Introvert’s Guide to Burning Man

  1. Sponsor(s). This should probably go without saying for everyone but is especially important for introverts: go with a solid, reliable, forgiving group of people. It can be just one partner in crime, or a small group of like-minded friends, who know you and how you roll, and with whom you can feel comfortable and at ease, even if the environment gets the better of you. This is the foundation upon which your build your experience, your safe place, the only people among 80-some thousand in the city, who will watch your back no matter what.
  2. Routine Elements. Burning Man is probably the last place you’d associate with a schedule of any kind, but there are still some tentpoles of a routine that you can establish for yourself to give you that safe, grounded feeling. For me, it’s always been coming back to the camp just after sunset. It’s the perfect time to eat a warm meal (which often ends up being the only one for the day), catch up with my campmates and change into warmer clothes for my nighttime adventure.
  3. Making Your Own Ritual. This relates directly to the previous point but is also a great way to make the Burn your own. It can be an early morning bike to the Temple, or a sunrise cruise around the Esplanade, or going to get a refreshment at Centre Camp’s coffee bar. I try to reserve a quiet moment in the morning for making myself a cup of coffee and journaling as I sit down to have it. Just a little half an hour every day can make a big difference.
  4. Solo Adventure. Taking your own personal ritual one step further, you can reserve a whole day (or a morning/afternoon) for a solo adventure. Inform your friends that you are going to explore on your own for a little bit, and go wherever your bike takes you. Stop at random places, talk to random people, — or don’t. Greatest Burning Man adventures are always those which are unplanned and unexpected. Good as your ‘Sponsor(s)’ is/are, it is important to allow yourself to experience what it feels like to be on the Playa totally on your own.
  5. Let go of the Time Issues. I am going to sprinkle some salt on that control freak wound of yours: Nobody is keeping the time or sticks to arrangements on the Playa, so neither should you. I know, blasphemy! But. The worst thing I’ve ever had happen to me at Burning Man is leaving an epic adventure, because I promised someone to be somewhere else, only to find that they’d forgotten all about it. In surfing terms, don’t leave a good wave to find a good wave, — even if it means bypassing some previously made plans. Nobody in their right mind will ever hold it against you on the Playa.
  6. Going with the Flow: Get Ready in Advance. I know how hard it is for some of us to ‘just go with the flow’, improvise, adapt to the ever-changing course. This lack of control can be excruciating for an introvert, who often relies on advanced planning and a clear structure of activities. So I urge you to meditate in advance on this idea of going with the flow. It does not mean never knowing what’s happening and being stressed about it; it merely means, making space in your mind to allow more flexibility than usual. ‘The plan is to have no plan’, is still, at the end of the day, a plan ;)
  7. Gathering the Troops Contingency. Be prepared to wait around on others, as moving in a group (even a group of 4–6) — especially at night, — is tedious. Don’t expect everyone to get going at 10 PM just because it had been casually dropped in a conversation earlier. If you are one of those people who are always early to meetings (like yours truly), you need to really take a few precautions to protect your sanity here. Start getting ready much later than you normally would; give yourself extra time to chose accessories or warm up a cup of tea. There will always be a person who needs to go back to their tent for just a minute to pick up this one last thing. Always.
  8. Implosion Prevention. Burning Man is a place where it’s more important than ever to know your limits and red flags. Even surrounded by your crew (‘Sponsor(s)’), there might come a time when all hell inside your head will break loose. The reason can be anything: dehydration, exhaustion, too much sun, too much socialising, visual over-stimulation, etc. Your mission is to identify the moment and quietly step away from whatever it is you are doing. Take a walk to the portaloo, offer to do an ice run, or just sit down in the shade under the pretence of feeling dizzy. Remember, in the long run, it is better to sacrifice some degree of participation in order to prevent an outburst of negativity or a mental meltdown that would take you days to heal from.
  9. Meeting New People 101. You will meet a lot of people, and you will be talking a lot more than you normally do. But panic not! You will also discover that your threshold for socialising will rise proportionately. I find myself talking non-stop for most of the time at the Burn and it feels like second nature, even though an equal amount of activity would drain me dry in a fraction of the time back in the default world. The amazing thing about Burning Man is that it gives you endless possibilities to deeply connect with people in a short space of time, bypassing all the chit-chat that is so tiresome for introverts. However, most people you meet will still ask you the same set of starter questions (‘Where are you from? Is it your first burn? How’s your burn been going?’ seem to be pretty standard, in my experience), so it’s good to have your one-liners ready to go. Also, for those of you especially shy or socially awkward, it might be useful to have your own questions ready to spark a conversation with a stranger. (‘What’s your story?’ ‘How’s your adventure been today?’ ‘What’s your favourite art installation this year?’) It’s worth bearing in mind that burners generally judge a lot less than what you might be used to. With most people you meet you get what you see, and that’s all you need to know. Good thing? Same goes your way. The social situations that you would normally be overthinking in the default world, would just blow over your head in an instant at Burning Man.
  10. Longing for the Familiar and how to Deal with it. What if you miss your cat/ the comfort of your home/ the cosiness of your own bed/ too much? Unlikely. Even in my lowest points at Burning Man (which there are always more than enough), I never feel like I don’t want to be there. Like many veteran burners, Black Rock City is what I think of as home. But if you are feeling stifled, confused, or civilisation-homesick, there are ways around it. Tired of shared living quarters? Head over to Hammock Hangout or Mystopia for an afternoon nap. Personally, I prefer to write rather than read on the Playa, but having a good book handy is an excellent way to keep yourself grounded in a more familiar reality if at any point you need to. Not feeling great emotionally? Spend a few hours at the Temple. Read the walls or just sit down and meditate in the shade. Temple is also a great place to cry your heart out if, for whatever reason, such a need arises. And there is no shame in bringing your favourite pillow and blanket with you to Burning Man, — if anything, your campmates will be jealous!

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