Preparing for Radical Self Reliance

It’s almost the last week of August, meaning only one thing: Burning Man starts in 3 days.

If you don’t know what Burning Man is, check out the following links:

For info:
For photos:

Here’s a brief description that doesn’t come close to encompassing everything it is: It’s a weeklong festival in the desert in Nevada that requires radical self reliance, encourages self expression, and fosters a community of people from all walks of earth. It’s a makeshift city of 40,000 that stands for a week with a gift economy where the only thing for sale is ice and coffee. Everything you bring in, you have to bring out. And you have to bring everything – water, food, shelter, sunscreen, toilet paper, an open mind and sense of adventure.

Although many will say it’s a big festival of drugs, drinking and debauchery, it is so much more than that. Those things are available for you, should you choose to participate in them. But there are plenty of other things available as well – interactive and innovative art, some of the most interesting people you’ll ever meet, music, and the chance to disconnect from the rat race and explore who you are and who you want to be.

So how does one prepare for a week in the desert? Most importantly, what do you bring to sustain yourself for a week of having your world turned upside down?

I have been to Burning Man three times. This year will be my fourth. In the past, I’ve gone pretty basic for dinner– boxes of mac and cheese, pasta and sauce, grilled cheese and quesadillas. And it works! This year, I am bringing some of those things, but also preparing a few meals ahead of time and freezing them so we can have a little taste of home out on the playa.

I made a batch of veggie burgers (recipe coming soon) and a batch of Groundnut Stew (recipe coming soon) that will go into Ziplocs and frozen.  Hopefully they will stay nice and cool in the cooler (we are also trying dry ice this year) so we can enjoy some home cooked food throughout the week.

I just realized I’m going backwards in meal times, but since BM is topsy turvy, this post can be too!

For lunch, we usually have cheese sandwiches with condiments and veggies, PB and J, quesadillas or an entire bag of pretzels….in other words, lunch is pretty flexible. Sometimes we are out roving around, and we might not get back in time for lunch. In these times, I always carry at least two energy bars to tide me over. In general, the playa is very friendly and you’ll probably stumble upon someone having a pancake breakfast or bacon wrapped hot dogs (if you’re of the omnivourous variety) but it’s best not to rely on those things. In past years, we’ve gone clif bar, but this year I am trying out LaraBars. I am hoping they can take the heat given that they don’t have as many preservatives as Clif.

Breakfast is breakfast burritos with egg, cheese, salsa or cereal.  This year, I’m adding oatmeal to the mix as well. Neither Alex or I drink milk, so we bring rice or soy – non dairy milk usually fares better because it can sit out of the cooler before it’s opened. My guess is that real milk would spoil pretty fast.

And for in between meal time snacks, we have chips, pretzels, cookies, fruit cups; again this year I am trying the “healthier” versions of these things with fewer preservatives so hopefully they make it through the week. Thankfully we are camping with some of our best friends so I know they wouldn’t leave us starving! We also bring fruit for the beginning of the week – it rarely lasts until the end because of the heat. There is nothing better than coming home after a hot, dusty bike ride to a cold, crisp apple!

Check out this photo of (most) of our food – this doesn’t include all of the water, fresh food, or the frozen meals. You also can’t see some canned beans, rice, and the oats.

Yes that is Tang.

Having said all of this, for some reason I really don’t get as hungry out there as you’d think. Even after biking around all day, my meals are much smaller than they are at home. I think it’s the combination of the heat and gulping down a gallon of water a day to stay hydrated. I always end up bringing food home, but because there’s no store to run to, I’d rather have too much than not enough!

In terms of health, I’ll be the first to admit it’s not my healthiest week. There’s much more snackage and more drinking than I normally do. It’s also not the most sustainable event – 40,000 trekking to one location and then burning a giant wooden statue…you get the picture.

But as the title of this blog suggests, I like to think about my life holistically. Most of the time, I am healthy. Most of the time, I am as green as possible within my limits. Also, Burning Man brings together some of the most ecologically minded people around and some great things come out of it. I’m thrilled to go, and I’m thrilled to share my experience with you when I get back!

Until next time!


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