True Story: I Go To Burning Man

This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting/challenging/amazing things. This is the story of Annie and her experiences at Burning Man


Tell us a bit about yourself! 
Well hello. I’m Annie “Nibs” Passanisi (the Nibs stands for “chicken nibbles” a name given to me en route to my first Burn. Long story). I’m 29 and 1/4th years old and my actual job titles include: Executive Chef of Hungry Entrepreneurs, Info-Product Sous Chef at Front Burner Biz, Polymathic’s entire Department of Glitter and the Original Happiness Advocate. I spend my days connecting brilliant people, nurturing their big dreams and helping them make some well-deserved cashola. I unwind with swingsets, George Gershwin, overly ambitious baking projects, my freaking marvelous chosen fam, my very own personal NerdStud and my step-cat (who is warming to me – I think.)
My very favorite thing to do is sit people down and force them to listen as I go on and on about Burning Man.
For those of us who don’t know, what is Burning Man?
Woof. This question is a doozy. For you skim-readers, it’s a weeklong party in the middle of the Nevada desert attended by 60,000+ people
For those who want the actual answer, it’s what’s at the end of Alice’s rabbithole. Burning Man is a festival built on the foundation of unbridled self-expression, radical self-reliance and being a damn good neighbor. For a week it’s one of the largest cities in Nevada and operates solely on a gift-economy. No advertising is allowed, no sponging off the community, and no judgements (at least that’s the goal.)
Why were you initially interested in attending?
At first I had no interest whatsoever in it. A week with no shower? Smelly hippies everywhere. No thank you. But after my dear friend and soul-bro Mark “Gonzo” Stetson said I should consider it, I began doing my research. I watched every youtube video, read every blog. I think what originally appealed to me was how radical everything seemed.Without knowing it, I was aching for something that would drop-kick me out of my cozy post-college/mid-I-know-everything-at-22 nest. I also relished the idea that I could dress like a modern Minnie Mouse and no one would bat an eye about it. Tutus and polka dots galore!

What are some of the biggest misconceptions about ‘Burners’ and Burning Man?
Probably that we’re all hippie dippie druggie dirtball drifter slacker socialist rich kids on holiday. And believe me, there are people that would fit each of those criteria out there. But Burners are among the most creative, resilient and giving people on the planet. It’s a required trip for the upper tiers of many innovative companies for that exact reason!Who else would turn an ordinary truck flat into a three story Victorian mansion on wheels complete with saloon girls, a moonshine bar and a sherriff? Would weather 107 degree days and 40 degree nights, clad in gas masks and googles, for months setting up the avenues, the portapotties, the emergency support systems so that everybody else can show up and have a grand old time? Would save up all year to bring thousands of dollars worth of booze, watermelon, or sofas to the middle of the desert to delight their peers? Burners would and they do. I’m not saying there are not bad eggs among us. There are. There are mean spirited folk, frat boys that want to ogle boobs, even the odd criminal in the mix but over all, Burners are sensational.

Since the festival takes place in the desert, how do you stay cool/warm/hydrated/safe/fed?
Remember, even though anything goes at the Burn, common sense still reigns supreme. If you want to free yourself and your mind by diving off a giant bathtub duck, you sure as hell can. But remember, gravity still exists out there and it costs $20,000 to airlift your broken self to a hospital.You absolutely MUST stay hydrated at all times. Seriously. You think you’ve had enough water? You haven’t. Drink more.

Only ingest substances you know you can handle and in doses that make sense for you.

Ladies, 99 out of 100 of the guys you meet out there are not creeps, so let those tatas free if you want to. BUT, I issue you the same warning I tell my friends when they first move to Chicago. Being in dark places alone late at night messed up on something is not smart. Be safe. Take a buddy. Bonus points for a sober buddy.

As for staying fed, that’s the easy one. Find a breakfast camp (there are dozens, my favorite is Cock n’ Waffle) and shower them with gifts. Befriend your neighbors. Pro tip: go out with a gang you trust. It’s one thing to take your wildest pals out there, but bring people you can cry in front of, too. The Burn is intense and these people will help keep you safe, sane, and sheltered. They can also talk you down from a bad trip or a aha moment that rocks your world a little too hard.


Annie and her friends
Tell us about an average day at Burning Man!
Ain’t no such thang! The Burn is a fully customizable experience. Whatever you’re looking for you can find on any given day. How do you normally vacation? The cafe set can mosey over to Center Camp for one of the most delicious mochas on earth. This is prime people watching and a great opportunity to make remarkable connections. Wanderers can explore. The city is HUGE. Spin in a circle and go in that direction. You’ll find something marvelous guaranteed. There’s an art tour! There are bars everywhere! There is the most miraculous village where healers offer their services for free while yoga and chanting abound. Think of your ideal vacation day, add a lot of topless people and searing heat, and that’s the typical day.
Who would NOT enjoy Burning Man? 
If you don’t want your view of the world, the people in it, and yourself to be shaken, don’t come to the Burn. It is the most eye-opening experience I have ever encountered and every year is different. Sometimes it is BRUTAL. Sometimes, I cry in my tent and want to go home. You find yourself out there, and if you aren’t ready to have some real talk with Y-O-U, don’t come.As for the biggies, if you don’t do drugs, don’t sweat it. You don’t have to take acid at the gate. There are entire sober camps, too, if you’re trying to stay clean. Swingers and polyamorous types run rampant at the burn, but I’m monogamous as can be, intend to stay that way. And as for the super religious, are you open minded to other points of view? Then come on down. Burning Man is an intensely spiritual experience for some (present company included). Come marvel at nature, what man can create, and how you can contribute to the beauty that surrounds you.

But seriously, don’t come if you have breathing problems, bitch and moan when it’s hot out, want to mock the hippies, sell stuff, or ogle boobs. Go to Coachella or something for that.
What advice would you give to people who are interested in attending?
Come. if it even remotely interests you, come. If it scares you, come. If you’ve been dying to come for years, stop whining and just come already. And then come find me, Nibs, at 3:15 and F. I’ll save you a hammock.Thanks so much for sharing, Annie!  Have any of you guys ever been to Burning Man?  Any insights to share?

21 Comments

Anonymous

I want to go to Burning Man so badly! Thanks so much for sharing!

What kind of gifts do people bring?

Reply
Cuddle

Great question! In terms of what you can expect to be given, I can't even answer that. I have been gifted homemade chapstick, ice cream sandwiches, a leather mask, a giant wooden dong, hundreds of grilled cheese sanwiches.

If you're asking because you want to bring gifts (bless you, child), know that Burn Virgins are not expected to bring gifts their first time. BUT you certainly can. Things to avoid, things that are individually wrapped (too much trash), anything that can melt (it will), anything hard to pack or anything you can't take on a plane. Next year, I think I'll bring travel sized bottles of lotion or baby oil.

Reply
Corvus

Actually, especially for first timers, the best gift you can bring is YOU. See an artist struggling to complete his dream — on Tuesday? Lend a hand and swing a hammer for a few hours. That 8am zombie shuffling by in the street? Offer a cup of coffee. Go down to Recycle Camp and peddle your ass off in the can crusher for a while. A kind word, a willing hand, a safe haven from the madness, all are more important than some trinket.

Reply
The Dame Intl

This post is AWESOME! I started going to festivals at 16 (19 years ago), the first being Rustlers Valley in South Africa, just 5000 people but big psy-trance tents, bongo drums, sweat lodges and lots of acid. Locals coming to your tent with carrier bags full of mountain grown weed and all manner of weird and interesting people. I've since been to many raves in warehouses and fields as well as the incredible Secret Garden Party here in England. These kinds of festivals are basically human life concentrated, so yes, it can be very intense as things you may not experience in every day life are more likely to happen at a festival, its everything in life, uninhibited, in one melting pot. For some, it can get too hot in the kitchen, for others, they'll become life long cooks. Definitely, definitely go with an open mind, try your best to be non judgemental and question every judgement that you pass, where did it come from, why do you believe it, is it necessarily true? This is how you evolved and become more open and understanding in life and a festival is the fast track to enlightenment. You will also discover more about yourself in a few days than you would in years just by going to a festival. I actually felt so emotional reading this. Your world will be blown apart going to a major festival like this.

Reply
M. Skinner Events

I really enjoyed reading Nibs' point of view! I had no real judgements about it and think I would like to experience it at some point but I'm not there, yet. Thanks for the interview Nibs and Yes & Yes!

Reply
Sky

Burning Man is one of my ultimate dreams. Every time I read about, I just want to go. It scares me, yes, but it also sounds like something I'd love so much. Thinking maybe 2015 might be the year for me!

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Sarah M

Oh my goodness, this was so fun to read. I've known about Burning Man for years and it has always intrigued me. I AM, however, one of those that would bitch and moan because of the heat. It's why I moved to the pacific Northwest. I'd even be okay with Alaska. Thanks for sharing. 🙂
Sarah M

Reply
Annie Nibs

You have options. You can bring an RV with a shower but I warn you, it can be kind of a pain and you are responsible for cleaning it all up. OR, you can camp with a group that has a solar shower or bring/buy your own. These help A LOT.

The only Murphy's Law on the Playa (according to me) is the second you get clean, a duststorm will hit. But, if cleaniness if your only reason not to come, I'd say give "staying clean at Burning Man" a healthy googling. I think after 6 years, I've just gotten lazy when it comes to some things. You'd be amazing how fast a pixie cut dreads, and how oddly cute it is!

Reply
Anonymous

If being clean is a priority, build a shower. There is nothing stopping you. That is (part of) what makes Burning Man so special.

Reply
seldom

hi! Thanks for sharing! I've always wanted to know if its possible to just turn up to BM without a crew – is that even possible/advisable? I'm in OZ, and don't know anyone, but want to go!

Reply
Annie Nibs

You absolutely can! I am a girl that requires a boatload of social support, but if you like to fly solo there is no reason not to. Now, remember, you will need to bring and and take out all your supplies which means probably buying a camp stove, renting a car, etc.

If you're looking for a crew to meet up and camp with, check the Burner forums on the site and the main Facebook group for offers. Most camps will gladly house and maybe even feed you if you can contribute financially or with your gifts and talents.

Finally, get in touch with the OZ Burner crew and the OZ Nowhere familyy, I know they are around somewhere, and what a crazy bunch! They will be a phenomenal resource for you – and may turn out to be future companions!

See you in the dust!

Reply
Alisha - the.wineglass.manifesto

This is a truly magical read. I would love to go to Burning Man, and you've made it sound so fun and eye-opening. I just love the whole gifting culture and the whole leave no trace thing. It must be so awesome. Congrats on finding your groove in such a rad little corner of the world, albeit a temporary one!

Reply
Annie Nibs

Thanks for your appreciation, all! If you have any questions whatsoever, feel free to keep them coming here or to reach out to me privately.

And I repeat, if you're even considering coming, you should come. Especially if it scares you.

Reply
Anonymous

I have gone a couple of times, and I know some serious serious Burners who have been going since the 1990s. For those thinking of going…it's a camping trip, but no water faucets. You bring water, water, water. Heck, even for gifts! Bring something to drink for a gift! Bring a tent, or an enclosed place to sleep. Many innovative structures, and groups often have a "cool room". At night…it has to be seen to be believed. My favorite time is night, with so much spectacular lighting, sounds, and fire…FIRE!! Fire is an attractant. You are drawn to fire-breathing creatures. And there are many!

Go to the Burning Man website, and read everything…everything…if you're thinking of going.

Reply
ticklingthemivories

Hi Nibs,

I've been considering coming for several years but was totally overwhelmed by the sheer logistical complexity of coming from the East Coast on my own. Might have been a different story when I was in my 20s or 30s or… well you get the idea. The very good and exciting news is, serendipity happened in the form of an old friend who has been going for a bunch of years, and the last week of August in BRC is where I plan to be. As a pre-virgin burner, it was great to read your blog entry. Maybe I'll catch up with you sometime during the week.

Reply

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