In 2013, I traveled to Ecuador for a sort of experiment. Host Cheryl Reed and mastermind Jim (J.L.) Collins had organized a chautauqua, a gathering of two dozen folks who wanted to discuss financial independence, early retirement, and finding purpose. My pal Pete Adeney (better known as Mr. Money Mustache) and I joined Jim and Cheryl as presenters. We spent a week at a centuries-old hacienda talking about money and life.
That first chautauqua was awesome — not only for the attendee but for us presenters as well. To this day, those of us who attended that first chautauqua go out of our way to see each other as we travel the U.S. When I did my short tour of the Southeast last spring, for instance, I stopped in Kentucky to watch horse races with Amy, whom I met at that first event in Ecuador. Here we are at Keeneland:
In 2014, I returned to Ecuador to present at my second chautauqua. This time, my co-presenter was David Cain, the deep thinker behind Raptitude. (If you’ve never read it, Raptitude is perhaps the best blog on the internet. It’s all about getting better at being human.)
In 2016, David and I returned for yet another Ecuador chautauqua. This time, we were joined by Leo Babauta from Zen Habits. Once again, the experience was incredible. This group bonded as a family — warts and all — more than any chautauqua before or since. We bonded so much, in fact, that most of us came together for a reunion in Salt Lake City this past November. We have an ongoing group video chat where we’re in constant communication, and we hope to get together often in the future.
As you might have guessed, all of this is prelude to an announcement: I’m pleased to report that I’ll be returning as a speaker for Chautauqua 2019. From September 28th to October 5th, I’ll be in Portugal’s Douro Valley presenting on leading a purpose-filled life.
It’s not just me, of course. Other presenters include founder Jim Collins, Kristy and Bryce from Millennial Revolution, and Alan Donegan, founder of PopUp Business School. And it’s not just this week. There are three additional European chautauqua to choose form this year.
For new readers, this whole idea might seem a little strange. A bunch of people get together in a foreign country to talk about money? Are the speakers selling time shares? Is this some sort of scam?
No, it’s not a scam. No, we’re not selling time shares. While the chautauquas are part of a for-profit business and not a charity, nobody’s getting rich off of this. (True story: This year will be the first time I’ve ever taken more than a token amount for a speaking gig. Usually I decline my speaker fee or donate it to some cause. Jim has told me in no uncertain terms that I must accept payment this year. Fine. I’ll do it.)
Here’s how the chautauquas work:
- After you register and pay for your ticket, you’re responsible for booking your transportation to and from the destination city. Everything else is included in the price of the ticket.
- When the time arrives, you’ll gather with 25-30 other attendees at whichever incredible venue you’ve selected.
- For an entire week, we — attendees and presenters — live together as a family. We eat, sleep, think, and party together. We attend off-site adventures together. Most of all, we talk about money together.
- During the week, each presenter will share a two- to three-hour talk. (Mine will be on finding purpose and happiness, of course.) Attendees also get an hour-long meeting with one of the presenters.
To my mind — and I suspect past attendees would back me up — the real value in the chautauqua isn’t the speakers. The speakers are great, don’t get me wrong, but the true treasure here is the relationships you build with other attendees. In our day-to-day lives, it can be tough to find people who relate to our dreams of early retirement and financial independence. At the chautauquas, those dreams are the norm. (Here’s the story of one reluctant attendee’s experience.)
If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, you should book your chautauqua ticket now, whether it’s to join me in Portugal or to attend any of the other gatherings. I say this because tickets were announced a few days ago and they’re already selling out. (In fact, there are only a handful of tickets left for Portugal!)
Other Events of Interest
I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out related events for those who are unable (or unwilling) to attend a European chautauqua.
- First up, this year’s chautauqua in Ecuador — which is now a wholly different beast than the European chautauqua events — runs from November 2nd to 9th and features Vicki Robin (Your Money or Your Life), Paula Pant (Afford Anything), and Tanja Hester (Our Next Life). Last I heard, there were only a few tickets left.
- Although it’s not official, Mr. Money Mustache and I have been kicking around the idea of hosting a chautauqua in Ecuador in 2020 — possibly with David Cain from Raptitude. It’s unlikely we’ll make a decision for many months yet, but keep it in mind.
- Finally, don’t overlook the weekend-long Camp FI and Camp Mustache events held across the United States and Canada. These retreats are larger than the chautauquas (50-80 people attend) and much more casual. They’re also much cheaper. I’ve been to several in the past two years. This year, I’ll be presenting at Camp FI: Southwest from October 11th to October 14th. Come join me in Joshua Tree, California!
I’ll also be attending Fincon in Washington D.C. in early September. Plus, as always, I’m happy to meet readers for beer or coffee when they’re passing through Portland. I do this a couple of times each month and it’s always fun. If you’re in town and want to chat, let me know!
Author: J.D. Roth
In 2006, J.D. founded Get Rich Slowly to document his quest to get out of debt. Over time, he learned how to save and how to invest. Today, he’s managed to reach early retirement! He wants to help you master your money — and your life. No scams. No gimmicks. Just smart money advice to help you reach your goals.