A Warm Welcome

Photo: Chance

Certainly, Burning Man is a society that deviates from The Norm. But it would be silly to suggest that Burning Man is a place without norms. One of the truest conceits of Burner culture, in my opinion, is the distinction between “home,” the playa, and the “default world,” which gives our annual gathering a sense of deviation, but also one of return. We leave behind our default values and behaviors, and we return to something more natural and fundamental to us.


But clearly, “home” is not an arrangement without order, tradition, or hierarchy. I doubt humans can help themselves. We may not like to think of Burning Man as a stratified place, but it is.

Nothing wrong with that, though. Not inherently. The fact is, some people have been burning for 20 years, some for 10, some one, some none. Those are remarkable differences in experience of something so extreme and dynamic as Burning Man. It’s only natural that those who’ve been before will set the tone for those still bewildered by the blinky lights.

Photo: Chance

The vets have built Black Rock City before.


They know what will stand up to the winds and what will blow away. Their art can refer to ideas that have bandied about the playa before, continuing the long conversation.

They know how to chill their beer, heat their shower, and evaporate their gray water.

In fact, these skills are second-nature to them now, so they can concentrate on participation and immediacy.

For a newcomer, logistics can be the whole festival, if one isn’t well-prepared.

That’s why joining an established camp is such a good idea. Speaking from what little experience I have, there’s no better way to be brought quickly up to speed than by camping with a seasoned outfit willing to accommodate newcomers. It may take a couple years to get your sea legs, but the everyday pulse of being part of a theme camp naturally encourages growth, if you fall in with the right people.

Photo: Chance

You might start by unloading dusty couches off a truck or driving stakes all day, but there’s no better motivation to jump in with both feet than watching those bad-ass leaders directing traffic at your camp. Your awe will urge you to participate. Sooner or later, after you pour enough drinks or sweep out enough dust, people will start remembering your name, or they’ll make you up a new one that will stick, and then you’ll start to feel at home.


About the author: Jon Mitchell

Jon Mitchell

, a.k.a. Argus, was publisher of the Burning Man Journal, the Jackrabbit Speaks newsletter, and the Burning Man website from 2016 to 2019. He joined the Comm Team as a volunteer in 2010 and as year-round staff in 2014. He co-wrote a big story about spending 24 hours at the Temple of Juno in 2012. His first Burn was in 2008.

8 Comments on “A Warm Welcome

  • Jon Mitchell says:

    Hello! Thanks for reading my bloggie. If you enjoyed it, follow me on Twitter @JonMwords, or contact me through jonmitchell.me and let me know what you thought!

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  • MissFitts says:

    As a newbie, I am trying to find an established camp. If you have any advice on some camps that readily “accept” newbies, that would be great. I posted a note to the FB page to reach out for help. I heard back from only one person. I’d LOVE to be in a camp and help out and have an immediate community. Thanks for your direction and guidance,

    ~ MissFitts

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  • Jaz says:

    check out the yahoo groups to find theme camps to join, for my first burn the LAF camp was amazing and let me join, just from sending they a yahoo group request, it was a great experience, the love showing newbies around, just beware the virgin wheel

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  • lazydog says:

    Hey MisFits!
    Try the Lamplighters. I did last year and had a great time! I felt that I was a part of the experience instead of just observing it. Ciao!

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  • Jon Mitchell says:

    I agree with lazydog. Volunteering on a project is a surefire way to find a camp.

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  • Michelle says:

    great blog love those photos!

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  • dave tassell says:

    Australian male needs a home for the week.
    Are there any camps that need a very helpful Australian Male. Im an electrician and a builder. Ex DJ in nightclubs and Barman.
    If anyone has an open door for one more.
    I will be flying in from Western Australia.

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  • gwen says:

    Hello, Did you get lots of offers. I am late and need a place too. Who should I ask? I will be there for only 5 days I think. Gwen

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