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I went to Burning Man for the first time. Here are 5 things everyone gets wrong about the event.

I went to Burning Man for the first time. Here are 5 things everyone gets wrong about the event.
  • I went to Burning Man for the first time, and there's so much people get wrong about it.

  • Many people think Burning Man is a big music festival only attended by celebrities and CEOs.

  • But Burning Man is full of regular people who work year-round to create an incredible community.

I went to Burning Man for the first time this year and learned there's a lot that people get wrong about the legendary annual event.

The Man at Burning Man
Burning Man is a legendary event, but it's earned an unfair reputation in recent years.Anneta Konstantinides/Insider

It seems that over the last few years especially, Burning Man has become known as a haven for Silicon Valley tech bros and Instagram influencers who cough up thousands of dollars to party in "Mad Max" desert cosplay.

It wasn't until I met a group of passionate Burners that I started to learn what life is really like at Burning Man — and how inaccurate its current reputation is. Now that I've done my own inaugural "Dust Angel" and gotten the full playa experience, I'm ready to correct some of the biggest Burning Man myths.

Myth #1: Burning Man 2023 was "Fyre Fest 2.0."

Muddy campground at Burning Man
Burning Man 2023 definitely got muddy — but it was still a great experience.Anneta Konstantinides/Insider

When Black Rock City — the temporary Nevada metropolis where Burning Man has been held every year since 1991 — got hit with an unprecedented storm during the week-long event, many of the headlines that followed were, honestly, kind of ridiculous.

"Chris Rock and Diplo saved from Burning Man disaster," one read. "Celebs flee Burning Man desert festival hell," another said.

As the gates closed and attendees were asked to shelter in place for three days, rumors abounded that we were catching Ebola or trench foot or resorting to cannibalism (I mean, come on). When we were allowed to leave Black Rock City after the weather improved on Monday, many news outlets claimed everyone made a mad dash to "escape."

Truth: Most Burners stuck it out through the mud, and showed that Burning Man is really about community spirit.

Cleaning moop at Burning Man
One of my campmates and I peeling trash off the mud on our last day at Burning Man.Anneta Konstantinides/Insider

Was it a bit of a bummer we couldn't bike around to all the incredible camps Burning Man has to offer for the last three days? Totally. But we still made the best of things when the storm hit and completely changed our weekend.

My camp continued to throw nightly dance parties with live DJ sets, and there were so many stories of people helping each other through the storm — from making 100 quesadillas to feeding people stuck on a Burner Express bus, to whipping up fresh grilled cheese sandwiches on the dance floor for our neighbors. Chris Rock must have just watched "The Last of Us," because there was definitely no threat of cannibalism (or Ebola) on the playa.

When the mud dried and the gates opened on Monday, most of us stuck around. The celebrities may have fled Burning Man, but we were all still there to clean (and celebrate) it after the storm.

Myth #2: Burning Man is just a playground for billionaires, celebrities, and influencers.

Elon Musk
Elon Musk is among the celebrities who've repeatedly attended Burning Man.Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Burning Man found itself in the headlines more often as it began attracting some very high-profile attendees, including billionaires like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg and supermodels like Heidi Klum and Cindy Crawford. Stories followed of luxury camps that offered private jets, personal chefs, and lobbies with chandeliers, fountains, and a check-in desk a la the Four Seasons.

It wasn't long before Burning Man — which was founded on guiding principles that include "radical self-reliance" — was being billed as a party for the 1%.

Truth: Most Burners are regular people who invest a ton of their own time and labor year-round to make Burning Man an incredible experience.

Attendees at Burning Man 2023
Attendees look out at the mud at Burning Man 2023.JULIE JAMMOT/AFP via Getty Images

The high-res Instagram pictures from Burning Man that are popping up on your Explore page are likely coming from attendees more commonly known to Burners as "Weekend Warriors" and "Sparkle Ponies." These are the people who come to the desert to snap pictures in six-inch platform boots and a $600 crystal-covered bodysuit.

Sure, these people are the 1% — but they also make up like 1% of Burning Man. So much of Black Rock City is built off the hard work and dedication of everyday people like you and me — there were engineers, lawyers, hairdressers, and bartenders in my camp alone.

Most camps have leadership teams that meet throughout the year to get ready for Burning Man — and a lot of their effort is dedicated not to providing for people in the camp, but to creating a gift that will benefit everyone in Black Rock City. This has always been the core of what Burning Man is all about, and it's a mindset that I saw across the camps that fill the playa.

Myth #3: You get everything at Burning Man by bartering.

On top of Distrikt at Burning Man
At DISTRIKT, one of the big camps at Burning Man.Anneta Konstantinides/Insider

I was once among the many people who believe that Burning Man is built on a bartering system, and that you have to bring items to Black Rock City to exchange and get by.

I'm not totally sure how this rumor started, but I can tell you that it is complete BS. In fact, it goes against one of Burning Man's 10 guiding principles.

Truth: Burning Man is all about gifting.

Anneta at Burning Man
Me working a shift at Burning Man.Anneta Konstantinides/Insider

"Burning Man is devoted to acts of gift giving," it reads in Burning Man's official 10 guiding principles. "The value of a gift is unconditional. Gifting does not contemplate a return or an exchange for something of equal value."

You'll find all kinds of gifts among the thousands of camps that fill the playa. And unlike the gifts you usually get for your birthday or the holidays, they won't be store-bought (decommodification is another of the 10 principles).

There are camps that offer manicures and foot massages and camps that offer New York-style breakfast sandwiches. You'll find open bars on every corner, often accompanied by creative themes like being consensually abducted by "aliens" who capture you with a hula hoop and then shower you with compliments (this is a real camp and it is awesome). Some camps throw parties, while others let you send postcards to your parents or dogs. My camp, Android Oasis, contributes a covered dome where anyone can stop by to cool down with ice-cold drinks, massages, and great music.

Burning Man is also founded on radical self-reliance, so you shouldn't just show up with nothing but hope in the generosity of others (although some people do). Most Burners don't come to Black Rock City wondering what they can get from people — but rather what they can give.

Myth #4: Burning Man is just one big music festival.

Burning Man 2023
Attendees at Burning Man 2023.JULIE JAMMOT/AFP via Getty Images)

As the celebrities and big-name DJs started popping up at Burning Man, it also began earning a reputation as an (even more) expensive Coachella. I've frequently heard Burning Man get referred to as a music festival, and many friends and coworkers have asked me if music is the main event.

It's not.

Truth: There's so much great music at Burning Man, but it's not the main event.

Walkway to the Man from Burning Man 2014
Walkway to the Burning Man.Andrew Wyatt/Burning Man

Burning Man attracts a ton of great DJs, and I saw so many awesome sets during my week on the playa. But at its core, Burning Man is a real city. There are definitely parties and shows, but you're also working camp shifts and giving back to the unique community. There are also dozens of sober camps, workshops that offer advice on everything from relationships to overcoming trauma, and Temple, where attendees go to reflect or process the loss of loved ones or recent difficult life events.

Black Rock City really has something for everyone — not just the partiers or electronic music lovers.

Read the original article on Insider