• Chelsea Rustrum

Burning Man – I’ll Either Love or Hate it?

Updated: Feb 21

Yo, yo: These are my Burning Man before thoughts written in a hurry two hours before taking off for @blackrockcity. I’ll give you the nitty gritty on my after reflections later. Or maybe just pictures…

Here I am. 28. Ready to embark on a new adventure. Only this time it involves being dirty in the desert and watching people run around naked on bikes on god knows what drugs. I have these silly goggles that everyone tells me to buy, yet I’m not sure anyone actually wears. I bought 15 paint masks along with some bright face paint. I also ordered up a new point and shoot so my SLR does get ruined.

I feel prepared… although, I don’t feel like I could ever be truly ready for Burning Man.

I’m told to head to the pee funnel camp as soon as I get there to cash on my right to my very own funnel to avoid a long walk in the middle of the night to a porta potty.

Oh and my camp? Everyone I speak to says that Opulent Temple is a non-stop party. I thought I was staying in a entrepreneur camp, but it turns out I’m actually staying in a DJ camp with some entrepreneurs. Whatever.

I’m actually looking forward to unplugging. I have literally become addicted, attached and compulsive with technology. Technology is the lifeline to my business and my identity. I’m curious what will happen when that’s stripped away.

This whole year has been about serendipity and following my heart.

Never before have I listened so intently and gone in whatever direction I’m beckoned to. I spend time with people based on how I feel around them and no other reason.

Romantically, my check boxes have floated away and been replaced by energetic reason. In business, I’ve taken bigger risks and combined my personal purpose and who I am into what I do on a daily basis. I’ve become a walking intention.

How the heck did I end up deciding to go to Burning Man? As I sit here and type, I realize that it makes perfect sense, but I would not have seen that coming a year ago.

Serendipity dictated that I help shoot One Couch at a Time, a documentary about Couchsurfing. This led me to France, Germany and Morocco. The people I met along the way and their stories of love and loss inspired me and reignited my trust in the human spirit. I realized that we’re all the same. We all love and we all lose love. We all have hearts that yearn to share and give. Somewhere along the way, that gets interrupted. And you know what, that’s ok. That’s part of the human experience.

Fast forward or rewind and you’ll see that I’ve attending conferences on the Future of Work, Coworking, SXSW and spent a lot of time around people who are truly on the forefront of the shift to sharing and community building in our culture. The more I understand that implications of community, the more passion I have to expand with that nationally and internationally.

Alex, the mastermind behind the Couchsurfing documentary repeatedly urged me to go to @burningman. And by urged, I mean demanded. And what a demand?! To come see the ultimate gift culture and be surrounded by a temporary community where everyone is free to be who and what they are, right in that moment without technology? To be in a series of moments where dance, food, sharing and art are at the forefront. If this isn’t what I am about, I don’t know what is.

And lucky for me, one of the investors in the film offered his RV to me and has been very kind in welcoming me to his camp. I am going to camp with a bunch of people I don’t know in a desert of 50,000 people and I couldn’t be more excited. I’m still intimated and fearful about getting stuck in the midst of drugged up people having sex all over the place.

What if I want to leave? There’s no way out and I’m supposed to stay the whole week. Ahhh wayyynnnn, poor me. Who cares. I am going to carry the attitude that this is going to be  life changing experience of connectivity and energetic transfer that exceeds what I might get in a months of quality interactions.

I want to mind meld, heart meld and sink into what’s before me. I would like to feel my heart open wider with greater vulnerability and strength than it’s ever felt. I’d like to meet people who make me think and to participate in conversations that include both logic, thought, feeling and possibility. This is not business as usual, this is Burning Man.

I obviously have no idea what I’m talking about. I’ve never been to Burning Man. And this sort of reminds me of traveling. People will tell you things like “Don’t go to Cambodia. It’s really dangerous. You’ll get kidnapped and sold into sex slavery.” Ha. Cambodia was awesome!

With Burning Man, I feel like the burners I know see me and think “Huh. Chelsea at Burning Man. That should be interesting. She’ll either love or hate it.”

And so far… I love Burning Man. I love what the whole thing stands for. And I’m going to be looking for the gems and the pearls that we can utilize in everyday life. People get this look on their face when they talk about the experience and their whole posture softens. I liken it to someone describing being touched by an angel or having a near death experience. People are changed by Burning Man. That’s my only experience with it directly… the people who have gone and taken something back with them.

I feel extremely lucky that I’m able to take a week to unplug. I feel equally grateful that Burning Man exists at all. If we can create a culture that shares and gives and lives for one week, we can do it for longer. Who knows what’s possible. All I know is that our culture and our economy are on a path for combustion. We need more love and less stuff. So simple.

I think that’s why I love Bali so much. Village upon village of people living off the land, carving things out of wood, painting, thatching walls, paving their own driveways, hiking with greens on their back for their cow, celebrating life around every corner. They have enough water and resources are plentiful. They are rich, living in family compounds with so much love and so little in terms of possessions. Who is poor? I say it’s us. We have something to learn from these people and I have something to learn from Burning Man.

I will let you know what comes out of it… as these are just my perceptions before I’ve experienced a lick of anything.

More later…

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