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8 Step Guide for Burner Virgins

25 August 2010 5 Comments

Some ‘curmudgeonly advice’ from one who has been to 7 burns to all of you heading out there for the first time. Good luck! Here’s my eight pieces of, um, sagely? advice, in decending order…


Yes, this includes drinking and other altering substances. However, I’d say it’s just as important to include the bodily basics: suntan lotion and water. I know way too many virgins who wander off from camp on Monday morning only to come back burnt on Monday afternoon. Imagine spending the rest of your week trying to hide from the beating burning sun in the fucking desert, or getting heat exhaustion and taking two days to recover. It’s really not a good time.


Find yourself overwhelmed? Slow down and do something for somebody. Make a friend by carrying ice for a few blocks. Haul something for an artist for an hour or two because they worked their ass off for months
to make it for you. Don’t worry about what you do being sexy — I don’t know one camp on the playa that would object to you doing their dishes, because no one on the playa wants to do their own dishes. A
little service will make you feel good and make friends.


Do it. Showering, meditating, yoga, vinegar on your feet, whatever. Organizing your tent is a also a good idea. Taking time for self care will help you stay grounded, and notice where you’re at. Check in with yourself, and with your good friends. Being aware of what’s going on and processing as it goes along can make for a much better burn.


So someone in your camp decides all 21 of you should all go out on the town. Don’t do it, at least not for long. The larger your group, the worse the group mind. I have a few really good friends I love to hang with on the playa. If we do start out as a group, our smaller group make it clear that when it takes waaaay too long to get everyone moving, we’re moving on. If you’re with a group, it’s easy to be bored and waiting. Which brings me to my next point…


Change it up! There are fun things to do at Burning Man, and some really bad boring ones too. Figuring out how to find what really is worth staying for is an art. Don’t think that means it has to be whatever someone else thinks is fun. Sometimes chatting at camp with really cool neighbours is better than big shiny things. After seven burns, I find the burning of the man to be a bit dull, so I don’t always go. If it’s your first year, you’ll probably find it new and exciting. Make up your own mind about where you want to spend your


One of the great and terrible things about Burning Man is that there are fewer social rules. It can be wonderful and honest, and annoying at the same time. For example, someone may bluntly proposition you. Under these social rules, it’s honest more than rude, and may be complimentary if they don’t push it. You can actually address attraction like adults.

However, there is a real line here that you need to keep. if they do push your boundaries with sexuality or anything else that you don’t like, push back. If you want them to stop, tell them. If they keep on doing it, remember there really are no private places on the playa — Use a loud voice to declare: “This person is an asshole who doesn’t respect boundaries!” to the 30 people who just happen to be around you. Believe me, they will back the fuck off.

Be careful getting so fucked up that you can’t keep your own boundaries. Just because it’s Burning Man doesn’t mean you can trust everyone. It’s a big city, meaning there are all kinds of people, including really creepy ones. Yes, there are also fantastic people and good spaces, but that doesn’t mean you can give your critical judgement a week off. If you are playing with substances, use that small group and watch out for each other just like you would in the default world.


There’s always noise. There’s no privacy. People get uptight about dumb things. There’s dust and stupidity and you walk in someone else’s piss spot. There’s couples/campmates fighting about dumb shit. The camp down the road that has nothing by heavy metal karaoke when you’re more a Johnny Cash-type (or vice-versa). Cacophony is a pleasure and a curse. The more you can roll with it, the better your burn will be,
but don’t be surprised if they are not all beautiful shiny surprises. Which brings me to my last and most important point…


You have probably been told that Burning Man is the most amazing mind-blowing fantastic place you’ve ever seen or could see. Please, lower you expectations. Really. Lots of us enjoy it, and keep coming back. Some people hate it, and while I disagree, I can see their point. Going in saying “This will and must be the most amazing life altering experience of my life,” is just setting yourself up for disappointment. Don’t do it. Burning Man is an annoying expedition into community with annoying people who you have to offer radical acceptance with survival camping thrown on in just to make it more complicated. Aren’t you glad you’ve made such a huge sacrifice to go there? ;)

That’s it. Go, be smart, Enjoy!


  • victoria-jacklyn said:

    I really like the tips. Very realistic. Im sure youve learned a lot over 7 BMs. My friend and I have never been. We plan to go to 2011 and I’m insanely excited but almost terrified as well! 7 days of party in the Nevada desert is almost to much commitment for me to handle! :)

  • gabrielle said:

    Great measure in your observations. I am a big traveler but never done the burn and of course, be-fore I read you, yeah, I had big-ger expectations. But it’s all in the right places now. Thanks!

  • jaybird said:

    thank you, inveterate burner! this is really helpful. going (hopefully) in 2012 for time #1. needed the reality check that you provided here.

  • wonderhussy said:

    I appreciate your blunt honesty as regards tip #7! I was TOTALLY disappointed on my first burn — I was expecting a life-altering experience all about art, music and science, but I found it to be more about drugs, dubstep and drunk frat guys in silly costumes. Still…….I enjoyed it enough to come back! You just have to take it for what it is — there IS cool stuff there, in amidst all the annoying parts. It’s definitely what you make of it!

  • wonderhussy said:

    I meant tip #1…whooooops, damn drugs!