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We just got back from Chautauqua UK, and let me tell you, this post is NOT easy to write. Because honestly, how does one whittle down a life-changing experience into 1000 words or less?
But I guess since we’re supposed to be writers, I have to at least give it a try. So here goes.
Before we went to Chautauqua, we called it a “super-villain plot-hatching retreat” because, c’mon, how else can you describe a secret meeting of millionaires in a secretive British manor to hatch a plan for world domination?
But now, having experienced Chautauqua first hand, the only quote that even remotely describes how I feel about Chautuaqua is this:
“…Some people make the sky more beautiful to gaze upon. They stay in our lives for awhile, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same.”
― Flavia Weedn
Now, as purple as that quote is, it is truly the only quote I’ve found that comes even close to expressing what our experience at Chautuaqua was like.
Because it’s not the place (a 18th-century manor), the food (Spotted Dicks, Toads, and high-tea anyone?), or the activities (murder mysteries, croquet on the lawn, Shakespeare walks) that made it special. What truly made Chautauqua special, if we were to put it into 3 words, according to Wanderer, is this:
“You’re my people.”
There are only a handful of people in my life that I would consider “footprint” people. Basically, these are the people who leave these massive, life-altering footprints on my heart, and I’m a better person for having known them.
And that’s what Chautauqua UK meant to me. People think that coming to Chautauqua is about learning how to get rich from us “expert” FIRE bloggers, but that’s only part of it.
For the past 2 years, we travelled the world and met people from all different walks of life. And from that experience, we learned that, by far, the best relationships are with the people who love you for you. They don’t try to shove you into a box that you clearly don’t fit into.
And finding people who truly “get” you is what Chautauqua is all about.
At Chautuaqua UK, we got to experience that continuously for a whole week straight.
Because not only were we surrounded by people who get FI, every single one of these people happily spent hours bonding with you over your dreams, your passions, and your fears.
There were moments I was moved to tears by the personal stories of attendees, not so different from my own, and just as many when I laughed so hard I cried.
Which is why when the week ended, I seriously considered locking all the windows and doors to prevent everyone from leaving and forcing everyone to come live with me on a commune (seriously, Chautauqua attendees, if any of you guys want to share a home-base where we can all live together and be happy forever, hit me up!).
But I guess forcible kidnapping (as super-villainy as that sounds) is probably something our Chautauqua-founding GodFather JLCollins would frown upon.
I guess the only alternative is to keep going to Chautauquas, forever and ever, to be truly happy.
Okay, so now that I’ve got all that gushing out of the way, let me tell you a bit what happened during this life-changing week:
As soon as we arrived at our Windsor hotel and sat down to the meet the attendees, (who came from the US, the UK, Germany, and even as far as Australia), we knew this wasn’t going to be like a typical vacation.
You know how when you meet strangers on a cruise or at a hotel, you need a few dinners with them to get to know them? There are those awkward few days of acclimatizing to a new person? Well, this never happened. Within 10 minutes of chatting with the attendees, we immediately bonded, and after chatting until I lost my voice, when I looked at my watch, somehow 4 hours had gone by. For us, this ALWAYS happens with FIRE people. You sit down with complete strangers and within the hour, you feel like you’ve known them for most of your life.
Even though the attendees all come from different backgrounds (like the film industry, silicon valley, art school, etc), and ages (this time we had our youngest attendee EVER at 17 years old), our nerdy love of finances and freedom was the common thread that connected us all.
And this feeling of camaraderie continued as the week went on. Especially with our hosts Alan and Katie at the helm, organizing everything and making sure it all went off without a hitch, we were free to completely focus on having the time of our lives and learning from each other.
Incidentally, I learned from one of our attendees, who’d always wanted to have his own drone army, that drones are simultaneously awesome AND terrifying.
So there we were, having our private one-on-ones in the perfectly manicured garden of the English manor, when out of nowhere, a drone appeared above our head, making us think that sentient machines had taken over and Skynet was now a reality.
Of course, we did the brave thing and ran off. We later found out that he had brought a drone to the UK and was teaching another attendee how to fly the thing, but that’s not what we thought at the time. Silver lining though, we ended up retreating to the hotel sauna to finish off our one-on-one. And man, if you’ve never had your finances analysed in a Finnish sauna right before jumping into a gorgeous swimming pool, you’re missing out.
The drone later turned out to be super useful when one of the attendees took its footage and made this awesome video commemorating our week:
And to top it all off, to prove that this really was a super-villain plot-hatching retreat, check out the bad-ass helicopter that landed in the deer-filled country-side surrounding the manor:
So to sum up a week that can best be described as un-sum-uppable, Wanderer said it best when he said “You’re My People.”
And this is why Chautauqua UK was THE GREATEST week of our lives. Huge thanks to all the attendees for making this such a memorable week, Alan and Katie for your hard work making sure we had the time of our lives, and JLCollins for thinking up this awesome super-villain cult. THE WORLD IS OURS!