One month prior to the event, I posted a link to the Epicurrence website in one of our company’s Slack channels. At the time, I had no intention of actually attending the event, but I’d heard it was a pretty amazing experience and just wanted to fill in my coworkers. In August, I attended Epicurrence — “the original activity-focused non-conference for creatives that focuses on community and unforgettable experiences.” This year, the event was held in Yosemite National Park in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range of Northern California. It was truly a remarkable and unforgettable experience that led to new friends and a fresh perspective — both personally and professionally.
Later that day, I was talking about the “non-conference” with Falon Peters, our General Manager, and she asked if I wanted to go. Four weeks later, I was on a plane to California. I had no idea what to expect, but I knew I was in for quite the adventure.
Meeting My New Friends
Once I’d landed at the airport, I gathered at the suggested rendezvous point to carpool with a few other professionals attending Epicurrence. I didn’t know it at the time, but I would get to know most of these people really well over the next four days, and some of us became good friends during that long weekend.
After we arrived and checked in, I received my attendee packet and headed to my room to unpack. Once I was all squared away, several of us headed down to the main event area for our initial introductions and a preview of what was to come.
The activities at Epicurrence were a vital part of the event. Most of us spend way too much time in front of a screen, so breaking away from our daily routine and forcing us to experience the nature surrounding us was an effective way to get our creative juices flowing.
One of the best ways to engage and provoke the creative side of your brain is to experience new things and remove yourself from your daily routine, which seemed to be the central theme of the event. Whether we were kayaking, hiking, or bouldering — every new experience gave us an opportunity to be physically, emotionally, and mentally active in one of the most beautiful places on Earth.
The first day, my new friends and I chose the kayaking excursion. We found “Sheriff’s Island” on a map and set out together to reach our destination. The weather was great, and we had a relaxing paddle. It was a great way to start the trip and set the tone for the rest of the event.
The next day, I decided to try bouldering, which is essentially a physical puzzle in which groups figure out how to scale these huge rocks. Coming from Michigan, there aren’t many chances for these activities, so I figured I should take advantage. We drove to “Camp 4,” which contains massive polished granite boulders spread throughout the corner of the valley. My group and I climbed an extremely tall boulder, which required a lot of good teamwork and communication. It was nerve-wracking and even a little scary, but it was probably the most thrilling aspect of my trip.
I saved hiking for the third and final day of Epicurrence. A group of five of us had made fast friends, so we decided to set out together one last time. The hike was amazing and had a ton of gorgeous views. It was a great way to wind down the trip and solidify the friendships I’d made.
The Creative Challenge
Of course, we did much more than play outside. The second evening of the event, we were given our creative brief, which was to create one or more of the following:
- Donations App
The projects we created were to be given to The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) of Mariposa County, which reminded me of the website project LaFleur worked on last winter for Tyson’s Place Animal Rescue. I decided to create a homepage and a logo, but I ran short on time and was only able to polish the logo. Out of more than 70 attendants, only seven of us had projects to present. I didn’t end up placing in the top three, but I was still happy with my entry and glad I gave it an honest shot.
Each night, everyone would sit around the campfire covered in blankets and hoodies (it gets quite cold in Yosemite at night) listening to keynote discussions from talented marketing and product designers speaking about everything from struggles and achievements to burnout and even inclusive design.
The first night’s discussion was about perseverance and how challenges can produce the best work. It was a very honest conversation, which really set the tone for engaging in a dialogue that transcended the typical networking chats you have at some conferences. People were making real connections with one another and becoming true friends in real time. It was amazing!
Burnout was the theme of the second night and also the most relatable for me. I can’t share the personal details of the speaker’s story, as we were told to keep that part of the discussions confidential outside “The Nest” (the event area). However, toward the end of the story, the speaker said, “You guys must have it all figured out! You took a week from your typical work life to come here.” At that point, the moderator asked everyone to raise their hands if they don’t have it all figured out. Every single hand shot in the air.
The main thing I gathered from the third and final night’s discussion on inclusive design is that the web is inherently accessible, and designers are responsible for ensuring it stays that way. The quote I remember from the discussion is, “The web is, by default, accessible. Yet, for some reason, designers love to break it.” It can be easy to accidentally place obstacles in web users’ path, so we need to remain aware of how and why we should prioritize accessibility and transparency.
The Last Word
No one wanted the event to end on the last night, and most of us stayed up extremely late talking throughout the early morning hours. As the crowd dwindled and I finally felt tired enough to head to sleep, I knew I couldn’t just wave and take off, so I made sure to stop by each group to say individual goodbyes.