8/07/2013

5 tips for planning your burning man schedule

theme camp offering coffee at burning man 2011
camp frontage, 2011
Those heading out to this years burning man event are probably wondering, and maybe already planning, what they will do once they get there. But, when it comes to such a vibrant and active event is planning really needed?

An often repeated phrase among those who have been to the event before is that newcomers, and even experienced vets, should "have no expectations". While this applies to more than just what to plan for, many say it in relation to the "what is burning man?" question, among some it can also apply to planning an event itinerary.

At the gate attendees are handed a book with roughly 1000 various events inside of it. Events in this guide, referred to as the What, Where, When, range from listings of when dance parties are to occur along with yoga sessions, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, various workshops, lessons, group events, and the hours for the nearby coffee camp. Those involved in the various online communities and looking at the burning man website have a list of many more than 1000 events to be involved in. So, what should one do to get the most out of their visit to burning man?

#1 You're going to miss more events than you can ever attend.

reverend billy outside of the playa jazz cafe
long time participant Rev. Billy calling people to a performance
Attendees will never see it all. With roughly 1000 theme camps, well over 500 roving art vehicles, and more than 300 placed art installations in the open area of the event site there is always something going on somewhere twenty-four hours a day. One needn't have to have a plan to find something to do.

Don't feel guilty about missing something. Every single person attending will be missing a lot of stuff, together.

#2 Take a tour of the various art installations early in the week.
the burning man base in flames
the burn of the man himself
With the population of the encampment growing as the event goes on it might be a good idea to tour some of the larger works early on in the event. Many of the larger pieces are interactive, allowing attendees to climb inside, on top of, or to actually press buttons and do various activities. If one wants a chance at interacting with the art as its creator intended, without a long wait, or a crowd, visiting early in the week is the way to do it.

Also, many art installations are burned during the week. The 24 pieces of art participating in the Circle of Regional Effigies are burned on Thursday, The Man, which burns on Saturday, is often closed off to people at some point on Friday of the event.

Make an effort to get to see some of the larger art projects earlier in the week so putting it off doesn't become something that ends up being a regret.
#3 Don't hesitate to visit an enjoyable place more than once.
a performance at the playa jazz cafe burning man 2011
participants enjoy a daytime performance at the playa jazz cafe 2011
Many theme camps operate daily. If an initial visit to a camp or event was enjoyable there is no reason visiting again wouldn't be enjoyable. If the worry of spending too much time in one place without seeing more of the city is a concern refer to tip #1.

People mainly attend the event to enjoy themselves, and, knowing one cannot see everything, there's no reason to feel guilty about spending a lot of time at a place that is enjoyable while, perhaps, getting to know the people who run the place.
#4 Enjoying time spent in your own camp is OK. Take a break.
tents in center camp
home sweet home
Whether attending burning man in an RV, a tent, a dome or some other dwelling the event is still happening in the great outdoors, and, like any camping trip, enjoying downtime, whether alone or with friends, can be a very good thing.

Many people will want to get out and do everything they can at the event, spending as little time in camp as possible. Likely exerting themselves much more than normal sore and tired attendees often have a way of realizing mid-week that taking a few breaks now and then may have done them some good.

Along with having breaks in camp for their own sake people often find that this is a good way to meet the neighbors, who are likely enjoying some down time as well. Many people feel that some of these neighborly interactions are the bread and butter of their burning man experience. Don't hesitate to enjoy downtime in camp, relaxing and enjoying some time alone, or with friends and family. It's often real hot during the day and that is a great time to do nothing (see tip #1).
#5 Everyone does it differently. It is OK to make it your trip.
mural wall outside of the center camp cafe
attendees reading at the center camp cafe
Just as there are thousands of things to do at burning man there are also thousands of ways to enjoy oneself at burning man. Some people have a long list of events that they plan to attend and they make each and every one of them. Some people have a huge list of things they plan to do and they get distracted by everything going on and miss all of the things on their list, while enjoying themselves just the same.

There is no one way to do it, and no best way. As some people who've gone before say it, "it is your burn", so, it being a personal experience don't hesitate to do what feels like the best thing to do. If some camp-mates want to go somewhere that does not seem interesting, it is OK to say no. If it has been a long day and it feels like calling it a night early and heading to bed before everyone else is a good idea, that is OK too. If enjoying that cafe across the street each night instead of going out to see the art is pleasing, that is just fine as well.

Like any large active city there will always be something going on while one is doing something else. Don't feel the urge to feel forced into enjoying 'everything' to get the most out of the event. One can have an enjoyable time doing whatever pleases them, even if they are alone in their choices, and not seeing it all.