Every year, the world ends in a desert near California City, California. At least, that’s the case for the attendees of Wasteland Weekend, an annual Mad Max-inspired, post-apocalyptic gathering. Part-Burning Man, part-LARP camp-out, the success of this event (and other copycats like it) may hint at humanity’s collective obsession with the end of days. Since its inaugural event eight years ago, Wasteland Weekend has grown in popularity from a few hundred wastelanders to a mass of nearly 2,500 dust-covered revelers.
Men and women from all over the United States, and, surprisingly, from each end of the political spectrum, set aside their “old-world” lives for a few days of fully immersive, worlds-end role play. And in today’s divided climate, where it feels like we’re just one “big button” push away from the apocalypse, that’s saying a lot. But ironically, both politics and religion are outlawed at Wasteland Weekend. Costumes, though, are mandatory.
In distressed denim, studded football pads, and recycled, well, everything, wastelanders are able to self-actualize who they’d want to be at the end of the world, even if that person is a variation on their real-life personas. So, what’s so appealing about the apocalypse? And is Wasteland Weekend a place of reinvention or destruction? By creating an entire event in a parallel time and space, wastelanders both engage with and dismiss the “real world.” There’s an inherent conflict there. At least for one weekend, these opposites can intermingle and rave on in the desert.
For some, however, this doomsday aesthetic doesn’t just end when the Thunderdome comes down. There are a select few who’ve taken Wastelanding into the real world, and have chosen to live off the grid and adopt Wasteland principles 24/7. Come with us as we explore what possible joys the apocalypse has in store.