Burning Man Round 2: A Note before the madness

14231877_10155224704604937_3067599357192562146_o

The difference between your first Burn and second Burn is similar to the difference between the summer before your freshman year of college and the one before your senior year.

Before you have the experience, it’s a fucking lot to try and take in.  It’s not something your brain can easily comprehend.  Honestly, even after going it’s a lot, but like anything else in life it gets easier (and less intimidating) after you’ve done it once.

I can’t tell you how many hours I spent researching what to expect and what to bring before my first burn.  Rarely do I spend much time “planning” a trip (going to Greece in four weeks and have 0 plan as of today, sorry mom) but at the time it felt like something I had to do regardless of how overwhelming it seemed.

I’ve talked about this before, but when I come across something that catches my eye (trip, event, person, or hobby) I jump in with two feet.  It’s the only way I know how to be and to be honest the only way I want to be.  I get this weird (almost) anxious feeling that if I don’t jump in I’ll regret it.  That feeling has lead me across the world a few times, into some both amazing and terrible relationships, and how I found myself with the compulsion to become a Burner.

fb_img_1473650912529.jpg

Burning Man is unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced.  It’s not something you can easily explain to someone (learned this on the plane today).  It’s not for everyone (though it does have something for everyone)  It’s not something you can buy a ticket to the day before and just go (at least I don’t recommend it).  It takes prep, it takes experience, and honestly it takes a certain level of insanity.

Only a certain number of people in the world are open to the idea of spending a week in the desert, fighting off the intense heat and the extreme cold, dancing all day/night, where you have to prep and bring everything you want with you.  Even fewer people will actually make the commitment and end up going at some point.

Luckily, with past experience on my side it took significantly less prep time as I know what to expect (as much as that’s possible with Burning Man) and already had most of the stuff I need. Which meant it was easier to prepare for this burn than the last.

I’ve have friends claim they want to go, get a ticket, and then the reality of how much work it is sets in and they’re like “nah I’m good.”  They bail and honestly that’s probably the right move for them because you have to be ready both physically and mentally for what Burning Man is.

There are thousands of blogs and videos out there about what Burning Man “is” because it’s different and special to each person so I won’t go into too much detail about it.

To me, Burning Man is the place where childlike wonderment meets the freedom to be who you really are and pursue what you really want based off endless possibilities.

There is no judgement at Burning Man and while there is some loose structure there really isn’t.  If you want to spend your day wrestling in pudding you can.  If you want to eat donuts and watch porn you can.  If you want to watch Tycho as the sunrises you can.  It doesn’t matter what you do and no one really cares how you spend your time.

It’s a place where you never know what you’re going to find, who you’ll meet, or where you’ll end up. To a person like me, that’s the best part.

14222283_10155233492174937_5992203324785466847_n

This entire year has been hectic as fuck for me.  It’s been one thing after another.  Things have gotten even crazier since getting back from Russia.  I realize my schedule ultimately is up to me, but lately I’ve been going a million miles a minute with little opportunity to reflect or disconnect (hence the lack of writing).

As I sit on the plane flying out to San Fransicsco it’s the first time all year I’ve actually focused on what lies ahead of me.  What do I actually want to get out of the experience?  Why am I going?  Do I expect it to be similar or different than last time?

The older I get, the more aware I am about how I’m spending my time.  By going to Burning Man for a second time it meant giving up going to Morocco or Columbia or South Africa this year.  I’ve become more and more intent with each trip making sure there’s a reason and purpose to why I’m going (granted sometime that reason is “it looks cool” but still that’s something).

14203559_10155238337459937_1923541177_o

The things I really want to get out of my second burn are:

Connection: With old friends while making new ones

People make life worth it.  You never want to fall in love with places because they don’t miss you when you’re gone.  The variety of people at Burning Man is second to none and it’s an amazing place to broaden you world view, make a new best friend, and create a few memories.  We have a group of 25 so this shouldn’t be too hard.

Getting Lost & exploring myself:

While I love people and spend most of my days with them.  (clients, coworkers, roommates, and friends) very rarely do I have chunks of time totally to myself which is something I need.  This is a great opportunity to wander off into the desert and remind myself who I am when no one else is around similar to the three years I spent traveling alone.

Tech Chill out:

Working at a tech company for three years can wear on you.  I want to disconnect from my that side of my life for a week and appreciate things as they come without worrying about timelines, budgets, or employee drama.  While I still do my best to document my experience I will be away from emails, Slack, and all things web related.

Random experiences which lead to good stories.

I love storytelling (no shit right?). But to be a good storyteller you have to be interesting and the only way to become interesting is to do stuff.  You don’t become interesting by sitting in a room alone.  You have to put yourself out there and constantly add new events to you life.

I have no idea if this year will be anything like the previous one .  I don’t know if I’ll have a transcendent life experience or just leave covered in dust.  But I do know if I can succeed in doing those four things I’ll have had an incredible burn.  Hell, if I can do half of those things the burn was a success.

Stay Gold.

Advertisements

Russia: Behind Enemy Lines

IMG-20180702-WA0022.jpg

Travel lesson #32342:

The trip you think you’re taking is never the trip you actually take.

I’ve been back from Russia and the World Cup for about a month now and still am having trouble finding the words (rare for me) to describe the experience.  While I remember Russia and the World Cup vividly the thing that has stuck with me when thinking back on it is how different traveling with a group of girls is.

Before we get into that let me say that Russia was incredible and is one of my favorite places in the world.  To put it in context, of the 35+ countries I’ve been to, it’s in my top 5. I won’t go into too much detail about specific highlights in this blog (that will be coming in the World Cup: Cliff Notes blog next week) but I’m still surprised by how much I liked Russia and its people.  

Granted Russia is huge and we only spent two weeks there, but it still had a completely different vibe than I expected.  We visited St. Petersburg, Sochi, and Moscow and I remember thinking at each place “this one will be my favorite” and then I always ended up liking the next stop more.   

Russia found an uncanny way of giving us exactly what we needed, without us knowing it was what we needed.  Regardless of if it was good luck, coincidence, or divine intervention it left a lasting impact on not just me but everyone in my group.  Russia surpassed all my expectations.

As incredible as Russia was (highly recommend you go if ever given a chance) what took this trip to a whole different level was the people.  I’ve traveled quite a bit over the past 5 years, this includes working on a cruise ship in the South Pacific, backpacking Europe, living in Melbourne and a small Czech town, 30+ days backpacking in Southeast Asia, a solo trip to Costa Rica, and take my word for it, this trip was a lot.  Believe me, I don’t use that phrase lightly. I’m not sure if it was the “White Nights” (the sun didn’t set when we were in St. Petersburg), the copious amounts of drinking, the random “daddys” the girls met, or a combination of the three, but regardless by the end even I was exhausted and a shell of my former self.

received_10156526292998792.jpeg

It was the definition of a “you had to be there” kind of trip.  The number of random moments I could never have planned are too many to write about and are something that Seif, Meghan, Sims, KB, Mina, Z, and the others will share for the rest of our lives.  

That’s one of the coolest parts of traveling, the lifelong memories and unexpected bonds forged throughout a trip.

Going into the trip I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Afterall, I had assembled a group of people who outside a Facebook group chat had never met or interacted (other than with me).  As odd as it may sound, I was never worried about everyone getting along. I also never considered the difference between a trip when the majority of the group is guys vs girls.  

Seif and I were outnumbered an easy 5-2 for most of the trip which is the complete opposite experience I’ve had most of my life.  For example, the Southeast Asia trip was all guys + Priya (who’s basically a guy at this point after being with Zoran for so long).  Before leaving for Russia, I imaged what the trip was going to be like and the girl to guy ratio wasn’t something that even crossed my mind as important.  As silly as it may sound, I didn’t think about how the demographics of the group would shape the trip.

I’m used to traveling alone or traveling with other guys which means I’m used to doing my own thing, going at my own speed, or leaving people behind and not worrying about them.  I haven’t exactly been known for my patience in the past, but that wasn’t an option in Russia. Being more patient and less selfish is something I’ve been working on, and Russia gave me plenty of changes to practice.  

IMG_1541.JPG

Let me be clear, none of the girls slowed me down by any means, I just felt a level of responsibility for each of them that I haven’t felt before when traveling.  For example, KB had never been out of the country before so ensuring she had fun and was safe became important to me. It forced me to be a little more reserved and aware than I usually am when I travel, but seeing KB grow and change over the course of the trip was more worth the sacrifice.  

Quick Tangent:

My biggest regret is not giving her very good advice when she asked me what type of clothes to pack and she ended up coming to Russia with no heels, can you believe that? All the other girls brought “Vegas” outfits and poor KB was stuck trying to make what she packed work all because she took fashion advice from me and I’ll be honest, I drastically underestimated the types of outfits she needed for the trip.  Sorry again KB!
IMG_1484.JPG

Everywhere we went we were the center of attention and I’ll be honest, it wasn’t because of Seif or myself.  We would walk into a bar or restaurant and most heads would turn in our direction. Within minutes someone (usually a guy) would be coming up to chat up one of the girls in our group.  Before I knew it, our groups would combine and we would be at some fancy hotel or riding around in a limo checking out different bars and clubs, things that tend to happen to attractive girls not so much me.  Each one of the newcomers doing their best to show why they were special and deserved the girl’s attention. While the girls dealt with all the attention, Seif and I sat back, had a few drinks, and watched the show.

Part of me was fascinated at getting to experience how the other half (when I say other half I mean women) lives.  I’ve been single af for the past couple of years so my exposure to girls and what goes on in their world is minimum, but this trip quickly caught me up.  

I had a front row seat to see what really goes on during “girl trips” and heard more girl talk than I would have thought possible.  I was amazed at the amount of effort and time put into getting ready, finding the perfect angle for a “boomy” (a boomy is a shortened version of Boomerang and is a short looping video), the night time face masks, avoiding creepy guys, getting free shit, love of the words “perf” and “daddy” and the importance of Snapchat filters opened up a whole new world to me while, at the same time, making me feel like I’d been living under a rock for the past few years.  

For example, I always thought I was a pretty good photo taker, you know, willing to go the extra mile, but Sims pulled my photo taking privileges by day 3 because apparently I “don’t understand angles” enough to “post on the gram.”  I may have gone to Russia for the World Cup, but I ended up taking a crash course in 20 something-year-old girls.

20180704_170532.jpg

I was replaced as the photographer early on in the trip

What did I learn?

That being a girl (especially one traveling) is a lot of work.    

When I think about a trip, what to pack, what to do, who to talk to, or even where to go there are so few things I have to take into account.  A lot of times I just pick a place and figure it out as I go with very little prep or concern.

As a 6’ 4”200-pound white guy I rarely think about my own safety. I rarely worry about starting a conversation with a complete stranger.  I never think about someone slipping something into my drink or being taken advantage of. I don’t really think about what clothes I’m going to wear or if by wearing a certain thing I’m opening myself up to unwanted attention.  Honestly, these are things I’ve never really had to think about…until Russia.

Russia was my first real experience seeing what girls go through while traveling on a day to day basis.  Before the trip, I always scuffed when someone would ask if traveling alone as a girl was safe. I’d say “I’ve been doing it for years and never had any issues.”  I assumed my experiences were the same for everyone else. But after traveling with such a diverse group of people I understand now more than ever the need, especially for women, to be constantly alert to what is going on.  That I should be more conscious of what decisions are being made and where they might end take me. There were a few situations we got into that could be described as “sketch” at best, but luckily everything worked out fine.  

 

IMG_1715.JPG

When I’m traveling I hate saying no because I’m constantly wondering “where will this take me” and worried that if I don’t do it I’ll miss out on some life-changing experience.  The key is learning to balance that side of me with this new more aware side. After all, one decision can have a life-altering effect.

If my trip to Russia taught me anything it’s that the world is a great and fascinating place, but as great as it is, it’s vital to be aware of your surroundings and that’s true whether you’re in your hometown or the other side of the world.  Going forward I’ll do a better job of keeping the group numbers more even, but I can’t imagine that trip with any other people. Each girl gave me a glimpse into her world, one very different than my own, which is something I will be eternally grateful for and will only make me a better traveler and person going forward.

The best way to keep up with my adventures is to follow me on Instagram- Todds_Tales.

Stay Gold.