Dear Virgin

Dear Virgin,
This post isn’t going to help you pack.
It isn’t going to tell you how to prepare for dust or stay lit at night. You’ve already read (or watched) all about that.

But I do want to suggest some tips for the preparation of your state of mind.

I’ve talked to too many first timers who have stumbled upon snarky online conversations and become concerned that they won’t be welcomed at Burning Man. Or they’ve seen videos of gorgeous performers, acro-yogis, and go-go dancers and are not sure if they’ll fit in.

But, motivated by their bucket list, they’ve summoned enough courage to go “check out that thing in the desert.”

I’d like to assure you that you ARE welcome. And I’d like to reframe that goal a little:

Burning Man isn’t something that you “check out.”
It is something that you participate in.

There will be hundreds of people inviting you to play with their contraption, climb their structure, write on their wall, sing along with their song, eat their treat.

Say “Yes” to those opportunities.

Burning Man is a gift economy – not barter. People want to give you things simply because they want to make your moment better. They want to do this because it makes them feel good to share.

Have you ever made a meal for a table full of friends? And then had them glow about how much they loved the meal? Remember how good that feels? That. A gifting economy is like that.

Practice being a good receiver. Say thank you. Mean it.
Don’t take the gift for granted, but also don’t feel obligated to reciprocate. If you feel filled with appreciation and abundance – give a gift of your own. But resist the urge to return a gift tit-for-tat as a sort if transaction. (Although tits and tats are both interesting gift ideas.)

Maybe you are struggling to figure out what you should bring to gift.

It is important to expand your concept of a “gift.”

A gift is anything that lifts another person up. Sure, it can be an object like a bracelet or a beer. But it can also be a gesture. It can be volunteering, helping set up a tent, assisting an artist with an installation, doing dishes, picking up moop, or being of service in countless ways.

Maybe you are a dancer, sculptor or musician and you know exactly what personal gifts you have to share. Or you may have no idea. Don’t fret, Burning Man has a way of opening up your perspective to the many gifts you have inside you.

The reality is that WHO YOU ARE is a gift. If you act from integrity…if you act from your heart…if you radically express your true self…THAT is a powerful gift. Don’t get hung up on how that gift ends up being expressed.

Burning Man is a fertile petri dish. All you need to do is just let the spores of your spirit out – and then get out of the way. Always had a hankering to try puppetry? Pull off your sock, put it on your hand and start introducing yourself as “Susan and Sockita.” Or maybe you’ll stumble upon a camp of puppeteers who invite you to participate in their daily performance. Say “Yes!” It will be a gift to them, to the audience, and to yourself. And by following your heart, you are giving a gift to the world. The magic happens when we all let ourselves express from that deep, honest place.

Art is not defined by the result of the paintstroke. It is determined by the inspiration that drives the expression. Let yourself be inspired. Let yourself express in big and small ways. Say “Yes.”

You’re not going to check out Burning Man. You are a part of Burning Man. We’re looking forward to meeting you. Welcome Home.

Come visit me at 8:45 & Esplanade at Pink Heart Camp for iced cucumber water or vegan ice cream. Or join the Pink Ride Thursday at noon. Or do whatever it is that your gorgeous heart desires. I love you.

About the author: John "Halcyon" Styn


Halcyon is a 21-year Burning Man participant and co-founder of Pink Heart camp. He is author of "Love more. Fear less." and producer of the Burning Man short film, "The Pink Path." He's won Webby awards for his over-the-top personal site & his "Love On Demand" video podcast Halcyon co-founded the San Diego based "1st Saturdays" homeless outreach program based on Burning Man Principles and coaches people how to be radically self expressed in the default world. You can find his full Playa Tips & Tricks series at

30 Comments on “Dear Virgin

  • Sparkle says:

    virgins should no longer be shamed. they make up about half of the population – they ARE burning man. They are the bread and butter of this event. everyone else exists to show them a good time, because without the virgins coming back in some percentage, this event is DEAD.

    virgins RULE. it’s the veterans who are the problem.

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  • Good article John, thanks. Make everyone’s (veterans/virgins) burn the best experience possible and they will do the same for you, period. It’s what you make it. You ARE Burning Man!

    See you on the playa!

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  • Black Pearl says:

    My first good read of the morning. Thank you for helping remind us of these important truths.

    The collective ‘experience’ of Burning Man is what refreshes and rejuvinates me the rest of the year.

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  • Lazlo says:

    Nicely said John.

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  • Merlin Olsen says:

    If you are a virgin burner do yourself a favor…stay away from the online forums. Many of them are negative, worthless or full of narcissistic trolls, whiners and hypocrites who complain about how bad Burning Man is, how bad the Organization is, how bad the art is and about a dozen or so more negative points but still attend the event because all of their friends go

    For every snarky assholes you meet in the forums there will be 100 positive people welcoming you.

    Sparkle is partly right when saying “it’s the veterans who are the problem”.
    1. Its a small sample of the veteran population that’s problematic, not all of them.
    2. They are only problematic if you let them. Just ignore the negativity and do your thing.
    3. Seek out some of the veterans that have been there for 20 years. These are the veterans you want to meet.
    4. Remember, next year YOU will be a veteran. Be the type that makes future virgins experiences positive.

    And when all else fails think about this quote I found on the internet recently from someone who wrote an article about her virgin experience.

    “There’s a lot of judgement among veteran burners about newcomers who are ‘Doing It Wrong’. They can fuck off. It’s your burn…”

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  • mk says:

    Halcyon, When I was preparing for my virgin burn in 2008, I found you. You gave me practical advice, inspired me, and gave me the essence of Burning Man at its best. Thank you for continuing to do this! MK

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  • TC says:

    Merlin Olsen- Basically if you AREN’T a narcissistic troll, whiner, and/or hypocrite, you should stay away from online forums for ANYTHING. 9 out of 10 humans agree that reading interwebs comments is often the quickest way to ruin your day. Current string of comments being the rare exception

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  • Laura says:

    Thank you so much for this wonderful guidance. My son will go for the first time this year, following in his brother and his mama’s footsteps. This is a good start for his preperation to become radically self reliant!

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  • Bestowed says:

    I truly appreciate this post, and everything you do for the heart of the Burn.
    I was just thinking that the negative comments online seem like a bit of a hazing for newbies. Anyone who pays attention to it will surely be pleasantly surprised by the attitudes in Black Rock City.
    The most experienced burners, if I may haphazardly generalize, embrace the experience year round. Their burns have entered the default world and they are living and loving in a way which harmonizes with what they have learned in Black Rock. These are the folks who waste no time embracing the event and embracing others, literally. From the moment they arrive they jump in with both feet.
    Try to do this. Immediately join in. If you see someone who inspires you, tell them what you see and how they inspire you. Go up to someone and ask them if they would like a hug. Share one with them. Do this as soon as you get out of your car and don’t stop-forever. Be the person who gets the vibes rolling.
    Let the concepts of immediacy and radical inclusion guide your burn from the get go. You will be surprised what happens.
    Much love,
    Camp Awesomeness
    2:30 and C

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  • Lorena says:

    Thanks you very much Halcyon for the great tips in your Virgin video! I’ve known about BM for clos to 20 years when I was a young lil’ hippie child going to national Rainbow gatherings! BM sounds like a similar type of thing and if I’m lucky enough to find a tix for this year then I’ll make it there finally! I’m from NJ/NY and am on a sabbatical right now on the west coast traveling. Thanks for the inspiring loving tips! You make BM sounds like much more then just a wild party and that community respectful vibe is what makes me want to go even more! xox- Lorena

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  • Andrew says:

    Don’t forget, its through the virgins that the veterans should show the world what its about.

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  • Joyous says:

    You always know exactly just what to say and pour your heart and entire being into sharing that with everyone else ♥ I’ve said it before, and will continue to do so ~ you are a bright light in this world and it is an honor to share this path with you.

    Thank you for your letter to all these dear Virgins… we all were a virgin once, and it is with wide open dusty arms that I welcome whoever is open to BEING Burning Man this year ~~~ see you all so very soon!!! Welcome )'(OME ♥

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  • Azalee says:

    Dear Veteran,
    I have to say, this post made me smile. I am PROUDLY a virgin burner this year and I cannot wait to experience the love and support that makes burning man. We actually camped next you at LIB a few years back (we were Black Betty!) and you were always so uplifting and ready to embrace all the LIB virgins as well. I’m happy to have stumbled across this post so close to the burn. Thanks for your positive vibes and amazing hugs! I look forward to seeing you on the playa!!!

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  • Char Entrop says:

    I’ve been watching your posts for the last few years and haven’t heard anything about ageing burners. I’m 70 and thinking about next year. Any tips for oldsters?

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  • Syd says:

    Thank you, Halcyon. Another happy virgin here, and I’m kind of equal parts excited as hell and scared to death by the prospect of Burning Man. And isn’t there a saying that the things that scare us are maybe the things we should be doing? :)

    I’d just like to second the idea about volunteering in advance–because I’m going solo, a couple of friends of friends who’ve been to Burning Man recommended that I get on the website and check out the participation opportunities. They thought it would be a good way for me to start building connections. I look at it as a way of giving me enough scheduled things to feel grounded (because I have, in the past, tended to drift a bit…), but leave me with free time to experience the other possibilities.

    I still don’t know if I’m going to score a bike for the Burn, so the Pink Ride might not be on the list for this year…but I hope you won’t mind if I visit Pink Heart and give you a hug. Or a backrub. Whichever. :)

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  • jellykins says:

    Love you too Halcyon!

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  • Abel Ferrins says:

    From Spain-Cantabria to the Black Rock Desert of Nevada.
    I and some friends are looking forward to be burners for the first time and the experience … counting the days

    aupa burning man !!!!
    BURNING MAN 2014

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  • carajer says:

    This is going to be my first time there and I already love it!. I am a huge fan, so much that I made a small BM tribute in My home country, Argentina!!!. Wait for me guys!! I already love you!!!

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  • Lumi says:

    Thank you. So love, appreciate and am inspired by these video and article contributions. I’ve been multiple years but have fresh eyes on the whole event again.
    Love you. And please, come write a Letter to the Universe at Center Camp. I’ll deliver it personally.

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  • Heilbron says:

    This is my virgin burn, but I’ve been making, creating, arting, and encouraging others to do so for many years….I’ve been having the BEST time hand making all my treats and gifts to offer to everyone on the playa…so I am eager to meet, hug, love and encourage and support others…WHAT I AM TERRIFIED OF…is…camping. On the playa. I’m a city girl. I don’t mind being dusty, or dirty, or hot…but I don’t have the “good hair”…I have to wash my hair at least once during burning man or I’ll feel so yucky and not sexy…and even though I’m 48, I’m really cute!!!!…and hot!!!…and fun!!!…just not with greasy, stringy hair. I know this is petty and ridiculous, hey, a pony tail! But I see all the gorgeous, sexy, lovely, scrumptious ladies in the photos, and I’m like, how do they look like that, in the desert, on the lake bed, with all the heat and dust? PLEASE, somebody talk me down out of my silly, irrational tree and tell me how fun and smart and hot the regular, non-photographed women are at burning man…’cause I’ll be one of those!!

    Hugs and kisses and art by the mile on the playa!

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  • lauren carly says:

    Thank you for the love that shines through you. May I add one more LNT tip: please pick up found items and bring them on down to lost and found at Playa Info. It belongs to someone who is looking for it. Please, no ground scores. A playa gift should be you taking a found item to lost and found so its owner can get it back. We all make up the community.

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  • Dale says:

    I’ll be a virgin this year. I’ve been wanting to go to BM for years, but 2014 is the first chance for me to really devote time to it. I volunteered to help with an art project so I could be a full participant and have already met some wonderful and eclectic people. Because of them, it will be easy to ignore any snarky veteran. Even though I’m an experienced camper, these people have given me wonderful advice and tips that will make me better prepared and my trip more enjoyable. I’m looking forward to meeting even more delightful and interesting people on the playa!

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  • Forward says:

    Halcyon gives the best advice. I love You!

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  • @Heilbron,
    Come down out of that silly! As long as you have cooler water, biodegradable shampoo and a something to catch the grey water in, you will be fine! And that is the bare minimum! You may even find a camp that is gifting shampoos!

    The photos you are seeing of those women are either fresh after a camp shower or they just arrived at BM. We will all eventually be gloriously coated with dust!

    The vast majority of Burners are not concerned with your outer beauty, it’s the inner light that shines through the dust. It is indeed, the most radical experience to be in a community of beautiful freaks who are proud of who they are and express it freely. You’re life will change.

    @Char Entrop
    Last year I noticed a huge increase of Burners over 65. I even surmised that AARP did Burner cover story or something. All of Halcyon’s tips apply to you, friend. When I do encounter folks over 65 with an interest in BM, I often suggest they bring an RV for comfort. Heck, I’ve even suggested it to younger people who I know won’t be able to handle pounding in rebar. There is no shame in bringing an RV. Though, it would be remiss if you spent most of your time in it outside of sleeping! ;)

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  • Sumner says:

    My first burn I brought lots of crystals and prayer flags in a burner motif which I spent a lot of time making. At the last minute I picked up several cases of drinking water and oj. Yes, I went home with my crystals and flags but I could have gone through twice as many cases of oj. Burners are thristy and water and juice are primo gifts any time of day or night.

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  • Sumner says:

    I’ve been reading all the posts of the “virgin burners” and I am contemplating the importance of not comparing burns. What was magical before may not happen again. New things, unexpected things, that’s what makes a burn magical.

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  • peckster says:

    So true. Don’t get bent out of shape about how to act. Just be yourself and you’ll be fine.

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  • It made me cry and smile. As go towards my first Burning Man,
    I can only imagine what I will experience . And if it’s a hug, a smile,
    Or a thank you, it makes me happy knowing that is all
    Good in the world!
    And a big thank you for reminding me that all the comments directed
    At newbies shod be taken with a grain if salt!

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  • Reila says:

    Good dispatch and this post helped me a lot in my college assignment. Gratefulness you as your information. Regards

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  • Carol says:

    Fantastic article on, I really look forward to updates from you.

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