Last week I returned from a ten day trip to the UK. I was there to attend an event called Chautauqua, a gathering of people interested in FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early). Although there was much to love about the trip, the people I met were definitely the highlight. The group was so diverse and interesting. There was a woman from Copenhagen, a couple who lived on a boat in the south of France, a blogger who lives in Scotland, a couple who has been traveling the world for the last four years and several homeless people! Homeless by choice, that is – homeless millionaires! Along with the international attendees, there were people from Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina and more. Yet, this was not a large group – attendance was limited to 30 participants plus the speakers.
If you have heard of the FI movement, you may recognize some of the speakers. JL Collins is the grand-daddy of them all and the one who started Chautauqua seven years ago. Reading his book, A Simple Path to Wealth really resonated with me – especially the part about “F-You Money!” This year’s event was organized by Katie and Alan Donegan and superbly organized it was! Each day we had one speaker – with fun activities, lots of time for getting to know each other and LOTS of elegant food in between. Our speakers, in order of appearance were: JL Collins, Kristy and Bryce of Millennial Revolution, Carl – Mr. 1500, Jullian from Montana Money Adventures, and Alan from PopUp Business School. Brandon, “The Mad Fientist” was also there to help mentor.
One of the most refreshing and impressive things was the openness, honesty and lack of pretension of everyone I met. There were people on their way to FI, but there were also quite a few already there. There were people who had sold their businesses and were multi-millionaires. Despite that, no one dressed to impress. I didn’t see one Louis Vuitton bag or Rolex and only a few diamond rings. These people spent their money on things they valued, not things to impress other people – and they valued their freedom more than material goods.
The event was held at a historic English manor built in 1858 known as Ettington Park in Stratford-upon-Avon. On our way there, we took a walking tour of Oxford University. One afternoon we went into the town of Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of Shakespeare, and attended a role-reversed production of “Taming of the Shrew” at the Royal Shakespeare Theater. The last evening we got to watch the new documentary “Playing with Fire” – all together in a room with many of the people in the film – surreal! The remainder of the time we luxuriated in the relaxed pace, walking the grounds of the hotel, soaking in the pool or sipping drinks in the garden. There were impromptu jam sessions, croquet games and a yoga class. Chautauqua was unlike any other event I have ever been to and the magic of it was definitely the time to connect with the other like-minded participants. I am sure everyone there made lifelong friendships… I am pretty sure I have!