Meet your Favorite Financial Bloggers – In Ecuador

If you haven’t heard the word already, there is a little shindig going down right on the Equator this September. We’re calling it a “Chautauqua“, which is a nice old word which means roughly “A group of Fancy Adults gathering to further their mutual knowledge and success in life.”


Organized by our mutual friend Jim Collins and his Ecuador Insider friend Cheryl Reed, I found myself invited to be one of the hosts/presenters a few months ago, and after some consideration I wholeheartedly accepted. During a brief moment of feeling important and worldly, I took a long shot and invited JD Roth, an excellent (and more famous) writer who I had met at the 2012 Financial Bloggers Conference, knowing he had a weakness for South America. As luck would have it, he accepted too.

The overall goal of this trip is simply to gather with a group of about 25 people, and spend some time learning together in a new and extremely beautiful country. If we can get ourselves to the Quito airport, everything else will be facilitated by the hosts including transportation, accommodation and meals at a low-key yet very sweet resort up in the cloud forest. Plus some trips to the surrounding countryside for activities and a charitable project in the village nearby. For my part, I’m planning on getting in a healthy amount of adventure hiking and other outdoor fitness stuff as well, and you are welcome to join me. On the more formal side of it, each of your four hosts will be doing a presentation and available for one-on-one sessions for individual discussion.


Our Digs for the week

Try visiting Ecuador using Google Earth. It is an amazing place - the Eastern half is almost pure Amazon rainforest.

Try visiting Ecuador using Google Earth. It is an amazing place – the Eastern half is almost pure Amazon rainforest.

As Mr. Money Mustache, I feel compelled to point out that a trip like this is obviously suitable for only a minority of readers of a blog like this. While the retreat is not designed to sell anything and I’m accepting no pay myself*, the price of just under $2000 is still a non-trivial amount of money to spend for a vacation. If you’re in debt or otherwise struggling, a trip like this will not solve your problems, and I don’t want anyone to ever feel they have to pay to meet me or ask for advice. I hope to continue to host less formal gatherings all over the US that would be much cheaper and convenient to reach than Ecuador, or if you happen to live in Longmont, Colorado, you can just bike over to to say “Hi!”

So who IS the trip for? It’s for people whose response to the proposal is something like this:

“Hey! Ecuador sounds great, I’ve always wanted to go there. I’m excited to go with a semi-guided group to help me get around for the first time. And damn, that place we’re staying looks really sweet. Looking forward to some fine dining!

I bet the other 24 people in the group will be really interesting to meet, and I’ll also enjoy hearing a bit from JL, JD and MMM, since I’ve read plenty of each of their stuff. Overall, it might be a nice entrepreneurial/career/philosophy boost for my already-successful life. Since I can easily afford it, sign me up”.

With all this discussion aside, I now present you with the resources you need to get yourself on the list. Note that even with a 1-in-10,000 participation rate, this 25-person event should easily sell out, so if you do decide to go, it would be wise to sign up fairly soon.

(Update: This event has come and gone and was a great success – you can read about how it went here).

Jim Collins’ post about the event

JD Roth’s Post

Above the Clouds Retreats (Cheryl Reed’s website) about the event

* Above the Clouds Retreats is a small business that attempts to make a living for its owner by organizing retreats like this one. She then uses some of the profits for charitable work in the area of Ecuador where she lives. In this case, the three presenters also agreed to donate any surplus from the budget to the charitable work instead of getting paid ourselves. But apparently this was supposed to be a surprise for Cheryl and I let the cat out of the bag with this post. Sorry guys! :-)

  • Johnny Moneyseed March 10, 2013, 6:48 am

    Ecuador? September? I would love to do this. Would there be accommodation for spouses even if they weren’t partaking in the sessions? Thanks!

    • Mr. Money Mustache March 10, 2013, 8:30 am

      That is a good question Mr. Moneyseed.

      Updated answer: you get a discount of $185 per person ($370/couple) for people registering together and sharing a room.

      As far as I know the bulk of the cost goes to things like resort, food, local transportation, etc – not to the presenters. And group size is deliberately kept small to give everyone time to talk together. Hope this helps!

      • jlcollinsnh March 10, 2013, 9:12 am

        That is a great question and a great idea, at least for the next time. Might be tough to pull off at this point.

        One concern I’d have is we’d be in the potentially awkward position of having to tell some spouses: “Sorry you can’t join us for this excursion.”

        And since a big and cool part of this will be the time we share as a group at meals and just hanging out, where and how do we draw the line is tough.

        While I’m sure the vast majority of people would respect the boundaries, it would only take one who didn’t to sour the experience.

        Lots to think about.

        All that said, there is in place already an accommodation discount for couples sharing a room at the resort.

    • Johnny Moneyseed March 10, 2013, 8:32 am

      Didn’t take much to talk the wife into it. See you in Ecuador MMM!

      • Mr. Money Mustache March 10, 2013, 9:58 am

        Yee Haw!! Glad to hear it Johnny.. and I guess as a fellow blogger this might even be a business expense for you :-)

        • Johnny Moneyseed March 10, 2013, 10:45 am

          Interestingly enough, Mrs. Moneyseed pointed that out to me before I even thought of it. She’ll be attending as well. So you’ve filled at least 8% of the total occupancy already.

          • jlcollinsnh March 10, 2013, 3:08 pm

            Hi Johnny M…

            Great news that you’ll both be joining us.

            I just go word 15 of the 25 slots are spoken for as of now. 10 of those since this post went up.

            Strong testimony to the reach of MMM.

            • Johnny Moneyseed March 10, 2013, 4:15 pm

              Awesome, man! We’re looking forward to it. It will be the 1st international vacation for the Moneyseeds.

  • Dee March 10, 2013, 7:16 am

    Sounds fabulous! So sorry it’s during the academic semester when I can’t get away. Will certainly look forward to hearing about it.

    • jlcollinsnh March 10, 2013, 3:11 pm

      Hi Dee…

      We’ve heard from several people about this conflict with the academic calendar, including my wife!

      Going forward we’ll try to pick a time that works better for folks like you.

      • BadAss CPA March 12, 2013, 3:07 pm

        Yes, if you do another one the summer or winter school breaks would be great. My wife is a teacher plus I’m of Ecuadorian descent so if this was in, say August then we would have definitely made it a dual-purpose trip to see you guys and also visit family.

        My last trip to the homeland was back in 2009 when we first got married and I took my wife to meet the extended family. :-)

  • Melinda Gonzalez March 10, 2013, 7:39 am

    South America is a great place for something like this, great idea. Hopefully this becomes a regular thing because I would love to go another year. I already overdid my vacations for this year.

  • Jose March 10, 2013, 8:19 am

    That sounds like a nice working vacation. One of these days I hope to be able to participate in a get together like this. Unfortunately, it won’t be this year.

  • Stacy March 10, 2013, 8:45 am

    My husband is from Ecuador, and we have been twice.You, and anyone else who decides to go, will love it! I will always remember the two huge bags of food from the market that we got for $7, and the smell of roasting guinea pig (delicious!), although I didn’t try it…

    • jlcollinsnh March 10, 2013, 1:42 pm


      We tried the Cuy (guinea pig) the first time we were in Ecuador. Glad we did and I pride myself on being willing to try most anything once. But never again.

      The Ecuadorian we were with raved about it, so we know we had good Cuy, but to me it tasted just like rat. Or at least what I imagine rat would taste like.

      It certainly looked, served whole as it is, like rat on the plate.

      But I’ve only met one Ecuadorian who didn’t love it. Acquired taste, I guess. :)

      • BadAss CPA March 12, 2013, 3:11 pm

        I’m Ecuadorian and I don’t love it. Something about the texture of the skin really doesn’t do it for me. I don’t mind the meat underneath though; I wonder if next time they can skin it before cooking, although I imagine that would really add to the prep time.

        My wife was pressured to try it, and I can almost guarantee that will be her only time!

  • Saved Penny March 10, 2013, 9:34 am

    Ecuador is great!! Having just visited there earlier this year (using what I’m sure would be MMM-approved airline miles to get me there together with cheap home-stay options), let me say that I approve of the location.

    Perhaps a good segue for a follow up post might be living in low cost countries as a way to retire early. Increasingly Ecuador is a popular choice for expats to retire.

    Have fun!

    • Prob8 March 10, 2013, 7:46 pm

      Good thought! If you want a little filler in the meantime, check out articles from Paul and Vicki Terhorst. They retired back in the 80’s at the age of 35 and Paul has written a book on the subject. They have been living frugally overseas and writing about it for decades. They mostly write for Live and invest Overseas. Another couple doing the same are Billy and Akaisha Kaderli (also retired in their 30’s). They also have several e-books giving you ways to live in various countries on the cheap. Happy reading!

      • Saved Penny March 10, 2013, 9:37 pm

        Ha! Funny you should mention it. When I read the Terhorst book 10ish years ago, when I was just finishing school, that is what made me want to retire early. We all have a spark or an “Ah-ha” moment — that was it for me.

        • Prob8 March 11, 2013, 6:31 am

          Me too.

  • T. Lord March 10, 2013, 9:52 am

    I know I won’t be signing up for this for 2013, but I like the idea — so, unless everyone catches a terrible, embarrassing disease or the entire group become hostages, I hope you do something similar on an ongoing basis. (South America, already high on my list — if you’ll be back in Ecuador next year or so, it would be a good incentive to work on my Spanish.)

    Meta comment, at risk of off-topic, but I bet others would like this as well, I hope you outline in a future post some of your (however tentative) plans for future gatherings. I moved out of Seattle not that long ago, so missed your recent shindig there. But I know there are quite a few Austin readers, so if you’re swinging this way you’d obviously have offers of places to stay / things to do / etc.

    (Here’s a small list I work on once in a while for the benefit of friends or family: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Y_kTBH39aWzjJCCBXiKD3gKivzY8A3rRqYoehtRQ6M0/edit?usp=sharing)

    Hope Ecuador turns out a great trip — I envy in advance, but will smile to be $2000 closer to a paid-off house ;)

  • lurker March 10, 2013, 10:19 am

    yes I will have live vicariously through these experiences that I hope you will post about and continue doing around the world until my house is paid off and my kids are through college…also my wife is a teacher so that is the wrong time of year for us….looks pretty great though. Really gorgeous part of the world it seems.

    • squeakywheel March 11, 2013, 10:46 am

      I agree with this–as long as we have kids in school, this is a pipe dream for us, just time-wise. But fun to read about!

  • Colleen March 10, 2013, 10:48 am

    I signed up early this morning before I read this post. Being from Canada I couldn’t complete the registration page but submitted the registration info by email. Looking forward to meeting all you like minded guests!

    In pursuit of badassity, I initially balked at the price when I factored flight and registration for both my husband and I. But now I’m just going myself. Retreat plus freedom plus the pursuit of joy… It doesn’t get much better than that.

    Mr MM… I’ve been reading all your posts the last few months. I love your perspective. And I’ve been kicked in the ass by your blog and now I have more momentum. But wish I’d had this much earlier.

    We were doing okay though. Just pushed past 40. We’ve got three kids (12, 10 and 5). House was paid off five years ago. High income earners. RRSPs topped up. RESPs maximized. TFSAs in place. Two defined benefit pension plans. Early retirement planned for age 47. But all this time we weren’t ambitious enough. Once all the above was set up, we just err umm coasted along and spent the rest of our income. Mostly on experiences. No personal cell phones, no cable or digital tv, only basic phone. We just recently switched from dial up to wifi. One vehicle but don’t ask me about that … Minivan.

    But now I’m on fire. My goal is to save $100,000 in one year. Our basic expenses are just over $30K. We’ve committed to some travel already and some camps for the kids. So it probably won’t be this year. And I need to ease every one into this so they don’t notice.

    This is my first comment. More since I don’t have anything original to add. But mostly because I’m long winded when I write.

    According to you I can’t technically afford this… Since we’re not yet retired. But we can be soon if my husband wasn’t a big chicken about it. He’s in the military. Generous pension plan after 25 years. He can go in December 2015 with over 50K pension. I’ve made spread sheets. Tracked our spending. Showed him our savings. Explained how we wouldn’t even have to touch our investments. That we can even add to them. But he’s not convinced! He wants to continue to travel as we do and have the ability to purchase pretty much anything he wants. Not that he buys anything. Grr. Writing this I see he should really be going to this. I’m already convinced. But we’ve got the three kids and no family to look after them. We travel as a family these days.

    About a year ago I made a plan and everyone is excited about it. January 2017 we are travelling to South America for a year. Slow travel. Three to four countries during that time with a home base to launch out from. I’m hoping to show him that during this sabbatical simple living while travelling as a family is completely doable. And we’ll be financially ahead still. I call it a sabbatical but it’s really trial retirement!

    I’m looking forward to being further inspired in September.

    I just wanted to introduce myself!

    • Mr. Money Mustache March 10, 2013, 12:01 pm

      Wow Colleen, what a story! Definitely looking forward to meeting you there, then we can do a Skype call from Ecuador to your husband to talk some sense into him :-)

      • jlcollinsnh March 10, 2013, 3:17 pm

        +1 on your story and meeting you, Colleen.

        My guess is after the Chautauqua Ecuador will be at the top of your base in SA list!

    • Lisis March 10, 2013, 2:08 pm

      Hi! Nothing to add here, except that I loved reading Colleen’s comment (and wish I could go to Ecuador this year). Sounds like an amazing trip. :)

    • Rebecca March 11, 2013, 9:01 am

      I have never posted before either but your story inspired me – my husband is retired military and has the exact same response to my desire for early retirement! He insists I can’t retire until he can buy whatever he wants like he can now – even though he rarely buys anything. You’ve got us beat in that our mortgage is not yet paid off but we’re on track for that by the end of next year.

      good luck!!


      • Colleen March 11, 2013, 3:38 pm

        Hi Rebecca,

        Maybe we should conspire together…

        I should clarify though… if I pushed a bit he’d agree to pretty much anything for me. Probably you too. I just don’t want to have the sole responsibility for a major decision that has a chance, however small, of going south. Imagine the bitterness and blame that could come from that. I want him completely on board, excited, jubilant even.

        Maybe when we get there, he’ll see and jump on it without any encouragement.

        If our partners spent as much time reading personal finance and early retirement literature, they’d most likely be just as interested and less nervous about it. I’ve read Mr MM’s posts on how to get your partner on board but it’s more towards embracing frugality. My husband has no problem not spending, and saving, and embracing simple living, and so on. He’s just not a planner.

  • Samina March 10, 2013, 11:32 am

    Sounds great although I’ve just come back from Ecuador. I would highly recommend a few days independently trekking between villages on the Quilotoa Loop – highlight of my trip. Also – mountain biking the Cotopaxi national park

    Of course my trip was also paid for with airline miles and inexpensive hostals…definitely a budget friendly destination.

    • FI2020 March 10, 2013, 2:27 pm

      I’m a long time reader and since my wife and I also recently vacationed in Ecuador, I felt inclined to be a first time commenter.

      Samina – Hiking the Quilotoa Loop was also the highlight of our trip. I’d recommend anyone going to tack on 3 or 4 days to their trip for this or other excursions through Ecuador.

      With hostel lodging at $20 or less per person per night, including a great family style dinner and breakfast the next morning, it’s definitely mustache-budget friendly. Not to mention, a great work out.

  • totoro March 10, 2013, 11:53 am

    We’re in :)

  • totoro March 10, 2013, 11:57 am

    Or rather, I’m signed up. Couldn’t figure out how to add my spouse on. Is there an email address to contact?

  • Michelle March 10, 2013, 12:36 pm

    I would love to do this! Too bad my Fall is pretty packed with vacations already. Need more vacation days!

  • goldgoldgold666 March 10, 2013, 2:02 pm

    I was going to sign up but realized it was a trap! Once we get off that plane in Ecuador, 2K poorer, MMM and his friends are going to face-punch us into oblivion for giving in to temptation…. =)

    • jlcollinsnh March 10, 2013, 3:19 pm

      Rats! Foiled again! ;)

      • Mr. Money Mustache March 10, 2013, 3:30 pm

        Darn.. I guess I’ll move on to my next plan of offering 0% financing on Cadillac Escalades. That will surely get me some more victims ;-)

  • Fastbodyblast March 10, 2013, 2:48 pm

    Wow – would be great to go!

    But I’ve already committed my airmiles to another trip this year.

    Spending even more on yet another trip would no doubt earn me a punch in the face from MMM. Another year then if all goes well and this event becomes a regular thing…..

  • Mike March 10, 2013, 3:15 pm

    MMM, once I retire and I’m all over opportunities like this! Until then, I’ll live vicariously through your awesome updates!

  • ael March 10, 2013, 6:05 pm

    You will all love Ecuador. Our month long trip of a lifetime was to there, Peru, and Bolivia 15 years ago while visiting our Peace Corps daughter. I would quibble about Ecuador being “a new country”; Spain began building some of its cathedrals, etc. in 1500’s and the indigenous people (los indigenos–this is the correct and polite term) for thousands of years before. Truly I hope you will enjoy the people and magnificent surroundings. Just don’t let yourselves get to separated from the day-to-day life.

  • Prob8 March 10, 2013, 7:38 pm

    I didn’t see anyone else ask so I’m going to . . . will someone be taping this event for the stay-at-home crowd to view? Not as good as being able to meet and converse with MMM and JLC in the flesh, but an acceptable second place in my book.

    • Mr. Money Mustache March 10, 2013, 9:10 pm

      Yup, I’ll record our little presentations and share them here if they come out well. Maybe throw in some footage of the great feasts, the happy hours overlooking the rainforest and all of us jumping off of waterfalls as well :-)

      • jlcollinsnh March 11, 2013, 9:11 am

        footage of me watching Mr. MM jump off waterfalls…..

      • Drewstees March 11, 2013, 12:45 pm

        Excellent idea, Prob8, and thanks MMM for agreeing to share. The majority of us would balk at dropping this much money ($6,000 for us as a couple, including travel). However, designed as a gathering of successful individuals, we all stand to benefit from your collaboration.

        Looking forward to hear what comes of this frugality think tank.

      • The Glad Stork March 11, 2013, 1:34 pm

        I searched the comments to ask this exact question. Video footage would be very much appreciated!

  • david March 10, 2013, 9:31 pm

    i see no mention about children…are they welcome or is this not suitable for them. i have a 12 and 11yo

    • jlcollinsnh March 11, 2013, 9:07 am

      Hi David…

      Cheryl forwarded your email to her on this and we’ve been kicking it around. Candidly, it is a question that never occurred to us in the planning.

      Concerns include:

      Who would watch the kids while you are participating in the programs?
      This will likely be boring for kids.
      It wouldn’t be fair to other attendees to have restless children in the mix.
      Even if you were to choose to stay with them at the resort during the excursions, some of these are on the way to and from Quito.

      The program has been designed with adults in mind. As Mr. MM says: “A fancy adults gathering.”

      My guess is we won’t be able to make it work this time around.

      All of that said, if we hear from more people who would like to see this be a kid friendly event (please send Cheryl an email from the Chautauqua website) we’ll certainly explore the options.

      Who knows, if the demand is there we might even create an event specifically design to be kid friendly and with kid adventures. Maybe even some financial basics for the older ones…


  • Jane Savers @ The Money Puzzle March 10, 2013, 10:01 pm

    I am not in the minority of people that can afford to go on this adventure but I will be ready to go in 16 months when I am free of the $18,800 in HELOC debt that I am battling against.

    I am trying to be more of a financial bad ass so I have decided to live on 50% of my income and put 40% on debt and 10% on to savings. The first week was pretty easy but I think it will get harder after that.

  • Jeremy March 10, 2013, 11:03 pm

    Who knows, maybe we will have made it that far south by September.

  • Cecile March 10, 2013, 11:09 pm

    Hi MMM !
    Great pick on Ecuador ! This is my destination for when I defend my phd. But before that, I’ll stay in the lab, an add some cash to my stash ;-)
    Have a great one there !

  • MrAlexMoore March 11, 2013, 12:32 am

    This sounds awesome, unfortunately my stash is still in the rampant growth phase. Count me in 5 years from now!

  • SamWise March 11, 2013, 3:36 am

    Sounds great but…. $2000?????? I could travel for four months in South America using that budget (not including flights), but then again I’m a young singleton (23) and don’t mind slumming it.. sounds like an awesome trip though enjoy!

    • jlcollinsnh March 11, 2013, 8:54 am


      Me too, Sam!

      At least I like to think I still can. I certainly could, and did, at age 23. Last summer, touring Bolivia, Peru and Chile we met lots of young people on multi-month and sometimes multi-year journeys.

      I’d encourage you, or anyone else so inclined, to go for it.

  • robbabroad March 11, 2013, 8:19 am

    I’ve been following you for a long time MMM, but since I read your posts in Google Reader I rarely comment. But I think this trip sounds fantastic. I’ve already committed to Barcelona in August, so can’t do it this time, but I hope this is so successful that you repeat it again. I mean, 25 awesome people in a cloud forest comparing notes and planning on how to be even more awesome? Now that is what I call a vacation. Have a great time, I can’t wait to hear the reports!

  • Meadow Lark March 11, 2013, 9:48 am

    Asked my wife and she agreed we could do it in 10 years. So please accept our reservation for 2023. Can’t wait! Now I’m off to do some over-time to pay for it!

  • Will March 11, 2013, 2:55 pm

    Hey, the title of this said my favorite financial bloggers would be in Ecuador, but I just see MMM, JD, and jlcollins. Where are my favorites? Just kidding!

    Like many others, this year isn’t in the cards for me, but maybe if there is one in 2014 or 2015. Maybe it would be better to do it every other year; then it could be like financial Olympics!

  • Nick @ ayoungpro.com March 11, 2013, 4:15 pm

    Wow that looks and sounds amazing! I wish I could go, but alas the time is not yet right for me.

  • Tony@WeOnlyDoThisOnce March 11, 2013, 5:09 pm

    This sounds like a total blast at a great time of year. I am seriously considering checking this out. I hope you will post again about this in a couple of months to let us know how it is all shaping up (if it is not too late by that time). Either way, a great idea…my wheels are turning for a musician hang like this…

  • John@MoneyPrinciple March 11, 2013, 5:33 pm

    Hmm. Ecuador. Sounds interesting and I am sure Maria would love to go but she is already attending FinCon13 this year so maybe next year???

  • Karl March 11, 2013, 8:30 pm

    I signed up tonight so just maybe I’ll get to meet you Mr MM. I’m very much looking forward to spending some time with like-minded folks.

  • Tyler Karaszewski March 11, 2013, 11:31 pm

    you could always just stop by Longmont, Colorado to say “Hi” on your next trip through here.

    Can I actually do this? I might be driving to Utah in the fall and Colorado’s only, well, one state over.

    • Mrs. Money Mustache March 12, 2013, 12:00 pm

      Yes of course you can! We’d both love to meet you.

      • Mr. Money Mustache March 12, 2013, 12:15 pm

        Yeah, we do love to meet Mustachians and have done so many times. But note that the states are BIG states out West.

        Unless you’re already somewhere like Boulder, it’s not worth doing extra driving to meet Mr. and Mrs. MM. In fact, I actively discourage friends from even North Denver from driving up here unnecessarily. We’re much more entertaining in written form anyway :-)

        • Tyler Karaszewski March 13, 2013, 9:53 pm

          So I looked it up and the part of Utah I’ll be in is over 600 miles from Longmont. So maybe another time. I’d love to come visit someday, though.

  • Matt March 12, 2013, 7:53 am

    That sounds like an amazing trip and the resort looks fabulous. You’ll definitely have to post up pictures for those of us who currently have to live vicariously through you.

  • KC @ genxfinance March 12, 2013, 8:17 pm

    It would be nice to go out there and meet new people. The place looks nice too. I’ll go see if I can make it. I really hope I do.

  • Martha April 22, 2013, 2:13 pm

    I would love lo go! but, I have a non-convinced husband that can not speak English, he will certainly refuse to go or let me go. We live in Mexico, and I will love to see your report!


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