Burning Man 2013

24 August - 2 September 2013. Filed under category Travel.

The obvious benefit of being geographically independent is that you are free to be wherever you want to be, and every year when Burning Man rolls around, there is no other place I’d rather be than Black Rock City. For those new to the site may want to check out my Burning Man Guide to know why.

I’ll keep the writing short this year to give more space for the pictures and videos that, beautiful as I hope them to be, still can only convey a small fraction of the bewildering beauty that is Burning Man.

If you don’t know what Burning Man is, I recommend that you first read my Guide to Burning Man and the Ten Principles of Burning Man before reading this more personal reflection on my burn, 2013.

The Crew

Dixy, Vagina and Don

Dixy, Vagina and Don

Four happy campers piled into the Sin Wagon (our monster RV). There was of course Don and I. Our normal companion Jamison couldn’t make it this year. Last year’s new addition, Sylvia a.k.a. Vagina, came along again and brought along her boyfriend, Dixy.

The ride up to Black Rock City was uneventful apart from my debut as the driver of the huge RV and the trailer. I was terrified, but managed to not kill myself, my friends or anyone else.

The Engagement

Dixy popped the question (in the Sin Wagon) and Vagina said yes! They met two years ago at Burning Man, and two years was all it took! Hip hip hurrah! Congratulations!

The Cock

Don being mighty proud of his Black Rock Cock

Don being mighty proud of his Black Rock Cock

Once again, we erected the Black Rock Cock, a dick-shaped shelter in the deep playa, far away from the main city. Like last year, we left a journal in the cock for people to write their hearts upon, and Dixy added a couple of doodling books as well.

The cock is always fun to build, and it feels good to bring something to Burning Man which so many find such great joy within.

The Burns

The burning of the Man and the Temple this year was the best burns I’ve ever seen. The structures burnt fast and blazingly. No slow burn here! There were also some pretty impressive burnings of one-off art pieces, prime among them the Church Trap, a huge rabbit-trap like structure in the shape of a church.

The Game

Playing flamethrower-guitarr hero!

Playing flamethrower-guitarr hero!

One of my most memorable experiences at Burning Man this year was the guitar hero game in the playa. The image was projected onto a screen and the whole system was hooked up to five flamethrowers, so when you hit a note right, flames shot up from behind the screen! I played my nomadic theme song, ‘Wherever I may roam’ by Metallica. Loved it!

The Doubts

I had a lot of fun at Burning Man this year. I saw a lot of beautiful art, I met many great people and I return to the default world with a whole lot of new stories.

But still, something was missing this year. My previous four years haven’t just been fun; they have been revelatory.  There was always been some kind of epiphany or moment of deep connection with myself or someone else that simply moved me. This year, that did not happen. I wasn’t even moved to tears by the burning of the Temple, and normally I bawl like a baby during that burn. This year, I thought it was beautiful, but that was it. Skin deep.

I do!

I do!

So am I jaded? Or does Burning Man simply not have any more surprises for me? Is it really possible to get used to something like Burning Man? Maybe. Maybe I just wasn’t in the right headspace this year. Who knows.

I had three different people independently suggest one theory, which I hope is true but I’m not sure. They said that perhaps in my first few years, the thing that hit me so hard about Burning Man was the revelation that life could be so much more colourful, exciting, open, adventurous and kick-ass awesome. The contrast between the Burning Man values and my own life where so defined and profound that it hit me right in the gut.

Perhaps then, the lack of epiphanies during Burning Man this year is a sign that I’ve managed to incorporate the values of Burning Man into my default (nomadic) life.

Had only one person said so, I’d have written it off as flattery, but there were three of them, independently suggesting the theory, and well, maybe there is something to it. I sure hope so.


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  1. Rocky says:

    Hey Gustav,

    Nice seeing you again on the playa and glad you made a safe exodus. This was my sixth Burning Man over about 14 years… I’ve had years with huge revelations, and others not so much. It’s really hard to predict. Some years I’m just primed to move forward and gain new insights. Some years I think I’m still integrating what I’ve learned before. Regardless, it’s always a pleasure to connect with new people and experience all that Burning Man provides.

    Just keep an open heart and follow your dream. Big Hug – Rocky

    1. It was great seeing you too. And that is one point that will make me come back time and time again. Burning Man is family! I have to come back to see my family if nothing else.

  2. Oby Oputa says:

    Hello Gussie, I enjoyed reading the article on Burning Man. It sounds like an amazing place (the pics and videos are mind blowing) and experience; I must admit that I am somewhat curious to find out for myself what it is like, perhaps one day…if I am brave enough…
    I appreciated your honesty in writing about the lack of revelation and intense connection you felt you missed this year; if anything it made me see what Burning Man means to you, and how much you value and learn from the experiences you have there. I think it’s great that you think about what have learnt or connected with, whenever you go there, self awareness is necessary for growth. The fact that you don’t feel like you didn’t experience any thing more than “skin deep” is fine. You don’t always need to feel the force of the wind to know that the air is still around. You are still breathing, living ad growing.

    Always Oby

    1. Expectations are a tricky thing. If you have too many of them, then it can be hard to live up to them and that may lead to disappointment. But, how can you not have expectations if you have had four consecutive years of eye-opening revelations and deep emotional connection?

      The way I thought of it was this. If I buy a lottery ticket and win a millions dollars, I of course get very happy. Because I know nothing about statistics, I buy another and win another million. I do this a third and fourth time, breaking the odds each time and keep winning a million dollars. Fifth ticket, I only get 100k. Should I be disappointed? Or happy for my 100k this year and remember to be extremely grateful for the first 4M? That sounds better. And will I buy another ticket next year? Most likely. If not next then definitively the subsequent year.

      1. Rocky says:

        I’ve missed years… and that’s okay. Sometimes life and lack of finances get in the way. It definitely made me appreciate the experience even more when I was able to go back. Hope we see you next year… otherwise I’ll just keep cyber-stalking you here. 😉

  3. Alain says:

    Hopefully, hopefully, hopefully (cross fingers), I’d be able to be there next year! :))
    Can I go with your group? 😀

  4. Imogen says:

    You lucky, lucky baxxxxd.

  5. Anthony says:

    It sounds like to me that you’ve reached “Dharma” your true place in the cosmic process: in time, in space, in awareness, in thought, deed and desire.

  6. J, says:

    I have found that some years have monumental revelations and others not so much. “It’s always the same but different.” In the differences, I have found the personal growth I was looking for.

    In addition, I have found that whenever I escort virgins, and experience the playa through their eys, I see things that I might have otherwise missed.

    Stretch through your experiences on the playa to grasp the future you, whoever that is. In other words, use BM as an opportunity to experiment. Push to do something you have not done. If you are a “day person,” try becoming a “night person” next time.

    Consider alternative states of consciousness. This does not necessitate gateway drugs, although it might. Meditation and yoga are wonderful on the playa.

    Finally, As you yourself noted, Keep expectations in check. As the song goes, “Let it be.”

  7. Karl says:

    Well I’m not sure I’m quite qualified enough to comment yet, this year was my first trip to Burning Man, but I guess I felt similar to you, insomuch as I felt like I was skating along the top, not properly engaged or not experiencing something or missing something. I thought this was due to my own shortcomings or perhaps I was not in the right state of mind as I had in the two weeks prior crossed the entire US on a road trip of 7500km and was emotionally tired. But then after expressing this to friends that I was at Burning Man with they said a similar thing, that they didn’t feel the usual connection with the playa and its people.

    It was an interesting experience, there is no doubting that. It was intense and I loved the art.

    I am sure I will go back, I will probably do it in a different way next time.

    It is interesting that I have heard the same thing said several times now.

    1. My suggestion to all virgins (that is what a first-year burner is called) is to volunteer for some of the camps. The lamplighters and center camp coffee barista team are two good places to start. I didn’t do much volunteering apart from building the Black Rock Cock, so perhaps that is part of why I didn’t connect enough.

      1. Karl says:

        Well because I went with a good friend of mine, I ended up camping with a theme camp, we got early arrival passes to help set up the camp. I’m reasonably mechanically minded and generally don’t leave home without my leatherman so I’m one of those people that while wandering around I kept stopping to help people with broken bikes, showing people how to use a hack saw, a slide hammer (I saw one guy trying to hammer in rebar with the wrong end, so had to help the poor guy!), jump starting cars, rewiring stereos, lots of stuff. So I got to meet a lot of people through my random mechanical aid.

        Not specifically volunteering, but I guess still helping people with the skills I have.

  8. Stuart says:

    Mir looks awesome! Could you go inside it?

  9. Kyle Traveler says:

    I also had a less special year last year. I personally noticed too much of a party vibe (though I like that too). Feels like it could be blowing up a bit too big for Europeans who want more just the desert rave.

    Or that could have just been my experience.

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