I went to Burning Man. The celebrities who fled the mud this year didn't understand the true spirit of the event.

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. 

I almost didn't go to Burning Man this year, making the decision to pack up my stuff and join my camp with just weeks to go.

It was my fifth time returning to the Nevada desert where I camped alongside the same camp I had gone with before. Being on the leadership team, I arrived on Friday, August 25, to help with the build.

On Friday, September 1, the bad weather took hold; winds and pouring rains engulfed the campsite, leaving us trekking through mud, plastic bags taped around our ankles to protect our shoes. We hunkered down and continued the party. Being with Burners who had been to the event 10, 15, 20 times really calmed nerves in our camp.

Once the rain ceased, we went into crisis-management mode, stockpiling all of our food and water and making the best out of the muddy conditions. It wasn't easy, nor was it pleasant, but we stuck it out, and that made it the best experience I've had yet.

Burning Man camps covered in rain and mud.
Burning Man camps covered in rain and mud.Violet Metcalfe Trott

Once the rain stopped, people started to make a break for it

People were getting messages from friends who said they were walking out or just leaving or driving out even though there were strict orders in place not to.

The community of the ultrarich that now frequents Burning Man had the means to simply call a helicopter to get out of the mess we were all in together.

Diplo famously walked through the mud and hitchhiked to get out.

I think we all feel like that is not in the spirit of the event. You're bailing, and you're also probably not making a very good effort with Strike and probably leaving a ton of your crap behind.

The way the different classes each handled the chaotic scenario highlighted what is wrong with Burning Man

It felt to me like it really highlighted one of the big imperfections in the Burn. One of the big, sort of, contradictions is that there are these camps where people are provided with everything and it's much more like you're a customer to an experience.

Of course, that's what's seen on social media because that's who posts all the time and what gets the attention. But it's a real misconception. When you go, the majority of people are crusty old Burners, and it's not like everyone you see is looking amazing in an RV and these turnkey camps.

But we all felt like we were having the best time, having the best Burn. So it was kind of their loss that they couldn't embrace it, couldn't see the beauty of it. And for me, it was like the biggest display of civic responsibility and communal effort, which are two of the principles. And it brought us together in ways that wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for that.

The difference between this happening at Burning Man versus a festival like Coachella is at Burning Man, the vast majority of people are not thinking of themselves as customers of an experience that's being put onto them. They think of themselves as cocreators of an experience at the whim of Mother Nature. That's very much part of the ethos and part of the understanding of the majority of Burners.

Burning Man should try to prevent these ultrawealthy camps from growing

People gathering around a campfire, surrounded by mud.
Burners gathered around a campfire in the muddy conditions.Violet Metcalfe Trott

From my perspective, I think it's important that the organization limits and sets certain rules to try and prevent those types of camps from growing.

I still think it's wonderful to have people who have a diversity of background, diversity of opinions, political or otherwise, because if 20,000 people come who really don't get it and don't abide by the principles, but 1,000 people go home having experienced something that shifts their worldview or alters their understanding in any way, then that's a success.

If it were all people who had the same mentality and mindset, it wouldn't be a transformational event for the world at large, whereas I feel like this has the potential to influence people in a very powerful way, and it often does for the better.

Read the original article on Insider