Ecuador, Part 1: Pictures, Pilsener and more Pilsener

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:

Left to right: One on one's with Jim Collins and MMM, dinner candles, conversation

Left to right: One on ones with Jim Collins and MMM, dinner candles, conversation


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:


Cross that one off the bucket list

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:



Photo credit: Mad Fientist

Some walls of the hacienda were painted with nightmarish murals:


This won’t end well.

This won't end well either.

And neither will this.

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:


Photo credit: Mad Fientist

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:


Photo credit: Mad Fientist

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:


Quite possibly the best tacos I’ve ever had.


The Verdict

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.

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37 Responses to Ecuador, Part 1: Pictures, Pilsener and more Pilsener

  1. Such great photos. Thanks for sharing Mr. 1500. Someday I’d also like to make my way to Ecuador for something like this. I hope Jim keeps putting on the annual chautauqua. Is everyone who attends pretty much already financially independent or is it a mix of people on the journey?

    Biglaw Investor recently posted…Time In the Market, Not TimingMy Profile

  2. My favorite part about this is how you took pictures of the dinosaurs on everyone’s phones 🙂 sounds like a fun trip!

  3. Tara says:

    Beautiful photos! I always support costly noteworthy trips (if they can be afforded and paid in cash) if they’re unique and not likely a place you’d ever go back on your own. I had a friend who worked in Ecuador for over a year and had I been in better financial straits at the time, I definitely would’ve visited a county that uses the US dollar (fascinates me). She also worked in Abu Dhabi, another place I would’ve gone but hella costlier and again, I still had debt. Now that traveling friend is in Germany for her second grad degree and I’m finally at a place financially where I can afford to have an awesome adventure like yours.

    Also, Chautauqua is a ptetty city in NY state, I think named after the previous local natives that I realize from Wikipedia is home to that Chautauqua movement your friend is referring to.

    • This trip was well worth it on many levels. I didn’t mention it in the post, but a couple business ideas tossed around. If you pay close attention, you may hear some interesting news about that in 2017…

  4. Brian says:

    Great photos! Sounds like an amazing trip on a lot of levels. I’ve been kicking around the idea of trying to get a local meet up started. The NY fincon group meets every so often, but often in a noisy bar in NYC so tough to have good conversation.
    Brian recently posted…The Cost of Owning a DogMy Profile

  5. Mrs PoP says:

    Nice summary! Like you, I was having serious second thoughts about going the last 36 hours before getting on the plane. What had seemed like a great idea months earlier all of the sudden was feeling like it might end up being a lot more than my introverted self could handle. But it turned out to be exactly what I needed.

    By the way, you never did race me in that 5K…. And my foot is continuing to heal, so you only have another month or so when I’m not allowed to run! =)
    Mrs PoP recently posted…Happy Last Friday – FredMy Profile

  6. Roadrunner says:

    Must have been a beautiful and inspiring trip. The Mad Fientist shot some excellent photos!
    Is Pilsener a pilsner type of beer by any chance? 🙂

  7. I’m sorry to hear about your friend’s passing. It seems like Ecuador was great for you, despite it being a bit pricey! In a way I guess you could say you paid to have lessons in happiness and self-reflection, which is money well spent in my book. 😉 Man, that’s a lot of pilsner! I would be itching for a stout at some point myself!

  8. Mrs. BITA says:

    When I started reading your page I was my usual lovely shade of brown. By the end of it I was a rather ugly shade of green.

    Lovely pictures, and I look forward to parts 2 and 3 and being entirely moss coloured by the end of it all.
    Mrs. BITA recently posted…Why I wear socks with holes in themMy Profile

  9. It seems you had a lot of fun in Ecuador. A trip there is definitely on my to do list. It also sounds like you learned some things, which means it was a worthwhile trip. What was your presentation or were you more of an attendee?

    I see you leveraged the chase sapphire to get into the lounge. Hopefully you could also use the signup bonus and the travel credit to keep your other costs down. I ended up using the lounge from the same card on my recent business trip returning from China. While it’s not a 5 star resort, it sure beats spending money on over priced airline food.. and they give you beer.
    Full Time Finance recently posted…Why Should I Invest in Bonds?My Profile

  10. Jason says:

    What great pictures, information, and a great trip. I have always wanted to attend and maybe will get the opportunity to someday. Sounds like it helped revitalize you a bit, which is always a good thing.

  11. Joe says:

    Wow, this is a huge statement!
    “More than anything though, the trip made me realize that part my life has been in a rut.”
    I thought you’re making a lot of changes of the last few years. This sounds like a great gathering. I’ll have to put it on my list.

  12. Sheep watching? Other than the sheep watching, the trip seems like a good time. Great pictures too!

    Did you realize *every other picture* was a picture of beer in this post? It gives me the impression everyone was mostly intoxicated. The picture of Jim with a beer carrier on his head didn’t dissuade me of that notion. Fun times, huh?

    So here’s my standard question when it comes to travel: Will you go back again?

    • Ha ha, only intoxicated after 6pm.

      I’d go back to Ecuador, but I’m not sure I’d go to another Chautauqua. It sells out quickly and I want to give others a chance. Maybe I’d reconsider after a couple years.

  13. This sounds like an awesome trip! Although I would appreciate it if you could pick me up along the way the next time you go!

    And now I’m left wondering what Brandon’s new adventure is! 🙂

    — Jim
    Jim @ Route To Retire recently posted…It’s All About the Expenses…My Profile

  14. I wish I’d come. All our vacation days are spoken for ahead of time, but maybe that needs to change. We loved Cuenca when we visited a couple years ago. We rode horses in the mountains and galloped for the first time and Mrs. Done by Forty’s horse destroyed a wooden bridge as it collapsed under its feet, narrowly avoiding disaster. We saw a soccer game where Ecuadorian children climbed the metal grate fence separating us from the players, and the fans shot toilet paper out of homemade potato gun contraptions at the opposing players taking corners. It was fantastic. We loved everything except the food, which needed more spice, and the beer, which needed more hops.

    Next year, maybe we’ll go again. Thanks for sharing all the great photos!

  15. Wow, amazing photos. I love the photobombing Frugalsauras (frugalsaruai? Frugalsaureses? What’s the plural here?) I’m looking forward to parts 2 and 3-especially the epiphany.

    Also, I hope your daughters ankle is healing, and I’m very sorry to hear of the loss of your friend.

    • Thanks for the kind comments Liz. Daughter is doing well and my old friend’s struggles are now over. Regarding the latter, it makes me sad because he was really intelligent, except for the heroin part.

      And the dinosaurs! Perhaps some day you’ll come for a visit and leave your phone unattended…

  16. jlcollinsnh says:


    I knew not to let you take that picture with the lunch bag on my head! 😉

  17. I love visiting latin countries. The food is great and the people are very nice and welcoming. That lake looks amazing. Im glad you had a good time and drank some good beer!! 🙂
    Alexander @ Cash Flow Diaries recently posted…November 2016 Net Worth UpdateMy Profile

  18. A lovely part of the world to kick back and do some reflecting in!

    Sounds like a great week. I really hope to get there one year but it’s a big ask money wise while still on the road to FI.

    I can’t believe you went all that way and didn’t sample the local pilsner though?!! 😉

  19. Brandon’s going to be an astronaut?!?

    Sorry to hear you lost a childhood friend. Young people need to stop dying on us. The opioid epidemic is at crisis level.

    Looking forward to the upcoming posts and revelations, and of course more pictures. We toured Quito several years ago – I remember the Old Town being quite picturesque.

    Cheers with something more flavorful than a Pilsener!

  20. Amber tree says:

    Thx for sharing your Ecuador experience. Ever since I read about it, it is something I want to do one day. Not for the investing stuff… The happiness stuff. that is my weak spot. Any help I can get woud be welcome.
    I look forward to part 2 and 3
    Amber tree recently posted…Beat the FIRE Joneses!My Profile

  21. Team CF says:

    Glad to read that you had a great time and hopefully found a way to get your happiness in line with your (financially) good life.
    How’s the kid doing?
    Team CF recently posted…Savings Rate November 2016My Profile

  22. OnlyKetchup says:

    Great post…I too like to borrow unattended phones and take random photos 🙂

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