Burning Man 2016: A Heroine’s Journey

Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust.
I ask myself, was it all A beautiful dream?

Two weeks back in the default world. The reintegration has been relatively gentle. I have a heartner, a job, and a support system that love and accept me.

But something has changed.

The biggest change and REVELATION for me from the playa this year is: I love and accept myself.

What an unbelievable relief and gift.

I feel INpowered. I feel showered in self-love and affection. I feel more clarity about my purpose and next steps than ever. I trust myself and my sensibilities. I have a direct line to the Universe.

It is remarkable.

Declaration of Self Love,  Jamen Percy Photography

Declaration of Self Love, Jamen Percy Photography

The best way to share my journey to this revelation is through story and though each burner's journey is unique, we are all experiencing our own hero’s/heroine’s journey.

You may not have heard of the Hero’s Journey explicitly, but you know it very well. Joseph Campbell, an American mythological researcher, wrote a famous book called “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” and coined the term “hero’s journey”. This book was a manifestation of his lifelong research in studying common patterns in hero myths and stories from around the world. That research led him to discover a singular/universal arc of basic stages that almost every hero/heroine-quest goes through (no matter what culture). He calls it the monomyth and every story from Star Wars to Lord of the Rings, Wizard of Oz, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, Dante & the Inferno, Finding Nemo, Mulan, Lion's King, etc. follows this arc.

What is even more amazing to me is that we are living OUR OWN HERO’S & HEROINE’S JOURNEYS.

Hero's Journey,  Wikipedia

Hero's Journey, Wikipedia

First step is the Call to Adventure.

For some it’s no question, they answer the call immediately, they’ve been going to Burning Man for years or they know for certain they’re going this year.

Though I've answered the call twice before, every year is different and I realized to go this year that I’d really have to get it together and prepare on my own since the Soul Fam Soup crew I loved going with last year had disassembled.

Two months to the burn and I didn’t have a ticket, accommodation, or transportation. I contemplated “refusing the call” – I really didn’t have to go, I was content in THE KNOWN WORLD, my current reality. I have a fulfilling job, a loving and supportive partner, I live in my dream city. I’ve worked hard to get here and yet I could feel myself being ushered forward. I knew the high frequency and potent magic of the playa was calling my name and so I snapped out of it! 

Jeremy Orion Watson, The Mentor or "Yoda",  I Must Be Dead

Jeremy Orion Watson, The Mentor or "Yoda", I Must Be Dead

Once the heroine crosses the THRESHOLD and is committed to leaving the Known World, they come across a MENTOR.

This Mentor or “Yoda” is a seasoned traveler of the Known and Unknown worlds who gives him or her training, equipment, or advice that will help on the journey. In this case, that “Yoda” was Jeremy Watson, longtime burner, fulltime magician, and Leader at Camp Walter (where I’d be camping this year) who became a source of courage, wisdom, and even found me a TICKET to go.

As I prepared, I was still worried about going alone. I was holding onto the past and super bummed the Soul Fam Soup crew was no more. But things are temporary, that’s part of what you learn at Burning Man and I realized it was less about WHO I was with and more about HOW I wanted to feel.

What did I want to feel? SAFE & LOVED.

The " My Intent " playa gifts I handmade this year

The "My Intent" playa gifts I handmade this year

Once that was clear, ALLIES and HELPERS CAME THROUGH.

I asked my badass friend, Lea Artis to join me (Note: asking someone to go to Burning Man with you is like asking them to marry you, it’s a big deal). Thankfully, she said, “I do!” 

Lea "So Pro" Artis

Lea "So Pro" Artis

Then to my delight, one of my Soul Brothers, Jaymin Patel told me he would be camping in Camp Walter too! Two weeks before, the cherry on top was Troy Swanson aka “Genie,” a dear friend and world traveler who I rarely see (because he lives in Amsterdam, Spain, and India) said he too would be joining Camp Walter.


Three days before I planned to leave, I had my Spiritual Coach or “Soul Godmother,” do a biofeedback session on me. Based on quantum physics, biofeedback provides powerful insight into your subconscious and enables a recalibration of your physical, emotional, spiritual, mental, social, and environmental wellbeing. I’ve been working with her for 7 years (more on biofeedback here).

When she worked on me, one of the heightened emotions I was experiencing was fear.

Fear can come in many forms and for a heroine in her journey, it is often fear of the UNKNOWN. Specifically for me, it was a fear of not being enough (strong enough, smart enough, deep enough, the irrational enough's go on). These fears culminated into one big fear: Standing on My Own Two Feet (full story here).

I gave myself some grace and pushed my travel date by two days. I listened to my body, I listened to my spirit, I needed some time to recover and work through the fear. I realized just because I could arrive early for the build didn't mean I had to. I needed to do what was right for me. 

Finally, I was ready, packed, and triple-checked.

Black Rock City, Nevada

Black Rock City, Nevada

I rode the Burner Express seven hours from San Francisco to Black Rock City. I left the comforts of the KNOWN World: running water, personal bathrooms, electricity, restaurants, refrigerators, cell service, and a warm bed to survive in the barren desert for a week. By choice.

Upon entering the UNKNOWN World, just like every hero, I crossed the Abyss and experienced a “ROT” or Road of Trials.

I felt enormous anxiety my first night. After I set up my space tent, fear took the driver’s seat and I lay on the floor for nearly two hours om-ing asking myself, WHAT AM I DOING? WHAT DID I GET MYSELF INTO?  Maybe I should just stay in the tent the whole burn!

Sonic Runway synchronized with the speed of sound,  WIDE WALL .

Sonic Runway synchronized with the speed of sound, WIDE WALL.

But the biggest trial I faced involved being separated from Lea in the middle of an unbearably cold, wickedly dusty white-out. It was after Burn Night at 5:00AM on the other side of the playa from Camp Walter.

Lea and I had set out three times to go home and each time it had been too cold, finally we said, “no going back, we got to go.” Less than ten minutes after we left, we were separated.

I couldn’t see her, I couldn’t see anything in front of me or behind me. I froze up with my bike faced with my deepest fear: standing on my own two feet. Literally. All I saw was white. I had a choice – go back or carry on.

I moved forward.

As they say, “the playa provides”.

Within 20 minutes of traveling alone, I stumbled upon a fire den and as I walked up the stairs, to my surprise, I found a Pirate who I had met two nights earlier with her crew of Technicolor Teddy Bears, ALL part of Camp Walter. What are the odds?!

I was instantly embraced because I TOO had a technicolor teddy bear fur coat on. This will have to be its own story because it was wildly amazing but in that moment of radical self-reliance facing my greatest fear, I found a new family. I found a home away from home.

Through that experience, I learned to surrender.

I came to understand that surrender is about LIBERATION, not defeat. I learned that you can be Radically Self-Reliant and Communal simultaneously.

Through that adventure, I stepped into my own inner power and strength, and I was REWARDED with generous, loving, and beautiful people.

This was the most dramatic of my trials, but throughout my time at Black Rock City, the playa provided, whether I was hungry, thirsty, lonely, frustrated, tired, sad, happy, or hurt, my needs were consistently met. My heart warmed and spirit dazzled.

It is difficult to quantify, but what I know to be true is the playa is truly magical.

when you are open to iT, you experience: serendipity, synchronicity, coincidensity–all of it.

  • Michael, Janet, Prince parties
  • Bubbles and Bass for breakfast
  • Sunrise sets at Candyland in the deep playa
  • Whale sounds under painted glass
  • Glorious weddings with unitards, butterflies, and top hats on shark fins
  • The Pirate and the Technicolor Teddy Bears
  • Breakfast at Troyfanny’s
  • Sunset photoshoots and a first kiss that takes your breath away
  • Sake and miso at midnight
  • Fresh flatbread and hot ginger tea
  • Massive margaritas at Human Petting Zoo’s
  • DeMentha mojitos and beats
  • Wok-tossed noodles and electronic waves


  • Walter, Kalliope, Mona Lisa, Big Red and Peace Train
  • Father Time, Brave Heart, Humpty Dumpty, ANDERStand, Flying Disco Squirrel Queen
  • Infinite Mirror Mirror Sister Sister Sisters
  • Fire Dancers, fun-meters, seahorse segways, and TWERKshops
  • Disco Kat Cuddle Puddles
  • Symphonies under strobe lights
  • Merman Space Cowboys on stilts
  • Dusty Rhino, Mayan Warrior, Robot Heart, Pink Mammoth, Disco Fish, and Headspace
  • David Bowie, Ziggy Stardust, The Goblin King
  • Howling with wolves at Temple Burn
  • Finding your purpose at Red Lightning
  • Dusty yoga under the Walter Dome 
  • Rituals honoring hero's past and present
  • Sharing your love stories with angels
  • A new leaf, a selenite crystal heart, the right hug at the right time 

The playa magic goes on…

I often say my end game is to live a life rich in experience, and I can honestly say up to this point that Burning Man as a collective experience takes the cake.

It is a true gift. I am returning GRATEFUL, CLEAR, and COURAGEOUS.

Thank you to all my playa peeps for making this an unforgettably moving experience. My mind is expanded. My heart is overflowing. My soul feels whole.

The heroine has found her home.

With dusty love x light,


A Heroine's Journey,  Jamen Percy Photography 2016

A Heroine's Journey, Jamen Percy Photography 2016