Burning Man Festival.

I started traveling around and going to music festivals after my freshman year of college. I spent a couple weeks every summer working  for  a patron transport service and driving around music festivals in a decked out 6 seater golf car shuttling festival kids to and from campsites and music stages. It was cash in hand, fun, and I never left a festival. In between I’d road trip around and the States and enjoyed my fair share of music and national park hopping over my college years. The travel bug bit me even harder when I graduated from University and decided to move overseas over 4 years ago. One of my best friends sent me an email 4 years before, after her first Burning Man experience; she was over the moon, it had changed her life, and she was absolutely set on the fact that we had to experience it someday together. I’d always heard about Burning Man, but the commitment was strenuous, the planning was stressful, it wasn’t cheap, and since it was always at the end of the summer, I never had the money to make it. After I came back 2 years ago for my first knee surgery, I decided that I’d spent enough of my years at regular music festivals, and decided it would be a great opportunity to join Mallory and make “the Burn” happen.

I made it to Reno, the closest big city outside Burning Man’s Black Rock City Desert in NW Nevada on Monday this week after a 8 hour exodus and the 3.5 hour push to Reno itself. I had spent my 3rd year in a row and survived Burning Man for another year. That’s what it is, it’s surviving. It’s a constant surrender to the uncomfortable. Nothing lives in this inhospitable and uninhabitable desert and it isn’t supposed to. We aren’t either. I’d spent 2 weeks there each year before and 8 days this year. Burners will tell you how healing and magical “the playa” is. Each year about 65,000 people flock to form a temporary city with a fully equipped hospital, tons of art, DJ sets, and spend the week biking around, attending workshops, looking at art, watching it burn, all while completely covered in dust that finds its way into everything. And they love it! We love it! It is a beautiful place with magical sunrises and sunsets, amazing people, interactive light up art, and it’s own culture. Burning Man is unlike any other festival I have ever attended. The entire concept is built around a gifting society, which means no money is accepted. The only things you can purchase on the playa are ice (because it’s a desert) and coffee because, well, it’s coffee. This means everything needs to be carried in and carried out. No exceptions. You cannot ash on the playa nor can you poor water onto it. Once you are in, you’re there, and the only cars allowed to move after arriving are art cars or “mutant vehicles” which resemble giant octopus, boeing 747’s and flame throwing ships that drive around the desert playing great music and throwing surprise dance parties in the middle of dust storms at 5 am.

Burning man has 10 other principles other than gifting which include things like radical self reliance, participation and community responsibility. It is a great place to explore all different kinds of workshops and try new things, they even have a skydiving camp where I would love to check out the view next year once I have my 100 jumps in. Every year a temple is built where people put letters to loved ones they have lost, momentos, items that remind them of great memories and on Sunday night it is burnt down while 65,000 people watch in absolute meditative silence. It is emotional and the love that goes into decorating its walls is heart wrenching and tear jerking whether or not you leave anything inside. The whole Burning Man concept centers around the burning of “the man” on Saturday night which is a completely different scene than the temple burn. People dance and art cars play music, fireworks go off and the man lifts his arms in a massive display before he eventually falls to the cheers of thousands of people. The concept of “sticking it to the man” started with a small group of friends in San Francisco in the early 80’s that built a wooden man and burned it down on a beach as a type of symbolism towards the rejection of modern society. After a few years the gatherings got a little bigger then local authorities would like and they were encouraged to find a new location. Since then Burning Man has found it’s home in the Native American owned land of NW Nevada.

The last 3 years have all been completely different burns for me. The first year I tragically fell out of our art car which was shaped like a fish and retore my ACL 4 months after my original surgery. Needless to say I was grounded at camp for a few days with a bum knee and spent a lot more time in my immediate vicinity. Last year I was able to get out at night and enjoy the art during the evening. I spent hours biking around the playa and experienced more of a night burn, typically sticking close to camp to help out during the day. This year our camp downsized from 50 to 18 and we were all able to benefit from a smaller camp size with less obligations. It was absolutely amazing to have the time for exploration and new experiences. Every year is different and always turns out to be exactly what I needed it to be. It took me months to process my first year and I know many people who get really discouraged and depressed after they rejoin the “default world” post Burn. I am happy and blessed to be writing this from Lake Tahoe as I decompress and process exactly what I gained from this year’s Burning Man. It truly is unlike anything else I’ve ever done. I love the planning, the challenge, the extreme highs and lows, and the growth that comes along with it. I’ve met amazing Burner family and am so in awe of the time and effort people put into these art installations year after year, just to build it and burn it down. It makes you realize the impermanence in everything, and helps you appreciate each day and the people and places in front of you. It transforms everything into such a simplistic worldview. If you’ve ever considered Burning Man, I can’t promise you it’ll be easy, but as cliche as it sounds, I can promise you that it’ll be worth it. Whether you do it once or keep going back year after year, it can offer everyone something.




converting to the #vanlife

I’ve been wanting an old VW van for years now. Two summers ago I started looking online a bit more seriously but of course it was still just out of curiosity. I had been entertaining the idea of having one so that when I came back to the US to visit I would have something to live in and travel in. Flash forward to March and I get a message saying that my dad and a buddy of his had purchased a mint condition ’83 Westy from Colorado. My dad’s friend Peter mostly wanted it for tailgating U of M football games seasonally and my dad just thought it was a fun thing to have. I almost lost my mind when I got the photos and saw the new purchase! Since I now had free reign to use it as long as Peter wasn’t needing it I decided that I would drive her around when I came back towards the end of the summer.

I found out about 2 months before I got back stateside that it was a manual. Something my father failed to mention in the beginning, surely on purpose because there is no way he could forget that I still couldn’t drive one because he tried to teach me when I was 15. He came home from work one day and said, “meet me in the car in 10 minutes”. When I opened the driver’s side door he was sitting in the passenger seat with a full face snowmobile helmet on. Haha, really funny Dad! I probably stalled it about 5 times just leaving the driveway and about 8 miles down the road stalled it out on a left hand turn, got stuck in the middle of the road, panicked when the cars lined up, and bailed into the backseat in a fit of tears and stubborn teenage hormones. Dad had to get out of the car, walk around to the drivers seat, the whole while wearing that ridiculous helmet and waving at the traffic apologetically. I refused to ever try again because it was “too hard” and I “wanted an automatic”. Today I would kill for that Subaru Outback, but 15 year old me thought differently.

So what’s a girl to do when she gets her dream van at the age of 28 but it happens to be a manual? Well put her pride away, laugh, and get behind the wheel obviously! Then naturally a week later take it across the country to Burning Man in Nevada! Nothing forces you to learn quickly like a cross country roadtrip! So I’m back in the States, finally stumbled across some BM tickets, and now have 3 days until I embark. My boyfriend taught me how to drive a 6 speed jeep deep in the jungle of Mexico, so I was a little bit familiar and knew the basics already. But nothing had prepared me for this old lady! She’s a finicky 4 speed with gears that can be very tricky to drive, let alone find! As my father told me, “if you can drive this thing, you can drive anything”. I have spent the last few days practicing on hills, taking mom to lunch, driving to friend’s houses, and just generally driving around trying to get comfortable. I’ve learned that I tend to drop the clutch much too fast, which has gotten some laughs and cheers when pulling out of busy gas stations with 2 hops and a peel out before we start rolling. I’ve been laughing uncontrollably when I have to wave people around me because I can’t find first gear and it’s still revving itself in neutral. Oops!

I spent yesterday driving around with a girlfriend who knows how to drive a stick and learned living in a busy city. It was raining out and we spent the whole day doing laps through town and parking in my parents or my brother’s driveways. We would just hang out in the van, laugh, and talk about all the things we could do to it. I’ve got a solid list going to get her Burning Man ready and it all hit me yesterday how absolutely amazing and in love with the van I am. I’m still trying to come up with a name for her but we are convinced it’ll come when ready! I’m doing the drive out by myself and since I don’t want to drive at night, and am trying to avoid the majority of mountains (although I will have to cross the Rockies at some point, regardless) I’m feeling comfortable with my planning and giving myself ample time to get to Reno where I’ll pick up my buddy from the airport. I have friends along the way to stay with and can pull over and sleep in the bed anytime I need to. It’s beginning to feel like home and I haven’t stopped smiling for the last 2 days!

Today we take the first big haul 45 minutes out of town to Brainerd, MN to stock up at Fleet Farm and Home Depot. The girls have been helping me come up with a list of “van necessities” along with totes to get organized. So we are going shopping and I’m sure we’ll have a lot of laughs along the way in stop and go traffic as I maneuver the van around town less than flawlessly. Wish me luck!

Since I’ve been back in the States I stopped in San Diego for 5 days to visit my sister then flew back into Minneapolis where my parents picked me up and we spent 5 days in northern Wisconsin at the cabin on Lake Superior. It was such a nice way to unwind. Now I’ve been back in my hometown for the past 10 days catching up with family and friends and now packing for Burning Man. It’s gonna be an adventure, I’ll tell you that much! Don’t forget to follow me on instagram @theramblingmermaid and snapchat at smilelotsplz. I will keep you up to date on all the funny things that are going on, as well as my progress on the van! Much love.