What do our 2011 Real Estate Guys Summit Cruise and 2012 Burning Man have in common? More than you think. Allow me to bring you insights from my recent barter and exchange experiences at these events. With economic uncertainty comes a possible increase in bartering, and there are currently many bartering and exchanging outlets.
In 2011, Josh and I attended the Real Estate Guys Summit Cruise. The cruise is a great way to learn new skills, pitch ideas, and enjoy the gorgeous Caribbean while meeting fantastic people. As part of the group that signed up for the RE cruise, we met in various theatre/meeting rooms and learned from extraordinary speakers and teachers like, Ken McElroy, G Edward Griffin, Mauricio Rauld, Robert Kiyosaki and many others. But it wasn’t all work! During port days, we enjoyed excursions and visited local areas where we continued to learn and have fun at the same time.
At one point, we had an exchange group where everyone brought something to the table to barter. No money was involved, and we exchanged as a method of acquiring different items. There was everything from a week stay at a Condo on the beach to silver coins, artwork, social media lessons, coaching sessions and more. Our daughter, Haley, had made some artwork and that went up on the exchange board. About 6 exchanges later (exchanging one thing to get another), we received tickets to Burning Man (www.burningman.com). If you would like to learn more about exchanging, check out the 20/20 video on One Red Paper Clip, where someone wanted to see if he could exchange his way to a house from a red paperclip.
We embarked on our Burning Man exchange in Aug. 2012. We chose to rent an RV and bring our kids so they could also witness this adventure. Little did we know that it would become such a mind-expanding experience – all-natural of course. Burning Man is about exchanging, gifting and sharing. Well, Burning Man is about many other things as well, but for the purposes of this blog it is about those three. There is no money required during the week of Burning Man except at the center café for coffee, tea, lemonade and bags of ice. The idea is to bring in items you need to live for a week (think camping out in the middle of the desert) and items to share, gift and exchange.
As first time “Burners,” we didn’t quite know what we would be bartering, gifting or sharing for, but we brought different crystals, dream catchers, necklaces Haley made, duct tape wallets the kids made, watermelon, popsicles and a few other items. Being in an RV, we were pretty self-sufficient so we weren’t quite sure what more we would want.
The Burning Man area is quite large, about 9 sq miles in the middle of the Black Rock Desert, Nevada. The Playa, where all the structures are, is pretty elaborate and covers a wide area. Most burners bring their bikes. There are community bikes to use but finding 3 at the same time was rare, as they are just left anywhere in the community for the next person. We were camped in an area called Kidville (yep, an area dedicated to burners with kids). Because the community bikes were a little too big for Haley, she was in the market for a bike. We were looking to borrow one for a couple hours so we could bike the Playa and cover more ground than walking. After asking around and gifting crystals for information, we were led to a camp where they had a bike Haley’s size. They pumped up the tires for Haley and we gave them crystals and a couple of Haley’s necklaces. She was then told she could keep the bike, not only for the rest of the week but to take home. What a gift that was!
Throughout our week, we gave and we shared with the people around us. I can’t tell you how interesting it was to be in a world where a community came together without asking for anything. People would just come up to us and give us necklaces, snow cones, toothpaste (was that a hint?), water, fruit, etc. We volunteered to be greeters at Kidsville, where information was given out and community safety was a priority (partying is a big part of Burning Man).
There are many instances where I’ve read about towns that have come together and done exchanges after the economy crashed, for example: (http://www.newsreview.com/sacramento/barter-town/content?oid=1433741). I’ve also have friends that do exchanges all the time, like exchanging piano lessons for their daughter in return for Spanish lessons. But immersing ourselves in this community for a week was a great experience for the kids on how to create something from nothing, be generous and have fun doing it. Not to mention the burning of the man effegie at the end of the week was truly a tribal experience! As Social Capitalists, our business is about being generous, giving back and doing good, and this was a way to experience it in a completely different context.
So, while many are struggling financially today, this experience gives a great opportunity to look at other ways to create what we want legally, ethically and morally.