It’s been a few weeks since my first Burning Man experience, and (to the dismay of some of my friends) I still can’t stop talking and thinking about it 😀 It’s an impossible task to explain what it was like, and how the experience has changed the way I think. But I do want to try and document some of my thoughts on it, because like all great experiences and memories, with time they fade. Sad. 😦
When I first told people I was going to Burning Man, I was met with a lot of surprise. What?! But Burning Man is so not like you. And when I heard all of that… I thought hm, that’s interesting. Already, Burning Man has different meanings to different people.
And when I finally got to experience it, I realised the beauty of Burning Man was precisely that: it is what you make of it. Everyone can have the experience that they want and make of it. For me, what motivated me to go was the art. But it became so much more.
Initially, it was the getting on the bike and exploring the 200+ pieces of art that was spread across the desert. It was the idea of coming across amazing art pieces built by people from all over the world that you could explore, and try and understand (and in some cases even climb!)
Then it became the unexpected encounters, the getting stuck out in sandstorms and trading of stories with artists and strangers as you sought refuge in art pieces. It was the thrill of climbing structures in the middle of lightning storms and the ability to be like kids again, where time and place didn’t matter so long as you were with your friends. It’s being able to wear whatever you want or don’t want and not being judged for it. It’s being in the same space as 70,000 people and watching a city come to life before your eyes. It was the fact that you could talk to anyone, and everyone would proactively talk to you because that’s just courtesy, that’s just how the world should be. It’s the greeting of neighbours, and the contributing to your camp – building, cooking, greeting because that is what a community does. It’s the exploring of workshops and talks on anything and everything, and picking ones that aren’t quite what you would normally go to. It’s the watching of an orchestra comprised of musicians from around the world who meet to rehearse and perform during the week. It’s having the craziest adventure when trying to leave the Burn which included forest fires, road closures, missed flights and free helicopter rides. It’s being around old friends who go the extra mile. It’s the unexpected conversations with those new few who you immediately click with and the intrigue that remains because you didn’t quite have enough time to truly get to know each other.
Equally, it’s a reminder of how spoiled I am in my normal day life – the fact that I am okay being uncomfortable because I know I’ll soon be back in comfort; I am okay being hot and sticky because I know I’ll be clean soon. The comfort I sought in being with my friends because it meant I was under no pressure to find new people to hang out with, and was okay with having more superficial/on-the-surface conversations with others because I knew I had people to fall back on… it’s actually quite an interesting social experiment and self reflection lesson.
We live in bubbles. We live in preconceptions and misconceptions. Burning Man is a far cry from our real life – especially Hong Kong – but it was such a poignant, inspiring and important reminder that the way I live doesn’t always have to be the way that I live, that I should always try to go the extra mile for and be kind to others, that I need to keep an open mind, that I shouldn’t judge until I experience things for myself, and that from time to time I should step out of my comfort zone because that’s how we are forced to think and hopefully grow.