Burning Man Festival: Tips For Surviving the Desert

Surviving the Spartan Death Race

Are you headed out to the desert? It's that time of the year again. The Burning Man Festival has begun and 50,000 people will head to the Black Rock Desert, 120 miles North of Reno, to build an experimental art community while weathering extreme conditions.

"Conditions here range from excellent to treacherous," said Jake Markow, a Seattle resident and fourth year attendee. "There is no doubt the desert is a difficult place to survive, but something about the openness and emptiness seems to make people want to fill it with themselves."

In a the makeshift city of 50,000, people are invited to openly express themselves through art and other means. "Not everyone accepts that invitation, but enough do that you see amazing new things every year," said Markow, who is currently at Black Rock desert as the team leader for the Temple of Transition.

"I think that the emptiness and harshness of the desert really makes us look inside of ourselves, takes us out of our comfort zone and allows for that opening to happen. "

To participate in the Burning Man event attendees shelled out up to $350 per person for the weeklong desert event. On Stubhub, only one ticket is available to the desert art event that sold out for the first time ever this year. The price? $895. It's a hot ticket event where members of the makeshift communities gather from Aug 29 to Sept 5 to practice the 10 principles of the organization such as radical inclusion, gifting, decommidification, radical self-reliance and more.

"It is amazing how overwhelmingly huge in scale the desert can be, and it is quite inspiring to wander toward a tiny speck out in the distance and find it to be some delightful new kind of art you have never seen or experience before," said Markow.

Artists, musicians, painters, and observers that converge in the desert to take part in the 25-year-old event are required to leave no trace, including dirty water, of their presence when the event is over.

The super fine sand and dirt can become a gummy mud when mixed with water, and attendees are expected to have no impact on the desert.

"It's this flat, white ancient lake bed so for as far as you can see there is no blade of grass, ant or even a rock . It's an unbelievable canvas with huge art pieces," says Jen Lewin, an artist from Boulder, Colo., who began attending the event in 1996. "The art is much more open, and accessible at the festival," said Lewin. "If it's a sculpture it's intended to be climbed and touched. Much of the art is meant to be touched or climbed, which can be any other organizations insurance nightmare."

One huge part of the festival is the Temple, which will eventually burn at the event. A large-scale project that requires months of planning and 80 days to complete is a journey of the human spirit.

"People leave offerings, pictures, they write on the Temple walls, and what you see there is this amazing expression of the entirety of the human spirit. You see pain and sorrow as well as joy and ecstasy," says Markow.

"When the Temple burns there is utter silence, just the sound of fire and the participants around it going through every range of emotion you can imagine you can image and then some. And that transition between moments of intense celebration and intense reverence really reveals a side of Burning Man that many who have never been to a Temple burn would likely never imagine," he continued.

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