Lake Cuicocha: Where we had lunch and a boat ride in the crater of a volcano.
First, thank you for you patience. I always feel a bit bad closing down the blog and leaving you with only past posts while I wander about during my summer travels. Not bad enough to stay home and write, or to lug along a laptop, of course. But bad.
Still after roaming around Ecuador for the better part of the summer, this past Sunday I returned, exhausted and having to relearn a few things about living here in the USA. Such as flushing the toilet paper down the toilet. See, in Ecuador nothing gets flushed that doesn’t, ahem, come directly from you. Used toilet paper is placed in the basket conveniently provided. Yep. Even the paper soiled that way.
Seems the septic systems can’t handle it. This despite the fact, as Mr. Money Mustache explained to me, septic systems “like” toilet paper. It never occurred to me that they’d like anything but, when you consider the rest of what the systems deal with, a little TP is likely a step up.
But anyway, I’m back just in time for what is starting out as a drop-dead gorgeous fall season here in New England. As I told somebody recently, if I didn’t live in New Hampshire it would have to be on my annual travel schedule each year for these couple of months. Tomorrow my pal Barry, who has been storing my Triumph, is coming by to pick me up. Shortly after we’ll be in the wind, riding the back roads around these parts.
Ecuador, as always, was a magical trip. Seems I’ve been often enough now that upon my return the border agent felt the need to quiz me closely on just where I live. Jeez.
But the final week was the most magical of all. It was a week of dreams. It was the week of the Chautauqua.
Chautauquaians giving the newly created Mustachian Salute:
Finger mustache, arm gun displayed.
It was the premier event for Cheryl’s company, Above the Clouds Retreats and the realization of her dream to launch her company, sharing Ecuador and her Happiness and Passion path.
It was the realization of the dream of a local family who, after over a year of living in a chicken coop, are now about to move back in to their newly renovated house. Earthquake damage repaired with funds provided from the revenue this Chautauqua generated and channeled thru Cheryl’s Project One Corner.
The four of us with the Ecuadorian family and their refurbished home.
Listening to this Ecuadorian woman describe what being able to return to her home meant for her family had tears streaming down Cheryl’s cheeks as she translated. Mr. MM and I were sitting together on a low concrete wall. He leaned over and whispered something to the effect of “It is taking all my manly badassity to keep the tears at bay.” I was glad it wasn’t just me.
It was a dream realized for the kids at the orphanage we visited as they received the backpacks and other goodies attendees provided. Including the piñata that when finally burst showered them with goodies.
It was a boost to the realization of the dreams of every attendee. I know this based on my many personal conversations and by the fact that on every evalutation form we recieved, the answer to this question —
Would you recommend this Chautauqua to a friend?
— was “Yes.”
It was the realization of my dream to create a “Chautauqua” (one of my favorite old-timey words) where I could discuss the ideas on this blog personally with readers and in the company of presenters like Cheryl, Mr. Money Mustache and JD Roth, from each of whom I was eager to learn. They did not disappoint!
Cheryl is one of the most relentlessly happy and joyful people I’ve ever met, and not because her path has been an easy one. No one was listening more closely than I as she discussed her secrets.
From the moment Cheryl and I began discussing this Chautauqua, I knew we needed Mr. Money Mustache on board. If you read his blog you already know why. What you might not know is that he is every bit as formidable in person and an extraordinarily gifted speaker to boot. Fun to hang around with too.
Mr. MM also deserves the credit for whistling in JD Roth. JD’s presentation on “Fear, Flow and Freedom” was the one I was personally most anxious to hear. Remarkable stuff and at the end it even inspired me to do what ordinarily I would never have done: Ask the group directly for help.
See, for literally decades people have complemented my voice. While I did have the chance to do a bit of radio work, serendipity has never led to doing voice overs. I’ve always thought that would be fun and so I put it out to the group. As JD said, in effect I had just bought 26 lottery tickets.
Now, by extension and further using JD’s principles, I am buying many, many more by sharing this with you, my readers. If you want to hear what I sound like, you’ll find a link to my podcast with The Mad Fientist here. Another Chautauqua dream in the process of being fulfilled.
There is a certain process that occurs in pulling an event like this together. The concept is created. The speakers lined up. The destination chosen and secured. The P&L spread sheet created. The costs analyzed. The week planned and arranged. The endless details attended to. And finally the invitation to attend is offered. It is not unlike planning a grand party and then holding your breathe hoping the guests will actually come.
Fine tuning the Chautauqua at Cheryl’s farm house the day before the event.
We need not have worried. All 25 slots sold out in three weeks. Unfortunately, life intervened for a few people forcing them to cancel. Come arrival time at Quito International Airport we had 22 attendees plus the four presenters and Cheryl’s husband Rich, who handled the logistics and served as master of ceremonies. 27 people.
And what an amazingly diverse group it was. Not just in race and sexual orientation, although we enjoyed both. But in:
- Age – ranging from geezers like me to folks in their twenties.
- Occupations – including a corporate lawyer, doctor, banker, a couple of CFOs, a librarian, two US Marines, entrepreneurs, a fellow blogger and IT folks just to name a few. Some already FI, some on their way. Even a Wall Street money manager and a former stock analyst. Amazingly, given my views on Index Funds and Investment Advisors, both were still speaking to me after my presentation.
- Wealth – ranging from multi-millionaires to people just breaking out of the grip of debt and on their way.
- Geography – they came from all over the US and Canada, and one from Mexico.
You might think such a wide-ranging group would be a recipe for conflict. You would be wrong. As the Wall Street guy said to me towards the end, he and his friends amuse themselves at conferences with assessing the “AQ” of the various groups. That would be “asshole quotient.” His AQ score for this group: Zero. I’d have to agree.
Mr. MM hosting one of many impromptu parties at his Hacienda Cusin casa.
In fact, it was absolutely stunning how well everybody got along. No matter how we mixed up the group (something we did very intentionally during the week) at meals and between events the conversations were universally robust, friendly, engaging, humorous and enlightening. These are all people who are fiercely independent and who are following their own unique paths.
On reflection, all this is not surprising. For all their diversity, getting to the Chautauqua required a couple of potent filters.
- Nobody signs up for a week in a distant country with a bunch of strangers without a pretty strong sense of adventure.
- All came to the Chautauqua thru one of our three blogs, and if you enjoy one the chances are good the others will resonate with you as well.
At a very fundamental and core level, we were all kindred spirits. In fact the comment I heard most often was how refreshing it was for attendees to be with other people who “get it.” If your goals involve FI, intentional living and personal freedom, in most circles you’re the odd one out. Talk about this stuff to most of your family, friends and co-workers and they’ll look at you like you have two heads.
But at the Chautauqua, almost by definition, these were core values everybody shared. The people there built, expanded and drew support for them with every encounter.
Associating with all these dynamic, smart, accomplished, positive and independent people was an endless joy for me. I learned far more than I taught. In this I can say with great confidence I was not alone.
So, to all who attended: Thank you for making this event one of the best trips and best weeks of my life. Truly a dream realized. I salute you:
To those reading, I only wish you, too, could have been there.
For other takes on this event:
Unfortunately, we were unable to video tape the presentations as planned. But in their posts both JD and Mr. MM provide links to their slides for your reference. As for me, I’ll provide a recap of mine in a soon-to-come post.
A note on the photos in this post:
At the Chautauqua we had three expert photographers in Rich, Mr. MM and JD. Since this is one of the many skills I lack I’ve shamelessly cribbed those you see here from them. Cheryl also tells me she plans to put a bunch up on the Above the Clouds website. When she does, I’ll post the link. The embarrassing ones are sure to be included.