People interact with art installations during the Burning Man 2014 "Caravansary" arts and music festival in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada August 26, 2014. People from all over the world have gathered at the sold out festival to spend a week in the remote desert cut off from much of the outside world to experience art, music and the unique community that develops. Picture taken  August 26, 2014. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY) FOR USE WITH BURNING MAN RELATED REPORTING ONLY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS

I am currently on my way to Burning Man for the first time but, that doesn’t mean I fully understand what the hell Burning Man is. I know people go to the desert. I know they probably do some weird stuff there. What do they do though? Why do they do it? To make slightly more sense of all this, I asked someone about to make their maiden voyage to the gathering at Black Rock City, someone with very little interest at all in Burning Man, and a group of anonymous denizens of the r/BurningMan subreddit (veteran burners) to answer the following 3 questions:

  1. What is burning man?
  2. How is burning man different from other festivals?
  3. How do you get dust out of your contacts?

Jordan Cameron – First Time Burner

  1. Ok so I’m sure everyone knows the basics of what/where/who, but this time around I chose not to brush off Burning Man as some sort intriguing-but-I-would-never-go cosmic gathering and/or drug-fueled desert ragefest. Despite my first-year status, I think it will truly be whatever you make it to be. It saddens me that the press has now labeled the playa as a magnet for those in the tech sector, as that damages the vitality of very admirable core values — it will be a week of pure expression and compassion, overall positive vibes, and a shitload of new friends.
  1. One thing that is tough to keep in mind is that Burning Man is not a music festival. Yes, there is a set (albeit loose) schedule for happenings, but I won’t be bummed if I miss Lee Foss on the Esplanade at some Thursday party. That’s not what the experience is about. I think if you’re having a radical time at all times, you’re doing it right — yes, music will be a highlight, but so will the art, conversation, bike rides, fashion, togetherness, and random drink you had with that one guy. You can explore the city at literally any hour of the week and find something really unbelievable. That said, Lee Foss crushes it and I actually hope I catch him.
  1. My vision is an absolutely flawless 20/20 but there’s something to be said about being a first timer and hearing tales of extreme elements that has scared the shit out of me into to extreme preparation. I have like three pairs of goggles and about 200oz of sunscreen, a crazy amount of layers, band-aids, tums, zip-ties, gloves, boots, etc. Amazon order history at an all time high. Probably all for the best, but it’s looking like the weather at least will be a bit tame (comparatively) this year.

Arra Concepcion – Not even into Burning Man

  1. According to the website, it is a “vibrant participatory metropolis generated by its citizens,” whatever that means. You spend 400 bucks to camp in the desert with strangers just to say you did it. Burning Man’s principles include “radical self-expression,” “radical inclusion,” and “radical self-reliance.” (The people who created Burning Man have never heard of thesaurus.com.)
  2. Burning Man is a music festival without the music, I think. Burning Man is different from other festivals because no one can explain what happens. When I asked my friend what it was like, he said, “I don’t know, you just have to experience it for yourself!” Maybe it’s from all of the hallucinogens or maybe it was mad boring and everyone is embarrassed that they spent a ridiculous amount of money to go without a shower for a week.
  3. This is tricky because if you try to take your contacts out, you’ll get even more dust in your eyes. (Burning Man attendees forgo modern marvels such as plumbing.) I heard that you have to get new eyeballs after.

Burning Man Subreddit Members – Definitely have been to Burning Man a bunch of times

    • A gathering of humans attempting to temporarily escape from the status quo, create beautiful and intricate art pieces then burn them down, and experience a social environment you can’t find anywhere else.
    • Burningman is an experiment in non-exploitative society.
    • Burning Man is an experiment in temporary community.
    • Burning Man is not a festival (Said 5 separate times).
    • Take them out and wash them off? Dust is going to get everywhere and be everywhere. If your eyes are sensitive wear goggles 24/7.
    • Everything will be dirty, wash and clean the best of your ability if you have to.
    • Blink occasionally, you’ll be fine.
    • Wear goggles, baby.