Join Me in Ecuador for the Second Annual Chatauqua

Written by Jesse Mecham  |  on


March 13, 2014 Update: The Chatauqua is sold out! – Jesse

I haven’t yet looked up what Chatauqua means. But based on my experience from last year, it must mean something like:

“Spend a week in Ecuador, an unbelievably beautiful, friendly country, with two dozen very interesting, friendly, genuine people, eating delicious food, and hearing/discussing financial independence, wealth-building, happiness, and contentment.”

Last year I took the bait (read the invitation from last year) of Mr. Money Mustache (MMM), and headed down to Ecuador to take part in an informal meetup of like-minded individuals. We got to hear Jim Collins talk about investing, JD Roth talk about facing your fears, MMM talk about contentment, and Cheryl (the trip organizer) teach us all about happiness.

The attendees also each met with one or two speakers of their choice for a one-on-one session to talk about anything.

The best part of the whole thing was the energy from the entire group. It was a big boost for me personally, helping me prioritize, and “get right” a few things in my mind that had been bothering me for some time. It was therapeutic, entertaining, and one-of-a-kind.

Here are a few pictures I shamelessly stole from Cheryl, our host. I have no idea where my pictures are.

Singing “Happy Birthday” to a fellow guest. I was feelin’ it, and might have busted out some tenor harmony there toward the end. Also, that’s a genuine Ecuadorian shirt I scored at the market in Otavallo.
The view from our 15th-century hacienda.
The days were full of great things to see, learn, and do, but sometimes the best thing about the day was hanging out with a group of new friends and laughing. Constantly. Sometimes for no good reason.

This year, I’m nervous and flattered to report that I’ll be one of the speakers. My main topic will be entrepreneurship, but that vague description is all I have at the moment. I’m interested in how entrepreneurship can be viewed as a lifelong learning opportunity, with no limitation on interests, or artificial desire for specialization.  I have no idea what our other speakers will present (MMM, Jim Collins, or Cheryl), but I’m certain it will be just as great as last year.

If you’re interested in taking a vacation down to Ecuador, where you basically walk out of the airplane and don’t have to worry about a thing for the next week (I had never done that type of trip before, my word that is luxurious), take a look at this, and join me down in Ecuador.  I mean, just think, you’d have my ear for a week to discuss that feature you’ve been dying to see in the software. (You’ll probably found out I’ve wanted that feature for a few years as well, but we all have to wait our turn.)

You can register for the retreat here.

If you have any questions, Cheryl is super nice to work with, and she’ll take care of you.

If you want to dig in and do some more research on the trip, you can read the following recap posts from last year’s trip:

You can also read the speakers’ posts inviting their readers to come to this year’s trip:

Project One Corner

Cheryl has an amazing personal story, and has started a charity called Project One Corner, where she basically helps people in her village. Ten percent of the retreat profits will go to Project One Corner, and I’m assuming the speakers will be doing the same thing they did last year: donating their speaking fees.

Financial Independence (FI)

Last year, I headed down there to 1) meet some cool people and 2) determine how I could become financially independent.  While down there, I realized that I basically don’t want to change a thing about my life, and should just relax. I love going into work, not staying forever, taking Wednesdays off, working out in the wee hours of the morning with my wife, and sitting down to dinner with my kids at night. I love that I can pursue random hobbies with reckless abandon. Entrepreneurship has given this to me. I am blessed.

Others pursue financial independence by saving an inordinate amount of money (I’m guilty of that as well), and reducing their lifestyle (I am not guilty of that) to something that is sustainable on very little income. These people are terribly interesting to me and I love learning from them.  You’ll probably meet people like this (besides MMM) at the retreat.

Wherever you’re at on the FI road, or however you’re going about it, you’ll likely meet people ahead of, and behind you, that are going about it in the same, and wildly different ways.  Everyone has a story, and I loved hearing all of them.

Random Thoughts

Last year I gave everyone YNAB-branded Buffs. This year, I haven’t yet decided what I will bring.

The trip is expensive (I recognize that’s relative, but I’ll just throw that out there). Most of you readers will likely not have a fancy trip like this as one of your Rule Two funds. You’ll probably be throwing dollars at debt with reckless abandon, shoring up some Rule Two funds that have been neglected, and prioritizing in a completely different way. That’s perfect. You’re all budgeters, and you know how this works. Everything’s a value proposition, and everything needs to be evaluated against other budget items.

If you do decide to come down, I can’t wait to meet you! If this isn’t in the cards for you this year, perhaps next year.

One final note that I should have mentioned above.  The group is limited to 25 participants.  I’m the last to announce, so 15 positions were already filled last week, as of Cheryl’s last report.

At any rate, I know this is a bit of a random invite on what is otherwise a blog always about budgeting, but hey, I’d love to have some YNABers down there!

Your Next Step

Budgeting is not restrictive. You won’t be spending less, you’ll be spending right. So what do you have to lose? Except all that debt and stress?