Photo by Kailie Parrish.

Reflections on an Epic Week

Katy Atherholt
Sep 6, 2018 · 5 min read

A few years ago I learned about Epicurrence through a piece written by Meg Robichaud. Her description of the community blew my mind and sounded too good to be true. I knew I wanted to get there, it was just a matter of when.

Heading to Yosemite last week I tried to keep my expectations reasonable, stay open to whatever the “un-conference” had to offer in the way of wisdom, cool activities and new friends.

Honestly though, I was frothing.

Photo by Edgar Chaparro.

After spending week with the Epicurrence community I can confidently echo Meg’s sentiments. It’s challenging to describe the event to people who are unfamiliar. It feels kinda like an adult summer camp where outdoor activities and fireside s’mores punctuate meaningful conversations about anything and everything that actually matters.

Are we still enjoying what we do? Is it as lonely as it feels sometimes? How can we best help each other out? Why aren’t we having more conversations like this?

I can’t talk about what this week meant without pausing to extend a huge thank you to the always epic Dann Petty. Having someone I admire offer me a chance join the Epicurrence family felt like winning the lottery. Throughout the week I’ve been blown away by the level of generosity demonstrated by each person I’ve met and I can’t help but think it comes from the bar being set so high by Dann himself.

Photo by Edgar Chaparro.

Keeping in mind that so much of that epic magic exists within the nest, I wanted to try and share a few takeaways in the spirit of “taking the Epic beyond Epicurrence” (phrase courtesy of Marc Reisen, book release date tbd).

Create space.

Making room for vulnerability is the secret sauce to building an incredible community.

Several days before the event there was a call to share our stories of struggle in difficult times. This was the opener for what would become a practice throughout the week. We don’t often get invited to talk about the tough stuff in our day-to-day lives, we may have people who will listen but it feels different when someone actually asks.

First night magic. Photo by Edgar Chaparro.

Having space to be a little more raw than usual led to incredible amounts of compassion and support, not just the opportunity to receive but to give freely as well. I walked away realizing every single person has fears and the strength exists in sharing them. Some wounds are fresh and we may be in the middle of it all but we are not alone.

Embrace the discomfort.

Taking time to navigate complex ideas with our community is important, even if it’s slow and uncomfortable.

This is a community of problem-solvers. Despite the value in that, it can prioritize resolution over understanding. Learning to exist within the conversations that make us feel a little less comfortable is important, especially when the answers aren’t immediately clear. Curiosity from a single person is powerful, but with ten people (or seventy-something), we can dive much deeper into understanding the experiences of others.

Pause for cheesy (but fun!!) anecdote.

Last week I went bouldering for the first time and learned that each spot we climb is called a problem. We spent most of our time supporting others, discussing the solutions and learning from different people’s approaches — not actually climbing. When we embrace the bouldering spirt, we move towards empowering members of our community instead of fixing them. Do your part to move the crash pads and offer support without needing to solve the problem yourself.

99 problems but having fun ain’t one. Photos by Suhaila.

Shape your own successes.

Allowing others to define how we succeed is letting them shape our experiences.

Photo by Edgar Chaparro.

Each day I spent a little time exploring the idea of success with someone new. There were plenty of brilliant insights, but my favourite was reflecting on why success looks a certain way for us individually. When we share our successes publicly, and often put more emphasis on the achievement than sacrifices made, it can create a trap for those who admire us. Consider what your current goal requires in the way of sacrifice before you pursue it and try to reevaluate along the way. A little contemplation can help us move towards managing negatives associated with success. Take the time after defining success for a role or project to then step back to see how it strikes balance with the rest of your life. There’s no “right amount” of work or stress or success for anyone, but if we’re not making the calls then who is?


As the week came to a close, I reflected on how to cultivate these moments of vulnerability, connection and insight beyond Yosemite. For me, the tenets of an epic life include putting in effort to be kind, interested, thoughtful and open. I want to focus on investing in people and supporting those who need it even if they might not know how to ask. Start the kinds of conversations you want to have and take the epic beyond Epicurrence!

Photo by Edgar Chaparro.

Thanks to Suhaila

Katy Atherholt

Written by

Brand & web design @ Stellium. Part-time creative, full-time wilderness explorer.

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