In 1990 the founders of Burning Man drew a line on the ground of Nevada's Black Rock Desert and told each other, "On the other side of this line, everything will be different." With its artful chaos and core principles of participation, civic responsibility, radical inclusion and self-reliance, Burning Man has not only lived up to its charter — it's inspired gatherings around the globe. In a 2010 TEDx talk in Vancouver, documentary filmmaker Jeet Kei Leung coined the term "Transformational Festival" to describe this "remarkable cultural phenomenon." These are destinations where anything goes, active participation is encouraged, the weird is wonderful and eye contact, ecstatic dance, long hugs, incense, sacred space and psychedelics permeate the scene. The events tend to take place in a natural setting over multiple days and, according to Leung, all share "the co-creation of an immersive, participant driven reality."
"We may never be able to define a set of characteristics that could guarantee a festival to be transformational," says Leung. "There's no doubt that many participants are having life-altering experiences at festivals and an increasingly coherent culture is emerging that fosters and supports these experiences."
Whether you’re a veteran Burner or a total newbie, here are the world's most exciting transformational festivals right now.