Photo by Siraj Media

The big question for your first burn is usually the same for most people, “Do I join a theme-camp, or free ball like a wildling?”

Wikipedia says that “free-balling” or “going commando” is the practice of not wearing underwear under your clothes, which I feel is an stimulating experience similar to that of camping by yourself at Blazing Swan.

I’ve tried both experiences, and I can recommend them both! Here are my notes on my experience free balling and theme-camping.

Free balling, going rogue, or camping like a wildling at Blazing Swan is wild experience! Whether you camp with a couple of friends or by yourself, you can initially feel like a bit of an orphan searching for a place to camp. I arrived at Blazing Swan by myself, and found some friendly faces to setup camp next to. I asked the campers around me if my spot was okay to setup in, and they helped me put up my tent, and instantly I had a connection which I clung to. Everyone was so friendly, giving hugs for hello and sharing stories of what they’re expecting from their burn.

Camping by myself was a little lonely at times, since I didn’t have any close friends to hang with. I made some beautiful connections with strangers, and over the week and coming years we became close friends. At times when I would of loved to chill out with some trusted friends at Blazing Swan, I did have to rough it in my tent for one, or at best find some friendly strangers to hang with.

The independence I had camping as an orphan though was first class, A-grade gypsy-roaming awesome! Dude, the thrill of exploring Blazing Swan as a free-agent is something to experience! With no responsibilities and no schedule, I could wander out into the beautiful chaos of Blazing Swan. Bouncing from bars to dance floors, camp fires to conversations until your body can’t handle it any longer was the best fun ever. I would venture to a bar with couple of campers I just met, meet some pirates who would then take me to their ship, where I boogy down with farm animals (they could of been humans in onesies); I jump onto a mutant art car for a ride to “somewhere”, where I end up watching flow arts and fire spinning. Somehow I end up deeply immersed in healthy debate about time-space with wizards and hippies around a fire. Having the freedom to flow through the different spaces and conversations was definitely a highlight of my burn as a free-baller.

Soon you realise that your imagination is the only limit to what fun you can create at a burn.

Free-balling at a burn is one kind of fun, but theme-camping is another, which is like a big warm hug all week long. The theme camping journey starts well before the event, since you will know at least a couple of people who you will be camping with. Leading up to the burn, we would make plans together, pool our camping equipment, and dream big about what we would like to do at Blazing Swan. Soon you realise that your imagination is the only limit to what fun you can create at a burn.

Arriving at Blazing Swan to find your theme camp is sweet! I found my familiar faces who gave me a quick tour of our shared space, and we decided on the best spot for my tent. I brought a barbecue for my camp to share, and in turn I now had a common-room tent for storage and a well equipped kitchen to share. Our camp also had a tipi with camp fire which was like our lounge room, which we could invite our friends to come around. Because we pooled our resources, we had a bigger and better space to use and share.

I could still wander and explore Blazing Swan, and this time I had more friends and familiar faces that I would bump into throughout Jilakin Rock City. I did have some “responsibility” with my theme camp, if you could call it that. Our theme camp served breakfast to weary travelers, and I was the fried egg master. Man I fried those eggs so perfect on the barbecue! Everyone loved the eggs. Such good eggs! As a team we served breakkie to the masses, and it felt good. All of the food was donated, all of the time was gifted, and everyone was satisfied.

Was I burdened by responsibility? Not at all, as I was part of making a festival and experience for people! It’s then that you realise that the whole of Blazing Swan and Burning Man events are run by the participants – for the participants. If I didn’t serve breakfast to those hungover ravers, then part of the event would be missing. If someone didn’t bring their sound camp and DJ setup, then I couldn’t of partied all night long.

Any theme camp you join at Blazing Swan will agree that you need and deserve plenty of time to go and explore the fun for yourself, free from any responsibility at your theme camp. I can recommend making a deliberate booking of your “free time” for free-balling at Blazing Swan, as only you can be fully aware of how you spend your time. It can be easy to spend all of your time at your own theme camp helping out – and having a bloody good time of it – but it’s even more rewarding to go and experience other theme camps and new faces in the wider community.

So my verdict on free balling versus theme camping? Do both! Connect with a theme camp in one way or another, there are heaps to choose from. Keep yourself some free time – as much as you want – so you can free ball!