When I first heard about Burning Man, I was travelling on a chicken bus in Guatemala beside a backpacker from Israel.
He told me he had been to the most incredible desert festival, and showed me photos of countless people having the time of their lives, in a city that had risen from the ground overnight.
This was Black Rock City, he told me, the fourth largest city in Nevada when it "appears" - "built" by the convergence of tens of thousands of "burners" seeking to live out an alternative lifestyle for a week in their lives, this was an event not to be missed.
That was six years ago.
This year, I packed my bags and with four friends, arrived on the desert sands of Nevada to experience this epic adventure for ourselves.
Little did we know that this would be one of the most empowering journeys we would make in our lives.
We began our preparations early. Mental preparation was the first hurdle to cross - this festival is not a walk in the park.
Veteran burners in our group warned us that we would be battling the elements in the desert and getting caked with fine playa dust, with little hope of daily showers.
This festival also required us to have an open mind - to realise the beauty of alternative lifestyles and perspectives - and an open heart - to welcome the smiles and conversations of complete strangers.
My friends and I crossed this hurdle easily; we had heard too many good things about the festival to pass it up. Tickets went on sale in February.
Demand was through the roof; we had friends who went online a minute after sales opened and were unable to secure tickets.
Thank goodness for the STEP programme that aided the resale of tickets, and an OMG sale in August that saved the day.
By then, we had already secured an RV (recreational vehicle or trailer) for the week - a good option for bigger groups - to drive down from Canada.
This would halve the cost of renting it in Reno, the nearest city to the desert.
As the date drew near, we got together to settle the logistics: ski goggles to help us see in the dust storms, bandanas to help us breathe, caps or hats to fend off the sun, blinking lights, torches to help us see and be seen at night, and reserving bikes - everyone cycles on the playa.
Driving down to Black Rock City, we spent another two days gathering supplies With an incredible amount of wet wipes, canned foods, cup noodles, bread, fresh produce, snacks, and 52 gallons (240 litres) of water later (1.5 gallons per person per day), we began our spirited drive to the desert.