A week exploring money and meaning!

Howdy, friends! This summer, there will be another chautauqua on financial independence in Ecuador. You should consider attending. These Ecuador chautauquas — which are unrelated to the European chautauquas — are always a fun, educational, and bonding experience.

Clarification: At some point, chautauqua founders Cheryl Reed and JL Collins parted ways. Now JL runs the European chautauquas — which are on hiatus — with Katie and Alan Donegan. Cheryl continues to run the unrelated Ecuador gatherings. Both events are excellent.

I often speak about the intersection of money and meaning when I attend.

A much younger J.D. expostulating on money and meaning

How can you find purpose in your life — with or without money? How much money is enough? What should you do after you’ve achieved financial independence? These are the sorts of questions I’ve explored at past chautauqua events. I expect these are the same questions being explored in July.

Speakers this year include:

  • Tanja Hester from Our Next Life. Tanja Hester is an outspoken voice in the personal-finance community, working hard to challenge assumptions and to promote financial freedom for all. She’s the author of the excellent Work Optional and the award-winning Wallet Activism. (Tanja is also a fellow office-supply nerd. Seriously, our chat history is filled with geeky discussions of favorite pens and notebooks.)
  • Piggy and Kitty (a.k.a. Jess and Lauren) from Bitches Get Riches. Long-time readers know that BGR is one of my favorite money blogs. I admire how Jess and Lauren blend biting humor with deep dives into personal-finance topics. Not an easy task. And the Bitches are just as funny in person as they are on the web. (I turn to Piggy and Kitty when I need help with modern pop culture. “What does S-tier mean?” “How do I make a Taylor Swift animated GIF?”)
  • Jessica and Corey from The Fioneers. While I’ve met Jessica and Corey, I’ve never really had a chance to get to know them. I’m eager to change that in Ecuador. I find their writing considered and thoughtful. I’m particularly fond of their concept of Slow FI, the notion that you can use “the incremental financial freedom [you] gain along the journey to financial independence to live happier and healthier lives, do better work, and build strong relationships”. This meshes well with my own vision of the stages of financial freedom. (Last Halloween, Jessica and Corey published an interview with me: Money doesn’t magically fix our problems.)

And, of course, we’ll enjoy a presentation from our host, Cheryl Reed. Cheryl founded these money chautauquas with JL Collins in 2013 and she’s hosted ten of them in the past. She likes to discuss happiness and joy and how to develop it in your life.

If you’re interested in attending this chautauqua, you can find more information at the official website. Note that there are two gatherings in Ecuador this year. If it doesn’t work to join this one, perhaps you can attend the second event.

JL and Val engaged in crazy rich person talk

Each chautauqua is different, of course, but the four previous retreats I’ve attended all had similarities:

  • Attendees gather at a resort for a week of conversation and camaraderie. These are smallish facilities that allow us to spend time together with few other guests. We eat and drink together. We walk together. We play games together. We talk about money together. We have fun!
  • Each day, one (or more) of the presenters gives a talk about a subject dear to her heart. (I talk about money and meaning, for instance.) These are l-o-n-g presentations but they’re fun, interactive, and informative.
  • Each attendee meets one-on-one with a presenter. What you do with that time is up to you. I’ve had people bring detailed spreadsheets and questions about retirement. I’ve had people chat with me about travel. I’ve had people ask for relationship advice (no joke!). Generally speaking, it’s a chance for you to pick a person’s brain about some sort of topic related to their area of expertise.
  • There are various (optional) off-site trips to visit the local area. In Portugal, we visited a winery. In Ecuador, we’ve visited thriving markets, chocolate factories, and butterfly preserves.

From what I’ve seen, however, the real value is in the friendships formed during these weeks. Much of our time is spent sitting together discussing life, the universe, and everything.

Late night chat in Portugal

I’m still in contact with folks from each of the chautauquas I’ve attended in the past. Some of these folks have become close friends with whom I have frequent contact. (Our 2016 crew — the Werewolf Hunters — even rented a house in Utah for an in-person reunion. We visit each other whenever we’re in each other’s cities and have a semi-active group chat.)

I can’t promise that you’ll form life-long friends during this week, but from what I’ve seen, the odds are good. And no wonder. You’re gathering with a group of like-minded people to talk about some deep, personal subjects. Bonding is bound to occur.

Here are a few favorite photos from past chautauquas…

A birthday dinner in Quito Buying souvenirs from the locals Kim with a friend at the butterfly preserve Mary with local schoolkids in Ecuador Kristy tasting port in Porto, Portugal Shamanic cleansing ceremony

These chautauquas aren’t for everyone, and I know that. But they’re perfect events for a certain class of people. If you think that you are one of those people, hop on over to the website to take a look at the details. Maybe I’ll see you in Ecuador this summer!

One more quick note: I recently joined my pal Grant Sabatier on the Earn & Invest podcast for a discussion about money burnout. These conversations with Grant and Doc G are always entertaining and enlightening.


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