Not at Burning Man? Enjoy the Burn from Afar!

Hello from Burning Man!

(Okay, actually I’m writing this on my phone on my drive up to Black Rock City. Technology!)

If you’re heading to the Burn yourself, stop by 7:00 and Antioch for a drink at The G-Spot Bar, and say hello! I’m pretty hard to miss. I’ll be the girl with the pink hair, the combat boots, and flower crown.

Something I discovered from writing about Burning Man is that people, Burners and non-Burners alike, are so intrigued to read about it. Even if you never have any desire to attend this weeklong fest yourself, you can’t deny that it’s an interesting social experiment to learn about. I mean, 70,000 people gather in the middle of the desert and create an amazing temporary city. You can find anything there — a place to get a massage, a zip line, a movie theater, a slushie oasis, performances, and sweet rides. And then once it’s over, you’d never know anyone was ever there. That’s pretty spectacular!

For those of you not joining me in the dust, here are a few ways you can enjoy the Playa from afar.

See some of the wacky people and things that are there.

The “Oh, The Places You’ll Go at Burning Man” (above) is something I am not ashamed to say I have watched multiple times and cried every time. The story is touching and classic, of course, it’s filmed really beautifully, and you get to see some of the cool art from the 2011 Burn. Most importantly, though, it shows you the variety of people you’ll find there — it features young, old, men, women, and all different backgrounds. It’s a wonderful reminder that literally anyone can be a Burner.

Take a gander at some of the art that will be there.

Burning Man is a city that embraces art and encourages sharing it with everyone. The art last year made me think, entertained me, and moved me, and I am beyond thrilled to see what this year will hold.

The Huffington Post wrote an exciting article about some of the structures that will be there this year. Check out here.

It all looks incredible, no? Embrace?! Like how do they even do that? Seriously amazing.

Watch it in real time.

I don’t think my parents knew Burning Man existed before I went last year. Honestly, I hadn’t even heard of it until I moved to California. When I told them what I was up to, they hopped on their computers to research this strange festival I was going to and discovered this site that live streams all of the Burn. Yup, they’re pretty awesome parents!

If you’re at all curious about Burning Man, this is a really cool way to see the city progress. Whenever you check in you’ll see more and more art structures spread around throughout the week and you can watch some of the wacky mutant vehicles driving around (my folks thought the large red sand shark last year was clever). Not only that, but you can also watch the Man and the Temple of Whollyness burn this Saturday and Sunday. I’ll be there in person, and if you can’t be I hope you check it out online!

Did any of these resources change your impression of the Burn? Which was most interesting or helpful to you and why? Have you come across any other articles or videos about Burning Man that were particularly striking?

Also, I promise it won’t be all Burning Man all the time on here — in fact, I have some exciting upcoming travel plans that I cannot wait to tell you about! :) More soon.

Burning Man Advice from Experienced Burners

The Man 2013

Hey Man, are you tired? Because you’ve been running through my mind like…for a few months.

It would be no exaggeration at all to say that I am now thinking about Burning Man every day for hours on end. I leave THIS SATURDAY, which is really wonderful but also really overwhelming. It’s not just the wistful, “Oh, Bernie Man, love ya, can’t wait!” As open and caring as the community at Burning Man is, it still requires preparation.

Sure, “The Playa provides,” but a week or more in the desert is bound to be more comfortable with some planning in place. I feel like I’ve been preparing for the Burn for months already because, well, I have. Strangely, part of me feels like I’m not even close to being ready. I’m having a bit of that excitement/fear feeling that I had last year before I left. I know I’ll get out there and it will all fall into place…but until then I’m a bundle of nerves, to-do lists, to-buy lists, and an official hoarder of bottled water.

When I was preparing last year for my trip to Black Rock City, I had received a lot of information about the supplies I needed but not so much about what to expect or mentally prepare for. As I was talking with some friends this year who are first-timers, I found myself doing the same thing: “Get this. Make sure you have lots of that. Don’t forget x, y, and z.” There’s this rush — the same one I’m experiencing now in my last week of prep — to get as much information out there as quickly as you can, right on the spot.

But what kind of advice would Burners offer if they’re given a little bit of time to share their absolute best advice?

I turned to some of my Burner friends and wonderful campmates and asked them what the most important advice was that they had for others. I encouraged them to let it be anything — whether it’s an item to bring, a mentality to adopt, an activity to do, I trusted them to have some helpful tips. And holy moly, did they give me some great stuff. Some people emailed me, some wrote an entire Facebook post and tagged me in it, and others still felt it only appropriate to share their advice in person. Here’s what some of them had to say:

“Expectation is the enemy at Burning Man.”

)'( Hollywood

Hollywood is someone I talked to in person about his advice. He went on to say that you should go prepared to do anything and everything as opposed to going with one big goal in mind. If you go with particular expectations, then you’ve not only set yourself up for disappointment if said thing doesn’t happen, but you’re less open to other cool opportunities that might come your way.

Burning Man art

Just another day in Black Rock City.

“Don’t get too carried away in the first few days; take your time and enjoy the break!”

)'( Anonymous

“Don’t come to the Burn stressed! Leave it at the gate.”

)'( Katie

“It’s just plain hard to find words that capture something so big, and continue to project the energy as it grows and pulsates and morphs and slides into whatever this beast becomes as the week goes by…The only word I can really think of that might…is: “Love”. So simple and trite, yet incessantly relevant and still meaningful in the deepest ways. Those four letters out there in the desert… rising up… communicating… interacting… breathing… I could see that. And lo and behold, others have too.”

)'( Greg

“Two short bits of advice:

1. It’s hot. It’s cold. There is very little in between. Don’t even bother bringing that mid-weight light summer jacket.

2. Do a web search for other people’s Burning Man packing lists. They are a GREAT way to get ideas of what you might want. Then, before actually buying any of it, talk to someone who has actually been to Burning Man and get their opinion about the details to look for. You wouldn’t believe all the things you should consider when buying a tent, for instance.”

)'( Colleen

Sun setting at BRC Airport

Catching the last of the sun at BRC Airport.

“I’m going to recommend any first time Burner (or veteran for that matter) don’t be stingy:

  • Be open to all walks of life:  meeting different people is one of the most wonderful aspects of Burning Man.  It also can be the most challenging.  Why meet people just like you?  That’s boring.  Collect people like spices.  Make life rich and savory.
  • Be playful:  let that kid on the bike out.  Go play with the art, with the sun, with the moon, and of course, with the people.
  • Be present:  this means being generous with your listening and with your time.  Slow down and listen to the person you’re with, listen to the sounds around you, take in the smells, the sights, the good and the bad.
  • Love begets love.  Cheesy.  Yep!  If you don’t like it, so what!
  • Allow opportunities to give something away.  It could be a helping hand, a smile or even an ice cold beer (over here, please!).
  • Be inquisitive:  You asking questions allows space for others to shine.
I also recommend that first time Burners be protective:
  • Know and stand by your definition of personal space.  Move away or speak up if you feel frightened, violated, or in any situation you don’t feel comfortable in.  Personal space, in my mind, can be violated by someone yelling at you across the street.  Clearly if you are in direct danger, do something!
  • Protect your fellow human.  Same applies for others as well.
  • Help others out if you see them having a tough time.  This could be in the form of hydration, overindulgence or a sad face. Reach out and support them.
  • Take care of yourself.  Make your health THE priority on the playa.  You will be depleted very quickly if you aren’t diligent about feeding and watering yourself.”

)'( Chainsaw

“Take a walk at sunrise. Experience the beauty, the peace and the others out for the sunrise.

And don’t get caught up in doing it right, just bring yourself (and supplies) and wander, see and meet.”

)'( Morgan

Bonnie, a campmate of mine, shared a packing list specifically for Burning Man. As I was looking through it to pick and choose some things to include, I realized it’s all great information to share. As Colleen mentioned (above), looking at different lists will help you fine-tune your own. Check out this updated Gear List for Burning Man that has some things you definitely won’t want to forget!

)'( Bonnie

“My biggest piece of advice… hard to say because I have several thoughts, but I’d say:

Attending the Burn is like anything in life: you get out of it what you put into it. So be open minded. Explore. Be vulnerable. Give it your best, most honest effort. Be your best self.

You’ll be rewarded in ways that will blow your mind.”

)'( Kristen

The Man burns 2013

The Man burns 2013. All the fire & explosions, plz.

Whether you’re a first-timer this year, looking to go to the Burn sometime in the future, a veteran, or just curious about what it’s like, all of this advice is just amazing. They were all refreshing reminders for me, and definitely got me even more excited to pack up and leave this weekend. Most importantly, though, is that a lot of this advice isn’t just for Burning Man — it’s incredible advice for everyday life.

I mean, let’s re-examine for a second: “Don’t get caught up in doing it right.” PREACH.

My advice, too, is appropriate for Burners and non-Burners alike. I also found out that it was so easy to ask,”What’s your number one piece of advice?” but way harder to actually answer it! However, after a lot of consideration, I would say this:

Cultivate the human connections you make. If you meet someone absolutely fantastic and you want to get to know them more, then make it happen.

One thing that’s actually a bit of a turn-off about Burning Man culture for me is the lack of using time. I mean, I love it and I hate it. But I feel like the lack of definite times and commitments makes people a little more flaky than they normally would be. I witnessed a lot of folks making empty promises to others, saying,”Yeah, your camp sounds really cool. I’ll definitely stop by,” but not making a note of where this place was. I guarantee, unless you write it down somewhere, you’ll forget. There is some serious sensory overload happening in Black Rock City, so it’s only natural that you’ll get distracted and completely forget about the amazing camp that one super awesome guy or gal told you about.

Part of the charm of the Burn is that you go where you want, when you want, and you follow what is really speaking to you. But keep in mind that Burning Man is a city of people, and those human connections are what it’s all about. So, if you go to Burning Man, I encourage you to treasure those connections and strengthen them when you’re able.

Last year, I recorded the names and camp locations of cool people I met on a note-taking app on my phone, and then I designated one day to traveling around the city and visiting them. It was wonderful! Everyone I saw was so sweet and so happy to see me again, and it was quite a treat to get to witness them at their home base. Something about that one day made my overall experience infinitely more personal and memorable.

So, do whatever is necessary to connect with people that you really jive with, whether it’s at Burning Man or in default world! Carry around a pad of paper and a pen, use an app like I did, write it on your body using a Sharpie, or whatever you’ve gotta do, and be sure to follow through. I really do think that visiting those friends made me feel like a participant in the city, rather than just a bystander, and it was a great lesson for how I live my life when I’m not at the Burn. I got in some friendly conversation, connected with people that I’m looking forward to seeing again this year, and left with a full and happy heart. <3

Any Burners out there with some of their guidance that they’d like to share? I’d love to hear it! And whether you’re going to Burning Man or not, what piece of advice resonated with you the most? 

My Los Angeles Favorites

LA View

Hellooooo, Los Angeles.

When I moved to San Francisco, it was the only city on the west coast that I had ever visited. I spent a magical summer here in 2009 and was pretty convinced that it was a place I’d like to live. Eventually, after nearly two years of internally debating it, I bought a one-way ticket out here and I can only wish that I’d done that sooner. It’s not a perfect place to live (what place is?), but I find myself madly in love with this weird little city. 

There are a lot of things you learn about San Francisco pretty quickly, whether you’re just visiting or if you’ve moved here long-term. For example, your winter coat will get just as much (if not more) use in the summer than any other season. If you don’t carry cash with you, you’ve eliminated at least 50% of the restaurants and bars you can go to. Also, burritos can count for two meals — but don’t feel bad if they only survive one.

And one of the biggest things you’ll learn pretty quickly is that everyone has an opinion about Los Angeles.

I’d confidently guess that if you asked Bay Area residents what they think about Los Angeles, 60% or more of them would simply respond, “LA sucks.” I can’t even tell you how many people said this to me when I moved here and Los Angeles came up in conversation. It seemed that pretty much everyone could agree that the weather was nice, but for whatever reason — the fake people, the traffic, the overall vibe — almost all of the SF people I talked to had negative feelings toward LA. 

Well, I’m certain I’m in the minority on this one (at least as far as Bay Area residents go), but I won’t lie: I like LA.

I am really glad that I was adamant about not letting those opinions shape my own of LA when I first visited in May of last year. Los Angeles is certainly not for everyone, but I always have a great time there. I know some incredible people who live there, I’ve witnessed some spectacular views and sunsets there, and attended some great events in the city, too.

This past weekend was no different. I got in Friday afternoon and had an amazing weekend in the City of Angels. I visit about once a month, so I’m not as concerned about packing in a full weekend of activities when I’m there. But I’ve been lucky enough to experience a few things that I would say are my top picks — the things that I absolutely loved doing and wouldn’t hesitate to do again. 

Here are some of my LA favorites:

Sunset at Griffith

Dreamy sunsets at the Griffith.

Griffith Observatory

Without a doubt, I’ve seen some of the most beautiful LA sunsets here and some absolutely stellar views of the city. Even if I don’t feel like seeing a show in the planetarium (although the shows are excellent!), I always have a fabulous time walking around outside and exploring what the building has to offer. 

While everyone and their grandma head up here around dusk, it’s worth the battle for parking to catch the sun set here. Not only will you get to see the sky painted all sorts of lovely colors, but you’ll get to see LA’s lights twinkle at night. It’s pretty extraordinary.

Dockweiler State Beach

Perfect beach day at Dockweiler State Beach.

The Beach!

You know how I mentioned that all Bay Area residents can at least agree that LA has nice weather? Well, while I wouldn’t say that’s the main draw of Los Angeles, it certainly doesn’t hurt. Escaping the chilly, foggy weather in San Francisco for warm, sunny days is always refreshing. 

I’m unfamiliar enough with LA to think that whenever I visit — whatever the time of year — I feel the need to pack my swimsuit. I kid you not, I don’t think there’s been a time when I went there and didn’t stow one in my baggage just in case. I’m a beach bum at heart, and I basically always go to southern California hoping that I’ll get to lay out by the Pacific. Unfortunately, it’s not always beach weather down there. The last time I went to the beach in Los Angeles, I dragged my main squeeze out to the beach and we froze our butts off for about 30 minutes before leaving.

Luckily, this past weekend I made it to Dockweiler State Beach and oh my stars was it amazing! I could have laid out in the sun all day. Seriously, though, any beach in LA works for me. Just give me some sun, a temperature higher than 65 degrees, and no fog, and I’ll be the happiest gal around.

Annenberg Space for Photography

Go here. (You’re welcome).

Annenberg Space for Photography

I’ve never been a big fan of art museums. Actually, I’m a pretty insufferable person to go to an art museum with, because I tend to make a lot of comments loaded with sexual innuendo or I try to make voices for the people in the paintings or something. I know, I’m not an adult yet.

But I’ve always been attracted to photography, and I have a slightly more mature attitude about it. So I was beyond thrilled to hear about the Annenberg Space for Photography, which is a little museum with free admission and perfectly curated exhibits. I saw the National Geographic exhibit and it was so awesome — and included so many images — that I went back to see it again. Even if you’re not really into art museums, or if you’re the type that likes to make fun of the way statues are positioned and such, the Annenberg Space for Photography is absolutely fascinating.

A sunset in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery

The amazeballs sunset I caught before watching a movie. In a cemetery. No big deal.

Cinespia (summer only)

Outdoor summer cinema is no new thing. But have you ever watched a movie in a graveyard?

My first time in LA I went and saw a film in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery during the Cinespia summer movie screenings. This is absolutely one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in LA because not only do you get to watch a movie outside whilst picnic-ing and wine-drinking, but you’re also in a freakin’ graveyard. So. damn. cool. It’s like a drive-in movie theater but with a kind of morbid twist.

Their last film of the summer appears to be September 20th. Oddly enough, it’s Rosemary’s Baby, which I saw in Bryant Park a few summers ago in New York City. That movie is some messed up, scary shit. **Spoilers: Rosemary’s baby is SATAN. Like, the devil himself inside her poor body.** I could not imagine seeing this in a cemetery. Seriously, cue the nightmares.

Camera Obscura Santa Monica

Just the coolest.

The Camera Obscura in Santa Monica

I saw this for the first time this weekend, and it is such a cool little gem! It was a complete coincidence that I just happened to walk by it, and I’m glad I got to experience it. 

If you’re not sure what a camera obscura is, it’s basically a darkened box or room that has a small opening, and this opening lets light in and projects an image of the surroundings inside. So for this particular camera obscura, I went into a room, turned off all the lights, and an image of Ocean Avenue and Broadway popped up on a little white table in the center of the room.

Having seen countless images made this way before in my photography classes and from artists that I admire, I was stoked to get to see this one in Santa Monica. Also, I didn’t find out until after I was there, but you’re actually able to maneuver the lens and mirror, which will change what you see inside on the table. So, I guess I’ll have to go back and try that out! :P

See! I told you LA was cool. What cities or places have you visited that took you pleasantly by surprise, like LA did for me? What were some of your favorite things to do or see there?

Photo credits:

Road Trip Ready: 10 Ways to Prepare Yourself for Adventure on the Road


Golden Gate Bridge

brb, SF.

I almost never put off buying transportation until the last minute. As a budget-conscious traveler, I can’t afford the price spikes that I encounter when I want to go somewhere on a whim. Sometimes I run into a deal and jump on it without planning much, but for the most part, I purchase my transportation in advance.

Last weekend I was planning to go to Los Angeles. It was going to be one of my last chances to see my boothang before leaving for Burning Man, one of my friends had a gallery opening that I wanted to support, and it’s always a treat to catch some of that LA heat. For whatever reason, I kept putting off and putting off purchasing my airfare, and when I finally hopped online to buy a flight, they were over $175 one way (usually I spend about $65 one way).

The next day, when I decided to look at Bolt Bus fares to LA, I started feeling kind of gross. My throat was hurting, I was coughing, and I was sniffly. I couldn’t tell if things were getting better or worse, and by the time I could tell that they were improving, the bus was sold out. I then considered a rideshare, but something about it seemed like too much of a stretch for some reason. I just kept thinking, “Why is getting to LA this weekend such a pain in the ass?”

Because it didn’t really feel 100% right to me to try and line up a ride last minute, I decided to put off my next LA trip until early September. I was pretty bummed, not only because I wouldn’t get to see my dude but also because I’d never failed to make it down there when I’d said I would. I kept imagining if it were me in his position, and that just made me even sadder.

Luckily, my roommate and a few other friends were planning a trip down to Los Angeles this weekend. When she mentioned it to me again this weekend, it was like the stars had aligned perfectly. And just like that, with barely any trouble at all, I snatched myself a ride to LA.

Now, Los Angeles is pretty dern close to the Bay Area, but far enough that I’d rather fly there than take a bus or ride in a car. I’ve only ever driven down once, and it was with a couple of friendly strangers I met on Zimride. But I have to say, I’m pretty excited to go down with some good friends — it’ll be our own little LA road trip.

As far as road trips are concerned, this one is simply a day trip, but I’ve taken week-long ones, couple-of-day ones, and have heard great adventures from others who have driven around for even longer. It’s such a cool way to see the scenery and get from Point A to Point B. But like any trip, you need to do a little bit of physical planning and mental prep to get yourself ready and in the right headspace, no matter how long or short the ride may be. Here are ten ways to get yourself ready for your next road trip!


Where to?

1. Be realistic.

Google Maps will show you the most efficient way to get from place to place, but that might not necessarily be what you’d like to do on your trip. I, for one, enjoy taking side roads–it’s more interesting and keeps me more alert when driving. Obviously, this tacks on not only extra driving time, but I might also get distracted by a spooky ghost town I come across or a scenic waterfall overlook along the way. And even if I did drive the quickest route, I’d still have to stop for gas, food, and stretch breaks along the way.

It’s better to err on the side of caution and allow yourself a little extra time to get places than it is to feel like you have to rush to get somewhere. Not only is it completely impractical to schedule only driving time (when will you eat!? when will you pee?!), but you won’t get to actually enjoy your trip at all.

Of course, the amount of extra time you’ll need to factor in will depend on the type of road trip you’re wanting to have, and it requires a bit of trial and error. During a solo road trip on the east coast I was driving on smaller roads and stopping frequently, so I allotted extra hours to my trip. To get to Washington state with some friends, we drove through the night and only stopped for food and bathroom breaks, which meant we only needed a bit of buffer time. Start out with your best guess, and as the trip progresses adjust as you see fit.

2. Make sure the car is in working order.

I don’t own a car for many reasons, and I never did. Even when I lived in South Carolina in high school, the car I used to drive to and from school was my parent’s. I know my dad will shudder when he reads this, but I drove a little Civic around for probably two years and never once did I take it in for an oil change. Not once! I know, what a punk.

If I were to get a car today, I’d certainly have to be much more responsible about caring for it–which is probably one of the big reasons I do not own an automobile. I just couldn’t deal with it. I’m an incredibly intelligent person, but I do not have the brain space to deal with all the maintenance a car entails. My cat is enough responsibility, and even then sometimes he’s too fussy for my taste.

Now that I’ve completely convinced you I’m the absolute worst person to loan your car to, let me say that while I don’t desire owning a vehicle in my day-to-day life, I do take it very seriously when it comes to using other people’s cars and to staying safe while traveling. So to avoid major problems on the road, take responsibility and make sure the car you’re driving isn’t going to fall apart on you. It’s better to take care of the problems before the trip than to have to deal with them on the go!

3. Have some goals.

You don’t have to plan out your entire trip — in fact, I highly discourage you from doing that! — but even having an end destination in mind can help you figure out your route each day. For the short drive down to LA this weekend, we have three main things we want to accomplish: stop by Casa De Fruta for snacks (it’s evidently an experience), get In-N-Out for lunch, and make it to LA by the early afternoon.

We’re obviously less interested in exploring side roads or taking longer routes (like Highway 1) because the big goal of this trip is to get to Los Angeles, and everyone is clear on that. If I were joining everyone this weekend thinking we’d be taking a lot of lovely side roads, I’d be sorely disappointed.

So, with everyone involved, decide on two things: the must-see stops and the overall vibe you’re going for. The must-see stops can help you map out a route and keep you excited about hopping in a car (which, after a few days in a car with the same people, can be difficult). And the vibe you’re going for will help you figure out how important it actually is to see all those stops. Want a super-chill, laid-back road trip with your closest friends? Having a detailed itinerary of places to stop each day will probably drive them crazy. Stay focused, don’t miss out on something you know deep down you’d regret missing, and have fun.

VW bug

So…who’s paying for gas?

4. Decide what expenses will be shared (and how you’ll share them).

It goes without saying, but whenever you travel with someone or a group of someones, you should all agree on what expenses will be shared. On top of that, you should determine how to make sure everyone can contribute equally to those costs. Resentment over money is a surefire way to make sure everyone has a less-than-stellar trip.

How will you deal with filling up the gas tank? What about snacks that the car shares? What if the car needs any kind of maintenance along the way?

Once you’ve agreed on what qualifies as a shared expense, then just make sure everyone keeps receipts. Take some time either at the end of the trip, the end of the day, or at a few stops along the way (depending on how long you’re gone) and see how things add up. Then whoever needs to can pay the difference.

The best tool to do this is Venmo. I’ve been insanely happy with how easy it is to pay friends for even the simplest things. Additionally, when I get paid, I only have to wait 1 day for the money to show up in my bank account, instead of 3-4 with other similar services. This makes dividing up expenses, even small ones, a no-brainer.

I know that talking money is never the funnest part of trip-planning, but it certainly helps in avoiding unpleasant surprises! That little bit of time everyone takes to get on the same page will make the trip better for everyone.

5. Share responsibilities.

There’s never an opportune moment to come down with strep throat, but I have to say that right before I hop in a car with two other people so we can perform in Seattle the next day is less than ideal. Seriously, I felt like death, and on the ride up all I could do was whimper and chug water mixed with honey, apple cider vinegar, and cayenne pepper. Because I was in a Nyquil-induced coma most of the way up, I didn’t help with the driving, but I did pick out CDs to play and help with directions when needed. On the ride back home, I happily picked up my fair share of driving hours and gave my friends a break.

Sitting in a car for hours on end can be super boring, even with the funnest and coolest of friends, and not to mention stressful. One of the best ways to battle the boredom and the worry is to switch things up. Alternate playing DJ, acting as a navigator, and driving. My butt gets sore just sitting in the car for longer than an hour, so if anything, take frequent stops to stretch and offer to switch responsibilities. Unless everyone agrees and on a different situation, everyone should be prepared to chip in however they can.

Car on the road

Note to self: do not try to read a map and drive at the same time.

6. Drive safe!

During my solo road trip from Massachusetts to South Carolina, I decided to travel without using a GPS system. I had one, but I really wanted to get myself there the old-fashioned way. It was actually a wonderful experience. Instead of just mindlessly listening to Siri spout out directions, I knew exactly where I was and where I was going every moment of the trip. I was so incredibly proud of myself when I reached my destination.

However, since I was alone, there was no one to help me navigate, and I am ashamed to admit that I engaged in some pretty dangerous driving that trip. I specifically remember driving around a windy, mountain road with an atlas in my lap, looking up at the road, down at the map, and up again. Just…no.

Seriously, it’s not worth it. Take the extra 30 seconds and pull off to the side and figure out where you’re going next. The same goes for heated arguments, car selfies, or for when drivers start to feel sleepy. Just. pull. over.

I wish I’d done that, and if I’m ever in the same situation again I will make sure to. It’s safer for everyone on the road!

7. Snack hard.

As a vegetarian, traveling can be frustrating. Unless I’m in or near a major city, I can run into serious issues finding a decent meal that isn’t just a grilled cheese sandwich with greens on the side. Road trips are especially problematic — when I’m traveling through little towns it sometimes feels like all I can find is BBQ or a burger joint, so then I’m stuck relying on gas station snacks like Cheetos and Gatorade to get through the day. Woof.

Get snacks you like beforehand and have plenty of them. The chances of finding a gas station with a bunch of your favorite, health-conscious snacks in stock is slim, so bring them along from the start. My first choice is always fresh fruit, but I also love dried cherries or strawberries, cashews, and fruit leather. This way, if I’m stuck with a questionable veggie burger at a run-down roadside diner, I’ll at least have a little somethin’ extra to keep me happy until the next official meal.

Driving through Seattle

Games for the car ride are a must.

8. Don’t be afraid to get stupid.

To pass the time, you may want to engage the entire car in a few road trip games. Fun! Only problem is, you do have one driver who has everybody’s lives in his or her hands, so the game can’t be occupy too much of that person’s attention. This is where stupid games to pass time become your best friend.

My favorite of all the games, hands down, is Would You Rather? I play it regularly, even when I’m not on a road trip. Seriously, it’s a hit at parties, bars, anything. It’s just that good.

The game is simple: one person asks, “Would you rather ___, or ____?” and everyone in the car answers. Hilarity ensues.

I’ve had some pretty epic rounds of this game, but I think the question I came up with that I’m most proud of is, “Would you rather only be able to express yourself by yelling (“YOU LOOK NICE TODAY,” “I’M GOING TO RUN TO THE BATHROOM,” “I JUST WANT TO BE FRIENDS,” etc etc etc.) or would you rather only be able to express yourself through interpretive dance (*insert smooth dance moves here*)?


9. Prep playlists.

I go absolutely crazy in a car with no music. How do people do it? I’ll never know. Music while I’m driving keeps me awake, alert, and it gives me a great chance to practice belting some of my favorite songs. Yup, I’m that girl when I drive — the one who literally gives no craps about how weird she looks as she drives around singing her heart out. Even if I’m alone. Especially if I’m alone.

If you’re like me, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got the right songs to keep on truckin’. Relying on the radio is a fine idea, but you’ll have such a better selection and more reliability if you create a few playlists beforehand (if you need help with that, go here). Play them from your phone, a CD, or whatever works best for you, and you will be so thankful to not have to deal with flipping through channels only to hear the ends of every song you want to hear. That is just the worst!


Accept life’s detours.

10. Be flexible.

One of the most valuable life lessons I’ve learned so far is to let go.

You can spend all the time you want planning and plotting, hoping, and wishing, but when it comes time to really live it, let it all go.

Don’t be afraid to let the unexpected happen on your trip. Definitely do research, pick spots you want to see, and plan things, but also let go of the reigns from time to time and see what you might encounter. There is no amount of planning and prepping for a road trip (or any trip, really) that will make you have the “perfect trip.” You’re going to run into problems, there might be arguments, and things are guaranteed to not go as planned. But just take a deep breath and admire the beauty of that!

What have your road trip experiences been like? Where did you go, and what lessons did you learn along the way? And, most importantly, would you rather only be able to express yourself by yelling or would you rather only be able to express yourself through interpretive dance?

Photo credits:
Death to the Stock Photo

Why I’m Returning to Burning Man

BRC from the Air

Looking down on Black Rock City from a plane that I watched skydivers jump out of. NO BIG DEAL.

What is Burning Man like?

When I’d agreed last year to go and perform on the Playa with the burlesque troupe I’m in, I didn’t really know what I was getting into. I was thrilled to perform there, but other than that I had basically no knowledge about what Burning Man was (and is). I’d only ever just heard of it when I moved to San Francisco about three years ago, and all I really understood was that it was people camping in the desert.

As the months until the Burn whittled down, and then suddenly there were only weeks, and then days, I was actually dreading the trip there. I couldn’t admit it at the time, but I was pretty scared about going. 

Why? Because I had no idea what Burning Man would be like! It seemed that any experienced Burner I asked would simply wave their hand in the air, mumble something about EL wire and motorcycle goggles, and say, “You just have to experience it for yourself.” Um, thanks? I did have a couple of close Burner friends helping me with preparation–which made a huge difference! Still, it seemed that their advice was more about what supplies I needed to bring with me or items I had to provide for the camp rather than what I could expect.


Ticket in hand as I waited to get into the gate.

Well, as it turns out, no one can tell you what to expect, which explains why I never got a straight answer from anyone. It’s damn near impossible to explain what Burning Man is like because it’s a large, ever-changing organism. Thousands of people build and then destroy Black Rock City every year; it is never the same. Even then, as you stand in one place on the Playa for a short period of time, everything is constantly changing around you–art cars are rolling by, people are biking to different destinations, camps are hosting workshops, parties, or shows. All the routine that “creatures of habit” instinctively crave is gone. 

Considering it’s such a foreign experience, it didn’t take me long at all last year to feel right at home. I think about 48 hours into my time there I was sitting at dinner and already telling my campmates how I couldn’t picture myself not attending this year. And to be honest, I want to attend Burning Man every year that I’m able to from now on. There literally hasn’t been a day that’s gone by since I returned from Burning Man 2013 that I haven’t thought about it.

Seriously. Homegirl has it bad.

Yes, it’s pretty difficult to answer the question, “What is Burning Man like?” Even a veteran Burner would have difficulty answering that one. I think the real question to ask is, “Why do people return to Burning Man?” it’s one thing to experience it for one year, have a great time, cherish the memories and never feel a desire to come back. But it’s another thing to consider it a pilgrimage, a home, or even part of your identity.

So, why am I returning the Burning Man this year?

Me at Burning Man

Playa selfie!

1. It makes me a better person.

The community you find at Burning Man is an incredibly loving one, and I left feeling like I was a better person.

Burning Man is a gift society, meaning that your money means nothing. Aside from ice and the coffee sold at Center Camp, you don’t buy anything at the Burn. The food that people offer, the drinks at the bars, the activities, the rides, the art, the everything–it’s all free. With money eliminated, everything in the city is equally accessible, and in a way, everyone is equal.

With this karma-inspired society, people are more inclined to give when they can, and they don’t feel ashamed when they want to ask for something. It’s actually quite a beautiful, bare, and vulnerable way to live. “This is what I have, this is what I can offer the community.”

While you would think you’d find a bunch of folks running around and seeing what they could get from others–and I’m sure they were out there–I didn’t run across anyone like that. It felt like everyone was more concerned about what they were able to give. 

How refreshing! We live in a messed up world, and if the global and national problems that I read about aren’t enough, I have my own daily struggles as well. I’m certain that before the Burn, I had fallen into selfish habits, thinking primarily of myself. I’m certain that I still have days like that as well. But I am more aware of it now, and I strive to help other before helping myself.

Witnessing this generous spirit first-hand restores my faith in humanity, and faith in myself. One of the most valuable lessons I learned from Burning Man was to try to give love freely, and I can’t wait to be reminded of it again this year.

iPhone at Burning Man

Don’t even try to text here.

2. I’m forced to disconnect.

Hoping to get cell service out in Black Rock City? Good luck! My phone stopped receiving notifications miles away from the gate. I had completely expected to be unreachable for the week I was there, and I was totally okay with that. My family and friends knew where I was and that they wouldn’t hear from me until I returned. For the first few days, I did really well–I didn’t even care that I couldn’t talk to anyone. I was having a blast! But slowly, surely, I got a little curious as to what was happening at home. Were there any family emergencies? Was my workload piling up? Most importantly, how was my cat?!

I have to confess that I utilized wi-fi at a nearby camp one time, and through the grapevine I had discovered a working payphone on the Esplanade that I used to make two phone calls. I know, I’m weak!

I spent about a total of fifteen minutes using the wi-fi to check emails and texts (no disasters at home or work? Moving on…) and I had exactly three minutes for each of my two calls. I didn’t spend my spare time hopping on the internet to get on Twitter or Instagram, and I didn’t need to have an hour long conversation with anyone, either. I live in the moment, and the only reason I wanted to reach out to people was because, well, I missed them. Ain’t no harm in that.

Regardless, at Burning Man I don’t really have much of a choice in disconnecting from the world. It was a fortunate, lucky thing that I discovered wi-fi and a working phone, but it certainly is not the norm. I’m quite looking forward to putting my phone in airplane mode and seeing where the week takes me–and I know I can always tweet about it later.

Perhaps related to this: In my search for the payphone to surprise my parents and main squeeze with a phone call, I found a different payphone with a sign that advertised, “Talk to God.” I did. She was very nice, and told me that “Everything will be okay.” I should have just listened to her all along.

Black Rock City airport

Black Rock City airport.

3. I have opportunities to do things I’d normally never get to do.

As I was waiting in line to pick up mail last year (yes, you can get mail at Burning Man!), I was chatting with a guy in front of me and commented on his necklace. I told him I liked it, and he let me know it was the necklace that he and all his campmates wore. I asked him about his camp, and he told me it was a camp for skydivers.

My ears perked up. “I want to try skydiving someday!”

He told me all about his camp, and then said I should stop by sometime that day and check it out. I wouldn’t be able to jump, of course–the camp doesn’t allow tandem jumps, and you have to have done at least 50 jumps on your own–but I might be able to go up in the plane and watch people jump out. All I had to do was put my name on a list and see if I got called. It sounded like a cool opportunity, so I decided to check it out.

Well, I did get called (for a sunset flight, no less!), and damn, what an experience. This was sort of research for my own skydiving adventures, and it gave me a great idea of what it was like–I was strapped in right by the door of the airplane, so you could say I had a front row seat. Our pilot also thought it was pretty funny to plummet towards the earth once the last person was out, so I’ve got some pretty epic video footage I took on my phone of me and a few other wonderful strangers screaming in terror. Good times.

That was certainly a vivid memory I have of last year, but I had the chance to do so many amazing things: perform for hundreds of people, ride on an innovative hammock art car, watch an old-timey movie in the smallest theater I’ve ever been in (complete with a Snickers bar), witness a beautiful sunrise in the desert, chase lights, roller-skate in a makeshift roller rink, stumble across an alcoholic slushy stand at 2pm, walk on a catwalk and have a crowd of people cheer for me, hop on a mustache teeter totter, and so, so much more. Where else can I do all of those things in a matter of a week? This year, just like last, is full of unknown and amazing possibilities.

Truth is Beauty

I saw this dame every day.

4. I get to immerse myself in art.

As I mentioned, I had no idea what Burning Man would be like. I went thinking it was just this big, fun party in the desert, but it’s that and more. It’s a city full of artistic, intelligent minds. Seriously, the most surprising aspect of it was that it really, truly is an arts and music festival.

A week surrounded by unbelievable art and fantastical creations will get your brain wheels turnin’. It certainly did for me! I returned to San Francisco feeling more inspired than I had in a long time. Suddenly, I had new, interesting ideas. I wanted to do things and make things, and I possessed a newfound drive. It was like I had been given a reboot.

I saw an octopus art car that spewed fire into the air to the command of a piano on board, I rode on a mutant vehicle shaped like an armadillo, I read confessions written on the Temple and wept, I danced and sang on a stage with other performers that humbled me, I climbed sculptures and spoke with the people who created them, and I was so enamored with one art piece that I returned to its beauty every day I was there–just to name a few.

Basically, imagine an afternoon at your favorite museum. Now imagine that museum on crack and open for a week straight.

Oh, and add fire. Just because.

El Pulpo Mecanico

El Pulpo Mecanico…only my favorite car EVER. Definitely chased this guy around the desert for a while.

5. I’m encouraged to play and explore.

I’m a pretty curious gal, so any place that I’m told it’s 100% okay to run around without restriction–so long as I’m not harming anyone or myself–well, that’s a place I want to be.

Burning Man happens to be one of those places. I can wear what I want, do what I want, and I can go anywhere, see anything, touch anything, and climb anything that I want. The rules our society puts on us–like, “Don’t do that, it’s not ladylike,” or “That’s not how adults behave!”–they don’t fly in Black Rock City.

I’m a visual person, and if I can interact with something it’s even better. (Really, who doesn’t feel more engaged that way?) Anything out in that beautiful desert was fair game. Obviously, this was a little overwhelming–it’s just not possible to do it all–but it was undeniably freeing. The first few days there I caught myself wanting to ask for permission to do things, like climb on a certain structure or press buttons on an art piece. But very quickly I learned that I was supposed to interact with those things. If I took the time to learn more about them, I in turn learned more about myself.

I also was reminded that life, whether you’re at Burning Man or in default world, is not about watching on hopefully. It’s about living it, and doing it, and trying however you can to understand what you come across.

The Man Burns 2013

The Man burns 2013.

The Man burns in 32 days, so you can probably imagine my excitement at this point. I leave in less than a month! The Burn is actually within a reasonable time frame for me to blab on endlessly to my friends about it–“Look at the fuzzy pink coat I got!” “I rhinestoned my moto goggles, wanna see?” “Oh, don’t mind the gallons of water in the corner of my room–just stocking up!” etc etc etc.

It’s funny, for a while a few months ago, I struggled to justify why I would go back to Burning Man this year. I like new experiences, and going new places, so it seemed a little counterintuitive to go back to the same place I’d been last year. I then remembered that while I’m going back to the same place, it will still be a completely unfamiliar city than the one I experienced before. That’s what Burning Man is like for me: a new city full of some of the most amazing people and some of the best adventures.

Have you ever attended Burning Man? Have you been to other festivals, or had other similar experiences, that have given you a new outlook on life? What yearly trips do you take and why?

Oh, and with all of the anticipation of Burning Man, you can expect to see some more upcoming posts about prep, advice, and my own personal experiences. Squeeee!

Photo credits: