Chautauqua October 2015: Times Two!

Ecuador, mi lindo

Mi Lindo Ecuador

If you have read this blog for long, or any of my Chautauqua posts, you know that for the last couple of years we have taken small groups to Ecuador for a week of adventure and conversation surrounding life, freedom, happiness and investing.

We call it a Chautauqua, an old Native American word Robert M. Pirsig, the author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, translates loosely as

“…an old-time series of popular talks intended to edify and entertain, improve the mind and bring culture and enlightenment to the ears and thoughts of the hearer.”

Each time now we’ve attracted an incredibly diverse and fascinating group of people. Almost everyone has described it as one of the (if not the) best weeks of their lives. To give you a flavor of what goes on, here’s my recap of last Fall’s: Lighting Strikes Again.

We all know that, in reading blogs like this one, we are walking the path less traveled and frequently not understood by those in our daily lives. But for this one week we get to be surrounded by others who “get it.”

el encanto buildings

The fact we get to do this in a stunning beautiful country while staying at the majestically situated El Encanto (The Enchanted) Hosteria built into foothills of the Andes mountains, still leaves me a bit slack-jawed.

I first stayed at El Encanto in 2012 during my trip to Ecuador to meet Cheryl and to discuss the creation of these Chautauquas. While she hosted me the first few days at her farm (a remarkable experience in itself), I also wanted to have first hand experience with one of the places we were considering for these events. I was, well, enchanted and have been wanting to return ever since. This is the year!

El encanto

Clouds at Birth

El Encanto has been carved out of a hillside overlooking a lush subtropical valley. The view is spectacular and you can actually look down to see clouds being born from the river below.

Moreover, this place is exactly on the Equator! It runs right though it.

Each morning I’d take my coffee out and decide: Shall I have it today in the Northern Hemisphere? No, wait. Let me step over here to the Southern! Sip. Ah! That’s good! But let’s step back and have a bit more in the Northern. There we go. Sip. Oh, that’s good too! Wait, wait! I know. Let’s put one foot here in the North and this foot here in the South….

In addition to going to El Encanto, the other thing that is new this year is that we will be offering two Chautauquas back-to-back. As before, each will have four speakers:

October 17-24, 2015

  • Mr. Money Mustache
  • Paula Pant from Afford Anything
  • Cheryl Reed from Above the Clouds Retreats
  • Jim Collins from jlcollinsnh

October 24-31, 2015

  • Brandon from The Mad Fientist
  • Jeremy from Go Curry Cracker
  • Cheryl Reed from Above the Clouds Retreats
  • Jim Collins from jlcollinsnh
  • And a guest appearance by Mr. Money Mustache

So, who are these people?

Cheryl Reed

Cheryl Reed is the owner and founder of Above the Clouds Retreats and one of the most relentlessly happy people I’ve ever met. Here’s a story:

The son of her farm worker borrows her truck and promptly rolls it. Her response to this very poor young man: “There are three responsible parties for this. You, who rolled the truck. I, for letting you take it. God, for permitting it to happen. You will pay a third of the cost (bartered in his labor as he had no money), I will pay for a third and I will see what I can do about getting the final third from God.”

This delivered with a smile, a wink and a laugh. Clearly, Cheryl is someone I can learn from. Maybe you can, too. Her talk is Following Your Bliss and she’ll be the first speaker at both events.

paula pant

Paula Pant is a journalist, globetrotter, entrepreneur and investor who has traveled to 32 countries. She’s her own boss and lives on her own terms, and she’s figured out how to live and work anytime, anywhere in the world. She writes the wonderful and wonderfully named blog Afford Anything.

Her talk is Three Rebellious Roads to Financial IndependenceIf you’re ready, Paula can teach you how to shatter limits and maximize your life.

I’m proud to call her a friend.

Mr. Money Mustache - Above the Clouds Retreats

Mr. Money Mustache is a master of many things: Software (formerly), family life, carpentry, building, writing and finance. But most of all, in my opinion, effective life-style design.

In his talk he’ll dismantle the false connection between spending and happiness, and show you how to craft a deeply rewarding approach based on fostering your own inner badassity. You’ll learn to eliminate weakness and dependency while developing your personal ruggedness in all areas of life. Fear will slip away, replaced by an inner peace built on confidence and a powerful appreciation of “enough.”

You’ll see first hand why the Mustachianism has become the cult phenomenon it is today. Plus he’s just plain fun to hang out with!

Mad FI, Brandon

That’s the Mad Fientist in the picture above looking relaxed and tropical. He should. He’s hanging out in Thailand at the moment, having quit his job last Spring immediately after getting his free Ivy League Graduate degree. At least he tried to quit his job. When he did, they said “No, no. We can’t have that. Of course you can work from wherever in the world you happen to be. Oh, and how about some more money?”

His talk will be The Shortest Path to Financial Independence. It is not often these days I find a writer who truly expands my financial horizons. Someone so clear and insightful that when we disagree I find myself re-evaluating my thinking. But what a thrill when I do.

Thrilling enough that I asked him to write the first (of only two) guest post on my Stock Series. It has proven to be one of the most popular and if you want to know what I really think about this guy, you’ll find it in my introduction there.

By the time Chautauqua rolls around, he’ll be traveling from Scotland to join us. But that doesn’t qualify him as our furthest flung speaker….

Go Curry Cracker pic

That international man of mystery above is none other than Jeremy, one half of the Go Curry Cracker team. He’ll be coming to us from ( “I’m going to sit in a flying tube of aluminum for 36 hours each way just to participate…”) Taiwan, where Winnie will be better occupied with their newest team member — the soon-to-be-born GCCjr.

I came across GCC about two years ago and was drawn in by what, to me, is the perfect international life. I couldn’t get enough of his travel posts and in my own journeys I just missed him in Mexico and then again in Guatemala.

Then, occasionally, he started including some financial ones. They blew me away! How about: Never Pay Taxes Again? Or reaching total financial freedom in 10 Years and a Day?

Would you like to travel the world financially carefree? Or sit on your porch sipping coffee and leisurely deciding what this day will bring?

In this session on becoming your own International Person of Mystery, Jeremy will show you exactly how team GCC uses the investing strategies of jlcollinsnh (aw, shucks) and the tax minimization strategies of the Mad Fientist to live a luxurious itinerant lifestyle for less than you might think.

This is theory put into action. And along those lines, later in the week and after our talks, MF, GCC and I will host a panel discussion to further explore with you how this all works together.


Then, of course, there’s me.

Here at jlcollinsnh we discuss mostly why you need F-you money and how to grow yours. In our conversations, Cheryl and I agree that money for the sake of money is almost completely uninteresting. But it is a wonderful tool, as AA, MMM, MF and GCC each illustrate everyday.

Financial independence allows for far greater freedom and range in the pursuit of happiness. That’s why my topic at both Chautauquas will be How to Harness the World’s Most Powerful Wealth Building Tool.

So these are your speakers and hosts. But unlike many events, we won’t be just getting up, giving our talks and disappearing. We’ll be hanging out with you all week, sharing meals and adventures. This is part of what makes these Chautauquas so special for us and for the attendees.

You’ll also have a chance to select one of us for a private one-on-one-session. Each will be an hour-long and you’ll have a chance to discuss whatever issues are most pressing for you.

To have time for these is one key reason why we limit attendance. While we’ll try to accommodate everybody’s first choice, slots will be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis. So if you want me, or if you want to be sure not to get stuck with me, you’ll want to sign up early.

Of course we’re not going to bring you to Ecuador and not explore a bit of it. Together we’ll:

Plus you’ll have plenty of free time to enjoy the pool, sauna, jacuzzi, hike or nap. If past Chautauquas are any guide, my guess is you’ll be doing all this hanging with your new friends. People who, like you, “get it.”

Speaking of giving back, as with every Chautauqua, a full 10% of all profits will go to the The Project One Corner.

Should you decide to join us, and I hope you do, here is the…

  • registration page for October 17-24: Mr. Money Mustache, Afford Anything, jlcollinsnh and Cheryl
  • registration page for October 24-31: Mad Fientist, Go Curry Cracker, jlcollinsnh and Cheryl

As before, attendance is limited. If the event you chose is filled, you’ll have the option to select the other or go on the wait list in case of cancellations.

Want to know more about what this adventure feels like?

Both posts also have links to what the other speakers and attendees have written.

And check out these posts from the other Chautauqua 2015 speakers:

Addendum 1: March 19, 2015

Exactly one week after this post went up, I have just received word both Chautauquas have sold out. We are thrilled and humbled at this incredible response. Last year it took two weeks.

But we also regret now having to turn people away. However, Cheryl will be compiling a “wait list” and if you are interested I strongly urge you to go to the registration pages (see links in the post) and put in your name. Life being life, it is not unusual for some to have to cancel as the time grows closer. No guarantees, but having your name on this list gets you a step closer.

And if not this year, hopefully we will see you in 2016!

Addendum 2:

How to travel to Ecuador for Free!

Or close to it. My pal Brad operates the blog Richmond Savers. He is a master at travel hacking and provides personal coaching in the art. He just emailed me generously offering to personally guide each Chautauqua attendee thru the process of hacking their travel to Ecuador for little or no cash outlay.

Plus, he is doing this for Free!

Not only will this potentially save you ~$1000 in airfare (depending on where you’re coming from), you’ll pick up valuable $$ saving skills for future travel.

If you are interested, after you register send Brad an email with “Chautauqua” in the subject line:

Note: Chautauqua 2016:

Dates, locations and speakers are set: Above the Clouds Retreats

Not sure when registration will open. Stay tuned!

Meanwhile, and unrelated to the Chautauquas, recently…

I hope you’ll check ’em out!

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Important Resources

  • Talent Stacker is a resource that I learned about through my work with Jonathan and Brad at ChooseFI, and first heard about Salesforce as a career option in an episode where they featured Bradley Rice on the Podcast. In that episode, Bradley shared how he reached FI quickly thanks to his huge paychecks and discipline in keeping his expenses low. Jonathan teamed up with Bradley to build Talent Stacker, and they have helped more than 1,000 students from all walks of life complete the program and land jobs like clockwork, earning double or even triple their old salaries using a Salesforce certification to break into a no-code tech career.
  • Credit Cards are like chain saws. Incredibly useful. Incredibly dangerous. Resolve to pay in full each month and never carry a balance. Do that and they can be great tools. Here are some of the very best for travel hacking, cash back and small business rewards.
  • Empower is a free tool to manage and evaluate your investments. With great visuals you can track your net worth, asset allocation, and portfolio performance, including costs. At a glance you'll see what's working and what you might want to change. Here's my full review.
  • Betterment is my recommendation for hands-off investors who prefer a DIFM (Do It For Me) approach. It is also a great tool for reaching short-term savings goals. Here is my Betterment Review
  • NewRetirement offers cool tools to help guide you in answering the question: Do I have enough money to retire? And getting started is free. Sign up and you will be offered two paths into their retirement planner. I was also on their podcast and you can check that out here:Video version, Podcast version.
  • Tuft & Needle (T&N) helps me sleep at night. They are a very cool company with a great product. Here’s my review of what we are currently sleeping on: Our Walnut Frame and Mint Mattress.


  1. Jamie V says

    I wish I could go! It sounds so amazing, right up my alley. I don’t think I’m in the right place yet to be able to go, yet I think going would help get me to that place. A feeling of being “trapped” might be a good word to use here. Maybe in another few years, if this program is still going strong and I’m in a better position.

    It sounds like it’s going to be a great time, there are awesome people going whose blogs I love reading, and to all those who are fortunate enough to go, have a great time!!!

    • Cindy says

      I agree! I hope to see the Chautauquas continue for several years, so that eventually I’ll be in a place to attend. One more motivation to keep following the path!

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Hi Cindy & Jamie…

      We’ll keep doing them as long as people want to come and we’re having fun!

      I applaud you for knowing this doesn’t quite work for you at the moment.

      When it does, it will be great to have you there!

  2. Mark says

    Wow, this sounds like a great time to be had. From the pictures alone, it looks like an amazing event, and I’ve never been to Ecuador. How many guests does it accomodate for each week? Thanks!

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Hi Mark…

      El Encanto is a bit smaller venue so we’ll only be able to handle ~20 at each, maybe a bit more if we get more couples. In the past we capped it at 25, but that was mostly so there would be a better (smaller) attendee to speaker ratio. This time it will be even better!

  3. Lucas says

    Good job putting this together, Jim and Cheryl.

    What a lineup! Choosing between week one and week two seems impossible! Considering that, it’s probably a good thing I’m not yet in the financial position to pay for a retreat (or two) like this 😉 I do have more than enough miles to be able to fly to Quito for pocket change, though (and it’s a low season ticket).

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Thanks Lucas…

      That’s why I’ll be at both!

      When the time comes, we’ll look forward to having you join us!

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Thanks FF!

      Just last night I had trouble sleeping just thinking about how lucky I am to get to hang out with people like this.

      And I do love Ecuador. 🙂

  4. Becky says

    Hi! I’m a recent blog reader and as soon as I saw you mention Chautauqua, I wanted to share this little bit of information. You may already know about it, but the University of North Carolina Wilmington publishes a literary journal in conjunction with the Chautauqua institute in New York. You can find it here if you think it would be something you’re interested in: I had the opportunity to work on the editing staff for a year and a half and it’s a really great group of staff and students that put the journal together. Just throwing it out there 🙂 And now back to perusing your financial advice to prepare for my impending graduation!

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Thanks Becky…

      and welcome to the blog!

      While I’ve never been, I am familiar with the Chautauqua institute in New York. In fact, it is where I first heard the term.

      When I was living and working in Cleveland in the 1980s, a business mentor of mine was deeply involved with the institute. He frequency encouraged me to go and I, stupidly, just never made the time.

      I’m not surprised you had a great experience working with them!

  5. Carlos says

    Hey Jim!

    I’ve registered for week two and have convinced David to join me! I think it will be a great way to open our collective minds as to the possibilities now that we’re FI.


    • jlcollinsnh says

      That is awesome, Carlos!

      I believe this makes you our first returning alum!

      And it’s great to hear David will be joining you.

      You also picked a good year for it: New venue and new adventures in Ecuador.

      Very much looking forward to seeing you again and to meeting David.

  6. Colleen says

    I’m a bit envious!

    And…. what a dilemma you all have. Which week!?!

    I went to the first Chautauqua and loved every minute of it. I was tempted to go back the next year. But thought maybe people would think I’m weird. And now… two back to back!

    I’ll bet money you’ll enjoy it.

    Missing Cheryl, Pete, J.D., Jim, and all who made it out to the first one!


    • jlcollinsnh says

      Hey Colleen…

      Great to hear from you! I’m surprised you’re still talking to us after your Shamanic Cleansing. 🙂

      Hope to have you back one of these times, if not this year, soon!

    • Cheryl says

      Miss you too Colleen!!! Thank you for the kind words. It warms my heart!! This years Shaman is much more tranquil and everyone partakes. It is very relaxing and Zen like……no spitting! Hope to see you again some day at another Chautauqua or at my guest house!!!

  7. Ellen G says

    this intrigues me – have followed MM’s advice for 1-1/2 hr. So helpful, as I’m 63y/0 and lost my retirement svgs -sad story sigh – haha. My only income is medicare, and my svgs are less than 10G. Not a good situation, but I’m trying every day! so, this sounds good for the soul as well as educational. I can only walk about 1 mile, would I be able to make it, or would that disqualify me in that region.
    I’d love to meet everyone!I definitely need advice!

    • Cheryl says

      Hi Ellen! This is Cheryl from Above the Clouds Retreats. You should be fine with all the activities except the zip-line which has some strenuous walking between cables. Hikes at the Hosteria are optional and everything else you need is close by. Hope to see you there!

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Hi Ellen…

      Like Cheryl, I think you’ll be able to handle the physical part just fine, as you are free to pick and chose what you want/are able to do. Of course, we are assuming you don’t have any health issues you haven’t mentioned.

      Your financial situation, however, gives me pause.

      Just to clarify, you say your “only income is medicare.” Medicare is the US health care system for those over 65 and the disabled. I assume you mean you are on Social Security?

      You also say that your savings are “less than 10G.” 10K = $10,000 and I assume that’s what you meant?

      Assuming my assumptions are correct, I’m guessing financial needs lead you to begin taking reduced SS payments at 62 or 63 and that your assets total 10K. You don’t mention any other investments or home ownership.

      Of course, I don’t know what your SS payments are or how well they cover your expenses. But it looks like you are retired and in a very lean financial situation at a time of life where replacing your assets would be very difficult.

      If you chose to come to Chautauqua, we would be delighted to have you and you will be most welcome. But if my understand is correct, in good conscience it is not something I can financially recommend.

  8. Ellen G says

    jlcollinsnh –
    you gave me the answer I was looking for – brutal honesty!
    As you deduced, you so very correct, I retired early due to disability and Social Security is now my only income. Every effort to return to work has failed! I keep trying but my health trips me up…I do have a condo worth 72K, balance of 51K, and a car I love, only 80K mile and its a 99 Buick Park Ave with brand new tires, great maintenance, no accidents, no it should last a long time.
    Well, I’m a happy person, I was taught hatha yoga by a good master for 2 years til I could go it alone. I stil practice. I practice meditation throughout the day whenever little irritations arise or just recall a teaching from Buddha or perhaps some other wise person.
    Wise people abound, and your gathering will be full of them.
    One question, right now, my 10 K is invested is split between 2 moderate risk mututal funds a shirt-tail relative recommended. He works for Franklin Templeton.
    Would it help me to pay a person for a sit down town for just plain old financial advice who does not sell a product?
    I just feel lost, and want that money to work right for me. All my family is gone, I do laugh, we were all kind of genetic failures – that was the family joke. No one had kids. But we laughed a lot when we got together.
    I do have great back up insurance from my former job – I got that going for me. So I am pretty lucky!

  9. Ellen G says

    jlcollinsnh –

    This is the corrected post – sorry about the first one, the Comment Editor wasn’t working –

    you gave me the answer I was looking for – brutal honesty!
    As you deduced, you so very correct, I retired early due to disability and Social Security is now my only income. Every effort to return to work has failed! I keep trying but my health trips me up…I do have a condo worth 72K, balance of 51K, and a car I love, only 80K mile and its a 99 Buick Park Ave with brand new tires, great maintenance, no accidents, no it should last a long time.
    Well, I’m a happy person, I was taught hatha yoga by a good master for 2 years til I could go it alone. I still practice. I practice meditation throughout the day whenever little irritations arise or just recall a teaching from Buddha or perhaps some other wise person.

    One question, right now, my 10 K is invested is split between 2 moderate risk mututal funds a young relative recommended and he works for Franklin Templeton.

    Would it help me to pay a person for a sit down town for just plain old financial advice who does not sell a product?

    I just feel lost, and want that money to work right for me.
    I don’t have family to advise me.

  10. Andrew says

    I have to admit, I’m somewhat confused. I thought this year’s trip already happened in February? Is this the first time you are introducing a fall edition of the trip as well? I’m very interested!

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Hi Andrew…

      It is the other way around.

      Traditionally we’ve held one Chautauqua in the Fall. So February is the outlier.

      This is the first year we’ve done two back-to-back

      Great that you are interested!

      #1 is almost sold out and #2 is filling quickly….

      MF just put up his post on it:

  11. The Bob's says

    Jim, I have to tell you that Bob and I had a great time at Chautauqua 2015 this year. As you know, it was the first time out of the country for us and hanging out with like minded folks concerning FU and FI made it all the better.

    It was truly a pleasure meeting you, Jeremy and Brandon and all the other attendees. I feel we made some long lasting friendships while getting different perspectives on Financial Independence and retirement as well. Also, compliments to Cheryl Reed for putting the event together. Thanks again and 33. 😉

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Hi Bob…

      Glad to hear you, and Bob, both had a fine time. I wasn’t sure we’d ever see you again as we left you stranded on the dock in the Galapagos. 😉

      I think there are a lot of elements that go into making these Chautauquas the awesome events they are: Ecuador, the exotic resort, the cool excursions, the speakers, the one-on-one sessions. But mostly, it is….

      …meeting and hanging out with the great people who chose to come. Like you guys! 🙂


      • The Bob's says

        33 days left until I walk out of work forever. 12/31

        Thanks in part to the words of wisdom from you and others to be known the “Bloggers 3” for which I’m eternally grateful.

        Now, lets travel!

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Not yet!

      This has become the problem with Chautauqua these days, not enough spots. 😉

      Best idea is to keep checking the Above the Clouds Retreats website.

      Good luck, and hope to see you there!

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