I’m still buzzing off the energy of Burning Man, and particularly our theme camp, Camp Nomadia. When we first had the vision for hosting the camp in 2008, we imagined a community of full time travelers all converging in one spot to share community, but not infrastructure. After all, us full time travelers are used to being self-sufficient and don’t have room to carry additional stuff to the playa.
Our first year we were a small, official, placed camp of about 25 folks. It was great, and it left us hungry for more. The second year we tried to be placed, but were denied. Last minute, we struggled to cram into another camp’s placement – which caused a bunch of stress on us as organizers. Our camp had grown so much, that not only where we playing tetris to squeeze folks into the main camp, we also had to settle an annex a few blocks over. The first half of the burn we didn’t sleep (not unusual for Burning Man, actually) or leave camp – for we were having to attend to the camp and making sure we were being responsible guests of our host. By the end of the week, I particularly, felt drained. Honestly, I left Burning Man a wee bit bitter over having putting so much energy into the camp with little appreciation – even with as much as the camp over all rocked and was a huge success.
So we decided this year to not even try to be placed. We’d let the camp grow as large as it felt called to be without facing the difficult decision of having to split the camp up again if we outgrew our estimates. We’d grab land for the size we needed when we arrived – and let folks settle themselves in camp wherever they felt called to.
And wouldn’t you know it? Camp Nomadia 2010 was the least stressful of any year we’ve organized the camp and it was by far .. the best and most rewarding.
It was a combination of the people who felt called to our vision as well as the room for growing the camp into what it wanted to be. For me, it was learning my nomadic lessons of letting go and allowing things to develop as they should.
I put my organizing energy into spreading the word of Camp Nomadia around the internet to attract the sort of people who might be called to such organized chaos. We wanted folks who were called to autonomy within community, without all the interdependencies that a more organized and infrastructure rich theme camp might provide. We wanted folks actively exploring their wanderlust.
And boy did we get it! With each application that came in, my heart raced with all the amazing stories and the high caliber of folks being called to the camp. For the first time since bringing this camp together, I went into it full of energy and anticipation, not dread. I didn’t feel like I was serving a thankless task of organizing – I felt more like I was giving my gifts by creating an environment that allowed others to give theirs. That’s the way it should be.
One shining example of Camp Nomadia was our central shade structure. We didn’t want to have to collect camp fees to buy a shade structure (and then have to store it and bring it all out). So instead we asked everyone to bring something that a shade structure could be built out of. Folks brought smaller structures, tarps, bungee cords, ropes, carpets, parachutes, decorations, tables, chairs, cots, hammocks, lights, coolers and ping pong balls. A sizable group of us surveyed what we had, and constructed an epic shade structure out of the parts that withstood the strongest winds of the week without fail. We had a structure that easily seated our happy hours and Technomadic Lifestyle Workshop. We used our adaptability and ingenuity as nomads to work as a team with what we had to build something amazing.
And that community space become a cornerstone of the camp, creating a space where anyone who wanted community at any instance could go to. And within moments you’d see others called to social time pouring out of their rigs and tents to join in. My heart glowed every time I’d walk by to see people mingling, hanging out, sharing beverage and food and in general connecting. I think a good number of us spent more time in camp connecting with our community then out on the playa exploring.
The central area also allowed for some rather amazing gifts to be given. One camp mate, with an unusual interest in collecting military rations, made dinner for the camp out of Iraq war MREs. And another evening we came home to find our campmates from Matador Travels serving up tamales and margaritas! While Camp Nomadia has no meal plans or expectations of sharing food – gifts like these are a most appreciated and heart warming addition to the energy.
Camp Nomadia 2010 was an epic year, and I think it fully reached our vision of a community of like minds coming together to create something amazing. My best count had us at around 90 folks, most of whom are past, current or future nomads. And we had countless other nomadic folks stop by for our happy hours and workshop.
We had some folks point out that Camp Nomadia may just be one of the largest general nomadic convergences in the world!! Gulp.
I couldn’t have asked for better campmates, a better community or a better neighborhood. I am overjoyed at what was created on the playa this year. I left full of energy, appreciative of the community that was built and hopeful for the future.
Will there be a Camp Nomadia 2011? I hope so. However, for the first time Chris and I left the playa this year without specific plans to return in 2011. That’s not to say we won’t be there, just that we’re leaving it to serendipity to help us decide if we take a year off or not. In the meantime, it seems some Nomadians are ready to make sure there is a Camp Nomadia 2011 regardless!