Chautauqua UK 2019: A Week Together With Our Tribe

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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!

The Place

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.

Specifically, this one.

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.

The Speakers

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.

The People

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!)


The Fun

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…

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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18 thoughts on “Chautauqua UK 2019: A Week Together With Our Tribe”

  1. Looks awesome! Hopefully I’ll see you guys at Chautauqua 2020… was planning on coming for 2019 in Portugal, but missed out by the time I had all my ducks in a row…I am so one of these people with the one more year itis, and I do wonder what will I actually do when I’m not working, so I really need to join the tribe!

    1. Aw, that’s too bad. Portugal sold out within 24 hours. Oh well. No worries, we’ll be thrilled to see you in 2020! I was pretty freakout when I quit my job (despite not liking it), so I’m sure we’ll spent lots of time talking about this exact thing. Your tribe will help you figure out your life after FI! See you next year!

  2. As a British person who has never played crochet or wore a monacle I must be really lacking in my gentleman duties

    1. You’re missing out! I’m already having croquet withdrawal…can’t wait to go back and play it again!

    1. It was wonderful spending a week with you and John! Everytime John and Bryce start geeking out over programming and DS 9, we should make it into a drinking game (though I’d probably die of alcohol poisoning so I’m not sure I want that ;P).

      Miss you guys!

      P.S Don’t forget your homework 🙂

      1. The drinking game would be fun, but potentially dangerous! It is helpful to see that you can leave your programming job and still be a geek.

        We are taking our homework seriously. I added all of the breaks onto our shared calendar for the upcoming school year. Colorado is high on our list of places to visit (Thank you, Carl). Our total trip before and after Chautauqua was a month, which gave us a good taste of longer travel. I am already wondering where to go next summer…

  3. I thought I had an idea what to expect at Chautauquas, but the actual experience exceeded my expectations! I learned new ways to look at possibilities with your guidance. You’re not kidding with meeting new friends. It’s hard not to connect with everyone when they are all so engaging, down to earth, kind and non-judgy especially the speakers. I get the whole “You’re my tribe” now.
    Most importantly, this trip made me realize my (inaccurately described reluctant spouse) husband has been on board with FI/RE the whole time since 2012 for goodness sakes…I just realized this momentous fact when he joined me on this trip. Chautauquas really bring out the best in people and not just in financial terms. This trip made me a better person and gave my marriage a boost. Can’t wait to attend another one!

    1. So glad you both came and miss you already! Thank you so much for your thoughtful gift–it has a permanent home on my backpack now 🙂 Can’t wait to visit you and meet all your cute kiddos the next time we’re in California! *hugs*

  4. Wow.. Attendants from Romania. To be honest I thought I was the only one in this land thinking about fi (about 33% there).
    Fortunately we are really resouceful people it seems. Waiting for this to catch on..
    I for one can’t afford the event or to take vacations for that matter.
    Still it is like a gathering of all the FI stars for the elite top 1% fi people.
    Goal is FI before the damn robots take my job(and I am a software engineer).
    Hope to join this event in 2024 🙂

  5. Not sure what my wife was more shocked with, that I was listening to everything about FI/RE or that I got along with “Millennials”.

    She knows I have a Country side to me being from Kansas, but in reality I think these “Millennials” are more like me than most of the U.S.

    I respect upfront honest people, as well as people who have their own house in order. These two have it in spades.

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