thousands of people, it's quite an individual feeling of an event, but I've missed the temple burn a few times too because those things are NOT what Burningman is about for me.
      The road system is the same – BORING – they need to come up with alternative variations! Yes they do minor changes, but something more radical would be welcomed (by me). However I know the typical attendee expects things to be the same, and that is sad.
      Same location – it'd be more fun if they moved the main event around the country, if not, the world! But I don't think they'd make the money they make now… so that's very unlikely.

      But those reasons have yet to outweigh the reasons I do go.

  33. Jim says:

    I love it how many people are latching on to the private airstrip as a reason to diss Burning Man and say they would not want to go. 50,000 people attended Burning Man this year. There were less than 50 small private planes at the airstrip…… How many of the FIFTY THOUSAND PEOPLE do you think flew in on them? Sure, it's easy to see how you can make a sweeping generalization that it's being taken over by rich people.

    AYIYI. Get a grip. Also there are no feathers (they would blow away across the desert and pollute the playa). There is not a barter economy. It is a GIFTING economy where bartering is no more accepted or allowed than commercialism. The amount of misinformation in this thread from the people out to discredit and ridicule Burning Man is really pretty amazing. There are reasons to not want to go. But alot of you are laboring under misconceptions and superficial stereotypes of what it is really like. Generalizations about what "everyone" does at Burning Man really do not make sense as it is about SELF-expression. In a week there I never once heard anyone say a single judgemental word about what someone else was wearing. It just does not happen. If you can't deal with heat, with dust, with nudity, with intense music and art and radical expression, with being non judgmental about people who may be very unlike yourself and have VERY different interests then it's not the place for you. Many of these other reasons are just people parroting second hand stereotypes and predispositions to justify looking down on something and ridiculing it without experiencing it.

  34. […] The other day, I saw a couple of kids in Whole Foods wearing their Halloween costumes a good week ahead of time. I asked one of the boys—he looked to be six or seven— about his football player costume. He informed me that this was not his “real” costume. His “real” costume hadn’t arrived yet—it was a mail order Dearth Maul getup. Of course, he explained, he couldn’t wear that to his school Halloween party, because it was against the rules to wear a scary mask. So, he would be saving Dearth Maul for trick or treating, and had a third costume lined up for the school function. Three costumes. The kid is ripe for Burning Man. […]

  35. Jolene says:

    I agree with you, Joslyn, on all your counts. As Tommy Lee Jones' character, K, says to Will Smith's character, J, in "Men In Black": "A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it."

  36. You have talked about quite a few curious points in this article. I found this by using Google and I have to admit that I am currently subscribed to your blog, it is extremely great 🙂

  37. disco says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!
    You've just convinced me to continue my practice of never trying to convince anyone to go to Burning Man. You make assumptions about the event, and its participants, that simply aren't true. I don't like crowds either, and I've still managed to find time and place on the playa to be very very alone. You want to camp alone? You can do that out there. You'd be surprised how spreading 50K people over a huge expanse of desert can afford you plenty of chances to be all by yourself. Not a big fan of fan of festivals either, as I grew up with Mardi Gras. But I still manage to find very quiet spaces at Burning Man.
    As with anything in life, Burning Man is what you make of it. Sounds like you've already made it what you want it to be.

  38. Brad says:

    Brillant! And why I won't ever go to Coachella, either.

  39. rusty rebar says:

    anything that attracts 50,000 people is not any one thing — if you really liked the people who asked you to go, you'd go (but you don't & so you won't) — there is no "joining" involved — no cult & certainly no life-changing experiences to be had that you can't have at the local laundromat — no doubt the fantasy of living for a week without having anything to shop for is not for you — nor is the realization that SACRIFICE is essential for a healthy psyche — has been always will be — burning man is an ersatz new-age half-assed rite of passage — a ritual — a process of throwing away something important so as to affirm it's value — maybe there's hope in that, maybe despair — but it is truly human & lovely to see & be a part of — sorry you'll miss it…

    • "No doubt the fantasy of living for a week without having anything to shop for is not for you"? Really? Smug much? I'm actually not a shopper. At all. And I love my friends, whether they go to Burning Man or not. But thanks for highlighting one of my pet peeves about the whole "you should go to Burning Man" culture: the judgment narrowly disguised as open-mindedness.

  40. Jon says:

    wow, this author seems like she's a great time…dont go to burning man b/c we don't really want you and you are the one missing out!

  41. Half says:

    Thats a lot of attention, time and energy paid towards something you don’t want to do….I hope you expend as much clear energy and obvious talent towards writing about things you love and that inspire you.

    BM is no cult. It’s just a city that people build once a year where they wont be judged and condemned for expressing themselves. what they choose to express is not always something I want to watch or listen to but it’s also a place where I am free to walk away.

    It makes me sad that we need a place like black rock city to experience freedom like that.

  42. Peter says:

    You know, I wish I wanted to go to Burning Man, but I don't. Although I'm sure there are plenty of "artistic moments" there is also a terrible "poser" element to it too. We all know what I'm talking about.

  43. Katherine says:


    Beats Fucking Antique didn't get tickets…

  44. merret mann says:

    Dig it girl

  45. David Ludwig says:

    Sorry, but it's not an experience that can be considered or evaluated from the outside because it defies evaluation. I felt the way you feel "before" and I am now converted. Judging something you haven't experienced based on hearsay is a total left brain exercise, and BRC is decidedly not a left brain place. Better to say you are not attending because you have projected an experience that you do not think you will like.

  46. assword says:

    i get the non-people-liking aspect. i'm introverted and generally socially phobic. there are lots of us on the playa. but the other reasons in the quotes above are exactly why we don't want you to come to burning man. if getting a spa treatment or being clean is a main focus for you, then please, please, please, never come as you promise. and discourage your friends.

  47. faern! says:

    im with you, and i am a living, breathing artist.

    not for all the same reasons or anything… some yes, some no~

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