7 Days in Heaven: or Why Slowing Down Will Get You There Sooner

Ettington Park, Stratford upon Avon, UK: Our venue for Chautauqua XII, 2019

Photo by  JT Olmstead

Last week we wrapped up Chautauqua XII, returning once again the the United Kingdom and one of our very favorite venues. The chapel on this property was under construction in the 12th century, fitting for my twelfth Chautauqua. Shakespeare not only stayed here back in the day, that balcony you can see in the picture was the inspiration for the famous scene in Romeo and Juliet.

It is an incredible place and, as they did when we first came in 2017, the staff out did themselves with kind attention and amazing food.

We also made a bit of history ourselves. While returning Chautauquans have become rather common and, indeed, Kathy and Brett will be joining us for their third in Portugal come September, Tyler has done something that surprised even us. Although until last week he had never joined us before, he signed up for both the UK and Portugal, making him the first to attend two events in the same year.

When I asked him why, he said “FI is a passion of mine, I knew I was going to take two vacations this year and I figured what you guys organized would be far better than anything I came up with on my own.” Later in the week: “Wow. This exceeded even my high expectations!”

Chautauqua does that with a regularity that surprises even me. There is life-changing magic to this event, and I have tried to describe it many times. But there is nothing like hearing directly from one who joined us not quite knowing what to expect. Which leads us to today’s guest post…


7 Days in Heaven

or, Why Slowing Down Will Get You There Sooner

by Elisabeth Andrews

We’re a strange breed of cult, we FI aspirants. We put our faith in mathematics. We advocate both temperance and hedonism. And we derive our lessons from not just one leader who has ascended to the afterlife, but growing legions. 

More surprising still, we find that when we’re face-to-face with these luminaries, they universally downplay the significance of the transition. 

By all means, join us, they say. But you don’t have to be in such a damn hurry. 

Despite what you might think, the strongest determinant of the quality of your life in FI is the quality of your life before it. 

Wait, what?

It’s not what I thought I’d hear when I signed up for Chautauqua, the far-flung week-long FI-fest organized by JL Collins and Katie and Alan Donegan. I anticipated an agenda of acceleration: top tips for futureproofing my asset allocation and next-level strategies for doubling my savings rate.

Instead, JL Collins told me to stop trying to buy when the market’s down. The Mad FIentist assured me that my husband’s discretionary spending is not an issue. Jillian from Montana Money Adventures said I need to focus on bringing more joy into each year – starting now, not when I reach my FI number. 

They all had the same message: Reaching financial independence is not really the point. Once you’re headed in that direction, you can stop obsessing about it. And I believed them – because, for that blissful week, I had already arrived. 

Here’s what happens at Chautauqua: You walk into a room and all the bloggers you’ve been following are at a table, eating breakfast, and they’ve reserved a chair for you. You sit down, star struck, yet are immediately welcomed into the conversation. 

Incredibly, they seem as interested in you as you are in them. Moreover, as each new attendee arrives, you find that they are just as fascinating – and just as friendly – as the speakers. By the third day together, you’re certain you’ve formed a lifelong bond with each Chautauquan. 

It sounds too good to be true. The experience is positively surreal. I’ve never had a social encounter like it. The last few days of high school and the first few days of college come closest, charged as they were with extroverted optimism, but Chautauqua exceeds by an order of magnitude. There was no competition. There was no self-consciousness. It was simply and purely supportive. 

In a sense, everything else about the trip was icing. The gorgeous English manor, the decadent food, and the memorable excursions were all secondary to the unfathomably powerful sense of belonging. The presentations, which were enlightening and extraordinary, felt less “sage on a stage” and more, “Yay, our buddy Carl’s on the mic. Go Carl!” 

If you can imagine watching the Playing with Fire documentary next to Kristy Shen of Millennial Revolution – and not feeling awkward about it, even when she sees herself onscreen and shouts, “Don’t listen to her!” – you’re starting to get the idea.

I had come on the trip to learn more about reaching FI. Instead, I had bypassed FI and gone straight for its ultimate purpose: enjoying community and long, full days spent exactly as I wanted.

Paradoxically, I even came out of retirement. Although I still work full time, I ended a 12-year fitness career several years ago. At Chautauqua, through a game of telephone in which one person to whom I had mentioned this background told others who told others, I wound up teaching a yoga class in the manor’s library. In my normal life, I don’t have the time or emotional energy to offer this service. It was remarkable to see how easily it came back to me, and how readily I gave my energy when my cup felt so full.  

On the last night of the gathering, I asked JL how it was possible for everyone to get along so well. He said he’d given the matter some thought, because this same phenomenon happens with each Chautauqua. 

His theory is that the conditions of the gathering attract the most dedicated and open-minded participants. Chautauqua is expensive, particularly for those of us inclined to audit our costs using the 4% rule (I’d have to invest $86,000 in order to go every year!). You need to take time away from work, gain access to a foreign country, and arrange child care if you’re a parent. All these constraints demand a high level of commitment to the enterprise. At the same time, the organizers explicitly seek a diverse group and welcome people of all religions, genders, and sexual orientations, which “filters out the bigots,” JL says. 

I have an additional hypothesis. As I spoke with our group of 40 attendees and speakers representing a wide range of professions, locations, and socioeconomic backgrounds, I realized that FI can be an incredible equalizer. Your FI number might be much higher than mine, but if we’re both FI, we’ve both made it. You may have gotten there on a much higher salary than mine, but in the logic of FI that’s not a measure of superiority. It can even be the opposite: reaching FI without a high income is perhaps the most impressive achievement. 

This radical equality erases any sense of scarcity; we were fascinated with one another’s stories and strategies, delighted to share our own, and eager to learn all we could from each other. 

As I head home from this experience – writing presently in the JFK airport between London and my final destination – I’m hoping to take with me that sense of openness and connection. My previous nose-to-the-grindstone, block-out-all-distractions attitude won’t get me to FI any faster. 

The more I can stay in this space of community, warmth, and gratitude, the more I welcome the benefits of FI into my life right now. And that mindset – not the money itself – is what will make my happiness possible in the future.  


The magic of Chautauqua is in the people it attracts and, in the writing of her piece, Elisabeth gives us an insight in to herself. While every person who attends is unique, she is a wonderful example of a Chautauquan. I am honored to now have her as a friend.

Here’s some of that “decadent food” she mentions…

Photos by Monnica Han Kim

And here’s the Ettington Chapel started in the 12th Century…

Photo by JT Olmstead

Ettington Park under moody skies (I love this shot!)…

 Photo by Angel Morales

The Long Gallery where we sometimes dined and sometimes gathered for our talks…

Photo by JT Olmstead

*All photos taken by Chautauquans


More from Elizabeth:

Long-term growth mindset: A cautionary tale from parenting


Here’s Mr. 1500 Days’ take on the event:

UK Chautauqua: FI Peeps, Scarce Sleep, and Lots of Sheep

(no one titles a post quite like Mr. 1500!)

Here’s attendee Brian on his experience:

Forging Finance: 2019 FI Chautauqua

“Chautauqua is planned, coordinated and hosted by the best in the biz…”

Millennial Revolution:

Chautauqua UK 2019: A week together with our tribe

“Ettington Park Hotel…It’s tempting to look at the pictures of this place and describe it as just a ‘Fancy English Manor,’ but a more accurate description is ‘Fancy English Manor Steeped in History That May Also Be Haunted.’”

From attendee Trisha Ray:

FI Chautauqua and the cost of living on a boat in the south of France

“Beautiful location, well organized, and – a perfect time to be in the UK. 
It was fun – there was a murder mystery, a Shakespeare play, Oxford nearby, sticky toffee pudding – and the library had a proper secret door.”
There is even a picture of me as a young man cutting turf in Ireland. 
From attendee Ed:

UK Chautauqua — Escaping Silicon Valley

“Only if you live your life against the grain would you understand.”

From Kathy:

FI Chautauqua Revisited: Why I Love These People

“There’s something about being with a group of open-minded, positive people that spurs creativity…encouraged to see the possibilities beyond our own limiting beliefs.”

This one is about Greece, 2018 — Kathy and Brett’s second Chautauqua. They are joining us in Portugal 2019 for their third!

Check back. I’ll link to more as they get written.


If you think you’d like to join us at Chautauqua:

FI Chautauqua


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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.
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  • 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.
  • Vanguard.com


  1. Dave @ Accidental FIRE says

    So true, I find that I generally have to travel somewhere, be it a foreign country or simply the mountains, and get out of my routine and comfort zone to really block out all distractions and obtain more clarity. Of course leaving the phone off and staying away from screens helps too.

    Looks like a great time and now I’m hungry 🙂

    • Elisabeth says

      I agree Dave, I was just looking over my notes on Jillian Johnsrud’s presentation and was really surprised by the clarity I had on how I want my life to look. Hooray for retreat time.

  2. Gwen @ Fiery Millennials says

    I can safely say attending my first Chautauqua in 2015 changed the course of my life for the better in ways I can’t even begin to measure. I feel the same about my second on in 2017! I encourage everyone who can make it to think about going. You won’t be the same afterwards!

    • Elisabeth says

      Gwen, it’s great to know you enjoyed your second Chautauqua as much as the first! It’s hard to imagine having the experience with a different group of people but I’d love to go again!

  3. Kpeds says

    Elisabeth is reminding us that the goal isn’t necessarily FI but rather a life we enjoy living. The best of both worlds would be a FI lifestyle that you are happy to enjoy and will eventually get you to your FI number.

    • Carl says

      It’s very difficult to explain what a week at Chautauqua is like. The best word that comes to mind is something that makes me want to barf when I hear people say it, but I’ll say it anyway; magical.

      The food is great. So are the accommodations and the sightseeing. The interactions, the conversation, the ideas that bloom over the course of the week, the lightbulbs that you notice flickering on in peoples’ heads; it’s magical. It’s very difficult to describe, but you know it when you experience it.

      I’m so thankful that I’ve been able to attend Chautauqua.

      • Chad Hill aka(TagAlong) says

        Carl is one of the most humble guys out there.

        I found myself at ease in everyone’s presence at the event.

        As I look at all the people including Carl who I met at Chautauqua, what I realized is Chautauquans come together, gathering and developing into a kind of tribe of individuals who desire independence from burdens.

        Most still have a deep desire to chase a dream, I wish to maximize time with my Triplets. Others desire the ability to travel the World as a Digital Nomad and live a life of adventure. Some simply want to chase a dream of creating or working their dream job free of worry and stress.

        What I found is no matter how different everyone was, everybody wanted to help one another. Chautauquas go beyond what you normally find at conferences and the attendees genuinely and openly seemed excited about helping and encouraging others to gain confidence in what they are doing as well as reassuring them they have a support group to help them achieve the success they desire.

  4. SUE REYNOLDS says

    What a wonderful essay. I keep putting off attending (mainly because my work flipping houses, most recently here in Mexico, has had me very busy) and because I wondered if my age would put me so far above the average attendee. But now I see that is not true. Also, a “bigot-free” zone is incredibly important to me in this crushing period of hatred. I am FI, but there is still so much to learn! Thanks to everyone who arranges these events…hope to see you soon. (Any chance Mexico is on the horizon?)

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Hi Sue…

      Sounds like you’d fit in perfectly.

      No plans for Mexico.

      Nothing carved in stone, but looks like we’ll go to Croatia and return to Portugal for 2020.

    • Elisabeth says

      Thank you, Sue. We had a wide range of ages from early 20s to late 60s. I hope you get a chance to go next year!

  5. Elisabeth Andrews says

    Thank you, JL Collins, for sharing my guest post. Talking with you was among my very favorite parts of the trip. Never has learning been such a pleasure. I’m honored that you would use the F word referring to me … friend. 😉

    • jlcollinsnh says

      The honor is mine, Elisabeth.

      You, and those like you, who come to Chautauqua are what make it so special. 🙂

  6. Nicole Tirapelli says


    I am very interested in attending one of the Chautauqua’s this year. Are there any spaces available? If not, is there a waiting list I can add my name to?

    Warm Regards,
    Nicole Tirapelli

  7. Mr C says

    This brings back great memories! Wish we could have been there and sounds like it lived up to the incredibly high bar Jim has set.

    Elisabeth – great write up. Could just as easily have described our week in Greece

    • Elisabeth says

      Mr C, that’s so cool to hear it’s just the same at each Chautauqua. I remember JL saying he could drop anyone from our group into one of the previous groups, or anyone from a previous group into our group, and we’d fit right in just as we had with our cohort. An amazing phenomenon. As Carl says, magical.

  8. RocDoc says

    My husband and I are going to our first Chautauqua in Ecuador November 2019. Reading Elisabeth’s impressions makes me so happy we’re going to have this experience.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Hi RocDoc…

      While I expect and hope you will have a wonderful time in Ecuador, please understand that the events there are entirely different from ours.

      My last involvement with Ecuador was in 2017. There were none there in 2018. I have no way of knowing what these planned for 2019 will entail or how they will be run.

      The only Chautauquas that I can vouch for and that are run to my specifications are those here: https://www.fichautauqua.com

  9. FireReadyAim says

    Welp, it looks like I’m going to just have to do this next year. The trouble will be convincing my wife, who wonders why, if we are trying to reach FI, that we should spend money to go talk to others who are trying/have already done the same thing…I get it, just haven’t figured out how to help her to get it. At least she is coming with me to FinCon this year…

    • Elisabeth says

      Hi FireReadyAim, that’s certainly a valid concern, and if it would be any kind of financial hardship I would recommend waiting until the trip does not uncomfortably stretch the budget. I tend to think like your wife but over time the opportunity to talk with like-minded people about FI became very valuable to me. My husband is supportive of my efforts but not especially interested in FI, and because we each maintain our own accounts for discretionary spending, I saved mine up to afford Chautauqua and he stayed home and did the parenting. There were several of us on the trip who came without our spouses for one reason or another, and several couples as well, which is all to say that there are many ways to work it out depending on your situation. I hope you both have a great time at FinCon! I have yet to check that out…

      • Triplet Mom says

        Hi FireREadyAim,
        Elisabeth is on point. I was one of the attendees at UK-2019. I was on the same boat. I’ve been into FI stuff since 2012 and thought my husband wasn’t as interested with the articles I shared. On the first day of the meet-up, I actually introduced him as the reluctant spouse (I have since apologized for this error). This trip made me do a double take. He asked questions that were a lot more in depth coming from a person who I thought was not into it. He knew nothing of the speakers’ bios. I figured this way he will create unbiased conclusions, insight and experience for himself. I, on the other hand, was star struck. Even if my husband wasn’t as gung-ho as I was, he so enjoyed the trip. Chautauquas are more than a financial retreat. It is truly a gathering of people who are supportive and positive. There are lots of aspects at Chautauquas that would entertain a person. The lodgings, activities and conversations during the day and I’d like to add, all hours into the night, make for a fascinating week. If you can save up for this trip for both of you, it might help her see you and your cause in a different light. My mother volunteered to care for my 4 year old triplets so my husband can attend this life changing gathering. Good luck. This trip gave my marriage a boost. Hope it will do the same for you.

  10. Kevin says

    It is a wonderful and life changing experience. Great post. Great pics. Great food! Maybe one day….we will attend our 2nd Chautauqua. Until then…I enjoy reading about what other folks have to say about their experiences.

  11. Marc Leach says

    I’ve devoured your blog since December and shared your book with our community (Keep Your Daydream on YouTube). My wife and I would love to join you for the next Chautauqua. What is the secret knock to get more information? 😉 -Marc

  12. FIRECracker says

    Love Elisabeth’s write-up! It hasn’t even been a whole week since Chautauqua ended and I’m already getting severe withdrawal symptoms. I guess that’s expected whenever you spend a whole week with the best people in the world. I miss everyone already. My chautauqua reflections post is coming up and I can’t wait for chautauqua Portugal! The wait feels too long!

  13. Frank says


    Can you explain this a little further?

    “Instead, JL Collins told me to stop trying to buy when the market’s down.”

    I’m obsessed with buying only when the market is down. How did you break this mindset?

    Thank you

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Hi Frank,

      Thanks for your comment!

      Mr. Collins is currently traveling and unable to respond just now.

      We find for most questions, he has already covered the topic. Using the Search button might very well provide your answer.

    • Elisabeth says

      Hi Frank! I had been holding on to a lot of cash to try to buy whenever there was a drop. Problem was, as JL pointed out, that meant I was missing most of the growth. Even with my monthly contributions, I would wait for some kind of down signal to time my contribution within that month. He told me, “You’re playing for nickels and dimes.” Somehow that was line that got through to me. More recently I saw a study, I wish I could remember where, that compared what would have happened if you had 1) invested a set amount at the same time each month over a period of 10 or 20 years to 2) having invested twelve times that monthly amount at the lowest market point in each of those years. The difference was much smaller than I would have expected. Negligible, or, one might say, “nickels and dimes.”

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