What is Burning Man, how to get there and how much does it cost – Oleksiy Malytskyy, CEO of Octogin, tells us about it
I first heard about Burning Man in 2013. I was looking for cool festivals and came across this one, and got a desire to attend it. This year I’ve done it. Burning Man is unlike anything else. It is a new religion, which is more like a sect that you can become a part of. It is a religion for people who were born with a phone, who always had Google and who are fed up with tech wilderness.
In my opinion, at Burning Man you are transformed into three imaginary levels. The first one can be called consumer level. You arrive as a kind of tourist: you make photos and shoot videos. As far as Burning Man is a real museum of contemporary art: music, sculpture, light installations – it all takes place right here and now. You admire colors, people, and clothing – there are a lot of things to take pictures of.
The second level consists in triggering positive emotions. Here they call it gifting. The trick of Burning Man is to give more than you get. The paradox is that the more you give, the more you get. You are allowed to make any kind of gifts: physical things like espresso, ice-cream or assistance: repair of bicycle, guided tour, massage or waste removal. The most important thing is positive emotions.
At this level you become aware that it is not necessary to make any photos at all.
The third level is to be here and now. I used to think that I felt what it was like to live in the moment. However, it is only at Burning Man that I’ve truly realized it. I think that it is the cheapest way to feel what “here and now” means.
Parties and installations
There are a lot of parties. The parties take place on a round-the-clock basis. We slept two or three hours a day, because all the time was spent on hanging out. When you are going from point A to point B, anyone can invite you to communicate, eat and drink. This journey can take five hours. Sometimes you cannot even reach the final destination and come back in two days. That’s fine.
Installations are a different story at Burning Man. There are a lot of them. I’ve managed to see just about a half. The trick of installation consists in the fact that you are able to interact with them. For example, some guys brought an aircraft. It looks like multi-storied building – there were dance floors and activities. It looked as if a half of Zhylanska Street in Kyiv had been brought to Burning Man.
There was an installation, which put clouds into the sky. These clouds floated above the ground and were about the size of shuttle bus. I cannot imagine how they managed to implement it, but anyone could get inside the cloud and fly. Eco-installation turned sounds into dozens of echoes and a room with mirrors blew your mind, etc.
As I have already told, one of the basic rules of Burning Man is gifting. Almost all things are free of charge at the festival. However, it is not without an effort. Every participant makes his/her own gifting. Therefore, everyone presents something on his/her own. For instance, a few years ago Mark Zuckerberg visited Burning Man. They arranged a Facebook camp and cooked sandwiches for everybody.
I’ve brought nothing for gifting at the festival, but I collected waste. It is not like anyone deliberately litters here. However, it happens that something can just fall out. There’s a bit of a story to that as well. I was driving and noticed a tin can. I turned back and tried to pick it up. However, it was nailed down to the ground. It turned out to be bait, used by more experienced “burners”. They rushed out and started welcoming me. One of them “adopted” me (such a ritual) and allowed to work as a bartender, if there was no one behind the bar, as well as to stay overnight.
Drugs and sex
There is a myth that a lot of drugs and sex are available at Burning Man. However, it’s not true. If you came yourself, you would not also find there any drug dealer. It is very likely that you will not see drugs there as well. If you attend the festival to find sex, most probably you won’t succeed. It is not so popular here. Of course, there are houses for orgies, although, in my opinion, it is more like tourist spots. Orgies take place there not more often than at Luteranska or Shovkovychna Streets in Kyiv.
At Burning Man there are a lot of police. There are applied the laws of the country, but not the laws of the State. If they catch you with drugs, you will be imposed a penalty in the amount of $2,500 — this was the story with a person I knew. It can have impact on issue of your next visa. There are also policemen under cover. They can promise you to bring drugs and, instead, impose a penalty. Therefore, it can take place at one’s own risk.
Below you can find description of a typical day at the festival. It can help you to better understand what Burning Man is:
- 5:00 Party in a desert.
- 6:30 Watching the sunrise.
- 8:00 Drinking espresso in the center of the desert.
- 9:00 Breakfast with the unknown Dutchmen.
- 10:00 Drinking coffee (or champagne).
- 11:00 Sleeping.
- 12:00 Waking up as you agreed to record a clip.
- 12:30 Recording a clip for the world-known deejay.
- 14:00 Playing on 15-meter swing.
- 14:30 Cooking (if it’s your turn in the camp).
- 16:00 Attending a lecture or masterclass.
- 17:00 Party.
- 20:00 Visiting a chillout.
- 21:00 Arriving in camp to take evening dress and to hang lighting on yourself and your bicycle.
- 21:30 Driving to the desert, meeting new people and watching art objects.
- 23:00 Chilling out somewhere in a bar or lounge zone.
- 24:00 Beginning of a new day and new adventures.
How to prepare for Burning Man and what kind of things to buy
Read the book on preparation for Burning Man – a heavy brochure as it is an extreme festival. You should also watch a few videos. Prepare for the festival, taking into consideration specific features of your organism. All this will help you to survive, as, without exaggerations, it is easy to die at Burning Man.
There are five things that you will not be able to survive at Burning Man without:
- Don’t save on it. You will always need to walk and drive – it is very important.
- A backpack, designed for three liters of water. Such backpacks are, for example, manufactured by CamelBak firm. If you want to save, buy a liter bottle and hang it on a shoelace. It is convenient.
- Ski googles. Last year there were no sand storms. This time we had about five storms. During a sand storm you are able to see just 10-15 meters ahead. If you are caught by a sand storm without the mask, lie on the ground and cry – it is maximum what you can do.
- Face bandana — to protect your mouth from dust.
- Metal cup with a chain for easier transportation. The cup is required for drinking, eating taking somebody’s water if you are running of it. At Burning Man they inspect your age/ Therefore, make a copy of your driver’s license, laminate it and fasten to your cup.
The total list looks approximately like this:
- Waist pack and backpack ($35-50).
- Sleeveless jacket or fur coat ($80 per one, it is desirable to take two). You can see many photos with fur coats. You have a question, why you need it in a desert. It is not always warm here. At night it is very cold. You will also need a hat with brim ($20).
- Seven T-shorts ($5-7 per one), one or two sweaters with long sleeves ($20), hoody ($30) and a few pairs of leggings ($15 per one). So, leggings are the most comfortable clothing here, because of protection from dust and not rubbing sore places. You should also take flip flops ($15), ten pairs of high socks and ten pairs of underwear ($10).
- Bicycle ($100), accumulators ($25), vaseline and locker for it ($20). It would be better to attach a big toy to a bicycle or otherwise distinguish it among dozens of other such bicycles. There can be 200-500 bicycles in the parking lot and you have to find yours. The search can take a lot of time, unless you attach any distinguishing features to your bicycle, which can be seen from a long distance.
- Sun-protection cream, a lot of wet wipes (a pack per day), lip care stick (totally $40).
- A lot of bottles of water. Both of us consumed about 160 liters. It is better to buy three-gallon bottles ($3,5-5 per 3 gallons).
- Zipper-bags, scotch duct tape, clothing storage boxes ($40).
- Tennis ball ($15). In the desert and when you put a bicycle on the kickstand, it can get in sand and the bicycle will fall. If you fasten tennis ball on the tip of the kickstand, your bicycle will be stable. If you also have a tent and you fasten it to the ground, standard tent pins will not suit. Buy long pins and fasten tennis balls on its tips. This will protect other people from scratching their legs. It is very painful and can have complications.
- Snacks and Soylent ($4 per bottle). Snacks are useful to eat calories – at Burning Man I often forgot to eat and snacks saved me. Soylent is a liquid, replacing breakfast. It is popular in San Francisco. Buy at least two items per day. It won’t be needless.
- LED-lighting for your closing, bicycle lamp and head lamp ($50). It is very important for your safety – you should be as visible in the darkness as possible in order not to be hit by bicycle or car. You should also take 50-100 batteries.
- About ten garbage bags ($7), gasoline cans ($80), vehicle curtain to cover the car ($25).
- Winter sleeping bag, as summer bag will be insufficient ($40) and Karrimat ($10).
- In the camp they arranged meals twice a day. It costed $450 for all days. Those who do not pay for this, usually take packed meals, snacks and nuts.
You can buy all the above-stated things, except for fur coat and footwear in Walmart. It will cost around $1,000.
Where to buy tickets and how to get there
You can buy tickets on the website, no more than two per person. As a rule, the tickets run out in a matter of minutes and the website freezes up. That’s why ticket sales are divided into drops and carried out at different intervals. Before each of the drops you should create a user account of the website and sign up for a particular drop. Then, if you log in in the first minutes of the drop and are lucky, you will have an opportunity to buy two tickets.
Ordinary ticket to Burning Man costs $425. However, we have bought it at $500 from a guy in our camp. There are also tickets, which are sold on the website with no need to sign up. Although, its price makes $1,200.
From Ukraine it is better to take a flight to San Francisco. One-way ticket costs $700. Therefrom you can rent a car to drive to Burning Man for the period of 8-10 hours. We travelled from Los Angeles. We rented a car on the website U-Haul at $650.
First you should select a number of miles that you are going to drive. We paid for 1,400 miles and it allowed saving a great deal of money. Gasoline costed us about $500. I advise you to insure the vehicle at $140. We also paid a penalty in the amount of $130 for late return. We washed the car after Burning Man. It took us approximately three hours and costed $30-40.
How much does it cost
Totally the entire journey will cost $3,000-5,000. It includes airline tickets for a person. If you travel with somebody else, it can save money on car rent. However, it is
the cheapest option. If you prefer more comfortable conditions, you can bring a Recreational Vehicle. Rent of such vehicle will cost starting from $5,000, plus a charge on a vehicle at the festival – $80.
Billionaires arrive in big Recreational Vehicles and pay $70,000 for a multitude of services – cooking meals, Jacuzzi, private chillout zone, etc. Nevertheless, the budget in no way affects the impressions from the festival.
There are two different ways to spend your time at Burning Man. The first way is to visit various performances and events according to the timetable. The second one is to go just to the places chosen according to your gut call. І advise you the second option.
I do not also recommend you to visit Burning Man in order to go crazy. Better go with an intention to visit other planets and become an alien. This will certainly be the first impression ever in your life, when you have an opportunity to make photos and no desire to do this.