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Facing Fears Around the Globe

Finding Freedom in the Desert

USA | Tuesday, 6 May 2014 | Views [130] | Scholarship Entry

I’m running through the Black Rock Desert of Nevada clad only in a red tutu and black boots, one hand clasped in my friend’s, the other clutching a bag of peanut M&M’s. I’ve never felt freer.
The day began with fear. As the women of my Burning Man camp excitedly prepared to embark on the annual topless cycle known as Critical Tits, I knew I was the only one dreading the experience. Surely the men on the sidelines would leer at us, throw out rude sexual comments, make me feel not enough.
Suddenly I was on my fur-wrapped bike, pedaling fiercely after my friends toward an awaiting tunnel of men. Within seconds, someone took a Polaroid of me and yelled something indiscernible. I wanted to run and hide from this unwanted attention. I looked up and realized the man with the camera was running beside me, grinning kindly as he handed me the photo and said, “You are a beautiful strong woman. Thank you.”
The shouts of appreciation continued and with each passing minute I grew more comfortable. There was nothing sexual about this ride. It is an opportunity for men to show their appreciation for women and for women to revel in the joy of being a woman. As we finished the last leg of the course, my head was held high and I was smiling broadly.
Just as we reached the finish, a sizable dust storm blew in and obliterated everything in sight. Hands came out of nowhere to guide me through the melee, to provide water, to hand me a bag of M&M’s. One hand led me to an art car dressed as a carousel, replete with larger than life horses galloping up and down on their gold poles. I climbed atop a horse and through the dust, I was afforded an incredible view of the diverse humanity below, dancing with wild abandon, shouting words of gratitude, reveling in their freedom. A tear came to my eye as I remembered my fear of just hours before.
From my lofty height I spotted my friend below and jumped down to her. As we danced, the dust storm blew itself out and overhead appeared a perfect double rainbow, stretching across the entire desert. For one brief moment, the crowd was hushed as we each took in the incredible spectacle above.
I took my friend by the hand and pulled her through the crowd. As we broke through the edge of the party and reached the open desert stretching before us, we began to laugh uncontrollably. We threw ourselves down on the ground and made angels in the newly settled dust. I stared heavenward at the fading rainbow and for the first time, knew what freedom meant.

Tags: 2014 Travel Writing Scholarship - Euro Roadtrip

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