I’ve recently returned from the beautiful Ecuador where I spent a week in paradise at the Chautauqua! For those of you who don’t know what a Chautauqua is, the original definition comes from the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance:
“…an old-time series of popular talks intended to edify and entertain, improve the mind, and bring culture and enlightenment to the ears and thoughts of the hearer.”
In this case, the Chautauqua was me hanging out in Ecuador with new and old friends. After hearing presentations from Cheryl, Brandon, Pete, Jim, and Paula I can tell you I was edified, entertained, my mind improved, and culture and enlightenment was brought to my ears and thoughts! Wow that’s a mouthful. Let me try again.
THE CHAUTAUQUA WAS AWESOME SAUCE!
Now, this wasn’t my first trip to Ecuador. My first trip was in 2015 and I wrote a post about the lessons I learned while there. Similar to the layout of those posts, I’ll write a general overview of the week in this post and a separate post of the lessons I learned. Mayyyybbbeeee even two lesson posts if I get long-winded.
Going on my second Chautauqua meant I thought I knew what to expect. I’d have a great time hanging out with friends, eat delicious food, and learn about FI stuff. While all of those occurred in abundance, it was hard not to compare to the first trip. Me being human, I did anyways. I think the most interesting aspect was seeing how much I’ve changed as a person and blogger in two years. We never really get to see the changes in ourselves in our day-to-day life until we return to a situation later. For instance, hanging out with my boyfriend’s teenage sisters really highlights how far I’ve come emotionally in the 15 years since I was their age.
Going back to the Chautauqua highlighted how far I’ve come on my own FI journey. The first one I went to meet people and get confirmation I was on the right path. I was the youngest person there by a solid 2 years and people treated me as such. This time, I was not the youngest person there (by a year-ish) and I’ve been blogging for 2+ years. Instead of being the star-struck attendee, I was one of the people the other attendees wanted to meet. Instead of attending my one-on-one and getting advice, several people sat down with me for a one-on-one to get advice. Don’t get me wrong, I still had one-on-ones with people for my own reasons (which were super useful and incredibly valuable to me!) but the fact people wanted to talk to me was awesome and slightly unsettling.
The locations were also different. We stayed at a luxurious resort the first night in Quito and had a lot of fun while there. Kicking around a rock hard soccer ball, enjoying the spa, and playing around on a playground set were all things I didn’t do the first time and really enjoyed this time.
Our main location was an old and beautiful hacienda in Ibarra. Instead of being in the middle of a cloud forest on the equator, we were high up in the Andes mountains. The days were warm and the nights chilly. I especially loved coming in my room at night to find a hot water bottle tucked under the covers. I might have to get one for the cold winter months ahead here at home! The grounds were beautifully laid out and well taken care of, while the activities offered were too numerous to list. I will say while the hot tub was still slightly lukewarm, the sauna and steam rooms were amazing, especially after a long day of walking and moving around!
The activities we did were once again different. Shopping at the world-renowned Otavalo fiber market, hanging out on the equator, and hiking around a volcanic crater lake were some of my favorites. The hike around the lake was breathtaking, in the literal and metaphorical sense. (ba-dum-ching!)
I am someone who lives 860 feet above sea level and am definitely not acclimated to mountains. My first day in Quito I nursed a raging headache from the altitude. I thought I was accustomed but doing a 7.7 mile hike that started at 10,000 ft and went to 11,000 ft rapidly proved me wrong. The hike wouldn’t have been that strenuous at sea level, but throw in the altitude and I struggled hard-core. I’m very proud I not only finished the hike, but did it at the fairly rapid pace of 4 hours! I’m not sure I’d do it again, but once was so worth it.
I’m running out of ways to say ‘different’, but just know the people on the trip were also not the same (obviously). The first trip I went completely by myself and didn’t know anyone at the beginning (a fact that terrified my mom. Sorry Mom!). This time, I met up with people at our layover stop in Panama (both overnight in Panama and at the airport before our flight). Not only that, but I came back to hang out with old friends for the week and to make new friends. Laughing so hard we cried over dessert, making rum disappear in the jacuzzi, and having 50 people sing me Happy Birthday will remain some of my fondest memories about the week.
I truly enjoyed the chance to sit back and relax for a week. I got an immense feeling of smug satisfaction knowing I was swaying gently in a hammock on a Tuesday morning while people were back home stuck at work. I’m not particularly good at taking relaxing vacations so this was a nice reminder of what it’s like to sllooooowwwwww things down and just take a while to enjoy what was in front of us.
All in all I had a magical time! I cannot stress enough how much I recommend going to one of these events. If you can’t make it to Ecuador and the Chautauqua, try to find like-minded people in your own community or go to a domestic event.
Sidenote: I am organizing a week-long Camp FI in Minnesota next year! Stay tuned here for more details!
Having a supportive group of people on your FIRE journey changes everything for the better. You get advice, guidance, and the knowledge you are not alone. After attending multiple Chautauquas, I am anything but alone on my journey. Thank you friends for the wonderful trip!