I had never been to Black Rock City, Nevada before. An other-worldly place, a destination location available to vacationers only but once a year.
It arises from the empty white alkaline desert, completely pulsing and alive day and night, and then returns back into itself after just seven days. There is so much magic and wonder here, in a place that doesn’t even physically exist the majority of the year.
Notoriously difficult to describe, some people say Burning Man is a glorious experiment and experience. Others say it’s a crazy hedonistic hippie rave where 50,000 people trek to the desert and celebrate radical self-reliance and self-expression. I say overcoming preconceived notions is a challenge, no matter how unbiased or open-minded you think you are.
Nowhere else have I experienced such a ridiculously real yet temporary illusion. Nowhere else have I been so consistently filled with a flow of wonder, awe, disbelief and delight all at the same time. Never have I been so thoroughly doused with creativity, soaked through and through again.
Black Rock City is a place where normalcy disappears immediately. When you arrive by charter plane, airport security will fluff at you with blue feather dusters. There is no cell phone reception, no texting or tweeting. There is no exchange of money. Societal restrictions lift. Obligations fall away. Here you feel more free than even the rolling hillsides of Tuscany or sea breezes from the Pacific.
It doesn't take long for you to realize that anything really can happen—that eight-armed fire-throwing steampunk octopuses can double as vehicles, that you can run into your best friend randomly at two in the morning and dance beneath a giant glowing blue flower, or that a life-sized Trojan horse can be physically pulled through the gates of Troy by 200 toga-wearing bodies.
This is a place where everyone belongs, no matter what. It's overwhelming and bedazzling. Strangers keep greeting you by saying welcome home. It is the warmest, most positive welcoming household you’ve ever visited. All the collective people here are your strange family filled with unabashed acceptance. It is surprising to feel this so completely. Too often our world is riddled with unnecessary opposition dished out by people we don't even know.
More than anything, Burning Man is imagination and creation. A celebration of creativity so deep on every level it touches the architecture, sculpture, installations, performances, theme camps, art cars, costumes and people that make it. When societal norms are suspended, the whole world becomes possible and our human potential seems to increase tenfold. There is such freedom within the city’s structure; it's the perfect environment for creativity to blossom. After all, don't most people just want to be inspired, to escape the limitations of regular life? Black Rock City is a place where all that is possible.
Everything here is so temporal though. All this beautiful wonder and I feel like I want to hold onto it forever, but no one here really can.
Somehow now the default world seems dry and dull in comparison, but I myself feel more alive, refreshed with possibility. I want to be able to step back into that magical land whenever I need inspiration, that world where normalcy is disrupted so deeply it causes me to question the basics and vow to live a more creative life.
Black Rock City is somewhere I believe I will return to year after year, for in all my travels, I've never found any place else quite like it.