Chautauqua Ecuador Recap: Facing Your Fears

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We just finished up our Chautauqua week at the beautiful El Encanto in Ecuador, and before flying out to Dallas to start FinCon, I thought I’d just give you a recap of our Chautauqua experience.

Having been to Chautauqua UK, it was REALLY tempting to pit the two against each other…I mean, that’s just how our stupid competitive brains work. My brain kept wondering, what would the setting be like? How could anything top an 18th century manor and deer-covered countryside? Would my new Ecuador tribe live up to such high expectations from the besties we met in the UK? A nagging voice in the back of my head kept wondering if such an amazing group of people was a once in a lifetime concoction? Would we find such kindred spirits in South America? Or was it a fluke?

As it turns out, the group in Chautauqua Ecuador turned out to be just as awesome as the last one, and the experience was just as special, but different.

Let me explain.

As it turns out, while Chautauqua UK was all about history and culture, Chautauqua Ecuador was all about nature and facing fear.

Ecuador was about nature because of the magical cloud-filled mountains that Quito is known for, and it was about facing fear because for whatever random reason most of the Ecuador participants were fairly close to their FI date. As a result, the common thread amongst the attendees was what Pete, aka Mr.Money Mustache, liked to call “the Wall of Fear.”

As you all know, when I gave my notice at work to retire and travel the world, it felt like I was jumping off a cliff. It didn’t matter how many times I checked our numbers, how many FIRE blogs I read online, or even an e-mail from MMM himself telling us our numbers were good.

But I was still terrified. Despite hating my job. despite how much I loved to travel, despite having a million dollar portfolio and a large cash cushion to sustain us for years even if the market tanked.

Which just goes to show, you can’t just run away from something bad. You have to run TOWARDS something better.

This is why I myself hit the Wall of Fear two years ago just before I quit. And many attendees could all identify with this paralyzing fear.

And it wasn’t about the money either. It was about identity, indoctrination (I mean, if you’ve been working for the past 10+ years, and have never know any other life, how could you possibly fathom anything else?), and the loss of community.

So the Wall of Fear loomed. Tall and imposing, a mental block that kept people from living the life of their dreams.

As it turns out, finding your tribe (like the Chautauquans) was one of the best ways to combat the “Wall of Fear.” People confronted their fears, shared the numbers, talked through their “after FI” plans. Because when it comes to fighting your inner demons, what better way to do it than with an entire army of your tribesmen/women fighting right alongside you? *cue brave heart theme music*

One of the best things about Chautauqua that I found out is that even if it’s an entirely different group of people, we all had one thing in common:


Even if we all had different jobs, different dreams, different backgrounds, we were all there to share our stories, to find kinship in the battles we all fought to get to where we are today.

And as a speaker, the amount of personal stories and financial information that were entrusted to us during our one-on-ones once again took my breath away.

Because having someone be so open and vulnerable, saying “I trust you” creates a special bond that cannot be replicated. And it’s this special bond that connects not just the attendees to the speakers, but to every single person that took time away from their busy schedule to meet up in a remote resort above the clouds to share laughter, life lessons, and camaraderie.


So I have to say I’m honoured. Honoured to have had not just one but two of these unforgettable experiences in one year. I’m honoured to meet all these exceptional people and to be able to form lifelong friendships. These are the people I’m proud to call my tribe.

Just like in the UK, at the beginning of the week, the attendees came to see us, the so-called “famous finance bloggers”, but at the end of the week, THEY are the stars of the show. Because THEY are the ones who make the Chautauquas unforgettable, special, and a once in a lifetime experience.

So as it turns out Chautauqua UK and Chautauqua Ecuador really were special and beautiful in their own unique way. Different, but also somehow still as awesome.

Like how the speakers all have different topics in their presentations, but they all came together, as pieces of the FI puzzle, to present the bigger picture.

Here’s Cheryl Reed, our intrepid show-runner talking about being responsible for your own happiness and the lessons she learned after falling in love with Ecuador.

JLCollins talked about investing and how to build wealth simply by using the most powerful tool in the world—the stock market.

Jesse, of YNAB, talked about how to start a side business by not devaluing your own worth.

I talked about how to build the life of your dreams by NOT following your passion.

Pete/MMM talked about the Fear Wall and life after FI.

And Vicki, “the Adam and Eve of the FI movement,” brought it all together with “The Life of FI”, the hero’s journey of FIRE, self-discovery and giving back. Having had the experience of being retired for 40 years, she could share the long view with all of us.

Everyone added their own piece to the FI jigsaw puzzle so we could present FIRE as one big picture.

And as a result, we kept hearing over and over again that Chautauqua Ecuador inspired them, showed them they weren’t alone, and gave them the confidence they needed to climb their own personal Wall of Fear.

And with that, I want to thank you, Chautauquan attendees, for making this another unforgettable week. You are all rock stars and I can’t wait to see where our paths will cross again somewhere out there in the world.

And of course, big thanks to Cheryl and Rich, the organizers of this amazing event, and our very own Godfather of FI, JLCollins for creating the most magical, badass, super-villlain cult there is.

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29 thoughts on “Chautauqua Ecuador Recap: Facing Your Fears”

  1. Basic outline of the Chautauqua:

    Me: “Hey guys, what do you want to do tonight?”

    FIRECracker and Wanderer: “The same thing we do every night… Try to take over the world!”

    *Cue evil cackling*

    I second all of this article. It was great meeting everyone at Chautauqua Ecuador and everyone was so gracious and helpful. It’s amazing to find a group that instantly develops trust and allows everyone to speak candidly about their situation. Jim Collins and FIRECracker served as excellent sounding boards in my one-on-one talks and provided both encouragement and helpful criticism. I highly recommend it and wish the best to my new tribe!

    Someday I might even start a blog so I can be one of the cool kids… 🙂

      1. I second what Stone said. You’re already one of the cool kids 😀 I mean, how else would I have known about awesome things like the foldable pocket hat and couch-surfing. That’s the epitome of cool!

    1. Lots of people have asked about Chautauqua USA, and as much fun as that would be, you wouldn’t quite get that “fish out of water” experience you would by being in a new country. Also, half the fun is trying to speak Spanish poorly and giving the locals a good laugh.

  2. I went to the first week in Ecuador this year and it’s everything you say it is… everyone is self selecting to be there (topic/time/money/etc), so the trust level is high from the first moment. It’s like skipping the dating and get right into the down & dirty sex (ahem, thought you would like that analogy). One of the best things I’ve ever done and then I went to the Galapagos trip the next week, which was just as astounding since we had that amazing natural world to explore WITH a small group of FI geeks.

    Sorry I didn’t get to meet you two – maybe sometime at another meetup!

    1. “ahem, thought you would like that analogy”

      You get me! You really get me! 😀

      So glad you had fun in the first week! I’m sure our paths will cross sometime in the future. Then we can chat all about the Galapagos (we went before Chautauqua started and had a blast!)

  3. Alright, alright you’ve officially made me jealous. Oh wait, we got to experience this same amazingness the week before with just a slightly different cast of characters. Looking forward to meeting you guys at FinCon and hearing more about your Chautauqua and Galapagos adventures.

    1. Are babies allowed?



      You have to start them young. Never too young to learn about frugality, finance. and investing. Never.

      I wish I had attended when I was a baby.

      1. Actually, I’m glad you mentioned that, CM. One of our round table discussions at Chautauqua was about “how to teach FI to kids”, so you’re right…it’s never too early.

    2. Yes, please do! We’d love to see you there. I believe babies should be fine. Let me ask the organizers and get back to you.

  4. Gee , sorry you hated your job so much . I can’t imagine that !!

    You seem happy traveling the world and meeting like-minded People. That’s good !!

    1. Lucky you if you don’t hate your job…90% of millennials do. We only work because we need…We would spend our lives doing so many good stuffs if not needed to work

    2. My job was just that…a job. Now I see it as a means to an end 🙂 So even though it wasn’t fun, it definitely helped me have a fun life now! As one of the Chautauquan attendees told me “Easy choices = hard life. Hard choices = easy life”. It’s proven to be true!

  5. This was an inspirational post. I’ve been sitting in early retirement limbo for the last 6 months and not really getting much done since I quit working full time. This post reminded me of all the things I was looking forward to before FIRE

    1. It’s perfect fine not to “get much done” in the first 6 months 😀 After so many years of working, sometimes just need to put your feet up and just chill and let you mind wander for the first few months. After that, you just try different things to figure out what you like. Half the fun is the process of trying different things and not worrying about failing because you don’t need the money.

  6. Even though I wasn’t able to attend this event, it was super random but cool to quickly run into you guys at the pier one morning in Puerto Ayora. I had to do a double take to be sure. Wish there was more time for a chat. The world can be a small place 🙂 Keep up the great work and safe travels.

    1. Hi Gary! That was so cool that we run into each out at 6am in the morning randomly in the Galapagos! It’s always mind-blowing to run into readers in the wild. Thanks for introducing yourself and I wish we had more time to chat as well. Hopefully our paths will cross again 🙂

    1. Would love to see you at Chautauqua next year!

      No plans to attend conferences in Toronto this year since our schedule is a bit hectic. Maybe next year!

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