Regionals Are Time Machines

Yeah, yeah, we know… Burning Man used to be better.”

Personally, I think saying that is as silly as saying, My child used to be cuter.But, let’s say, for argument, that you miss the scrappy, intimate, underground chaos of mid-90’s Black Rock City. Stop your whining and go Participate in a Regional!

Regionals do not have issues with Plug-N-Play camps. There are no plagues of Instagammer influencers. There is no glut of dot com or Russian oligarch billionaire money. The trash fence is unsullied by Daft Punk.

Whatever you think ruined Burning Man is probably just a complaint about Black Rock City. But “Burning Man” is now sooooo much more than Black Rock City. Check out the Regionals Event Calendar. It’s packed!  

YOUtopia 2019 Sunrise. Photo by Manifest Destiny (Look like anyplace familiar!?)

I just returned from YOUtopia, San Diego’s Regional and was thrilled to experience the closest thing to old school Black Rock City that I’ve had since 1998. (BRC was already 12 years old in 1998, but that was my first year.)   

There was a level of intimacy, camaraderie and ridiculousness that you might not get at BRC these days. These things are still present in BRC, but because of its evolution, there’s also more formality, it’s safer and there are more requirements.

YOUtopia also reminded me of Black Rock City “Build Week,” when everyone you see around the city is powerfully committed to Participation and co-creating the event.  One of the benefits of the smaller scale of a Regional is that ANYONE can make a huge impact on the event. The effort you put into a sculpture or camp or outfit can affect every Participant.  Compare that to BRC, where you could spend all year on a project and have it be almost invisible amidst the flood of creativity on the playa.

Pink Heart at YOUtopia 2019
Compared to Pink Heart at BRC 2019

Personally, I like the way the community is evolving every step of the way. But if you are missing the old days, take a journey back in time to your local Regional.

Here is my reflection of this year’s YOUtopia and how you may find what you are missing at a Regional: (Transcript)

Top photo: “Merkaba Portal” by David Date  (Photo by Halcyon)

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

23 Comments on “Regionals Are Time Machines

  • Juno says:

    Yes! So much this! Regionals are where it’s at. Thanks for sharing your experience at Youtopia. I’d love to go someday.

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  • Kiwi says:

    Rad, Love the Pink Heart furry sign….

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  • Amy says:

    Youtopia was absolutely heart warming this year. Intimate, interesting and accessible. Thanks for the reflections
    Burning man and regionals are what you make of it. They will evolve and you can complain or make it better

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  • Ladonna (Kuddlz) says:

    This makes my heart sing! Thank you for supporting your regionals! Everyone I worked with at this last Youtopia worked their butts off in the most authentic and heartfelt way! I was blessed to work with such amazing people!

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  • Joey Moss says:

    I echo your message- been telling folks over the years that regionals are much more intimate, the burner culture is very alive and the 10 principles are honored by a much higher percentage of the participates if not all of them, most regionals I’ve been to only range in the mid 1000’s, which creates the super cozy environment from the old days that gave birth to this culture. I like how at regionals I would have the opportunity to cross paths with the same individuals multiple times across the length of the event which in itself encourages much more organic interactions.

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  • XUZA Art Car says:

    We had a Great time at Youtopia!, thankfully it was held at a new location (California City) which had a more MV friendly terrain! At Black Rock City, we always miss visiting our neighbor camps. When we leave our camp it’s almost always to head out to whatever is way over ————————————-> there. We pass by our neighbor camps and always make it a point to check them out “tomorrow” but you know how that goes. Regionals are like a slice of BRC, the draw of heading out to the abyss is non-existent so you’re now able to check out your neighbor camps with just enough time to see it all! John it was great having you on board during the effigy burn, good times for sure!

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  • Curt B says:

    John, thank you for being so supportive of your home away from BRC and using your voice to remind us all why we do what we do… love ya brother

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  • Kerry Bailey says:

    For the past two years I was in Senegal as a Peace Corps Volunteer so I decided to hit AfrikaBurn and you’re so right. It SO MUCH reminded me of my very first burns. There was even one night when I was walking by myself back to camp to resupply our group when I stopped to appreciate the stars and I said to myself, “It’s so good to be back on the Playa” and it took me a couple of seconds to remember that I wasn’t in Black Rock City. And I can highly recommend AfrikaBurn. It’s got all the flavors of Burningman.

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  • Lana says:

    Hooray Regionals! That’s how I’ve been participating, camp-raising, and (mildly) organizing the last 4-5 years (in China!), and I finally got the chance to go to BRC this year for the first time. It blew my mind how big it was!!! and how many beautiful humans there were there! Thanks for not knocking regionals, I met a lot of people on playa who told me (legit) “regionals don’t count!” — whaaat!! Maybe go to one and then form your opinion! I think regionals are really the heart & core of the BM experience. <3 Love and hugs!

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  • Gerflash says:

    Ah, Halcyon! Whenever I watch your video clips, I simply feel like I must smile, with happiness at your wisdom and gratitude for your sharing. And yes, after 16 consecutive years at BRC, I’m still waiting to be able to attend a regional. But your relating your experience this year, and others I’ve seen in the past have brought me closer to that point when I’ll turn my ambition into a reality.
    BTW, O prophet, Happy Thanksgiving!

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  • Jeremy says:

    Last year for me Love burn( Miami), emergence( Charleston), zenplicicty ( Atlanta), ignite ( West Virginia), welcome home at Deerfield ( North Carolina) , alchemy ( Georgia) and the big one BRC… regionals are the way for me ❤️

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  • Momataj says:

    Awesome… Pink Heart is Really looking Wonderful..!!

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  • Brian says:

    I couldn’t agree more. It was great seeing you out there. Thanks for always being a positive influence on the community!

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  • Carol Carlsen Brooks says:

    You make some excellent points, Halcyon! Although Burning Man will always be my first love, it wasn’t difficult to think of a few other advantages regionals have over TTITD:
    At a regional, if you make friends—or find a potential true love—they probably live near you, so you can more easily continue the friendship or romance in the default world.
    No FOMO—the smaller size means you won’t overlook a single art piece, cool camp, or epic party. You can probably walk the whole thing on foot, freeing you from bicycle-related hassles.
    Less waiting in line to enter and leave the event, buy coffee and ice, get served at camps that give away food and drink, etc.
    If you’re thinking about founding a theme camp, this is the place to do it. It’s much easier to figure out logistics at a smaller event, and it looks good if you eventually decide to apply to for placement.

    IMHO, nothing can prepare you for the sheer size and awesomeness that is Burning Man, but regionals are a good way to get your feet wet so you won’t feel totally dazed and confused when you finally make it to BRC.

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  • Barbara Cox says:

    Hi! Great article- I agree whole heartedly!

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  • Jake Holler says:

    Well said. Youtopia this year was one of the best events I’ve ever been to. Participation was off the charts.

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  • Cassa Frass says:

    The Burn…well, it’s the burn so of course they’re so much different these days simply due to scale. I love me some regional events! Each one is unique and has its own vibe and that’s what I really like about them. I am thankful (and love) my home regional, YOUtopia. We’re fortunate as not everyone has the ability to be so close to their regional event. So, even though YOUtopia was a bit further out this year (distance-wise), I’m so grateful it happened. Also…super stoked you had fun this year!

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  • Mags says:

    RIGHT ON!! Hope to see you at Love Burn this year!!! ❤❤❤

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  • HoodRatTony says:

    Let’s not forget “officially sanctioned” regionals also ‘get’ to donate a percentage of their earnings to support BRC LLC or whatever they are calling it these days. More $$ to the Man!!

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  • Denise says:

    Right on! Having spent time at LoveBurn, Seguaro Man, All of Us, and other regionals, this years Youtopia was a new and amusing experience. You got to meet your neighbors, and see ALL the things . I love BRC but regionals really bring me closer in to community.

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  • Natural says:

    There is something special that events thrown by burners have that has not in my experience been reproduced by any other group of producers. So many minds have been blown during the many burner events that I have attended that I lost count.(mine included) the best years of my life were spent attending and producing Youtopia.

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  • Brett says:

    AfrikaBurn is epic. Less diversity in terms of music, much less ‘advanced’ art (funny phrase)…but a divine experience. Easier to find friends, much easier to get involved in creating the event.

    A bit more of rolling terrain, but similar desert set-up. Fun to see artworks hiding behind the rolling hills. Weather was a bit more…brutal.

    Really appreciated your video…have shared with many who seek a Playa experience.

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