My Adventure to Burning Man: 2003

The Burning Man festival is an annual event  held in the Nevada desert over Labor Day weekend. An "experiment in temporary community," it seemed to defy definition. Some looked on it as the last great hippie gathering.  My reasons for going were...complex.      

Early in December, 2002, somebody asked me what I wanted for Christmas-- what did I really, really want? The first thing that came to mind was.... "Adventure!" I needed adventure. I was not what one might call well-traveled. There's great cities I've never visited, oceans I've never seen.  I was adventure-deprived. I started researching where a person might go for adventure these days.  

There's not a lot. Adventure is dangerous. Most of so-called "adventure travel" is so toned-down for safety (and to keep from being sued) that about the most you can get is the image of adventure. Some adventurous events, like the Camel Trophy, had fallen into history, and you needed corporate sponsorship to enter something like the Eco-Challenge. The world's a much smaller place than it used to be, and a guy just can't just sign aboard a ship to a distant land anymore. I wanted to see places I'd never seen before, go down roads I'd never traveled, do things I'd never done...  That's when I started looking at Burning Man. On the back of the Burning Man ticket, it  clearly says: "YOU VOLUNTARILY ASSUME THE RISK OF SERIOUS INJURY OR DEATH BY ATTENDING." Burning Man sounded like just what I was looking for.  

I almost didn't go at all. In the first place, tickets were expensive. The closer to the event, the more expensive the tickets get. When the 2003 tickets came out, I had to buy one right away, before the price increased. If I had waited, I wouldn't have been able to afford a ticket at all. I started having second thoughts right away.  I'd thought about selling my ticket on Ebay, but I kept holding off on that option; it seemed like admitting failure--giving in to fear.Plus there was the costs of getting there, eating, gas, and surviving on the Playa. I had not camped out since I was 10 years old. A recreational vehicle seemed like the way to go, but those things are really expensive to rent, even for just a week. You can blow a hundred dollars just filling up the gas tank. Not only did I not have a tent, I didn't even know how to put one up, and even if I took one, the harsh conditions of the Nevada desert sounded like it would tear up any tent I could afford. 

But then it hit me. I didn't need an RV. I didn't need a tent. I had a van-- a 2000 Dodge Caravan, which I'd named Satori. I could just sleep in the back of the van and use it as my base of operations. Whatever else I needed, I'd scrounge from what I already had in the garage. I could save money in other ways, like only eating one meal a day. I also decided to go alone. In case I made a bad decision, nobody but me would be hurt. The idea of going so far to camp out in a desert is enough to make a person shake his head. The Black Rock Desert is hot, dry and dusty, and I would be going in August. Thousands of people would be there. It was bound to be dirty, crowded, windy, loud, miserably hot and dreadfully uncomfortable.    

... But, what kind of adventure would it be if it was comfortable?     

I was taking a big risk going on a trip like that alone... but what's life without risks?  I needed to expand my horizons, take some chances, increase my experiences, challenge my perceptions, explore my limits...  It was still a crazy idea. Right up until the week before the festival began, going to Burning Man was still up in the air. I'd invested in some stuff, but nothing I couldn't use elsewhere eventually. If I decided  
to not go, I'd only be out the price of a ticket, and I'd just chalk it up to experience...  But experience was exactly what I was wanting. When I can't even have a simple conversation with a friend because the subject matter was "beyond my experience," it was time to get out of the house. Something called to me from the Nevada desert. I didn't just want to go: I needed to go.  

This adventure had the high probability of being the craziest thing I'd ever done. Only one way to find out...     

This was my planned route 
to Burning Man 
and back again. 
--But, as somebody 
a lot wiser than me 
once said, 
"Wanna make God laugh? 
Make plans..."


Prologue --Day 1 --- Day 2 --- Day 3 --- Day 4 --- Day 5 --- Day 6 --- Day 7 --- Day 8 --- Day 9 --- Day 10 -- Epilogue
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Links Updated: May, 2006
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