So I can finally talk about Burning Man 2015…


GODWhere do I start? “In the middle” is what ‘God’ replied to my boyfriend when he was talking to him in a phone-booth (interactive art installation) in the middle of the Nevada desert on the first day of Burning Man.

But seriously, where do I start? That is both the question and the answer as to why it’s taken me months to put pen to paper (fingertips to keyboard) about Burning Man … when, as a writer & sharer, I would normally be drafting notes on my way home from an experience and pressing publish on a blog before bedtime.

I should probably start with a warning & spoiler alert that I’m going to be completely honest about the phenomenally positive, truly life-altering experience I had at Burning Man 2015. I mean… even the bad stuff was good (kinda like pizza, and sex, if you remember the great quote from Reality Bites). So you’re about to hear me, an intrinsically positive person get sickeningly passionate – almost high – recounting my story. The story of The Single Greatest Thing I Have Ever Done.  If you’ve never ever heard of Burning Man before or have seen the photos but still wonder what the fcuk it is (OR, indeed, if you somewhat mistakingly think it’s a music festival, an orgy or a drug-fest – have a quick jump over here for the deal on what it is, then pop back). If you can’t be bothered, my 2 second explainer is… that Burning Man, a week-long, make-shift, city of 75,000 people in the Nevada desert, is the closest thing you can get to being picked up and placed on another planet. Not another country, another planet(one with happy, generous aliens, creative art, quirky interactive-activities… and me).

My interest was sparked in this ‘Burning Man Thing’ 5 or so years ago when my boyfriend introduced me to the concept. We bought books and sought people out who had been, which turned out to be the single greatest driver to our own participation because every.single.person. we spoke to who had been said, “not only was it the greatest thing I have ever done, but I’m going to go back… again and again and again.” Now, you don’t hear that much about anything really – people have dreams to visit countries and cities but oftentimes (not all the time), they’re bucket-listers. Want to do it, plan to do it, do it, done. So I found it fascinating that this seemingly bucket-list experience (with all its challenges and difficulties in preparing for) would be so intensely awe-inspiring that its past attendees would so vehemently back their return attendance. Now here I am, setting my plans in place to go again next year.

We bought tickets at 2am earlier this year (opening time was noon in the USA and these things sell out real quick) and an entire trip was formed around it. Pre-sale tickets cost around $800 USD each but kinda guarantee you’re in (which we needed the security of because we had so much else hinging on it) otherwise there’s a $400 USD option that’s a bit more of a ballot, you may or you may not secure tickets (you only pay that amount if you do secure them, otherwise, you miss out – No Burn for you). Planning-wise, my only thoughts are that it’s not as hard as you might imagine. We’d heard rumours of the months of preparation required (which to be fair, some of my friends who were part of large ‘camps’ did attest to), but we just booked an RV (which had a BM ‘tax’ on it, and rightly so, we gave it a decent dusty run), found some friends we knew who organised a “pay this much each and we’ll bring all of the things” and bought some funky outfits online. Some of the best advice we got beforehand was to “forget the look that you think you need to adhere to for Burning Man, Burning Man is about being, doing, wearing WHATEVER you want – so there’s nothing to conform to – just wear whatever you want”. This made shopping fun. I bought a platinum blonde wig, not because I thought it would look good but because I’d always wanted to see whether blondes had more fun (this particular one did… damn!).  I’d get inspired by something and just buy it online… I ended up with a whole bunch or randomness that I would just wake up every-day and piece together based on whatever I felt. Tuesday felt like a good day to wear skeleton print bathers, Friday a gold body-suit and Saturday a fishnet body sock.

So then… Burning Man. My experience can be best summarised as thousands of micro moments of amazingness, that I’ll touch on now. Not one big ‘thing’ that happened but hundreds and hundreds of moments of awe-inspiring, thought-provoking, self-improving, dusty, friendly, surprising, utterly happy moments. I felt like a child over and over and over again, not in a ‘youthful’ way but in an ‘oh wow, look at that – look at that!’ kind of way that makes you ask questions, be curious, climb, ride, hide and seek. I guess this is what’s bound to happen when 75,000 like-minded people create a make-shift city. So here’s a taste (in order of appearance);


Welcome Home

After a 10 hour drive in bumper to bumper RV traffic leading into Burning Man, we arrived at sunset – greeted by a welcoming volunteer who encouraged us out of our RV and hugged us with (literally) tear-filled eyes, deeply saying (and truthfully, wholeheartedly believing his words) “welcome home” – and from that moment it was home. We sat on the ground with him (the dusty desert earth, known as the ‘playa’) and then, by his advice, we rolled around on the powder-like ground – as an initiation for first-timers. This might sound a bit wanky but what can I say, I literally felt like we’d met this guy in a past life (that Déjà vu type connection) so the ‘coming home’ was just completely and utterly authentic. I jumped back in the RV and it felt like Christmas, I was literally gleeful and filled with excitement to ‘find a spot’ and get stuck into it.



Taken from the inside of our RV on the way in
Taken from the inside of our RV on the way in


Here we go...!
Here we go…!


Hot Dogs Hot Dogs

After finding a spot and doing some night-time adventuring, the next day saw us riding our bikes around the streets of the 3km diameter circular city… jaws literally dropped in awe. I remember getting especially thirsty because my mouth was wide open, literally gasping and frozen in an “OH-MY-GOD-WOW” face. People (dressed as art), artwork, art installations, randomness. It was HOT, a man was offering up ice-cold flannels for people to wear around their neck (that was his ‘gift’, he has an esky/cooler full of ice/water and orange flannels) – there was a line 15-long of people waiting to graciously accept his gift, so thoughtful a gift after-all! We were so amazed by the intricacies of our new home that we’d forgotten to eat for a few hours, and it struck us as we were cruising around the middle of the desert (somewhere between a ‘talk to god’ interactive installation phone booth and a Pink Mammoth day-party). We were ravenous… and then as if he was a mirage, a grey-haired man with a hot dog stand (fully stocked with fresh ingredients) emerged brilliantly into our view (see image). Looking at him, he must have been the happiest man I’d seen in as long as I can remember – he was just SO elated to be feeding dozens of hungry, grateful people. He wasn’t asking anything in return (in fact you aren’t allowed to transact for cash at BM). With his wide grin we asked him how long he’d been doing this amazing set up, he replied in a thick American accent “I’ve been brightening The Burn for thirteen years!”. This was his gift. This is an example of the principle of ‘gifting’ which is absolutely commonplace (and often misinterpreted by the outside world as a bartering/exchange system of existence). We scoffed it down, with the added delight of knowing he was meeting food safety standards with his legitimate certificate on display (as is legislation – the actual law still exists here).





This was something I was worried about beforehand. It’s a good example of “even the bad stuff being good” that I mentioned earlier. I mean I’ve been to my fair share of music festivals and seen some pretty grotesque port-a-potty scenes, so I could only imagine what a week-long event might bring in the loo stakes… but I was wrong. The sense of community and respect that everyone has means that things like the toilet are left exactly as they were found, nice and clean.






The Fisherman

While we’re on the subject of the community vibe… one of the great aspects of this ‘everyone pitching in’ element was that there was no rubbish. No trash. Zero. It’s referred to as ‘Material Out of Place (MOOP) and if you see it, you pick it up. In fact I only saw one piece of rubbish on the ground the entire week, a crushed Budweiser can, and when I picked it up, a long string of fishing wire was attached to it… I followed it all the way across the street to a fellow burner who was literally ‘fishing’ for good people who were cleaner-upper-ers so that he could reward the good gesture with a gift. More gifting! I enjoyed my free glass of champagne for being an awesome samaritan.





Naked yoga class

There are activities going on every day, every hour, all over the place – you couldn’t possibly do it all. Sometimes you’re just riding past something and you get involved without planning or intention… and other times you can refer to the book of activities which guides you through various camp’s activities/times and map location (the map works much like a clock with alphabet order for streets, so “meet you at 4&K at around sunset” was easy, especially with the well-signed streets).  So I elected to attend a Naked Yoga class from the activities book. I arrived to meet other tentative and nervous people just like me, who were just keen to do something outside their comfort zone. This was epic. There were about 50 people in a giant dome tent (clothed at first), standing in a large circle facing inwards. People of all ages (which was something special at Burning Man, there was no median age, I saw 70 year olds and families with toddlers – it truly was a community in that regard). The teacher guided us that it was time to shed our material, so we all did. All except two people who kept their underwear on. The teacher guided the group to empower the two remaining people to have the strength and vulnerability to go all the way, which they did – to a supportive and congratulatory round of applause from the whole group. It was a nice unifying moment to set the tone. So then… time for downward dog. Imagine this, we’re all standing in a large circle, facing inwards. I’m thinking to myself “well this isn’t going to be too bad, if I fold forward ‘everything’ will be facing outwards, so no one’s really going to see much ”.  NEK MINNIT… The teacher commenced, “how about we all turn to face the sun for today’s class?”… so I do a complete 180 (degrees) and find myself front and centre of the circle, the class of 50 standing attentively behind me. Haha, it makes me lol just thinking about it… the first deep breath in, and the exhale, THE FOLD FORWARD. I could have died. But I didn’t. I was pushed beyond my comfort zone. But by the third breath, it didn’t matter. I was in my yoga rhythm (which is so familiar to me as a daily practitioner). Naked yoga was fantastic. It felt free and special. It had an edge of humour which brought lightness… for example the camp it was held in was called “things that swing” (get the visual). The only thing I want to add here, on the subject of ‘bodies’ is that Burning Man has had such an impact on my view of the human body and my own Self view of my body (something I have battled with my entire life). I can tell you what you see on the internet of ‘people at burning man’ is not reflective of the reality. For some reason, the ‘pretties’ mostly seem to make it online (perhaps that’s because once we overlay outside world standards, those are what are most shared). Sure there’s nudity and crazy costuming but it’s really self expression – and to see the expression of 75,000 different types of bodies was the most raw & real illustration I’ve ever seen that there are not ‘four’ body types (pear/apple/triangle/hourglass) – as has been drummed into me through media since I was a young girl –  but rather there were 75,000 different body types here. What a welcome reality. Now we can get on with life… zero judgement (and there was none, zero, for 8 days – it was intensely refreshing). Here’s a photo from an ‘acroyoga’ class I attended, so this post can stay safe for work!




Crying girl

One of the most special moments I had was on my last day. So many layers had peeled back for me (both emotionally and quite literally with the naked yoga!). I visited ‘temple’ which is essentially the spiritual centre of Burning Man. It’s a structure where people place physical and written symbols and messages of things they want to ‘let go’ (they burn it in a silent and surreal ceremony the night after they burn ‘the man’ structure). There are lots of photos of loved ones who have passed, lots of written notes to friends and family members, lots of statements. There’s so much big raw energy in this place, you can walk in without reading or noticing anything in particular and just be overwhelmed to tears by the energy. I saw some pretty special things there. I saw what looked like a couple breaking up (it seemed they had agreed that after a long history together, they decided they would have their final moment as a couple here, setting their relationship free)… I watched them embrace and say goodbye as if at an airport gate. It was so intense and then one of them just walked away and didn’t look back. Wow… and that’s not even the moment I’m highlighting here. I was riding my bike away from Temple and noticed a young woman sitting hunched over, crying with her back against the temple. She was crying in that full on hyperventilating cry, barely a break for breath to enter. She must have just let something go, or she was right in the process of doing so, I’d never seen anything like it. It was beautiful in a way… in a way that I wanted to capture, but to steal this moment into a phone/camera would have been so disrespectful  – I decided to capture it with my heart and I honestly mean that. I rode my bike up to her (she was on the ground and I was up on my bike seat). She didn’t look up, she just continued the release. I didn’t say anything, I just bent down and put my hand on her shoulder, skin on skin. She reached her hand up and put it around my arm… seemingly grasping for life. It was electric, her energy into me. She didn’t look up, we just held each other for moments, which became minutes – it must have been a full 3-4 minutes at least that she just cried and I just held contact. She reached a place where her energy was balancing – and I just took my hand off her gently and rode my bike away. I never saw her face, we never spoke to each other but it must have been one of the most intense human to human contacts of my life. Think about that. Without seeing each other’s faces. I’d mark this as my most precious moment.

No photograph here – this exists only in my memory… and hers.



It would be remiss of me not to mention the incredible art that is everything that Burning Man is actually about. Radical Self Expression is most definitely my favourite of the Ten Principles of Burning Man. It’s Worth checking out some of the best art structures of 2015then there’s the moving structures – you absolutely must take a look at some of this years’ insane art cars (also known as mutant vehicles) – my single regret of the whole Burning Man experience was not jumping on one of these things (which everyone is encouraged to do). I always put it off and thought later later, and then all of a sudden there was no later. Radical self expression comes, perhaps most interestingly, in how people decide to dress themselves… for an example of this I’m going to ask you to jump on Instagram and search hashtag #BurningMan2015 and have a really good look around (I’m suggesting this instead of providing a link to an article, because it seems that ‘what makes it to the internet’ is not a true reflection of the reality (and I’m hoping personal instagram accounts provide a more realistic snapshot – even if it is people’ highlights).






The Burn

After a week of unbelievable life experiences, I was used to being shocked and surprised – I was getting used to the constant elevation of things into ‘next leve;’ and the Saturday night where ‘the man burns’ was no different.  This was the first time that the community of 75,000 all congregated in the centre of this spectacular temporary city to celebrate what we were all here for. And what’s the reason for burning the man? What’s it symbolic of? Well by looking around it seemed to mean completely different things to different people. To me it was a celebration of the end of an experience that I had dreamt and planned for so long, that delivered so much more than I could have imagined. It was a celebration of my new life, my plans to be a better person to people and the world. Tears streamed down my face but I had the biggest grin on my face. It was just so incredible! There were fireworks, fire, three massive explosions (that had never been done before) and just this sense of being with people, together.


Image Via (Galen Oaks)
Image Via (Galen Oaks)


Since I’ve been back and met with people who are seemingly salivating for the story (because they themselves are fascinated by the thought and potential possibility of attending), I’ve found it interesting that the first two questions have been “so was it a massive naked orgy?” and “was everyone just on acid the whole time?”. I’m not going to spend much energy on this except to say no. I saw no orgy, I saw no one taking drugs. I’m not saying it didn’t happen… Orgy’s and acid happen every day in cities all over the world – but it’s not what they print on that city’s license plate “Sydney – The Orgy and Acid State”. So it’s the same. It’s like suggesting Sydney is mainly a giant brothel city (just because there are some people there who happen to engage in that). There’s more to Sydney (I think!).

I’m not going to do an ‘in summary’ paragraph here (despite my journalistic training!) because it’s not over. Not because I’ll go again (which I most likely will), but rather the experience still feels open to me  – it  stays with me; every day. I talk to more strangers (because I am actually interested in their lives), I pick up rubbish on the beach, I surprise people with anonymous gifts, I wear less makeup, I add quirk to my clothing, I add art to the world (physically), I pick up the loo paper on the floor in the public bathroom, I think more creatively, I eat for fuel not out of boredom, I spend more time engaging & interacting with physical things (puzzles, colouring, books) – less time with tech. I’m not anti-tech but I just learned I like to use my hands more. I ride my bike. I daydream. So much new goodness.

Special shout out to Kim Vernon & Amanda Ngov… friends from school who’d been before me and answered my million questions. Much love to my Burning Man family, the whole 75,000 but also our camp members from all over the world at ‘Rancho Relaxo’, especially our camp leader Adam “Capitano Burkado” Burke… thanks for letting me cook a lasagna in your BBQ. To my mom, born and bred in the USA – I thought of you mostly. Your adventurous spirit is within me, thank you.


Here are some more pictures of what can only be described as the biggest party on the planet.


That's me on the right (for context, I'd learned some acroyoga at a class earlier that day)
That’s me on the right (for context, I’d learned some acroyoga at a class earlier that day)


Believe it or not this party was usually twice as full as this (but this day was quite dusty so had lower attendees)
Believe it or not this party was usually twice as full as this (but this day was quite dusty so had lower attendees)


You're average day cruising the streets...
You’re average day cruising the streets…


Captured this on my first night... jaw dropped (both myself and the serpent mother!)
Captured this on my first night… jaw dropped (both myself and the serpent mother!)



A professional shot of 'the serpent mother' (Via
A professional shot of ‘the serpent mother’ (Via


Making friends (met Hannah at Acroyoga and then she was a regular visitor at our camp)
Making friends (met Hannah at Acroyoga and then she was a regular visitor at our camp)


Little me
Little me (this structure had a mechanic function so the chest ‘breathed’ in and out. Unbelievable.


Our camp 'Rancho Relaxo' at K and 5 on the map
Our camp ‘Rancho Relaxo’ at K and 5 on the map




The crew from our camp - from all over the world but mainly mexico
The crew from our camp – from all over the world but mainly mexico (me on the far left…Raccoon)





Night time fun... so much light stimulation
Night time fun… so much light stimulation






Our next door neighbour
Our next door neighbour Vincent


The End.
The End.

17 Responses

  1. Knot-O

    December 10, 2015 12:06 pm

    I loved your post!

    2015 was my third burn and I felt much like you described after my first burn. I pick up trash on the street, I’m nice to people for no apparent reason, go figure. It just makes sense.

    • Julie Anne

      January 11, 2016 4:50 pm

      Thank you so so much for taking the time to read my post and write this comment. It’s literally responses like yours that keep me writing and sharing – and just make me so happy. Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart. Hope to see you at a burn. x

  2. ernie

    December 18, 2015 12:10 pm

    Well done fellow Burner! I had an after-burn moment: I was heading east on IH 70 in Colorado, stopped in Rifle to gas up. While doing so, a very dusty truck with Illinois plates and bikes strapped to the back pulled up nest to me. His passengers went off to the convenience store while the guy started filling his tank up. I walked up to him and asked if they had been to the Burn, and he replied they had indeed. He saw that my pick-up was very clean, but I told him that I had also, but had ridden with a friend in his vehicle. A huge smile crossed his face, and he suddenly asked me a question: “Can I give you a hug?” I agreed, and there we were, me an old timer Burner and a young man hugging each other by a gas pump in Rifle, CO, oblivious to the rest of the world. It was a perfect after-burn moment!

    • Julie Anne

      January 11, 2016 4:49 pm

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog and make this comment – what an awesome story – literally these little moments bring the burn back to life all year around. I miss it so much x

  3. Ann Marie Wycoff

    December 18, 2015 1:01 pm

    My ultimate dream is to go to Burning Man. I have read lots of articles over the years, but yours has been the most enjoyable. The way you captured your experience, I truly felt I was seeing it for myself through your eyes and words. Thank you for keeping the spark alive in me that one day I will make it to my tribe.

    • Julie Anne

      January 11, 2016 4:41 pm

      Hi Ann Marie – I just wanted to reach out to sincerely thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my burning man post. It’s literally responses like yours that keep me writing and sharing – and just make me so happy. Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart. Hope to see you at a burn. x

    • Julie Anne

      January 11, 2016 4:43 pm

      Hi Ann Marie – I just wanted to reach out to sincerely thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my burning man post. It’s literally responses like yours that keep me writing and sharing – and just make me so happy. Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart. Hope to see you at a burn. x

    • Julie Anne

      January 11, 2016 4:48 pm

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read my post and make a comment – I’m so humbled that you’ve read it. Great point you make regarding ‘the pretties’ and this is something I battled with internally when I was writing this post. I didn’t actually even know about the whole ‘sparkle pony’ thing that gets talked about until I read posts when I got home, but find that whole conversation really interesting. I thank you kindly for your generous complement and agree (after much internal work on self image!) that I am too ‘one of the pretties’… but I certainly couldn’t help feel that all the pictures I was seeing when I got back featured mainly the pretty people, I’ve tried to include a whole bunch of pics so people can see all angles – I just loved the reality of the experience it was so grounding to my own self esteem, which I’ve struggled with if I’m totally honest 🙂 Thanks again for taking the time.

  4. alex

    December 19, 2015 4:41 am

    was my first burn too.. you captured the experience beautifully. 🙂 trying to live some of the essence of the burn in default world, but it’s so good to be reminded of the real thing.

    this video was also super inspiring to me!

  5. Angela

    December 19, 2015 8:16 am

    Thanks for sharing your experience….this was our 14th or so burn and it’s still an amazing experience! (the first time we went tix were like $35…) hope you make it back!

  6. Bind

    December 20, 2015 2:00 pm

    I always tell burgins, “May you never be the same!”

    There are some that come to BRC and never understand any of it. It was hot, it was dusty, my fav DJ cancelled, etc. They often leave early to the safety of a Reno Hotel. I once had a fellow volunteer at Center camp say, “If I knew how hard it would be to get laid, I would have brought my girl friend!”

    Lucky girl she must be to have landed that big fish!

    After reading of your experiences and observations, often with fresh tears per paragraph, my only thought is “Welcome home neighbor.”


    • Julie Anne

      January 11, 2016 4:44 pm

      Hi Bind – I just wanted to reach out to sincerely thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my burning man post. It’s literally responses like yours that keep me writing and sharing – and just make me so happy. Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart. Hope to see you at a burn. x


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