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What a couple of weeks this has been in the UK! First, our audiobook recording, then the London movie premiere of Playing with Fire. And to cap it all off, we then went right into Chautauqua in the UK!
This is now the 5th Chautauqua we’ve spoken at, and a thought that had crept into our heads was that the magic of Chautauqua might not be as shiny and new the 5th time around. Well, I am happy (and relieved) that fear turned out to be completely misplaced, because Chautauqua is EXACTLY as awesome EVERY SINGLE TIME!
First of all, we LOVE coming back to 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.”
The building itself goes back about 500 years, with a chapel on the grounds that goes back 1000. I didn’t even realize how cool the place was until we did a tour of the grounds with one of the hotel staff members who showed us all the hidden tunnels and secret trap doors all over the place. Apparently, these “features” had been added to the building because of the Reformation of the 16th century. Back then, King Henry VIII was trying to break away from the Roman Catholic church and form his own sect of Christianity controlled by himself rather than the Pope so he could annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. As a result, it was a regular occurence for King Henry’s troops to roll into town and round up any Catholic priests they could find for imprisonment or torture, so all these hidden compartments (appropriate called priest-holes) were used to hide them when the King’s jack-booted government thugs came a-calling.
Also, William Shakespeare stayed here. Shakespeare was born and raised in the nearby town of Stratford-upon-Avon, and apparently he had not only stayed at this place at one point, one of the balconies of the building was his inspiration for Romeo and Juliet’s infamous balcony scene.
And also, it’s haunted, apparently. There are plenty of ghost stories that are associated with this place, and I won’t ruin them all for you in case any of you decide to come in a future year. At one point Wanderer and I grabbed our camera-phone and went looking for them but we couldn’t find any. Lazy shifty bastards.
This year, our speakers were J.L. “The Godfather” Collins, ourselves, Carl from Mr. 1500, Jillian from Montana Money, and Alan Donegan from PopupBusiness School. With a surprise and unadvertised last-minute addition of Brandon from the Mad Fientist.
Having all these cool people in one place was an awesome experience for us because we’re all friends with each other, but that pales in comparison to the tremendous value it gives to the guests. Spending a week with all these top financial minds in one place is a great way to talk through whatever financial (or life) issues you’re struggling with. Want someone to look over your investments? Grab a drink with J.L. Collins. Want to gab about your investment properties? Talk to Carl. Struggling with finding meaning & happiness after retirement? Ask Jillian. And want someone to look over your retirement numbers? Give it over here and we will happily MATH SHIT UP for you.
A lot of people come to Chautauqua with a problem (or series of problems) they’re a bit “stuck” on. But at the end of the week, many of them go back home now knowing what it is they have to do. I’ve heard from previous Chautauquans that these one-on-one sessions with the speakers changed their lives after they returned home, and I’m pretty sure the same thing will happen here.
But by far the biggest source of fun of each Chautauqua is the people. This year we had people from the the US, Canada, Germany, UK, Romania and Denmark, and no matter where they’re from we are all bound by our mutual enthusiasm for this little thing called Financial Independence. And as a result everyone who comes are just cool people who we easily become friends with.
It’s this instant bond that comes from finally being around people who just “get” this whole FIRE thing. All of us (ourselves included) struggle to fit in with our friends and family back home because we’ve all chosen to live such vastly different lifestyles from the rest of society. But at Chautauqua, everyone fits in with each other, and as a result people feel free to talk openly about money, life, happiness in ways they could never do back home.
When people come to Chautauqua, they think that the main draw is to spend time with the bloggers they’ve read and admired for years. But the real main draw is each other.
Chautauqua is where lifelong friendships form. I know because it’s happened to us. Nowadays, everywhere we travel there’s invariably a Chautauquan that lives there, and every time we meet up with them all around the world it feels like old friends who have known each other for years.
I also know it happens because I can see the Facebook groups for each Chautauqua, and in there I can see them meeting up with each other all around the world for reunions and get-togethers. In fact, in a few weeks there will be a bike ride in Iowa that a bunch of Chautauquans are all doing. If I wasn’t going to be in NY doing book promotion, I’d probably be there with them.
Here are some write-ups of Chautauqua from our speakers and attendees!
Carl from 1500days
Elisabeth via guest post on JLCollins’s blog
Trish (who’s visited over 100 countries and now lives on a house boat in France!)
And to top it all off, we had a ton of fun together. Being in such a quintessential English manor meant we got to do some really English stuff. We did a murder mystery dinner theatre, in which Wanderer got to pull off a really bad German accent.
Ve have vays of Making You Talk.
We got to see a live-action production of Taming of the Shrew in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. It was the first time Wanderer actually understood what the Hell was going on in a Shakespeare play, so that was a pretty unique experience.
And we even got to play croquet on the English lawn of an English manor with the backdrop of a 1000-year-old church right behind us. If we were being any more English I would have been sporting a monacle.
Fun fact: Brandon “Mad Fientist” is normally the most chill person ever, but when he’s playing croquet for some reason he becomes super competitive. At one point I was trying to decide whether to attack one of the other player’s ball and Brandon came up to me and screamed “Are you here to make friends or are you here to WIN?!?”
I was like “OK OK, Jesus Christ! Calm down Brandon! Stop yelling at me!”
It’s Just as Magical Every Time
So we ended off our UK adventure in the best way possible: Having spent a week with cool people, in a cool place, and talking about cool shit. We have a new group of friends that we’ll be certain to see as we traipse around the world, and they all have a new tribe that will support each other on their journey to Financial Independence and Early Retirement.
Peace out, Chautauqua UK 2019! Let’s do this again real soon!
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