Radical Self Reliance, Fly-In Culture, and Leave No Trace

Image: W Magazine

Burning Man’s airport is busier than ever, with BMOrg now pushing to bring in larger capacity planes. Image: W Magazine

A guest post from Jal Lee Mon, who poses a provoking question for your thoughts.


Ok everyone. Let’s get a conversation (not a name calling contest) going on a subject that is related to another open sore that festers still in our community. And by guilt by proximity, it is being called out as tabuoo as well, even when it really isn’t.
I’m going to start by saying this idea I want to talk about is, technically, following all of the tenants we so love and uphold. So just read the whole thing before you judge and unleash on the comment section.

I’ll lay it out as a story, to catch your attention.

This guy wants to go to Burning Man, as he has done ten years previous. But, he is unable to get the funds needed, which come to around $1000, all said and told. So, he has given up hope of making it, missing yet another year. Missing home. He has tried volunteering for the BMOrg, but has heard no response. He has contacted the Temple crew to help. He is covering all venues. Thinking up new ideas. And, one day, while talking to a friend who lived out of the country, he had a bit of an epiphany.

Imagine you are from another country, or even just really far in this one. Say, Maine. You want go to the Burn, but the thing that is holding you back is that you can only really, logically, and in many cases technically, get there by plane. This does two things instantly. It means you are sleeping in a tent, or bumming space from somewhere. If you are really lucky, you flirt with the guy who has the huge RV and he lets you stay with him.
Second, it means you are limited to what you can carry. Food, costumes, personal supplies. Etc.
In other words, being “Radically Self Reliant” becomes a gambit of bumming favours, buying shit from Walmart you will later give away or dump, and relying on beef jerky and diet shakes for your meals. Then there is the bike. Shit, I’ll just grab a $50 one from Walmart. The one in Reno overstocks hundreds of those cheap cruisers right before the Burn. You know the ones. They are abandoned by the hundreds when the burn ends.
Here is where the thought came from. By “forcing” this Law upon people, we are in fact making it harder for them to participate, and are actually directly responsible for a large portion of all the shit that gets left behind.
Stay with me here.
So, you have a veteran Burner, one that has been there and done that. He has all the extra gear, all the extra tools and needed supplies, and even an extra hexayurt. But, he can’t make it to the Burn, for lack of funds.
Enter the Burner that is coming in from the airport with a backpack and a few bags. Instead of them dumping hundreds, thousands and in a few cases, tens of thousands of dollars into cheap shit that will later be tossed, rental cars that are going to clog up the Playa, consume that much more fuel, and likely cost the renter that extra “cleaning fee” the rental shop nails Burners for after the event, etc, etc….
::takes breath::
Why not have them pay someone like the Vet, which would get him to the Burn, where he would supply the other Burner with the essentials. This would end up costing less, wasting far, far less, and it would facilitate the attendance, participation and enjoyment of someone that might otherwise decide it was too much money/trouble/etc?
This touches dangerously close to the Turn Key subject that drew so much hatred and anger, that it is a discussion we should have. Because there are a lot of Burners who are able to drive there with a thousand pounds of gear, and they could help those who can’t. Hell, who knows…there might even be a organization that already does this.
Is it breaking the rules if the services you are giving make you just enough to get you a ticket and to the Burn? No profit. Just, some kind of weird BM Air BnB that helps two people.


13 comments on “Radical Self Reliance, Fly-In Culture, and Leave No Trace

  1. This is a silly idea. It’s Burner-by-proxy. I flew in every year I went (see my comment below https://burners.me/2016/04/17/radical-self-reliance-fly-in-culture-and-leave-no-trace/#comment-133882), and with some initiative and spending far less than the Borg scalper price markup for a 2016 ticket, did fine. Sleep in the damn VAN! By a cheap $20 air mattress and a $10 sleeping bag. Food is food and water is water. If you can’t live on trail mix, jerkey, fruit juice and vodka for a week, go fish. Make friends, maybe some are cooking. Bring extra vodka (high value/pound), bought on your drive to the playa. Discover yourself.

    Here is a tip: Don’t fly into Reno; fly into Vegas and rent your van there ($300 vs $900 from the SAME agency last time I went). You can even hit some out-of-the-way Walmarts on the drive up, enjoy Nevada, and otherwise do minimal planning.

    Glad the NV Burn is off my radar now. This is enabling of the unreliant, uncreative and unimaginative is just sad. Making plans for our theme camp at another burn this year. Maybe I’ll see you there. They sell tickets, in person, for cash.

  2. This sounds more like a mentorship program than anything else and as such sounds perfectly viable within the principles.

    If said veteran isnt a slave then it should be fine.

  3. I don’t see anything wrong with it. You’re not selling or buying something at the actual burn. You’re doing business before the burn to enable you in going there – the same as you would rent a car to drive there & back. This time, you just get a driver and a bicycle and a tent and some extra re-usable shit to go along.

  4. I know that this is happening on a micro level at nearly every camp. I am not sure the ‘org’ or any ‘burnerpreneur’ needs to step in to do anything.

    It sounds to me that the main difference in your scenario is the putting together of two strangers. For too many reasons this is not a good idea some of the time (Hey I love meeting strangers so don’t get me wrong).

    Friends that know each other ask each other for help with the playa all the time in many forms. Heck, I had a friend who took my bike last year and another that actually towed my trailer!?

    If you are a burner with a lot of gear, make friends through social networks (I mean actually meeting people, not just Fb) and then work out ways to facilitate your friends needs along with your needs. People without fear or traveling far should do the same (I know many already doing this).

    Let’s not turn this into any ‘org’ run anything. I don’t mean to say that is what was being said from the outset but I do want to get my opinion out there.

    • Making friends is one thing. Making financial arrangements is another. I always went with friends, and never, not once, did money ever exchange hands between us. (That includes my at-the-time ex-GF who begged to come and promised to pay me for her ticket but never did.) We call contributed what we needed to make out theme camp happen.

      This year I will be using UPS to send a few theme camp items to the locals, but otherwise I am flying.

      Generally, if you have to ask if it violates Larry’s Tin Principles, it does, and you are just looking for a rationalization to commodify yourself, others or the event.

  5. As an overseas visitor I would love this idea. It is very difficult and more expensive than it should be for our community to experience the Mothership with the cost of flights included. Why not just extend the car share concept? Seat from Reno or San Fran or LA plus a nominal sum for the gear, equally shared, just like sharing petrol costs.

    • Every year I flew into Reno or Vegas, rented a van, and went to Walmart. True, the last few years I had to layaway, and then Site-To-Store the bike and sleeping bag, and any other high-demand items. I came in from the East Coast, but I might as well come from China. Driving or having local access to inventory is not necessary, and flying in to Vegas and renting or buying what you want is only a few hundred dollars over the ticket, which was always on FF flyer miles.

      Only when you are doing a theme camp do you need to have driving or local access.

  6. This is a very strange concept. Already you are assuming that the Veteran Burner and the “fly-in” Burner are going to like each other and want to help each other. I mean, theoretically, they’re supposed to, so sure, what can go wrong?

    Apart from ignoring the many warnings we have about this situation from Murphy’s Law, you’re also really giving this potential conversation a lack by not providing a small solution, like a newsletter.

    Say that you talk to the Burner Vet, and you confirm with him/her that they actually would love to take in a fly-in first timer with no gear. How do you guarantee that this potential transaction be safe? Bear with me when i offer this criticism, i understand that there are communication lines i am not aware of, and possibly more information as to exactly who we are talking about. I mean, is there a list posted somewhere?

    I think this is a brilliant idea if we ensure that the trades be made safely, that we are monitoring the circumstances in which the trades are made, and that participants understand fully a good, moral code of respect. I mean, why the heck isint there a basic ‘Burner’ Quiz yet, as to how to maintain and respect the desert? If there is I think it would be very beneficial to re-evaluate and upgrade these rules and apply them when necessary, and maybe even obtain a signature should some kind of mishap occur, and somebody has to go to court involving a stolen burning man vehicle, kidnap, or homicide.

    Good idea in general, i am grateful for the read and to know that this type of thinking is becoming more popular, i think that if conducted safely and very carefully, it can become successful and result in a better group identity.

    Cheyenne S.

  7. I actually think this is a great idea. Radical self reliance means you find the solutions to your problems yourself. It doesn’t have to mean you have to do everything yourself. That is impossible. I don’t learn how to fix my car when it breaks, I employ someone else to do it. That is where self reliance segues into community.

    So would it be a good idea for burners with excess to rent out their things and provide logistics in exchange for money to help fund their burn? I don’t see why not, as long as it is not a transaction on the playa. Many cottage industries have sprung up around this very concept for the burn. Granted there are many ways this can crash and burn on the micro scale: reliance on someone else when circumstances can change and leave one of the parties high and dry. Scammers, predators, etc.

    I think some of this goes on in various social media sites already, but an organization behind it giving it structure could help a lot.

    I was also in favor of the proposal for water being provided a few months back on this site as well to cut down waste.

    • Last year we hauled out a truck load of empty water container waste. I good look at the standard BLM outfitters permiting systems on the Grand Canyon may help guide these issues. The amount of waste generated on the playa could be greatly reduced with a strong local cottage industry to support the burn and the burners. As a local and a veteran guide/ outfitter for wilderness trips, I see a need very much like that on our nations rivers. A need to teach stewardship of the land. Our community should be masters of this, yet our fear of someone making a buck has kept us in the dark ages a while now.

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