Why am I doing this to myself? Digging a hole into the solid dust, suncream stings my eyes and sweat is running down my body, mixing with the dirt into an uneven fake-tan. Even insane amounts of babywhipes and camping-showers can only offer the illusion of being clean for about five minutes. The heat is intense and unless there is a dusty breeze, sleeping past 9am is not even an option outside of tents and domes. I am tired, dirty, sweaty and at times even emotionally strained and still – I keep coming back. Why?
Most people who know me well will have realised by now just how important Nowhere and the burner community have become to me in what feels much longer than two years. In fact the first week of july is one of the most anticipated of my year and as with most fun things, over the time I tend to remember the great moments and ups much more than the inevitable downs. Our brains are amazing and mine conveniently lets me underestimate year and year again just how hot Spain gets in summer. Of course every year is different and I don’t just mean the weather! Looking back at my three Nowheres there seem to be underlying themes for me that change each year.
My first year was about adventures and the exploration of new things. I talked to so many interesting people, pushed my own boundaries and learned about things I hardly knew existed before. I was drawn into the crazy world of burns and wandered around the playa in amazement. What stuck with me the most was the feeling of total freedom and unlimited acceptance of who I was without any judgement. But I also know that I felt detached at times, especially at night, like a bystander. Though I felt accepted, I did not feel like a part of the community at all times. Not because anyone treated me bad, but because I was overwhelmed and everything and everyone was new to me. Being part of a 150 people barrio also didn’t help with this. But still my first year was amazing and a new world opened up to me. If I had to summ up what I took away from that year I’d say freedom and the courage to explore new things without fear.
The second year was very different. I didn’t go to many new workshops and felt like I’d melt at incredible 53 degrees, but I found my family. Being part of Sssh! from the built made me connect with people in a way I never have before in such a short amount of time. Total strangers became good friends in mere days and we formed an amazing group. Though my connection was different with each and every person of my new Sssh! family, we clicked together as one (and I don’t mean in a touch & play way 😉 ). I spent a lot of time in the barrio or wandering around at night with this group of incredible people and it felt like we’d been friends for years. I did explore new worlds on friday, but really this year for me was more about friendships than anything else. As a whole this might have been my best year so far, and it is not surprising because human connections are probably the most important to me or else I would not have become a psychologist.
This year is still a bit difficult to figure out for me. It felt like coming home. I had amazing times, but also the occasional “is that it?” moment and time went by far too quickly to spend time with everyone I would have liked to spend time with. I loved helping with an art piece for the first time ever, introduced a friend to the world of burns and even stayed for strike. I reconnected with people who are important to me and got to know great new burners. I tried some new things, but also felt like everything was familiar to me. Expectations were high because I had come back from Peru mostly for this – and it was worth it! I might still need time to decompress for a bit until I can look back at this year more clearly. But one thing I definitely realised this time was how much people see me and remind me of things about myself I fail to acknowledge sometimes. Compliments and observations even of people who have only just met me can go very deep and mostly hit the right spot. I also allow myself to be very honest and actually tell people how much I appreciate them – something I sometimes forget to do in the default world. I think this also helps me to be more honest with myself and my feelings. I cried a lot this year (mostly tears of joy), saw other people overwhelmed by emotions and it felt good, honest and right. Holding each other and not trying to hide our feelings. So maybe this year was about honest appreciations and real emotions. Or maybe about coming home and really being myself which makes people see me as who I am. Maybe both.
The one thing I know is that I feel loved, accepted and free in this community and that makes me come back again and again. There will always be moments when I feel sad or exhausted, be it at a burn or elsewhere. But now when I speak of Nowhere I say “we” instead it “it” or (worse) “they”. Yes, in retrospect I idealise the hard work, pain and stress that can come with a burn and maybe Nowhere is losing a bit of its wow-effect as it becomes more familiar to me. But I think I need this. We need this! And how could I miss out on the chance to see so many people I love in a utopian place we are creating for ourselves?