Alternative communities that give Burning Man a run for its money

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Burning Man's Got Some Radical Competition


For the tens of thousands of Burners who trek out to the Black Rock Desert in Nevada every year for the annual festival, it's an entire cultural shift into an alternative lifestyle.

Guiding the event's culture are 10 principles that ensure the whole experience is communal, radical, clean and non-commercial.

The festival, which kicked off in 1986, brings a diverse group of people together for one week in the desert to create a metropolis known as Black Rock City.

Take a glimpse inside Burning Man festivals of years past:

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Alternative communities that give Burning Man a run for its money
Black Rock City, Nevada –Mark Day, of Santa Cruz, gets painted with blue food coloring to go with his blue devil horns while participating in this year's Burning Man festival which drew over 25,000 people from around the world to the isolated Black Rock Desert in Nevada. (Photo by Rick Loomis/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
A woman lies next to paper mache aliens as they watch a television sculpted into a man 06 September at the 'Burning Man' festival in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada. Some 15,000 people attended the 1998 'Burning Man' festival, which reportedly began 13 years ago in San Francisco, and which always culminates in the burning of a giant effigy of a man. The festival has grown into one of the nation's annual premiere countercultural events, with the size doubling virtually every year and drawing people from as far away as Japan, Europe and Australia. (Photo credit: MIKE NELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
A group of people cross the desert at Black Rock City's Burning Man festival in Nevada 02 September, 1999. Founded in 1986 by a group of artists, filmmakers and photographers, the annual event encourages a collaborative response from its audience and a collaboration between artists. (Photo credit : HECTOR MATA/AFP/Getty Images)
A man poses at Black Rock City's Burning Man festival in Black Rock City, Nevada 03 September, 1999. Founded in 1986 by a group of fine artists, filmmakers and photographers, the anual event encourages a collaborative response from its audience and a collaboration between artists.  (Photo credit: HECTOR MATA/AFP/Getty Images)
An artist performs a Mass celebrating the end of the millennium on the 'Tree of Time', a sculpture by San Francisco-based artists Dana and Flash, at Black Rock City's Burning Man festival in Nevada 04 September 1999. Founded in 1986 by a group of fine artists, filmmakers and photographers, the annual event encourages a collaborative response from it's audience and a collaboration between artists. (Photo credit: HECTOR MATA/AFP/Getty Images)
A man looks at the Burning Man effigy as it is prepared for the Burning Man Festival at Black Rock City in Nevada 29 August 2000. An estimated thirty thousand people will attend the festival, a spontaneous encounter of artists, performers and spectators, where the audience is expected to interact and collaborate during a week long event. The fifty two feet effigy will be burned at the end of the festival  (Photo credit: HECTOR MATA/AFP/Getty Images)
A girl drives a bike on the Black Rock City desert in Nevada 29 August, 2000 as she attends the Burning Man festival. An estimated thirty thousand people will attend the festival, a spontaneous encounter of artists, performers and spectators, where the audience is expected to interact and collaborate during a week long event.  (Photo credit: HECTOR MATA/AFP/Getty Images)
Signs are posted at the entrance of Black Rock City during the Burning Man Festival in Nevada 01 September 2000. An estimated thirty thousand people will attend the festival, a spontaneous encounter of artists, performers and spectators, where the audience is expected to interact and collaborate during a week long event.  (Photo credit: HECTOR MATA/AFP/Getty Images)
Make-up artist 'Nambla the Clown' from the San Francisco Bay Area poses at Black Rock City's center camp during the Burning Man Festival in Nevada 01 September 2000. An estimated thirty thousand people will attend the festival, a spontaneous encounter of artists, performers and spectators, where the audience is expected to interact and collaborate during a week long event.  (Photo credit: HECTOR MATA/AFP/Getty Images)
A bicycle rider makes it through a dense sand storm at Black Rock City's playa during the Burning Man Festival in Nevada 01 September 2000. An estimated thirty thousand people will attend the festival, a spontaneous encounter of artists, performers and spectators, where the audience is expected to interact and collaborate during a week-long event.  (Photo credit: HECTOR MATA/AFP/Getty Images)
Bolts of electricity strike 'Dr. MegaVolt' as he rides across the desert September 1, 2000 atop a truck equipped with huge electrodes to thrill crowds who chant his name during the 15th annual Burning Man festival in the Black Rock Desert near Gerlach, Nevada. Despite high winds, dust storms, and a bit of rain, some 27,000 people camped out on a remote desert playa, or dry lake, for the week-long counter-cultural celebration of art and 'radical self-expression.' This year's theme was the body. (Photo by David McNew/Newsmaker)
A dancer juggles fire as a 52-foot tall wooden man as it goes up in flames September 2, 2000 during the15th annual Burning Man festival in the Black Rock Desert near Gerlach, Nevada. Despite high winds, dust storms, and a bit of rain, some 27,000 people camped out on a remote desert playa, or dry lake, for the week-long counter-cultural celebration of art and 'radical self-expression'. This year's theme was the body. (Photo by David McNew/Newsmakers)
Revelers dance around the burning remains of a 52-foot tall wooden man during the 15th annual Burning Man festival September 2, 2000 in the Black Rock Desert near Gerlach, Nevada. Despite high winds, dust storms, and a bit of rain, some 27,000 people camped out on a remote desert playa, or dry lake, for the week-long counter-cultural celebration of art and 'radical self-expression.' This year's theme was the body. (Photo by David McNew/Newsmakers)
People ride bicycles against a backdrop of mirages September 2, 2000 at the15th annual Burning Man festival in the Black Rock Desert near Gerlach, Nevada. Bicycles are the standard mode of transport on the vast playa locale of the festival. Despite high winds, dust storms, and a bit of rain, some 27,000 people camped out on a remote desert playa, or dry lake, for the week-long counter-cultural celebration of art and 'radical self-expression.' This year's theme was the body. (Photo by David McNew/Newsmakers)
People drum on a percussion junk pile despite a blinding dust storm caused by strong winds September 2, 2000 at the 15th annual Burning Man festival in the Black Rock Desert near Gerlach, Nevada. Despite the high winds, dust storms, and a bit of rain, some 27,000 people camped out on a remote desert playa, or dry lake, for the week-long counter-cultural celebration of art and 'radical self-expression.' This year's theme was the body. (Photo by David McNew/Newsmakers)
Atmosphere at the 2003 Burning Man festival. Blackrock City, Nevada. (Photo by John Horsley/Photoshot/Getty Images)
Atmosphere at the 2003 Burning Man festival. Blackrock City, Nevada.  (Photo by John Horsley/Photoshot/Getty Images)
The sun rises behind a wood and neon statue, the center piece of the annual Burning Man festival north of Gerlach, Nev., Monday, Aug. 26, 2002. The week-long festival in the Black Rock Desert started Monday. (AP Photo/Debra Reid)
A rainbow is cast over the Black Rock Desert in Gerlach, Nev., during the Burning Man festival on Friday, Aug. 31, 2007. (AP Photo/Brad Horn)
A woman sits in a shelter during a dust storm on the playa of the Black Rock Desert in Gerlach, Nev., during the Burning Man festival on Friday, Aug. 31, 2007. (AP Photo/Brad Horn)
Jason, of Portland, watches the Critical Titts bike ride event on the playa at the Black Rock Desert during the Burning Man festival on Friday, Aug. 31, 2007. (AP Photo/Brad Horn)
Burning Man festival participants enjoys the playa near an art installation in the Black Rock Desert in Gerlach, Nev., on Friday morning, Aug. 31, 2007. (AP Photo/Brad Horn)
The Man glows on the playa framed through and art car on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2007, after being repaired from an arson that occurred on Monday, while at the Burning Man festival in the Black Rock Desert in Gerlach, Nev. (AP Photo/Brad Horn)
Burning Man participants are reflected in an art piece on the playa of the Black Rock Desert in Gerlach, Nev., during the Burning Man festival on Friday morning, Aug. 31, 2007. (AP Photo/Brad Horn)
A Burning Man participant enjoys a light art installation during the festival in the Black Rock Desert near Gerlach, Nev., Thursday morning, Aug. 30, 2007. (AP Photo/Brad Horn, Nevada Appeal)
Black Rocky City begins to grow during the opening of Burning Man Sunday, August 27th, 2006. The art festival in Nevada's Black Rock Desert will celebrate it's 20th year. (photo by Ron Lewis)
The Man, a stick figured symbol of the Burning Man art festival, is silhouetted against a morning sunrise Saturday, Sept. 2, 2006, at the 20-year-old art festival in Nevada's Black Rock Desert. (AP Photo/Ron Lewis)
Burning Man participants wait for a dust storm to clear near Gerlach, Nev., during the Burning Man festival at the Black Rock Desert on Saturday, Aug. 30, 2008. (AP Photo/Brad Horn)
A an aerial view of the center camp in Black Rock City is seen during the Burning Man festival near Gerlach, Nev., on Friday, Aug. 29, 2008. (AP Photo/Brad Horn)
A girl wearing three dimensional glasses enters a tunnel of lights during the Burning Man Festival at Black Rock City desert in Nevada 29 August 2000. An estimated thirty thousand people will attend the festival, a spontaneous encounter of artists, performers and spectators,where the audience is expected to interact and collaborate during a week long event.(Photo credit: HECTOR MATA/AFP/Getty Images)
Atmosphere at the 2003 Burning Man festival. Blackrock City, Nevada. (Photo by John Horsley/Photoshot/Getty Images)
Atmosphere at the 2003 Burning Man festival. Blackrock City, Nevada. (Photo by John Horsley/Photoshot/Getty Images)
Joseph Hren of San Francisco sporting a retro look while spending the week at Burning Man. Photographed at center camp, August 29, 2008. (Photo by Spencer Weiner/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Passersby stop to admire Twilight Anima Rising, one of over 150 works of art dotting the Black Rock Desert during Burning Man, a week-long party and arts festival. About 35,000 people are camped in the a temporary city. (Photo by Jim Rankin/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Ed Joseph of San Francisco performs on the Black Rock Desert during Burning Man, a week-long party and arts festival. About 35,000 people are camped in the a temporary city.  (Photo by Jim Rankin/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
An day-long windstorm whips sand as fine as talcum powder at Burning Man as participants take evening bike rides and strolls on stilts. About 35,000 are camped out on the desert for the week-long party and arts festival, which ends Monday. (Photo by Jim Rankin/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
This is a satellite image of the Burning Man festival in Nevada, United States, collected on August 28, 2012. This image is the winner for the 2012 Top Image contest. (Photo DigitalGlobe via Getty Images)
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While Burning Man really is a one-of-a-kind, temporary event, there are communities full of similarly minded folk across the globe who are finding ways to live outside the bounds and norms of a traditional society.

Take the Findhorn Foundation community, for example.

This ecovillage in northern Scotland is all about working with nature, sustainability, inner-spiritual attunement and a peaceful communal lifestyle.

Visitors are welcome. Folks wanting to stay longer — say, a year or so — can pay to enroll in programs that'll integrate them into the spiritual community.

If you're looking for a spiritual community in northern Italy, there's the Federation of Damanhur. It's a little more robust, than its Scottish peer.

Damanhur boasts its own currency, constitution, economic system, university, temples and spiritual movement — pretty much anything you'd need to run a small eco-federation commune.

Those who are seriously considering starting a new life in Damanhur have to enroll in the aptly named "New Life" program, which lasts three months.

Then, there's Christiania, a self-proclaimed autonomous neighborhood of Denmark's capital, Copenhagen.

See photos of Christiania

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Christiania
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Alternative communities that give Burning Man a run for its money
Massive sounds systems welcomes people to Freetown Christiania at the annual Pro 420 Cannabis Day in Copenhagen. Denmark 20/04 2014. (Photo by: PYMCA/UIG via Getty Images)
The famous Christiania sign that welcomes thousands of Copenhageners and tourists to the alternative freetown in Copenhagen. Denmark 20/04 2014. (Photo by: PYMCA/UIG via Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY ELISE GRANDJEAN A picture taken on March 14, 2012, shows a man riding past a graffiti-painted wall which marks the border between Christiania and Copenhagen in Christiania, Copenhagen. Following a court ruling, the self-governed hippie community needs to come up with 76 million kroner (10.2 million euros, 13.4 million USD) to buy the area at the heart of the Danish capital, and they need a full 50 million kroner by July 1. Christiania was founded on September 26, 1971 when a band of guitar-laden hippies made an abandoned army barracks in central Copenhagen their home. They raised their 'freedom flag' and named their new abode 'Christiania, free city'. AFP PHOTO / JONATHAN NACKSTRAND (Photo credit should read JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY ELISE GRANDJEAN A picture taken on March 14, 2012, shows the Freetown Christiania neighborhood, in Copenhagen. Following a court ruling, the self-governed hippie community needs to come up with 76 million kroner (10.2 million euros, 13.4 million USD) to buy the area at the heart of the Danish capital, and they need a full 50 million kroner by July 1. Christiania was founded on September 26, 1971 when a band of guitar-laden hippies made an abandoned army barracks in central Copenhagen their home. They raised their 'freedom flag' and named their new abode 'Christiania, free city'. AFP PHOTO / JONATHAN NACKSTRAND (Photo credit should read JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY ELISE GRANDJEAN A picture taken on March 13, 2012, shows a woman riding past a graffiti-painted house in Christiania, Copenhagen. Following a court ruling, the self-governed hippie community needs to come up with 76 million kroner (10.2 million euros, 13.4 million USD) to buy the area at the heart of the Danish capital, and they need a full 50 million kroner by July 1. Christiania was founded on September 26, 1971 when a band of guitar-laden hippies made an abandoned army barracks in central Copenhagen their home. They raised their 'freedom flag' and named their new abode 'Christiania, free city'. AFP PHOTO / JONATHAN NACKSTRAND (Photo credit should read JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY ELISE GRANDJEAN A picture taken on March 13, 2012, shows a Danish woman repairing her bike outside her house in Christiania, Copenhagen. Following a court ruling, the self-governed hippie community needs to come up with 76 million kroner (10.2 million euros, 13.4 million USD) to buy the area at the heart of the Danish capital, and they need a full 50 million kroner by July 1. Christiania was founded on September 26, 1971 when a band of guitar-laden hippies made an abandoned army barracks in central Copenhagen their home. They raised their 'freedom flag' and named their new abode 'Christiania, free city'. AFP PHOTO / JONATHAN NACKSTRAND (Photo credit should read JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY ELISE GRANDJEAN A picture taken on March 14, 2012, shows a woman working at the local grocery store in Christiania, in Copenhagen. Following a court ruling, the self-governed hippie community needs to come up with 76 million kroner (10.2 million euros, 13.4 million USD) to buy the area at the heart of the Danish capital, and they need a full 50 million kroner by July 1. Christiania was founded on September 26, 1971 when a band of guitar-laden hippies made an abandoned army barracks in central Copenhagen their home. They raised their 'freedom flag' and named their new abode 'Christiania, free city'. AFP PHOTO / JONATHAN NACKSTRAND (Photo credit should read JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY ELISE GRANDJEAN A picture taken on March 13, 2012, shows Danish Tanja Fox displaying the Christiania Shares in Christiania, Copenhagen. Following a court ruling, the self-governed hippie community needs to come up with 76 million kroner (10.2 million euros, 13.4 million USD) to buy the area at the heart of the Danish capital, and they need a full 50 million kroner by July 1. Christiania was founded on September 26, 1971 when a band of guitar-laden hippies made an abandoned army barracks in central Copenhagen their home. They raised their 'freedom flag' and named their new abode 'Christiania, free city'. AFP PHOTO / JONATHAN NACKSTRAND (Photo credit should read JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP/Getty Images)
Cake is served in the self-proclaimed autonomous neighbourhood of Christiania as it celebrates its 40th anniversary in Copenhagen, Denmark on Monday, Sept. 26, 2011. Christiania, one of Denmark's largest tourist attractions, has been a source of controversy since its creation in a squatted military area in 1971. (AP Photo/POLFOTO, Mathias Christensen) DENMARK OUT
A resident sits in the sunshine in the self-proclaimed autonomous neighbourhood of Christiania as it celebrates its 40th anniversary in Copenhagen, Denmark on Monday, Sept. 26, 2011. Christiania, one of Denmark's largest tourist attractions, has been a source of controversy since its creation in a squatted military area in 1971. (AP Photo/POLFOTO, Mathias Christensen) DENMARK OUT
A young girl draws on the ground in the self-proclaimed autonomous neighbourhood of Christiania celebrates it’s 40th anniversary in Copenhagen, Denmark on Monday, Sept. 26, 2011. Christiania, one of Denmark’s largest tourist attractions, has been a source of controversy since its creation in a squatted military area in 1971. (AP Photo/POLFOTO, Mathias Christensen) DENMARK OUT
Houses in Christiania Denmark Friday, Feb. 18, 2011. The Danish Supreme Court on Friday gave the government the green light to take control of a largely self-governing Copenhagen neighborhood that was occupied by hippies four decades ago. The Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision from 2009 saying the roughly 900 residents of Christiania have no irrevocable right to use the former naval base. Residents say they will resist any attempts to evict them from the neighborhood, which has become a major draw for tourists curious about its counterculture lifestyle and liberal attitude toward soft drugs like cannabis. (AP Photo/Polfoto/Joachim Adrian) DENMARK OUT
Houses in Christiania Denmark Friday, Feb. 18, 2011. The Danish Supreme Court on Friday gave the government the green light to take control of a largely self-governing Copenhagen neighborhood that was occupied by hippies four decades ago. The Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision from 2009 saying the roughly 900 residents of Christiania have no irrevocable right to use the former naval base. Residents say they will resist any attempts to evict them from the neighborhood, which has become a major draw for tourists curious about its counterculture lifestyle and liberal attitude toward soft drugs like cannabis. (AP Photo/Polfoto/Joachim Adrian) DENMARK OUT
Vibeke, Soerine and Karen, from left, arrange flower decorations in Christiania, Copenhagen, Denmark, Tuesday Dec. 23 2008, the day before the freetown’s traditional Christmas evening. On Christmas Eve Christiania welcomes everybody, rich and poor, who would otherwise be celebrating the holidays alone. (AP Photo/Tariq Mikkel Khan, POLFOTO) ** DENMARK OUT **
Dorthe Damgaard arranges flower decorations in Christiania, Copenhagen, Denmark, Tuesday Dec. 23, 2008, the day before the freetown’s traditional Christmas evening. On Christmas Eve Christiania welcomes everybody, rich and poor, who would otherwise be celebrating the holidays alone. (AP Photo/Tariq Mikkel Khan, POLFOTO) ** DENMARK OUT **
The entrance of Christiania in Copenhagen, Tuesday, May 26, 2009. A Danish court has ruled that residents of Copenhagen's counterculture Christiania neighborhood have no right to use the former navy base they took over three decades ago. The Eastern High court on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit against government plans to regain control of the partially self-governing neighborhood in the Danish capital. The neighborhood was created in 1971 when hippies began squatting at a derelict 18th-century navy base on state-owned land. (AP Photo/POLFOTO, Jens Dige) ** DENMARK OUT **
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For the most part, the government tolerates Christiania, though the two sides have butted heads over just how autonomous the neighborhood is.

While Christiania has its own spiritual happenings, the commune is more famous for its dealings in the drug trade — specifically, marijuana. Hard drugs aren't allowed.

Moving on from autonomous neighborhoods, there are autonomous micronations, like the Principality of Sealand.

Sealand is an old offshore platform near the coast of the United Kingdom. Originally named HM Fort Roughs, it had previously been used by the U.K. during World War II.

While not an actual nation, Sealand has all the markings of a nation aside from a sizeable population. However, people can purchase Sealander nobility titles for about $300.

Sealand Stamps

Finally, coming back to the United States, we have another experimental community — Arcosanti.

It's about 70 miles north of Phoenix in central Arizona and emphasizes something called archology — or a combination of architecture and ecology.

Acrosanti is a work in progress, but that doesn't mean you can't move in — just complete a five-week workshop, which costs about $1,500. You can then apply to volunteer in the community.

More special coverage of living off the grid:
Burning Man: Inside the bizarre annual festival in the Nevada desert
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