My Week Living In The Nevada Desert
Let me start by saying that this is NOT a typical travel blog with lots of pretty pictures where I'm looking top-notch and enjoying fancy food and drinks. This is a post about living in an inhabitable dusty ass desert, where my two best accessories were a dust mask and goggles, and the fanciest thing I ate all week was a corn cake with smashed avocado and beef jerky bits. Now that we've cleared that up, let's move on!
How I got there:
I drove..but that's not what I mean. Really the only reason I went was for my husband. He has been wanting to go to this event (which I am not naming at all in this post out of respect for the organization/event, but if you know..you know.) since I met him 8 years ago. After his brain surgery last November he decided to grab life by the balls and I supported the ball grabbing by saying I'd join him on this crazy adventure. I went into it for him, but came out of it with a lot of valuable life changing lessons for myself.
A lot of people go to party, but that's not really my jam these days, and I ended up doing it completely sober (shocking if you knew me last Summer). So instead, I went into this trip with the intention of personal reflection and growth being the main goals. I wanted to meditate on what I truly want out of life and how I plan to get there. With no cell service or distractions from the outside world, it felt easier to focus on receiving all the things I was looking for.
Mental, physical, emotional:
When I say that this was the most exhausting week of my life, I mean it on every level and with every fiber of my being. Which really makes me feel I need to reevaluate the things I do for "vacation". My introduction to what life in the desert would be like started out with a white out dust storm that had us stuck in a line to get into the event for 9+ hours, in a hot car, with no AC. By the time we got in, found our camp site, and set up our shelter in the pitch black night it was almost 5am, and once the sun came in our tent at 7:30am there was no more sleeping. So check, check and check on all three limits being pushed right away. Oh yeah, did I mention that most of my anxiety centers around when I feel stuck somewhere or when I feel really hot? Brilliant. I learned very quickly what the true meaning of fight or flight survival mode is.
One of the biggest tests and a key principle in the pop-up city is radical self reliance. This means supplying yourself with everything needed for your own survival. I felt the importance of this when packing for the trip, I felt it when I had to make sure I was eating/drinking/resting enough all week, I felt it as I had a mental dialogue each day to push myself to keep going, I felt it physically when my body ached from riding my bike and being in such an extreme environment, and I felt it emotionally when I had a break down mid week and had to quickly pick myself back up. This desert really tested every ounce of my being and helped me learn what I am actually capable of.
After packing hoards and hoards of supplies for our survival, a few things really helped me get through my week.
- GoGo squeeZ packs- good for toddlers and equally good for adults who put themselves in hot places they shouldn't be and don't feel like chewing food.
- Peppermint hard candies- a true anxiety crutch and tummy pain begone.
- My massive mister- nothing felt better on a hot day than being misted with water that was always magically the perfect temperature.
- Mini neck fan- originally marketed towards menopause sufferers, used by an anxious girls who hates the heat.
- Air mattress and cots- I think they were more comfortable than my real bed...
- A husband to cook for me- the only reason I ate more than just GoGo squeeZ packs.
Don't get me wrong, the trip was intense, but it was also a lot of fun. Every day was spent riding out to the deep playa to explore a wonderland of art, taking classes, and watching performances. One day I adopted a mutant monkey, another day I made bath bombs, and another day I saw a circus. It's a world where you are free to be whoever you want to be and do whatever you want to do. It centers around a principle of immediacy, something we are good at as kids, but society teaches us to grow out of quite quickly. You don't feel like wearing clothes on Wednesday, let it all hang loose. You get distracted by something bright and pretty on your way to a class, ditch your plans and check out the art. You want to climb that cool sculpture you just rode by, go climb at your own risk. Getting in the mindset of listening to and acting on my every whim was AMAZING! I get distracted by bright pretty things often, so feeling like I was finally allowed to embrace that was one of my favorite things. And trust me, there were about a billion different bright, pretty, rainbow things to keep me interested all week!
This was a week of letting go of comfort zones, every day life, and social norms. In every day life we are bombarded with opportunities to feel negatively about ourselves. It's easier to focus on our short comings and mistakes rather than focusing on the positives. I've been having an especially hard time with this lately. I am a chronic self doubter, an overthinker/overstresser, and I constantly put a ton of pressure on myself to keep doing more and doing better. Usually when I complete a project I don't even get excited about it. I just stress about what needs to be done to get the next project up and running. That's no way to live. As I mentioned before, my intentions for this trip were to self reflect and learn to grow, but I didn't expect that it would actually happen. While I was there I was part of a class that involved meditating on our short comings and mistakes we've made. It was about learning to let go of the hold that those things have on our lives. It was also about the importance of how the things that we hate about ourselves can actually help or be positive influences to others. It was the first time that my perspective on myself and my most hated traits started to become more positive. It was moments like this that happened throughout the week that culminated in an extremely transformational and quite spiritual trip for me.
On a more superficial note, it was also an amazing experience of letting go of appearances. The only makeup I wore was glitter drops to make me shimmer in the sun. I only did my hair one time and mostly let the playa dust do the styling for me. I rolled out of bed each day and put on the most practical outfit I had (bralette, shorts, sun hat, dust mask, and goggles), without thinking about if I looked cute enough or my body looked just right. When I read that, it sounds like I should have felt dirty and frumpy, but in reality I woke up every morning feeling beautiful. Maybe it's because I was accepting that this was the best it was going to get for the week, or maybe it was because I was learning to truly accept myself from the inside-out.
Even if you have made it this far in the post, (you deserve an award) I will never be able to accurately articulate to you what it truly felt like to be there. I almost didn't make this blog post because there is so much more to delve into about my experience that I felt one post wouldn't do it justice, and it won't. Being part of a community that embraces the best parts of humanity while rejecting social norms was an experience unlike any other and one that is hard to put into words. There is something magical out there in that dust. I gained a deep respect and connection to that land while I was there, and also to myself. Looking back now I have an overwhelming sense of happiness and pride in myself (and my husband) for being able to not just survive, but thrive in that desert. It took a lot of planning, a lot of courage, and a lot of strength for both of us. Plus it's just really cool to know that if an apocalypse happens, I could totally survive!