This past October I flew half way around the world to Ecuador to attend and present at the 2015 Chautauqua.
I joined 3 other speakers and nearly 30 attendees for a week of culture, service, and financial musings.
When Jim Collins asked me to attend, I was elated. I couldn’t wait to participate, and my expectations were very high.
Was the experience valuable? Did it meet my expectations? Would I recommend it?
In the real world, people seldom talk about money or share their true dreams or fears. We can spend years with coworkers and neighbors and still not know much about them or feel close. In a world hell bent on consumption, many find it difficult to find their tribe. Trying to do unconventional things can be met with resistance or resentment.
Now imagine spending a week of adventure filled days with people who are not only encouraging and non-judgmental, but who are of like mind; a place where you can share ideas and goals, fears and concerns, and smiling faces reply, “Me too.”
Yes, we talked about investing and wealth building strategies. We discussed tax minimization and geographic arbitrage, real estate and stock markets. We debated portfolio longevity data and inflation. We talked about life purpose and happiness.
All of those things happened. But more than anything, to me… the Chautauqua was where human bonds were forged.
The first morning I woke early and watched the fog fade away as the sun rose over the valley. I hiked down through the cloud forest to a small waterfall, saw amazing iridescent butterflies the size of my hand, and then did sun salutations on the equator with Ricardo.
Breakfast was one of the group’s first meals together, and the conversation flowed like the strong Ecuadorian coffee. As the days passed, camaraderie grew with each shared meal and experience.
Some days we stayed at the resort and talked, attended the Presentations, or had one-on-one sessions or free time. On a few occasions, Mr. Money Mustache led hikes to the nearby waterfall. Others gathered on the terrace or relaxed in the pool.
Other days we would go on an adventure to a chocolate factory, zip-line through the jungle, or tour Cheryl’s coffee farm. The bus rides were a great time for conversation and site seeing.
In the evenings many would gather at the hot tub or dining hall to discuss the days events over all manner of beverages. One favorite was Black Thompson whiskey (a local Johnny Walker knockoff, as far as I could tell.) Stories and jokes were shared, and I laughed until my side ached so many times I lost count.
If I had to pick a favorite part of the Chautauqua it would be the one-on-ones, where I was able to sit down and chat with people individually. In theory these were scheduled for an hour, but they often went much longer. A few times these conversations carried over into group discussion, and we crowd sourced ideas.
Some people were early on their journey to Financial Independence and some had already arrived. Each session was rewarding in its own way, and covered a dizzying array of topics including taxes, health insurance, visas, asset allocation, safe withdrawal rates, happiness, marriage, children, and more. There was no question off limits.
A few hours after one session, one of the attendees came up and said, “I can’t stop smiling and it has everything to do with our 1:1.” Which then meant that I couldn’t stop smiling. It is a wonderful opportunity to be able to help someone design their ideal life.
A Love Story
I waited to write my Chautauqua story to see if the experience or bonds were diminished with time. They weren’t.
Since all of the speakers and attendees have returned to their separate lives, the community has carried on. We have a Facebook group with regular posts about travels, accomplishments, and inside jokes. People have gathered for dinners in multiple States and Countries. A few attendees are traveling together to SE Asia, and will be visiting us in Malaysia next month.
Was it valuable? Without question. Did it meet my expectations? Met and exceeded. Would I recommend it? If financial independence is a goal and you can attend in a fiscally responsibly way, then yes, yes I would.
The Chautauqua brought together a diverse group and created a community of wealth builders. I loved it!
For more details about future Chautauquas, check out the official site by Above the Clouds Retreats.
This is the post I wrote before attending: Chautauqua 2015, Una Fiesta Ecuatoriana.
(No actual photos of human bonding are on display, in order to preserve the anonymity of attendees.)
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