My Trip to Burning Man 2019, Part 1 – Stuck in Customs

My Trip to Burning Man 2019, Part 1

I took over 5,100 photos this year, but that’s not really the point. Well, it’s part of the point, at least for me. I really enjoy being off by myself with my camera and enjoy random connections with art and people. This is year #10 in a row for me and I’m slowly figuring more and more and more about the event and about myself! I went again with my two roommates (Jonatas from Brazil and Rene from New Zealand), and this year I brought my virgin friend: Hugh Howey! We call people virgins who have never been to Burning Man before, and you’ll see a photo of him below. You may know him from his Wool series of books… we got to be close friends recently when we hiked the Camino de Santiago together. Anyway, if you can’t tell, he really enjoyed himself!

I spend about 8 hours a day sleeping, 8 hours a day taking photos, and 8 hours a day involved with molecular compounds to expand my mind and consciousness. Of that, my roomies and I do a 50% mix of “fun” molecules and 50% “spiritual, personal deep-dive” molecules. The latter creates perhaps the most interesting journeys, as we now have a lot of experience in understanding the nature of reality, love, and fearlessness. I could talk forever about this… don’t get me started! But I do have a whole chapter about it in my new book towards the end.

To another end, I’ve been working with a group of friends in Silicon Valley and beyond to help bring this kind of consciousness to the world. If you want to read more about the latest successful experiments and upcoming FDA approval (to treat depression, PTSD, and others) at Johns Hopkins Medicine, read this article entitled “First Major Center for Psychedelic Research Opening in the U.S.”. It features my friend Matt Mullenweg (founder of WordPress and fellow Camino to Santiago pilgrim), Tim Ferriss, and others. If you find this intriguing, there is a deeper dive you can do with Michael Pollan’s new book, “How to Change Your Mind,” which is on my recommended book list!

Anyway, enough with that, let’s look at some photos and hear some stories! 🙂


Here is “Folly,” one of the most awesome art pieces at Burning Man this year, as the Monaco sailed up for a visit. It was one of the first giant works to burn. I would have taken photos of it burning, but my two crazy roommates and I decided to go dance at the Opulent Temple instead. It’s hard to explain… I don’t take photos ALL the time there, even though I got several thousand over the week.

This year I brought a virgin! His name is Hugh Howey (Pictured here with my friend, the fully clothed Joe Azure) – and you may know him as the sci-fi author of Wool and many other books. We hiked the Camino de Santiago recently and I slowly convinced him to join my friends at Burning Man. I’m super persuasive… ya know? Anyway, he didn’t bring a lot of clothes, but that seemed to work for him. He’s an awesome friend and it was a really good chance to bond and blow his mind via various molecular compounds. More to come about that… I know he got ideas for some new fictional works! I look forward to seeing what comes out of that brain (and shorts). Haha… yeah… he basically kind of owned Burning Man in his first year. Well done, Hugh, well done… *all 80,000 people there giving him a golf clap…

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Here’s my friend Eleanor Preger hanging out in the saloon at Folly out in the deep playa. It’s so strange meeting friends there because 98% of the meetings are completely by accident. I often intend to meet 20+ people out there, but since no one really uses mobile phones to communicate (thank goodness), finding your friends is almost impossible. So, you can imagine the surprise when 1 out of 80,000 people shouts out your name! I was over here taking photos and Eleanor screamed out my name! It’s always an exciting time to connect in this incredible serendipitous manner. She was here randomly serving free drinks (all drinks are free at Burning Man) to whoever came by. As soon as I arrived, she had just finished a fine bottle of Pinot Noir.

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Here’s a photo of Root Society, one of the 100+ camps where DJs play music all night and all day. This is one of the bigger ones that can hold over 1,000 people. Well, they are all outside, so they just kind of expand out into the night winds, so the numbers can go way up. It’s a great time to go out and dance because at night it really cools off and there is an incredible breeze. This year was not as cold as others. Sometimes it gets down to below freezing! I’d usually go out with Rene and Jonatas and other random people that get attached to our little silly crew. We jump around to about half a dozen camps per night… we’re big on the comedy along the way, always cracking one another up with some of the most ridiculous commentaries you’ve ever heard…

Here’s a fun little story from Burning Man if you don’t know much about the thousands of events that happen out there. This one is from the Bunny March (a fake protest of faux conflict) where about 5,000 people dress up like bunnies and hop across the desert to The Man. Waiting there, in secret, are a bunch of children – about 100 little Black Rock Scouts dress up like “Animal Control,” running around and trying to catch the bunnies with huge nets. The grown-ups give them a good run but always end up getting caught. After you’re caught, you are given a giant syringe full of tequila to cure you of your faux conflict for one more year. Kids get to pose with the bunny they caught and we exchange necklaces and hugs and then hop off into the desert.

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Here’s the giant 747 that made it out to Burning Man this year. It was converted into a huge dance club that would taxi across the playa every night to a different location. I took this just before sunrise. This year, I think I saw about 80% of the sunrises which was a new high for me! On this particular night, the plane had taxied way into the deep playa out near Michael Benisty’s work, “Broken Together”. I have a photo of these two together that I am still working on…

I always spend Temple Burn night by myself, out in the deep playa, several miles from the rest of the city where there are pieces of art randomly scattered. This piece is by Michael Benisty, who you may remember from last year (he did the two chrome figures hugging entitled “In Every Lifetime I Will Find You.” I knew he had a new work out here somewhere… I finally found it late in the week and this one is called “Broken Together.” Actually, I wasn’t totally by myself. There were two other people here… and it reminds me that I randomly meet some of the most interesting people in the world here. You can see this gentleman here, who was also out taking photos. He was with his wife. 16 Burning Mans for him (10 for me… a common question amongst burners). Anyway, he used to be a Southern Baptist Preacher. I talked with them for a while… I said, “I assume after a few burns you were no longer a man of the cloth?” He nodded his head and laughed… saying yes…yes…you know… and then we gave one another a hug and went off into the night.

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