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What Happens at Burning Man?

Last updated on January 2, 2021

What Happens at Burning Man?

I was 16 years old when I went to my first festival. 

I remember dancing alone in an open field and feeling a sense of freedom that I would chase at festivals for years to come. 

Fast forward to August 2017.

I’m chatting with a friend who is leaving for Burning Man in two weeks. She mentions her RV has room and they are looking for 1-2 more people to join them. 

Within seconds, I hop on Craigslist and find a guy selling a ticket, but only to someone who has space in their group for him to join. 


My friend, her girlfriend, the Craigslist guy and me all leave for Black Rock City, Nevada on August 26, 2017. 

I knew enough about Burning Man to know it wasn’t just another festival. For starters, we would be camping for 8 nights (opposed to 1-2 nights) and needed to bring our own food and water for the week (nothing is for sale).

I knew drugs were abundant, the desert winds could be intense, and the focus was on art more than music.

But I still couldn’t help but wonder: What will we do all day?

Silly me.

There wasn’t a single hour where I twiddled my thumbs. When you enter the gates at Burning Man, you are given a What, Where, When book (screenshot below) that details what’s happening every hour of every day.

what happens at burning man

If you remember only one thing about Burning Man from this article, it should be this: Burning Man is a serious place with serious intentions disguised by absurdity.

People are naked. People are on drugs. It’s the land of anything goes. But to my delight and surprise, the event attracts smart, interesting and inspiring leaders from all over the world who simply want to embrace freedom and talk how to make the world a better place. 

Amen to that.

Related Reading: Why Occupy Wall Street Failed

Burning Man Celebrates Decentralization

Conversations around the importance of decentralization were everywhere in 2017 (surprise, surprise). Below are workshops/ panels about decentralization from just ONE day: 

11-12: Decentralized Web Browsing with Fabian.

Building a decentralized web browser from the ground up to fulfill the vision of the Trustless Web 3.0.

1-2: Seasteading: Floating Islands in Paradise.

Learn about Seasteading and the first floating islands in Tahiti coming in 2020. Decentralized semi-autonomous floating cities = The Future!

2-3: Building a Fair Decentralized Court.

As more and more interactions depend on smart contracts, a way to resolve human disputes that cannot be encoded into them is needed.

4-5: Blockchain DAOs & Systems with Jordi.

How blockchain can help deploy new decentralized models of governance in human organizations.

You might say this kind of a schedule resembles a conference! But no, Burning Man is not like a conference and I’ll just leave it at that 🙂

Related Reading: The Benefits of Cryptocurrency

Burning Man Celebrates Individuality

Something about Burning Man reminds you that life is as uncharted as the desert. I am sure of the body my soul occupies, and of the Earth I stand on.

Everything else is open to interpretation. 

But then there is society…

Have you ever seen a kid skipping down the street? He’s doing that because it makes him happy.

Unfortunately, the kid will stop skipping when he grows up. He will have learned how to dress, talk, walk, work, pay taxes and obey authority. Skipping still makes him happy, but he’s learned to prioritize fitting in over being happy.  

We each create unique realities as children but are groomed over time to pass over the reins of “what is real” to society.

Burning Man rejects this notion. 

Our only obligation as humans is to align with our souls and express its authentic desires. This is how we spiritually heal ourselves and all of humanity. 

Society doesn’t approve of your authentic desires? Fuck society.

I met a polyamorous group, hung out with exhibitionists, talked to a commune-living family, befriended an Austrian teenager who was building a spaceship and hung out with artists who lived out of backpacks and traveled the world selling art.

I learned of businessmen who drink ayahuasca to inform decisions, I met a Shaman who explained the cruel motives behind western medicine, I talked with a guy who channeled spirits, and chatted with a permaculture farmer who survived solely off his land.

Burning Man is so great because your average encounter is with someone who chose to follow their heart in life, rather than their brain.

Not an easy task to do….

Related Reading: Why Are Liberals So Stupid?

Radical Self-Reliance

There are 10 Principles to live by while at Burning Man. 

My favorite is called Radical Self-Reliance, which simply states: Burning Man encourages the individual to discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources.

Can you imagine that? Self-reliance viewed as a positive quality?

Kids are coddled to death these days. They never lose, never feel pain, never experience boredom, never get lost and have no understanding of self-defense. We don’t let them develop grit or struggle, ever.

But at Burning Man….

Did you forget to bring water? Your tent flew away? Your bike was stolen? 

Sucks for you, buddy!

It sounds harsh but these things happen. And it sucks. Everyone is on their own out there in the desert, though, so forgetting water is your own fault. Tents fly away and bikes get stolen…there’s no customer service or police to help you. Guess you’ll have to figure it out, huh?

I have mad, mad respect for this ethos. I believe that when things get rough, humans are built to persevere and find creative solutions.

It’s too easy to forget that life is something you design.

No one is going to deliver the life you want wrapped in a box with a pretty bow.

Dig deep. Use your head. Be creative. Be SELF-RELIANT.

Related Reading: How to Be A Conscious Investor

Spirit Guides Flourish at Burning Man

One morning I met a man who told me the story of his life.

He was married for 16 years and thinks he met his wife so he could discover his ability to talk with spirits. 

He said his 16-year marriage led up to a single moment: The day his wife’s brother invited him on a trip to the jungle.

It was on this trip that he discovered he could communicate with another dimension. When he got home, him and his wife divorced and he knew in his heart that the whole point of their marriage was to go on that trip to the jungle. 

Sounds crazy, right?

But his story hit me hard. I had abruptly ended a happy and loving 7-year relationship.

At the time, my spiritual journey had just begun and listening to spirit guides did not come naturally. I got their messages but had a confusing time understanding what they meant: Why would I end a happy relationship with a man I loved? 

In the end, I did break things off and it was horrible, to say the least. 

But this guy at Burning Man confirmed my suspicion that relationships and people are sometimes stepping stones to our ultimate truth. 

If I hadn’t honored myself and my spirit guides, I would still be in that happy relationship. Doesn’t sound too bad, right? No….but if you don’t trust the universe and your spirit guides you will never fully meet your destiny.

I have no regrets.

Burning Man attracts people who see in between the lines of reality. We are told love is everything, but that’s only true when talking about the love we have for ourselves. 

Related Reading: How to Connect to Spirit Guides

Burning the Actual Man

Government protects us, newspapers inform us, corporations employ us and organizations support us.

Is any of that true?

In the default world, people trust the media and think politicians want to help us. I have been suspicious of this paradigm for years and was happy that most burners felt the same way. 

Some things to think about:

Burning Man is not just drugs, sex and partying. People that attend this annual event question authority, reject norms and value freedom and liberty. 

Which is a freaking breath of fresh air.

Related Reading: What is Anarcho Capitalism?

Art and Art and More Art

The People are Art.

what happens at burning man The Bikes are Art.

what happens at burning man

The Art Cars are Art.

what happens at burning man

The Camps are Art.

what happens at burning man

Burning Man is an incredible experience and I’m happy to share with you what bits I could 🙂 

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