Violet Metcalfe Trott went to her fifth-ever Burning Man in 2023.
Despite the horrible weather conditions, she told Insider it was the best one yet.
She was able to safely leave the Nevada desert on Monday and make her flight home.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Violet Metcalfe Trott, a 28-year-old British post-partum doula who was in attendance at Burning Man 2023. It's been edited for length and clarity.
It started the way it always has.
I, with the same camp I'd always camped with, returned to Black Rock Desert in Nevada for my fifth Burning Man. The weather at the beginning of the week was perfect — much better than last year's unbearable heat.
I wasn't sure if I would return as I was grieving a recent loss. But, after some reflection, I realized this was the best place to go to process and grieve since I always come away from Burn with a lot of insights, connections, and love — like I've been in the company of family.
Burning Man holds a space for those who are grieving in the form of a temple, a sacred space where people can go and leave messages for their loved ones. I knew I wanted to go for that, so at the last minute, I got my stuff together.
The weather began to change for the worse on Friday morning
With the event coming on the heels of Hurricane Hillary, everyone was slightly concerned that the desert wouldn't dry out in time. The build was delayed because of the soggy conditions and they didn't open the gates until Wednesday, August 23. The event officially kicked off on Sunday, August 27.
I didn't get there until late Friday, August 25, at which point things were going well for our camp. But things took a turn for the worse last Friday. I went to the temple that morning and by the time I was heading back to camp, the sky had clouded over and it got a bit chilly. It started to rain on my walk back and I thought "Let's go back to camp quick because I can't really stay out."
At first, it wasn't too dramatic. Then the wind picked up and it started to pour so we all took cover, but no one was particularly scared. We zipped up our tents to make sure no dust or rain was being blown inside.
The rain carried on. It became hard to move around, we couldn't ride our bikes, and people who had been out that day couldn't make it back to camp.
We hunkered down but continued the party. It was actually hysterically funny, the whole thing, there was so much comedic value. People were slipping and sliding all around, people were scraping mud off their shoes, and even putting plastic bags over their shoes and taping them around their ankles to walk around because their shoes were getting destroyed.
Structures started blowing away overnight
Then, overnight, large structures were taken by the wind, and a sense of fear started to set in. Our camp had a super yurt, made out of polystyrene slabs — common but flimsy structures that were starting to blow away. We tried to catch all of the broken items being strewn about the desert.
There was MOOP — matters out of place — everywhere, something that Burning Man attendees try to avoid at all costs. The big thing this year was that it was so MOOP-y because the ground just got turned over and lots of things got trapped underneath the mud.
But it had stopped raining, so it was time for crisis management. We met as a camp and planned for the worst-case scenario. We pooled our food resources so that if we were stuck for another week, we would have enough. We turned our kitchen into a commissary and employed a kitchen team to cook us three meals a day so we wouldn't run out.
As tensions rose and people left, those who had faith stuck out the worst of it
I didn't see anyone really freaking out but, even though we had a safe camp with plenty of resources, I and some other camp members had the wobbles.
I was feeling like, "Oh my gosh, am I going to make it home? I'm going to miss my flight." There was that trapped panic slightly in the air, but for the most part, I think people surrendered to it. We could see the weather was improving so there was faith we would be fine.
People were getting messages, though, from friends who said they were walking out or were just leaving or driving, despite the orders not to. The megawealthy and celebrities could just order a helicopter and fly away.
Plus, our camp was packed with a lot of long-term Burners, so we were very held with their energy and expertise. Because I've been, because I was with people who have been 10, 15, 20 times, there was less panic.
Getting out on Monday was pretty easy once the sun dried things up
I had a bus ticket booked for Monday, and while it was a bit delayed, we still left on the right day. It was well organized and they avoided overcrowding the busses.
They set up cell towers and WiFi so people could contact loved ones and make new flight arrangements. No one tried to make an early break for it and everyone just waited until the roads were decent enough to get out safely. The sun dried things extremely quickly which made getting out pretty easy.
Unfortunately, we missed the big burn and the temple burn, which was the biggest shame to me, heartbreaking. We watched the man burn on livestream from San Francisco Monday night, and the temple will be burned at some point, probably tonight, too.
Despite the conditions, this was my best Burning Man yet
I go to Burning Man to have a transformational experience, and I think that things come through hardship.
This made us all hang out more in our neighborhoods and with our campmates, which harbored a strong sense of community. We sat around the fire singing songs and there was a real sense of love, family, and connection, which exists at every Burn, but this time I got to savor it a little bit more because there was nowhere else to be.
We walked around instead of biking, taking a long walk Saturday night. Everyone was just exploring the art and being on your feet you notice little details more than you do when you're zooming past on a bike. We embraced immediacy.
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