Chautauqua 2015 Reviews, 2016 registration open


Mi lindo Ecuador

This is getting to be hard.

2016 is the fourth year we’ve been doing this and will see us present the fifth and sixth Chautauquas come November.

I’ve written several posts now talking about how wonderful these things are. And, really, how many ways can I say it?

Below I’ll run thru the past ways, and in the process give you a bit of history as to how the Chautauquas came to be. But first let’s take a look at the most recent from last October, as perhaps best told by those who were there.

One of the key things attendees experience is the chance to meet and hang out with some very interesting people like themselves.

This year three banded together to produce a short 3-minute video on their experience. It is a beautiful overview, especially of the excursions around Ecuador and the community service project that are part of the trip.

Directed by Joan @ Meister’s Balogna

Edited by Brian @ Inner Parakeet

Music by Prentice @ Sound Cloud

Chautauqua networking in action!

Frequently folks not actually on the financial freedom path view it as one of dismal deprivation focused on denial of living life today to save money for tomorrow. That’s not what I see.

Looking at this video you’ll get a glimpse of what we really look like. Happy, engaged, energetic and certainly not deprived. These are people very probably much like you, and in terms of wealth they fall all along the FI path. FI expands life and makes it better.

You don’t have to be a blogger to attend, and most are not. But a couple were, and here’s their take:

From Gwen (Fiery Millennials):

Chautauqua 2015, Gwen 1

“I might have traveled by myself on the way down to Ecuador, but on the way home I was part of one of the best groups of people I could’ve asked for.”

“You can hear the river rushing through the bottom of the valley if the birds aren’t being too noisy. We were up high enough we could see the clouds being created below us, and oftentimes around us as well.”

Chautauqua 2015: An FI Haven in Ecuador

Chautauqua 2015 Gwen 2

“He had lots of other great advice to offer as well…even if he did make fun of me for being distracted by a cow.”

“To be surrounded by such a supportive and encouraging group of people for an entire week…… I don’t know if I can describe the impact it had on me. It was literally life changing though.”

Lessons from the Chautauqua

From Julie (Millennial Boss):

Chautauqua 2015 Julie 1 MMM-chautauqua-e1453261929495-576x1024

Chautauqua 2015 julie 2 crater-cafe-ecuador-768x512

“Crazy thoughts started spinning in my brain. ‘What if we can’t find the group when we arrive?’ ‘Even worse, what if this is a scam?’”

“There is a couple who run an Airbnb, a woman who is just a few years out from retirement, a man who made his nest egg through real estate. There is a couple where one is 3 months from retirement and the other has to work a little longer. There is a guy who has been retired for years and a young woman who is just a few years ahead of us on the savings plan.”

“Everyone was at different stages along the path to financial independence and everyone was getting there or had already gotten there in a different way.”

“I was a bit insecure going into the Chautauqua that I didn’t have much knowledge to offer to the other participants versus what I would gain from them but two minutes with this group washed away that fear.”

Review of Chautauqua 2015

From Jeremy (Go Curry Cracker):

Chautauqua 2015 GCC

“…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.'”

“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.”

Chautauqua 2015, A Love Story

So that’s a taste of the Chautauquas just past. As promised, let’s take walk thru their history.


Meet me in Ecuador?

In October, 2012 I wrote the post above letting my readers know I was headed back to Ecuador to meet Cheryl and to discuss with her the possibility of creating these retreats. I didn’t yet know what to call them.

I promised to report back.


Meet Mr. Money Mustache, JD Roth, Cheryl Reed and me for a Chautauqua in Ecuador

Four months later, in February 2013, I did in the post above. In it I introduced the concept of a Chautauqua, and that old word as the name for this new event. Also introduced were the speakers and the agenda. A month and three days later it was sold out. These days it takes about a week.

Almost immediately, I began to worry. What if the people who come hate it? Worse yet, what if they are whiny complainypants and I hate them?

Oh well, at least the revenue from it would allow Cheryl to pay to rebuild a local family’s house destroyed in an earthquake. That’s it and them and us in the picture below.


Chautauqua 2013: A week of dreams

In September 2013 in the post above I recapped the adventure. Turns out I need not have worried. That first Chautauqua, and each one since, has attracted remarkable, interesting and engaging people.

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.
  • 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.

Since then the attendees have continued to be equally diverse and even more geographically extended. You might think such wide-ranging groups would be a recipe for conflict. You would be wrong.

By their own account, this had been one of the best weeks of their lives. Indeed, for many, the best.

Where was the magic? The activities, the speaker presentations, the one-on-one sessions, the resort or Ecuador itself? Nope, although all got rave reviews. What each attendee ranked at the very top was: “Each other.”

As one so aptly put it: “I’ve found my tribe.”

For the first time they got to spend a week hanging around with others who “get it.” That’s not something they experience in their day-to-day lives where walking this financial independence path makes you very much the odd one out.

The same has been true for each group since.


Chautauqua 2014 Preview

Clearly, this wasn’t destined to be a one time thing. In February 2014 I put up the post above announcing Chatauqua #2 scheduled for August of that year.

Worrier that I am, I immediately became concerned that #1 had been a fluke and that #2 couldn’t possibly measure up.

Chautauqua 2014, jumping

Chautauqua 2014: Lighting Strikes Again

I was wrong and in September 2014 I had the happy task of reporting that lighting had indeed struck again. Looked like we were on to something here.

 With demand growing, rather than dilute our guests’ experience by expanding attendance, we decided to offer two back-to-back for 2015:


Chautauqua October 2015: Times Two!

If you viewed the video and read the links at the beginning of this post, you know these were again a smashing success. So, again, for 2016 we are doing two back-to-back.

As before, attendance is limited to 25 so that these remain small enough to provide the chance for all of us to really engage with each other during the week. But this also means they sell out very quickly, so if you are interested you’ll want to register right now.

November 5-12, 2016

At Hacienda Cusin in Otavalo


November 12-19, 2016

At  El Encanto Hosteria in Los Bancos



While we would love to have you, please don’t come unless it is something you can easily afford. Certainly not if you are still in debt and certainly not if you’d have to borrow to do it.

Here are still other past takes on this event:

Hope to see you later this year in mi lindo Ecuador!

Unrelated items of note…

Important Resources:

  • (unfortunately Vanguard doesn’t have an affiliate program)
  • Personal Capital* 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
  • YNAB* has the best budgeting tools going and just might be the Best Place to Work Ever
  • Tuft & Needle helps me sleep at night. Unfortunately they are no longer an affiliate, but still a very cool company and a great product.

*These are affiliate links and should you chose to do business with them, this blog will earn a small commission.

Personal Capital special Valentine’s Day promotion: Any new user who signs up between Friday, Feb 5th and Valentine’s Day Feb 14th is eligible to win a free trip for two to Hawaii. That’s right. A free trip to Hawaii! The prize is $2000 for roundtrip airfare and $1000 for accommodations. Any new user is eligible, so long as you link an investment account. It doesn’t matter how much money you have — you just need to sign up and link.

Of course, you don’t want to do this just to enter a contest. That’s not the jlcollinsnh way! 🙂 But if you are thinking of giving them a try anyway, now is a good time. Good luck!

More Hawaii:

Come April we are planning to meet our daughter who is serving in the Peace Corp for about a week in Hawaii. We’re coming from NH and she from SE Asia so it seemed a good choice. Plus none of us have been there before.

If you have and you have some suggestions, please fill me in. Here’s what we are looking for:

We are not tourists in that we don’t feel the need to run around and see everything. We’d be looking for a beautiful spot with few people, a beach to walk and good restaurants to settle into for ~a week. If it was completely walkable, a short Uber ride from the airport and we could skip car rental, all the better.

Also, if someone there is willing to put together a reader meet-up, I’m game!


Check out my latest podcast, and the first where I get to ask the questions!

Scavenger Life with Jay and Ryanne

Past Post Update, January 20, 2016:

Last October I did a post on: (not an affiliate, just cool)

Todd just added two cool new features:

  • Stock Wars: A tool that allows you to compare the performance of two stocks and/or funds.
  • Quizzes: I took both. I’m a “goat” in the first and a “coyote” in the second. You can do better. I dare ya!

Unrelated, but here’s what I’m currently or have just finished reading and enjoyed:

Turbo Capitalism

If you are interested in income inequality, this poorly titled (should have been Unfettered Capitalism – more accurate and more descriptive) book is a great discussion of the pros and cons of our current system. Luttwak clearly has his own biases, but is remarkably evenhanded in presenting both sides.

Written in the late 1990s, it is a bit of a time capsule and fun to see how the past 20 years have actually unfolded.

Leave it to Psmith

“Crime not objected to.”

One of my favorite characters from a favorite author. If you like it, here are two more:

Mike and Psmith

Psmith Journalist

Jack Reacher roams around the country carrying only a folding toothbrush. When his clothes get dirty he buys new ones. Oh, and he kills lots of bad guys. “Make Me” is the most recent in the series, but not the best. That might be this one:

First line: “People do not give it credence that a fourteen-year-old girl could leave home and go off in the wintertime to avenge her father’s blood but it did not seem so strange then, although I will say it did not happen every day.”

Last Line: “This ends my true account of how I avenged Frank Ross’s blood over in the Choctaw Nation when snow was on the ground.”

How we came to be what we are, behave the way we do and believe what we believe. My favorite in this group.

Where people who live to be 100+ live, how they live and what they eat.

Bad monkeys are Sapiens that need killing, and Jane is on the job. If you are already paranoid, you might want to skip chapter: white room (iv)

Why the future might be incredibly good. Unless the grey goo gets us.

This might be the most enlightening and entertaining take on American history I’ve yet to read.

And here are some of my all time favorites:

The book that has most influenced how I live my life.

Deceptively simple, but really all you need to know about becoming wealthy.

Very possibly my all-time favorite novel.

“The Fall of Edward Barnard” is very possibly my all-time favorite short story.

Perfect for the readers of this blog.

“Bartleby the Scrivener” is very possibly my all-time favorite novella. Don’t be put off if you struggled with Melville’s “Moby Dick.” This is a much better and easier read. Plus it will teach you the most important phrase in the English language:

“I would prefer not to.”

*If you click on the books you’ll go to Amazon, an affiliate partner. Should you choose buy them, or anything else while you there, this blog will receive a small commission. This doesn’t affect what you pay.

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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. Cherry Lane says

    I had such a grand time in October I wish I could return this year! I think I’ll plan to be Karl-esque instead and try to return in a few years (if you’re still doing these) as a FIRE-practitioner.

  2. Gwen says

    I wish I could go again! One day I won’t be constrained by BigNamelessCorp’s vacation policies.

    To be fair, that cow was getting walked down the side of an incredibly busy highway.

  3. Kyle says

    Thinking about going. I haven’t really gone anywhere for a vacation since I went to China 11 years ago. Geez they do sell out fast, looks like all the single spots are sold out.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Indeed they do.

      We could easily fill twice as many slots in each, which would of course be far more profitable for Cheryl’s business.

      But then it wouldn’t be the same experience that attendees rave about.

      Don’t hesitate to put your name on the wait list. I met several people there last year who did and had a spot open up.

  4. Lisa says

    Will we need immunization to go to this area if we haven’t traveled in this area or any others requiring them? If so which ones.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      As far as I know Lisa…


      At least we never have for Ecuador. We did for Bolivia a couple of years ago but I don’t recall which. We had been told it was a visa requirement, but no one ever checked the documents.

      But you want to check with your doctor and then decide.

  5. Tracy L. says

    I live in Hawaii, and coincidentally am from New England and went to college in NH! Franklin Pierce…

    My husband and I have lived on Kauai for almost 10 years now. We’re hoping in another 10 years, we can retire early to the mainland.

    Kauai is beautiful and one of the most rural and unpopulated islands, but not very walkable. There’s sections that are, Poipu, Hanalei, and Kapaa, so those could work for you, but there’s so much more to see around the island.

    I’m not sure how active Uber is in the islands… Another place we liked where we could stay put in one area was Lahaina on Maui. It was very walkable and had some cute B&Bs, nice ocean frontage, and tons of restaurants.

    Another small, beautiful area we’ve been to is Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii. Kona is a mix of small town and small city, but the island as a whole is still very rural and less populated. However the volcano is on the other side of the island from Kona and that is a must see, in my opinion.

    I would steer clear of Oahu, unless you want to travel an hour+ from the airport and stay on the more rural side. But traffic even in the smaller towns can be awful.

    Let me know if you have any questions! I am actually travelling to Japan in April (my first real trip outside of the US), but if your visit is while I am here, I would be interested in a reader meet up! Let me know. Really enjoy your blog and advice, thanks!

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Thanks Tracy!

      What took you to Kauai and, if I may ask, what do you do there? And why retire to the mainland? Aren’t you already in paradise?? 🙂

      Your comments confirm some of the things I’ve been told, so very helpful. Lahaina on Maui is what we are currently leaning toward, pending any additional info. It sounds like it fits our bill pretty perfectly while Kauai would be a bit too quiet.

      Glad you like the blog! It would be a pleasure to meet you if you are around. We will be there mostly likely the week of April 24th.

      • Tracy L. says

        Aloha! My husband’s job took us to Kauai, he is a helicopter pilot. We only thought we’d stay a year or so for him to get some time in that helicopter, but he landed an even better job so 10 years later we’re still here. We’re both contractors on a Navy base here now, I got a job doing budgets shortly after he got his job.

        The problem with paradise is the cost of living! Rent, food, vehicles, gas, you name it! (Milk really is $8 a gallon) After discovering all these personal finance blogs and your Stock Series, I crunched some numbers. We can retire a whole lot sooner if we retire to the mainland in an area with a lower cost of living. With high incomes in Hawaii, we can both max out our 401Ks and contribute to Roths and taxable accounts. We’re just trying to sock as much money away while we can. But an important reason we want to retire to the mainland is to be near family and friends again. We’ve too often had to go a long time without seeing them while living here. It’s harder than we thought to convince people to come visit!

        Lahaina on Maui is a great choice! We went scuba diving out of there and we walked everywhere every single day. We stayed at a great bed and breakfast there called the Plantation Inn, but there are a lot of great places all around. I think you’ll like Lahaina a lot.

        I will be back from Japan by the week of April 24th, so that might possible… Would be nice to see if there’s any other readers around too!

        • jlcollinsnh says

          Aloha Tracy!

          The more we learn, the more we are leaning toward Lahaina. Sounds tailor made for us.

          I can see why you’ll want to move to the mainland. I’ve even met folks in Ecuador who moved from Hawaii because of the costs.

          We had the same experience moving to NH. Beautiful place and we thought we’d have many guests. Didn’t happen. 🙂

  6. Millennial Boss says

    Just a word of encouragement for those who want to go to Chautauqua but the week they want is sold out – my fiance and I both made it in off the waiting list! It can happen!
    Thanks for the link to my review, Jim! We had such a great time!

  7. jlcollinsnh says

    My pleasure, MB…

    It was a great post and I hope some traffic for it came your way.

    Thanks for joining us in Ecuador last year. You guys helped make it great!

    Good point about the waiting list!

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Sorry Jacinta…

      While you can wait list for 2016, registrations for 2017 won’t be open until about this time next year.

      Hope to see you at one!

  8. FiveSigmas says

    Hey, Jim.

    Reading this post reminds me we’ll miss you again this year at Camp Mustache…

    Hopefully the fine folks running CM can snag you one of these years? 🙂

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Hi FS…

      Everything I’ve heard about Camp Mustache makes it sound like a treat.

      While it hasn’t worked out so far, on of these days I would love to go!

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