I’m writing a three part series on my experiences in Ecuador:
- Part 1: Pictures, Pilsener and more Pilsener
- Part 2: What I Learned (12/14)
- Part 3 : My Epiphany (12/20)
Today, I give you Part 1.
A couple weeks ago, I met up with old and new friends in Ecuador at the annual chautauqua that Jim Collins puts together. What is a chautauqua you ask? I consulted Google, but didn’t like any of the definitions, so I made up my own:
Chautauqua: A gathering where the purpose is to learn through presentations and engagement with like minded folks.
The week consisted of:
- Presentations and one-on-one meetings with the four main speakers; Cheryl, Jim Collins, MMM (Pete) and the Mad Fientist (Brandon)
- Loads of great conversation
- Outstanding food
11/2 (Wednesday, three days before leaving)
I admit to having buyer’s regret. The trip wasn’t a frugal endeavor (> $2,000). I could have taken the family on a nice vacation for less money.
Also, Pete, Jim Collins and Brandon are my friends. While the other attendees would be meeting them for the first time, I’ve already know Brandon and Jim since 2013 and Pete since 2012. What was I going to get out of this event? Surely it would be fun, but I had no idea beyond that.
Another thought that terrified me was that I had signed up to hang out with a group of people for a week. I’m introverted and interacting with fellow humans ranks high on the list of things that terrify me. Here are some others:
- Mrs. 1500’s wrath: She is mellow, but hell hath no fury like a woman who “falls” into the toilet after I forget to put the toilet seat down.
- When one of my children utters something like this: “Hey dad, look what came out of my nose!!!”
Anyway, events with the FI crowd are a little easier because the people tend to be more like me than not. I don’t remember any conversations about TV shows or professional sports the whole time I was there.
11/5: Saturday, departure!
Pete and I live near each other, so we took his Leaf to the airport. I’m obsessed with electric cars, so riding in the Leaf was a treat. If I ever have to buy another car, it will be electric:
We had a stopover in Houston where I got to go to one of those fancy-pants airport lounges thanks to my new Chase Sapphire Reserve card. Woot, free beer!
We arrived in Quito at about 11pm, way past my bedtime. I retired to my room and went to bed.
11/6: Sunday; Sheep, Equator and the Andes
We had breakfast and then headed over to the equator. Ever since spying pictures of middle-earth as a kid, I’ve wanted to see it in person:
We then headed up into the Andes for sheep viewing, lunch and a visit to an archeological site:
On one of the bus rides, I talked to David Cain of Raptitude fame. I quizzed him about his daily routine, workouts and meditation. Hopefully, I wasn’t too annoying.
At night we drank Pilsener which seemed to be the official beer of Ecuador:
11/7: Monday; Happiness and Stocks
Cheryl was the first speaker and she gave a talk on happiness. Cheryl’s presentation was encouraging because if you’ve been reading my writing lately, you know that I need to work on my own happiness. I learned from Cheryl that I’m not doomed to unhappiness. I have to work a little harder than most, but through mindfulness, training my mind to react to situations differently and improving my filters, I can be a happier person.
In the afternoon, we went into town to stock up on supplies (beer). It was at this time that I wished I had put more effort into learning Spanish:
I also spent some time wandering around the beautiful 17th century hacienda that we were staying at:
Some walls of the hacienda were painted with nightmarish murals:
Jim Collins also presented today. Jim’s presentation was about investing and he made a compelling case for long term, index investing. For more on investing, Jim’s Stock Series and/or book are both fantastic resources.
At night, there was more beer. One of my favorite evening activities was “borrowing” unattended phones and discretely taking pictures of Frugalsaurus and Spendosaurus. I successfully photobombed at least half of the attendees’ phones over the course of the week:
11/8: Tuesday; Lake Cuicocha Walk and Mad Fience Talk
I slept until 8:30 today. That hasn’t happened in years. And it felt good.
We went for a walk at Lake Cuicocha, a 2 mile wide crater lake:
Brandon, the Mad Fientist gave an inspiring talk. It had nothing to do with money and everything to do with living. The presentation ended with an M. Night Shyamalan style twist that no one saw coming. Brandon’s new adventure is his to share, so I won’t divulge. There is more to the Mad Fientist than Fience…
There was also more Pilsener that evening:
11/9: Wednesday; Otaval0 and Alan
This day was surreal:
- We were all surprised by the results of the election.
- I learned that my older child had possibly fractured her ankle at the school’s annual Fun Run. Not so fun.
- I also learned that a childhood friend had died of a drug overdose.
I had a lot going through my mind, but tried to enjoy myself.
Today, we went to a town called Otavalo famous for its market. We mostly skipped the vendors and instead explored the town:
That evening, one of the attendees, Alan Donegan (PopUp Business School) gave a presentation about how to start a business. Alan was wonderful to chat with and gave a stellar presentation (also listen to Alan’s interview on Mad Fientist):
That night, there was more Pilsener.
11/10: Thursday; MMM
On this day, MMM gave his presentation. Much of it focused on happiness. I realized that I have a way to go, but now I feel like my path is clear:
We also had a big group talk where folks were free to give a presentation or ask questions:
That night, there was more Pilsener:
And dinosaur photo-bombing:
11/11: Friday; Birds and BBQ
Today was the final day of the chautauqua. I took a trip to a bird refuge that features Andean condors. It was raining and condors don’t like to get wet, so they stayed inside and out of sight. However, we saw some other nifty birds:
It started raining, but a little precipitation is of no concern to the well prepared. Here, Jim Collins sports his rain hat:
The night finished with a stellar BBQ dinner. And more beer:
11/12: Saturday; Quito, Statues and yes, Beer
Today was the final day of the trip. We headed back to Quito where we visited El Panecillo:
We had dinner in Old Town Quito at an excellent microbrewery:
Some wise person once said this:
You’re The Average Of The Five People You Spend The Most Time With
And I couldn’t agree more. Surround yourself with smart, thoughtful people and you’ll go places. There were many great things about chautauqua including the food, scenery, and the presentations by the four main speakers, but engaging the other attendees was what made it special. I enjoyed the company so much, I already have plans to meet up with several of the attendees on upcoming trips to Chicago, Nevada and Arizona.
More than anything though, the trip made me realize that part my life has been in a rut. You’ll have to wait until part 3 of this series to learn more about that.