Lessons from Ecuador


So, here we all are at the equator. Sitting by the fireplace in a 400-year-old hotel, nestled in a tropical valley at 9,000 feet above sea level and surrounded by towering volcanoes. Well, that’s where my mind remains, even if in reality I’m finally back home in Colorado at the end of a 36-hour day of touring and travel*.

When I say “we”, I am referring to Jim Collins, JD Roth, Cheryl Reed, her Clint Eastwoodesque husband named Rich, myself, and a deluxe coalition of people who were bold enough to travel to South America to join an adventure dreamed up by a bunch of writers they had only met through blog posts.


And what a group it is. Since the day of arrival, we have stayed up late every night talking, drinking wine**, laughing, discussing the craziness of the world we left behind, and planning future trips and business ventures alike. Within days, a group of permanent friends has been formed. The experience was much more than could reasonably be expected from any vacation.

But as usual, all this fun has come with a generous side dish of lessons in living a more prosperous life. Of course, there were the obvious ones, beginning with a study on happiness and finding your passions from Cheryl, my own presentation on the intersection of riches vs. happiness, Jim’s moving sermon on the power of keeping your stock investing as simple as possible, and JD’s great workshop on how to improve your life by being less fearful. But the bigger lessons formed organically from the unusual event of a large group of wealthy but frugal people gathering in a third world country and absorbing the differences between our cultures.

While visiting the villages and small towns of rural Ecuador, we were reminded of just how little money it takes to lead a happy life. Many people live in rudimentary huts or cinder block houses without indoor plumbing, yet deliver a genuine smile and a “Buenos tardes” as you walk by, even as an obvious outsider. The children run and play just as joyfully as any I’ve ever seen in the United States, even with no toys more sophisticated than an old soccer ball and a field of tropical vegetation and assorted free-ranging livestock. While we could do a lot to help people in these villages, the few problems that did exist came from a need for better health and education, rather than a lack of material luxuries.

las vachas y los toros

A portion of the proceeds of the Chautaqua went towards rebuilding the small house of a large family which had been damaged in an earthquake months ago, forcing them to live in a chicken coop across the street until their home could offer shelter again.

Here your hosts stand with the family in front of the rebuilt house.

But the real surprises began when our group was comfortably lodged together at the Hacienda Cusin. We found that we had an incredible amount in common, from the basic skepticism of consumer culture, right up to a shared bizarre sense of humor. We found that trust was building among us, which led to a mutual sharing of some of our secrets, which led to more understanding and a desire to help each other. Quite a few ambitious business plans were hatched between many of us, from casual job inquiries right up to my slightly crazy plan to look into buying the 24 acres adjacent to Cheryl’s existing farm to turn it into a permanent gathering point which also generates money for charity. The energy was so powerful in this crowd that the buzz will probably take weeks to wear off.


Having three very fine meals a day served to us probably didn’t hurt either

We were all so surprised at this, that it’s worth repeating: you really do give your life a boost by meeting the right people. Sure, the folks you work with, live near, or grew up with are all dandy people. And if you feel a genuine connection with them, cultivate it to the fullest. But this particular meetup reminded me that even uncommon people can find each other, with fantastic results. Personal connections of this type are the ones that stick around through the years, and come through for you when you need them in the future. They are the reason some people find that the world is friendly and jobs are easy to get, while others have the opposite opinion.

The general goodness of this retreat has made me reconsider my assumption that it was a one-time event. J.D. is already talking about trying a similar thing right in his hometown of Portland, Oregon. And I figure it would be appropriate for Mr. Money Mustache to do some sort of semi-organized group camping/kayaking trip through the deserts and canyons around here next spring. We shall see.. but for now, it is time for a few days of sleep.

The gardens at Hacienda Cusin, our home for the week

The gardens at Hacienda Cusin, our home for the week

Party on MMM's front porch

Party on MMM’s front porch

This guy scores big during our visit to the orphanage at San Pablo

This guy scores big with the Piñata‎ during our visit to the orphanage at San Pablo

The "Mustachian Salute": finger mustache, flexed bicep. Pass it on.

The “Mustachian Salute”: finger mustache, flexed bicep. Pass it on.

Famous world traveler Dmitry Petrukhin happened to stop by, so we taught him the Salute as well.

Famous Khazakstani world traveler Dmitry Petrukhin happened to stop by, so we taught him the Salute as well.

Just one last place of beauty - a lake set inside a high volcano crater

Just one last place of beauty – a lake set inside a high volcano crater

* Since you’re probably wondering: our neighborhood was unaffected by last week’s giant flood, but I’ll be doing my best to help out some of the other Longmontians who were less lucky.

** And other things. On this trip, I accidentally invented a new drink called the Mustachian Rosé, which quickly became quite popular. 50% whisky, 50% red wine. Although you are surely frightened by the description, you will be surprised by the deliciousness of this drink. 

J.D and Colleen demonstrate their Mustachian Rosé mixing skills

J.D and Colleen demonstrate their Mustachian Rosé mixing skills

J.D. Roth made his own great post on the event – you can find it here.


  • Dragline September 15, 2013, 8:35 pm

    “We were all so surprised at this, that it’s worth repeating: you really do give your life a boost by meeting the right people.’

    True. But the corollary is equally or more important — a boost can be achieved by severing or minimizing ties with the wrong people. I think this is the bigger challenge for most.

    Chances are some of the consumers you grew up with or populated your family are in this category.

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 15, 2013, 8:40 pm

      Yeah, we talked about the idea of trimming away negative people quite a bit in our group discussions. Many of us feel obliged to keep enduring the abuse because the wrong people are often right in your family.

      But others suggest that you really can and should choose who you hang around with – whether family or not, the people you see regularly should be badass, powerful, optimistic, happy people, if you want to be one yourself.

      • Regular Reader September 15, 2013, 10:28 pm

        Just a friendly note that there are people whose natural demeanor may not be optimistic, and who, although they may be practicing optimism, may not yet have mastered it. Many of those folks benefit immensely by being around those who are able to stay optimistic and otherwise healthy. Further segregating our communities based on demeanor/mood would further alienate those who most need the positive influence of those with an optimistic outlook, and robs the optimistic of the opportunity to share one of greatest gifts they can give others in their community.

        • Uncephalized September 16, 2013, 8:48 am

          This is great insofar as you do not allow the negative emotions/words of others to regularly drag you out of your own positive mental state. In those cases best thing is to humanely euthanize the relationship IMO.

          But if you are a resilient badass and certified Optimism Marksman, then yeah, by all means try and help out those who have a harder time seeing the good in things.

        • Mike September 16, 2013, 9:03 am

          I used to visit The Balsams with family and friends. First, it was just Mom and Dad, then family, and before long it was a group of 25 people.

          It was so invigorating and the high took awhile to wear off, while it was depressing to fall back in my world. It was truly a highlight of my life being around such wonderful people.

          I hope MMM does start something. The people who gravitate to this site are indeed special.

        • Aimee September 16, 2013, 9:24 am

          I completely agree. On a personal level my own mood varies so wildly, that it benefits enormously from being around stable, optimistic and generally happy people. Loved the article by the way, it’s so interesting to hear about other peoples (mis)adventures!

        • Amicable Skeptic September 16, 2013, 1:19 pm

          This is an interesting note, kind of similar to the argument that there should be no segregated Gifted and Talented programs at schools because having a few smart kids in classes is really beneficial to the class as a whole. I was in GT classes as a kid and definitely benefited from them, but I think about this argument today and wonder if it wouldn’t have been better for me to have been in regular classes. I think the main reason it would not have been is that in this country there is a stigma against being too smart, so GT kids often get looked down upon and ostracized if left in regular classes instead of helping to bring the whole class up with them. Pessimists won’t look down upon and ostracize optimists in a similar fashion though, but adding a few pessimists to the mix can definitely kill the momentum of ideas at times.

          I know there has been more study on optimism/pessimism recently, maybe someone can find a study (or make one if it doesn’t exist) that looks at how much pessimist friends really impede optimists from doing new things.

          • Christine September 16, 2013, 1:25 pm

            If a whole bunch of optimists let in 1 pessimist, I’d imagine they’d do good for that pessimist without diluting themselves too much. But if you were 1 optimist hanging out with a group of pessimists – I’d doubt you’d change them and they’d start to make you feel pessimistic instead. I have no idea what the tipping point is for people effecting other people though.

      • Justin RoG September 16, 2013, 7:22 am

        “The people you see regularly should be badass, powerful, optimistic, happy people, if you want to be one yourself.”

        Put that on a T-shirt, book cover, motivational poster, whatever. Badass piece of advice, sir.

      • Elaine September 16, 2013, 9:02 am

        An article about this would be great. I struggle with it as a buddhist & mustachian- how to balance being compassionate to the negative people in your life without inviting more and more contact with them. Where is the line and how do you draw it without letting the negativity infect you.

        • Mother Frugal September 16, 2013, 5:47 pm

          Elaine, I’m not Buddhist, but my thought to this was that the monks always return to the monastery. I’m sure there is more to it, but this gives them a chance to “recharge” with some like-minded fellowship.

      • CincyCat September 17, 2013, 2:33 pm

        I’m with you, MMM. There is no reason at all why one must tolerate toxic people, simply because they are “family.” I have no issue at all avoiding individuals in my family who are manipulating, negative, depressing or emotionally abusive. If there is some sort of pressing family engagement where the person is likely to be there (like a wedding or a funeral, etc.), then I will put on my big girl panties and attend, but I feel no compulsion at all to make nice chit-chat with someone who I would not choose to be friends with otherwise.

        Edited to add… There is a difference with feeling genuine regret that a relationship isn’t what it ought to be (perhaps that is what a PP meant by “compassion”), but that does not extend to exposing yourself to chronic toxicity out of guilt, or in the name of feeling sorry for someone. It’s like forgiveness. You can forgive someone for a wrong committed against you, but still choose not to engage in a relationship with that person.

      • Science Tyler September 17, 2013, 4:12 pm

        In Frank Herbert’s sci-fi opus Dune, the fictional desert-dwelling Fremen people have a saying: “Never be in the company of anyone with whom you would not want to die.”
        There’s probably something to that.
        …although, I’m not a cheery person. I’d probably be pretty lonely.

    • Richard September 16, 2013, 12:06 am

      I’ve found that both are important. Avoiding negative people can stop them from dragging you down, but you won’t truly soar until you have the right people around you. If you don’t believe this you probably haven’t met them yet :)

      I had an experience similar to what MMM described a couple of months ago and I’m looking forward to making things like that a regular occurrence. I would be interested in a follow-up to this event.

    • Debt Blag September 16, 2013, 11:22 am

      Interesting. I find I always have to differentiate the two — some people are negative because I’m making bad decisions and want to help. Some people are negative because they just like seeing other people down. The first group are good to have around and the second group are worth breaking away from.

  • Chris Gammell September 15, 2013, 8:35 pm

    Sounds like a heckuva trip! I hope the Moustachian Rose wasn’t as big as a normal glass of wine! But then again…

    Also, I dig the references to the Dalai Lama in your presentation. Religion aside, if you want to see a happy, healthy, grateful person, you need not look any further than him. I really enjoy his writings and audiobooks and such. Simple.

  • Kandice Bridges September 15, 2013, 8:38 pm

    Please do another one! My husband and I would love to attend a great Mustachian adventure.

    • Miss Growing Green September 16, 2013, 9:18 am

      Agreed! I would very much love to join in another gathering of great minds!

  • Michelle September 15, 2013, 8:43 pm

    I’m glad that your neighborhood was unaffected! That trip looks amazing. I’m not sure about the Moustachian Rose-but am up for trying almost anything once!

  • lentilman September 15, 2013, 9:06 pm

    I hope this event will happen again in the future – wanted to attend this one but just wasn’t in the cards this year.

    I think will will try the mustachian rose before then, however!

  • Free Money Minute September 15, 2013, 9:40 pm

    Looks and sounds like you had an amazing time. Have you considered residing down there half or full time? Seems like that may be what a mustachian should consider?

  • Stephen September 15, 2013, 9:48 pm

    I think my favorite take away is the fact that people were really happy. Even in cirmstances that my be seen as destitution to some from the US. I had the same observation when I lived in a 3rd world country. It especially surprised me when I saw how happy kids were. I want to take my family back and live there again for a short period. It can be life changing. I also like the idea of a similar type event domestically or even in Colorado. There are tons if awesome places in the US I’d love to go see.

  • Cecile September 15, 2013, 10:07 pm

    I am French, and my heart broke when seeing the last picture.

    Apart from that, it seemed like a nice trip. I like your presentation on happiness, I hope you will write a post on it. Keep up the good work, it is nice to see these ideas expressed so well.

  • Nicster September 15, 2013, 10:15 pm

    It is a gift to be able to step outside of the little bubble we live in and see things from a new perspective. A different culture and new yet like minded people really help it along. I think that is part of the reason I love travel – it gets me out of my bubble. I wonder if the experience would have been as profound in the US without the stark contrast in cultures?

    Glad you made it home safe. Who would have thought Longmont would be rainy than Ecuador?!

  • DaveT September 15, 2013, 10:15 pm

    Thanks for sharing what sounds like an amazing trip. Maybe next time we will be able to join in on the adventure!

  • James Petzke September 15, 2013, 11:20 pm

    Looks like it was an awesome trip MMM! I can definitely attest to how a one off foreign trip like that can both build strong friendships and also create a desire to do another trip. I went to Africa on a mission trip during my senior year of high school, it was a great experience similar to what you saw!

  • Giddings Plaza FI September 15, 2013, 11:54 pm

    Great to hear you’re having an authentically good time! And you’re right–having good friends and people in your life makes all the difference–cheers to friends. Would love to hear/read JD’s talk on being less fearful–it’s something I’ve thought a lot about during my sabbatical, and think I’ve become better at courage. Have a blast in Ecuador

  • Todd September 16, 2013, 12:13 am

    This sounds like such a wonderful event. I strongly considered signing up for it when you first announced it but decided I had too much going on since I was getting married this Summer.

    This is the type of event I would loved to get my spouse interested in. Thankfully she is quite frugal (which is why our partnership works), but she hasn’t learned to kick all the consumerism habits taught by society and family. Giving gifts is one area where she is coming around and realized that gifts don’t have to purchased, but can be made instead. Gifts made by hand are so much more meaningful anyway.

    I’m currently trying to convince her that we have enough money to retire, but she doesn’t believe it yet. She has this notion that you must have 2-3 million to retire. I asked where she got that idea and she simply said, “That’s what everyone says.” I often tell her about articles on your site and explained to her that I have the same amount of money as you did when you retired, so we shouldn’t be afraid to take the step. But being in our early 30’s and retired is a very difficult concept for her to grasp. Hell, I have trouble with it too. But I’ve worked my ass off my entire life and made very good choices with my money, so I deserve to move on to a better quality of life.

    If you do consider a camping/kayaking trip, I think that is something a fellow Mustachian buddy and I would definitely be interested in.

  • FI Pilgrim September 16, 2013, 4:32 am

    Great photos, you make Ecuador look like paradise! Looks like a pretty good group, too, for the first gathering!

  • MoneyAhoy September 16, 2013, 5:26 am

    Wow, that sounds like such an awesome experience! Great pics of all having fun.

    Has the MMM family ever considered leaving the US and moving to a poorer country to stretch their $$$ even farther? It seems like a lot of your construction skills could be put to very good use in some of these third world countries.

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 16, 2013, 7:34 pm

      Ecuador would be a great place for someone looking for adventure and a lower cost of living. You can eat well for about $15/week, houses are under $80k, diesel is pegged by the government at $1.03/gallon, and the currency is the USD. And because of the high altitude in the Andes, climate is much more comfortable than you’d expect at the equator (rarely hot, never cold).

      But the MMM family has no need to stretch dollars, so our priority is living somewhere that allows us to be close to friends and easily visit family. Colorado, fairly central in the US, makes a great base for this.

      • MoneyAhoy September 18, 2013, 7:46 am

        I see… Does anyone know of any downsides to moving to Ecuador besides leaving behind friends and family?

        I floated the idea past my wife this morning and got a very strange look :-)

        • Martin September 18, 2013, 11:37 am

          Money Ahoy, I’ve looked into moving to a country where you can stretch your $ many times in the past. My biggest concern was leaving behind my social circle. It is really hard to make new friends that you can interact with face to face in a new country where you are so culturally different. Even if you can make friends with others who are in a similar situation to you, there is always the issue that they are not the same type of friends you had before you moved. This may be much less of a factor for other people, as everyone is different in terms of how attached they feel to their social circle.
          Another issue was kids – what do I do with ours, who are too young to leave behind. They are probably young enough that could be uprooted and moved, but I thought that it would be pretty selfish of me, especially that the educational opportunities would probably be diminished for them if they were to attend local schools in third world countries. So we decided to revisit the idea once our kids are collage aged, which would be in 6 years or so.

          • Alicia May 2, 2014, 8:02 pm

            I find it interesting that you believe the US education system is better than what your children might encounter abroad. The recent results of US students vs. other countries in Math, Reading, and Science are dismal.
            I was like you, but didn’t decide to wait. I took my children with me. My son went to private school for $175 a month and was solving for two variables in algebra the first week of 7th grade. Ecuador schools are far ahead of US schools in our opinion. Preschool also costs me $100 dollars a month for full-time. This includes food and swimming lessons.
            In conclusion, even with kids…..Ecuador makes sense.

        • Jenna September 24, 2013, 10:17 am

          Well, it depends on where you live. But based on my experience in a mid-size town in Bolivia, the cons are: Bad schools, unless you want to go private, which is costly; corruption and high taxes for the wealthy (and as a gringo you would be considered rich); if you own a business you will be extorted nonstop and will have to pay all sorts of mysterious gringo fees just to exist; poor postal service; frequent power outages and water shortages; spotty Internet. Great place to live because of the culture, weather, and cool people, but ultimately the frustration of just getting through day-to-day life wears you down, at least if you are there to try to work or run a small business.

          Also would like to note that the people there are happy because everybody is pretty much in the same boat. I believe unhappiness in the U.S. doesn’t come from being poor; it’s from being poor when everyone around you has more. It’s the comparisons.

  • Rory September 16, 2013, 5:54 am

    I for one am glad you came thorough the flooding unaffected. The fact that you were able to have this great experience is a bonus.

    In the post, what particularly struck me was the opinion on family vs. ‘uncommon people’ and establishing the right relationships with the right people. I have to admit that I don’t feel a huge connection to my family, and perhaps this is holding me back. This has been something I’ve thought for years, though I’ve never been able to put it in quite so simple of terms as you have below:

    “Personal connections of this type are the ones that stick around through the years, and come through with you when you need them in the future. They are the reason some people find that the world is friendly and jobs are easy to get, while others have the opposite opinion.”

    Thanks for a mind-opening post.

  • J.D. Roth September 16, 2013, 6:35 am

    Ah, what fun times. It was wonderful to learn from so many people, and to laugh and laugh and laugh. I’ve been alone now without all y’all for the past 36 hours in Quito. Despite recommendations to taxi everywhere in this hilly and sprawled city, I’ve been taking the Mustuchian (and Rothian) approach of just walking all over the damn place. It’s cheap, gives me exercise, AND I sleep better after all the exercise.

    Yesterday, I walked up to the teleférico, which is the cable car that lifts tourists like me from 9000-foot Quito level to 13000-foot high-above-Quito level. The views were spectacular. The ride cost $8.50, but was worth it for the 90 minutes of contemplation I received. I’d have stayed longer, but was wearing a single wool t-shirt and became quite cold.

    I’ve also had fun buying street food (gasp!) and chatting with the folks on the street. Spanish lessons paying off!

    And last night when I got back to the hotel, I did what many other folks here have done: I started reading this site from post #1. I should have done that long ago. But meeting MMM in person and spending time listening to his philosophy made me realize it was well-aligned with my own. In fact, it’s probably more thought out because MMM has been semi-retired for longer than I have. I’m a newbie.

    So, here’s my first comment at the MMM community. It won’t be my last.

    • Rory September 16, 2013, 10:17 am

      J.D. – It sounds like Ecuador was an awesome experience. I’m definitely going to find a way to go the next time this comes around.

      As to you commenting on the blog, I think I speak for all readers by saying that it would be a rewarding experience to have you here.

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 16, 2013, 3:14 pm

      Wow! Great to have you hanging around here more, J.D. (although I’m a little embarrassed to have you reading the early posts, especially after Jim Collins made fun of the cheesy but short-lived Realist/MMM battle at the beginning).

      Perhaps this will help ease our battle over frugal vs. cheap and you too will find the slope towards minimalism becoming just a bit more slippery, as I have ;-)

      • jlcollinsnh September 16, 2013, 4:49 pm

        Didn’t make fun. Just pointed out the improvements. :-)

    • Esther October 1, 2013, 9:04 am

      Glad to read your comment. I am actually a GRS in the making and did the same thing you did. After I read your post on GRS, I checked out MMM.
      Thanks for sharing. It looks like you guys had a great time. I am sure the children enjoyed your presence and energy more than you’ll imagine.

      MMM – I am loving the site.

      Mustachian-Rothian in the making


  • Insourcelife September 16, 2013, 7:05 am

    I like your observations on children being happy with “just” a soccer ball… In my neighborhood I see kids riding around on (no joke) toy Mercedes G-Wagons and Hummers like this one http://www.amazon.com/National-Products-Mercedes-G-Class-Operated/dp/B002CVTHPE

    If you took G-Wagon kids from here and brought them to Ecuador, they would no doubt be disappointed by the level of entertainment there. If you took the soccer ball playing children from Ecuador and dropped them here in America with their own toy Hummers they would quickly get used to the lifestyle that would make them forget about the joys of the old soccer ball playing selves. Your environment AND parents condition what’s needed for the kids to be happy. I sure hope my son grows up knowing how to be entertained with a soccer ball and some friends and won’t need a G-Wagon to be happy.

    • Christine September 16, 2013, 1:14 pm

      Wow! Didn’t know you could get a toy Mercedes. Guess you got to start brainwashing early?

      • Walt September 17, 2013, 10:08 am

        Did you notice that it has an FM radio with aux input for MP3 player?

        Get the little over-consumers trained young I guess.

    • Mother Frugal September 16, 2013, 5:40 pm

      This reminds me of when I visited a friend who was living the high society life in Mexico (full-time maid, big home, etc.). I commented about how happy the children in town looked, when they had so little. Her response was, “they don’t know what they’re missing.”

      My thought had been very different; look at how much you DON’T need to be happy.

  • Brad September 16, 2013, 7:08 am

    This sounds like such a remarkable trip — I only wish I had known about it (and your site) during the initial planning. After reading this article I feel, not to sound ridiculous, a genuine yearning for connections like this with like-minded people and I wish I could have made it to Ecuador. Real human connections are so often missing from American society and it’s so sorely needed.

    I love the sound of your, “slightly crazy plan to look into buying the 24 acres adjacent to Cheryl’s existing farm to turn it into a permanent gathering point which also generates money for charity.”

    On a similar note, I had been planning on contacting you to see if we could investigate forming some type of MMM group in the greater Richmond, Virginia area. I could see dozens of these semi-official groups popping up all over the country; we could support each other, learn new things, meet people who live the same way we do, and donate our time and money to causes that we all support.

    When I conceived my site, I imagined something like this, but a MMM group would sure go a long way towards making it legitimate…

    • Esther October 1, 2013, 9:12 am

      Love the Idea, Brad. Like you after I read the post on GRS, I did feel a genuine yearning for connection with like-minded people.

      Let’s just do it !

  • Mira D September 16, 2013, 7:24 am

    Thanks for sharing the slides.

    On a recent trip to Ladakh, I was stunned by how friendly the people were. Despite the terrain. Despite not much money.

    If I may, I’d like to send you a few photos (to balance my karma debt reading your posts)

  • JK September 16, 2013, 7:39 am

    I think another name for the mustachian rose is “Guaranteed Hangover”. But none the less, liked the ideas in your presentation. Keep it up dude!

  • Kevin September 16, 2013, 7:47 am

    The city of Cuenca, in the south, near Peru, is a major retired US expat haven, as well as a UNESCO World Heritage site. I highly recommend checking that out as it is a modern city, with modern amenities, but is one of the cheapest places in the country to live. It’s also way up in the mountains, so it’s cool and pleasant all year round.

    I plan on retiring there myself once I get to FI.

    • PawPrint September 17, 2013, 3:43 pm

      I know two couples who visited Cuenca in the spring (separately) with a view to retiring there. That makes me wonder if having so many Americans coming to live there will make the area more expensive and change the flavor of village life.

  • rjack September 16, 2013, 7:52 am

    I love the Buddhist stuff you put into your presentation!

    The more I’m involved with Zen Buddhism, the more I seem to reduce my suffering and increase my happiness. Plus, Meditation and Zen Practice are cheap!

  • lurker September 16, 2013, 8:14 am

    if you move ahead with the 24 acres idea please please please look into Permaculture in a serious way so the gorgeous countryside there can be enhanced and not messed up by human activities….the share the surplus ethic of Permaculture would be most welcome there I am sure. looks like an awesome adventure….

  • Renars September 16, 2013, 8:20 am

    That looks like my kind of holiday and party. More often than not I have had the best time when I was abroad and with limited resources. Makes you very creative. The only problem I have is finding time to realize all my travel dreams – so instead of having one month long trip per year I opt for 4-5 shorter trips (both long- and short haul) which are spread throughout the year.

    I hope to get financial independence and/or retire one day which will allow me to go on a trips like this with my loved ones. Achieving this stage will not be easy, but it will be worth it.

  • Done by Forty September 16, 2013, 8:35 am

    That sounds like a great trip and a good chance to meet like-minded people. My wife and I are going to Cuenca in November; any recommendations of things to do & food to eat? It sounds like we have the drink covered with the Mustachian Rose. :)

    • Done by Forty September 16, 2013, 8:58 am

      Oh, and I just read through your presentation. Thanks so much for sharing that! My wife and I wish we could’ve timed up the trip to join you guys down there but the schedules didn’t match up. I especially liked the recommendation to focus on happiness & getting your mind right first, and then to optimize. I usually put the cart before the horse on that front.

  • Mike September 16, 2013, 8:41 am

    Don’t want to be a downer or anything, but I’m sure you owe royalties to Jack Kerouac for Mustachian Rosé — I’ll have to trawl through all my old books to find the reference, but I think it featured in ‘On the road’ or ‘Dharma Bums’. But, hey, ‘ a rosé by any other name…’ and all that ;-))

    I had the privilege to visit Ecuador a few years ago with a well-known international NGO. I was bowled over by the spirit of the people. Invariably I found some of the world’s poorest people were the warmest, most generous (in deed and spirit) and welcoming I’ve ever met. It changed my perspective on wealth and happiness (amongst many other things), and was one part of my journey to this blog, and in a sense I feel a cycle in my life has resolved itself with this post.

    I’ve dined with millionaires and dirt-poor Ecuadorean concheras in my time; there’s no doubt which table was the most convivial.

  • Elaine September 16, 2013, 8:52 am

    It’s kind of rude/oblivious to your female readers for you to throw in a phrase like “Clint Eastwoodesque”, how the hell am I suppossed to focus on the rest of the article now??? (Seriously though, awesome piece)

  • Kaytee September 16, 2013, 8:55 am

    Our preferred whiskey beverage is maple whiskey:
    3 parts whiskey
    1 part real maple syrup (grade b if available)
    1 chunk of crystallized ginger to languish in the bottom.

    Combine in a mason jar, shake, and serve topped with a cuppow (for classy occasions).

    • CincyCat September 18, 2013, 9:27 am

      Sounds delicious, but I know real maple syrup & crystallized ginger are not cheap (at least, not where I live!). (The ginger alone can run over $15 for a spice-jar sized container.)

      • Kaytee September 19, 2013, 9:12 am

        Maple syrup is a big local market here, so we are lousy with it. The natural foods store sells crystallized ginger in bulk and there is a broken box & dented can store that sells it even more inexpensively. It’s cheap here. When I travel, I always bring maple syrup as a gift as it seems to be rather pricey in the rest of the world.

  • Mr. 1500 September 16, 2013, 9:23 am

    “We were all so surprised at this, that it’s worth repeating: you really do give your life a boost by meeting the right people.”

    Yep, in my opinion, this is the best part of PF blogging. Connecting with life minded people is great.

    Still have to work on the optimism part of it a bit, but I’m getting there. Half the battle is identifying the issue to begin with.

  • oldbaobab September 16, 2013, 9:38 am

    Hello there,

    It seems that you really had a good time in Ecuador, well done!
    I’ve been there with a couple of friends in 1984, backpackers, riding the local bus and train to Guayaquil, Riobamba, Quito, Otavallo, we loved it and I can still see the wonderful pictures and friendly people, even if our spanish was quite limited at that time.
    I’ve just discovered the MMM planet recently, found it very exciting, and living in France, most of your principles and concepts can apply here.
    I can read in your mail that there are some fans from Europe.
    I was wondering if it could help to run a kind of french version of the MMM site, so that the people less comfortable with english can access to the ideas and facts, but also to try to adapt it to the local reality where some issues vary, like the tax or pension system.
    So we might try to expand the MMM challenge to our old Europe….
    et voilà…..
    What do you think ?


  • Tara September 16, 2013, 10:57 am

    Up in Quebec City, that Mustachian Rose is called a caribou, and it is served hot. :-) Especially popular during the February Carnaval when it is -40.

  • CALL 911 September 16, 2013, 11:04 am

    Connections to/with others is hugely important (and something I struggle with) in changing yourself. Friend circles can prop each other up and hit each other with optimism guns at well timed intervals. Associate with those you want to be like, and with time and attention, you will be like them.

  • Debt Blag September 16, 2013, 11:24 am

    Very fun-looking trip! Not sure I’d be able to afford it sadly (and still meet my financial goals), but one can always dream! :)

  • Alexandria September 16, 2013, 12:00 pm

    “We were all so surprised at this, that it’s worth repeating: you really do give your life a boost by meeting the right people.”

    I think I have experienced this very much in my life. As to the debate of cutting off negative people, I have also found this to be extremeley powerful. The nature of the cutoff depends. For family, it is usually more about space, and maybe even just letting go of that which I have no power over. For others, I don’t have any motivation to deal with them at all, so I won’t. BUT… I have found if I set a positive example, that people who genuinely want more positivity into their life will take note and eventually turn to you. I have had many experiences with cutting off ties with very negative people, and them coming back into my life in another season where they are more open to taking more control over their own happiness. I think just being “you” helps in ways you don’t even always know. A common first reaction I get is that I am just lucky. Over time, people start to take note, when they see you are truly just human and so on.

    I think more of these trips and experiences would be awesome!! I toyed with the idea of going and probably didn’t go more due to the last minute randomness than anything. (My family would have thought I lost my mind, perhaps, but I’ve done stranger things). Obviously I missed out! I think many of us would be forever grateful for future opportunities.

  • retirebyforty September 16, 2013, 12:12 pm

    Sounds like you guys had a great time. It would be really cool if JD starts something like that here. I would love to attend, but I’m too busy with the kid right now. Perhaps in a couple of years.

  • Nick Urban September 16, 2013, 12:22 pm

    Sounds awesome. Wish I had been there. It really is so important to meet the right people, to cultivate the right relationships.

    Sometimes when I say things like that in conversation, people think I’m recommending nepotism or something. But they misunderstand. It’s not a question of who can help you get ahead, but of whose presence makes you come alive! If you’re talking with the right people, you won’t even need their help.

    So count me in for the next event. I attended a similar gathering earlier this year, but I think I’d like this group even better :)

    All the best,


  • Connor September 16, 2013, 12:40 pm

    One more thought on “you really do give your life a boost by meeting the right people” . . .
    I think the other half of that awesome saying should be “. . . and letting them see your passions.” Which is of course what the blogger types are doing, and everyone going on a retreat such as that one.

    Anyways, that other half makes it complete for me, and the real challenge to achieve the boost. Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Johnny Moneyseed September 16, 2013, 3:22 pm

    This past week in Ecuador was probably one of the best weeks my wife and I have ever had. We expected great things to happen, but we had no idea that a ‘structured’ trip could have ever been as good as this one was.

    It’s hard to explain to anyone how good it was, because they really couldn’t understand what it was really about. Yeah the WOOOSH! was pretty memorable, as was the impromptu partying, but the relationships that were created seemed like those of old friends. That doesn’t happen unless there are vast similarities in personal mantras.

    Thank you MMM, JD, Jim, Cheryl and Rich for a great week and for the experiences and friendships that just don’t exist in normal life!

    • Jesse September 16, 2013, 4:01 pm

      It IS hard to explain what it was about, but I am certainly feeling the positive effects, and will be for some time!

      I feel like it was one-of-a-kind, and can’t be recreated, but man I hope I’m wrong, because I’ll definitely go to the next one.

      (Giggled like a schoolgirl when I saw The Owner)

      • Marla September 18, 2013, 7:11 am

        It was an incredible week and I too cannot stop smiling! I may make “the owner” my avatar. Nick Millhouse is the man!

  • Janice September 16, 2013, 3:43 pm

    First time comment. Love your blog. Getting co-workers and family to love it as well! Just wanted to say thank you for letting us know you came through alright with the flood. Your blog has become so influential in my life that I was worried about you. Weird? Anyways, we saved $1000 last month alone by applying your advice. Wow. It went straight to the mortgage. Is that mustachian enough?

  • TwoPupsOnACouch September 16, 2013, 4:07 pm

    Since we’re all sharing drink recipes, I have to add my favorite…. I’m currently sipping boxed wine that I’ve decanted into a pitcher. Add strawberries, lime juice and sweetner and chill for a few days. Tastes like alcoholic strawberry juice. Then use the berries to make an alcoholic smoothie or jam. You can use any wine, I prefer Moscato.

  • jlcollinsnh September 16, 2013, 5:00 pm

    Since I was there at the birth of “Mustachian Rosé” let me tell you all the full story.

    The glasses used at Hacienda Cusin for drinks are all the same. One night Mr. MM was sipping a bit of whisky neat. A waiter, mistaking it for wine, filled his glass.

    Once he realized his mistake, the embarrassed fellow whisked it away, Mr. MM protesting that he wanted to try it. It took all my broken Spanish and no small amount of hand gestures to convince him that the crazy Gringo, far from being offended, couldn’t wait to try the new concoction. Reluctantly he set it back on the table.

    Down Mr. MM’s gullet it went in a single gulp and history was made.

  • Neil imrie September 16, 2013, 5:31 pm

    A great read. Could feel the energy in your writing. Time to do it again down under!
    New Zealand beckons Mr MM…..I already suggested it to a local finance blogger and I think she has contacted you directly
    So how about it? …..Come on down …

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 16, 2013, 7:40 pm

      Neil! I do appreciate your offer for a place to stay in NZ. So far, I have not persuaded the wife to let us spend the winter there.. I may have to put you two in touch directly so you can convince her ;-)

      On the other hand, I really should spend some time getting stuff done around here (including renovating the house I’m buying next week).. this winter may be a time of hard labor and productivity.

      • Neil Imrie September 16, 2013, 11:16 pm

        Ok Mr MM, I understand the need to get on with your next project. But sooner or later you ‘re going to want to have a break from one of those Colorado winters.
        The offer remains on the table……drop me a line when you want that kiwi adventure……you know you want to…….:)
        Maybe next year eh? Junior MM will have the time of his life

  • Jessica September 17, 2013, 4:28 am

    Spot on! We’re getting (happily) schooled on frugal living and the joy of community here in India. (We have moved here for 9 months with our two young children). Families of 6 riding one motorcycle; Eggs and vegetables from our favorite wala friend on the corner; Items or services bought or bartered on trust, not rupees; Tea and conversations around every corner; merchants snoozing in the afternoon heat! Social currency is so high here – we all take care of each other in my neighborhood. So wonderful, and I am thinking about how to transfer these things back to our US life. It will be easy for me to find a pressure cooker at a garage sale (these things are amazingly efficient!) but it will take some (fun) work to develop the same kind of social support.

    • SB September 17, 2013, 7:06 pm

      Hi Jessica,

      You have a great blog. I am originally from Indian but settled in US for more than decade. I read ALL of your blog entries. It was great to see Indian in your perspective. Keep up the good work and wish you and your family the best!

      That’s another side benefit of MMM. I can find other nice items to read as well through MMM.

      • Jessica September 17, 2013, 8:01 pm

        Thanks so much! :-) India is a really neat place, it’s just too damn hot, lol.

  • Miss Growing Green September 17, 2013, 8:50 am

    I really like your ideas for paying it forward on your Ecuador adventure- visiting the orphanage and donating money to help rebuild a family’s home. How did you go about doing that? Was it through a 3rd party?
    We are taking a backpacking honeymoon through SE Asia in Jan-Feb and would love to do something similar.

    • Cheryl September 17, 2013, 7:27 pm

      Miss Growing Green…..this is Cheryl from Above the Clouds Retreats. What Pete did not tell you was that he, Jim and JD donated their speaking fees to Project One Corner…….my way of giving back to the people of Ecuador. Rich and I chose this family to help them re-establish their home. We run by their temporary housing in a chicken coop every day and knew they were one of the families we would help.

      We stopped by one day to ask what the family needed to finish the house and the mother gave us a list of materials. We had windows made and installed, bought supplies to install lighting, concrete floors, kitchen counter tiles and ceiling plywood. The family provided all the labor, so 100% of the money went to helping this family. The money for the orphanage donations came from proceeds from the Retreat and we still have money left to help many more people. We will keep you posted.

      What a wonderful idea to do something like this on your honeymoon! My suggestion would be to ask the locals (perhaps at the hostels) if anyone needs help. I would suggest personally buying any supplies rather than giving money. You may see people begging in the streets and you could give them clothes. If you see someone disabled, maybe buy some medical equipment. It’s like going into the street and granting wishes! Good luck!

  • Benjamin Jara September 17, 2013, 11:02 am

    Hey MMM,

    As a Latin-American that follows your movement and your lessons, I must point out to you (and some readers) that the denomination “THIRD WORLD” is both discriminatory and inaccurate to describe developing countries. Our world is essentially the same as yours, within most developing countries there are places that easily qualify as “First world” and others that are much more impoverished than the average.

    I prefer “Developing” countries to describe our situation using a less discriminatory statement.

    I also have similar feelings when people in the US (where I’m currently living) refer to us as “Hispanics”. Gosh… I really hate that term. Linking my native american roots to some conquistadores that stole our land and impose their language and government is simply nuts.

    Besides that terminology issues, I’m glad you visited our contintent, Ecuador is a beautiful place filled with kind souls and welcoming people.

    • woodnclay September 17, 2013, 1:56 pm

      I agree, I am not comfortable with that “third world” expression either but being from the so-called developed world didn’t feel qualified to comment. It’s reassuring to hear that you don’t like it!
      Sometimes I’m not completely sure of the use of “developing” either. Developing into what? Everywhere is developing in its’ own way in this world that we all share, and potentially destroy as we develop!
      Thanks to everyone here for the inspiration

      • Martin September 18, 2013, 11:55 am

        I would say in the case of the ‘third world’ its mostly developing from a world of ‘leavers’ to a world of ‘takers’. Most indigenous populations in the Americas were leading very low environmental impact lives prior to the arrival of Europeans, thus could be described as ‘leavers’ who would basically pass on their resources mostly untouched to the next generations. What is happening in the course of ‘development’ is that everyone becomes focused on making money, which really can be translated into ‘hogging as many resources as you can’, since in the grand scheme of things money equals resources. Unfortunately it is usually the natural environment that suffers the most when everyone starts to hog resources (or ‘develop’) and the negative impact of this can quite often be seen as there are many developing countries that have been immensely scarred by their ‘development’. Sitting here in Canada or the US its quite easy to say the whole world should be as ‘developed’ as we are, but in truth, considering the population density differences, that would be an environmental calamity and the end of the world as we know it.

        • Tara September 18, 2013, 12:54 pm

          Regarding the hoarding of money/resources, unfortunately when you don’t live in a community where everyone takes care of everyone else, you are forced to hoard resources/money in order to provide for yourself now and after retirement. We have to save up a big pile of money to pay our way after retirement since we will not have a community to support us in our old age. I realize this wasn’t exactly the direction you were going with your comment and I agree that we are taking far more from the natural environment and causing more damage than we should, but on a personal level, this is what came up for me upon reading your statements.

  • WageSlave September 17, 2013, 11:47 am

    This post and your presentation had me doing some thinking and reflecting. We’re buying a house, and since we’ve started packing, I am reminded of the quote, “Do you own stuff, or does your stuff own you?” The sheer number of boxes makes me feel like my stuff owns me.

    I’ll tie this in to a lengthy post I made in the forums, “Ask a Mustachian / Red Pill or Blue Pill…” In that post I suggested that there are three types of Mustachians: (1) naturals, (2) transitioning, and (3) hopeless. I suspect that a lot of people fall into the second category: they are debt-consumers, owned by their stuff, status-driven, or maybe simply inefficient with money—but want to be less of those things, i.e. more like MMM.

    I’m definitely in the second category. Right now I worry that I’m only paying lip service to Mustachianism: I follow all the big “rules”, such as no debt, big savings, meticulously track finances, etc. But after reading this post, and particularly your presentation, it’s clear to me that I’m definitely not truly in the headspace of a real Mustachian. Put another way, I’m afraid I wouldn’t have fit in with the Ecuador group.

    To me it feels like my next step is a much bigger leap; what I’ve done so far hasn’t really put me out of my comfort zone too much. The thread I mentioned in the forums (not just my post) spoke to some of the alienation that can occur when you transition to a true Mustachian… depending on your starting point, it can be a dramatic enough change that you no longer share values with friends and family; and that can strain or even dissolve relationships. Clearly, this means getting out of the comfort zone. IOW, I’m fairly comfortable and happy right now. The simpler life, the Buddhist philosophy, speaks to me in a way that suggests, maybe I can be even happier… but it feels like a bigger step than I’ve taken so far; I’ve picked all the low hanging fruit, but now I need to climb the tree. But there’s a lot more risk and effort in that, and I’m not 100% sure I’ll be *that* much happier—so is it worth it?

    Even people who *aren’t* particularly happy or comfortable might still be scared to make the actual mental leap to a more Mustachian life. Ironic though it is, there’s comfort in familiarity, even if that familiarity is *clearly* sub-optimal.

    Perhaps another way to put it is that all the “cosmetic” aspects of Mustachianism—the financial tracking, savings/expense ratios, means of transportation—it all matters less and less (or at least falls into place naturally) as you trend more and more towards a deliberately simple and mindful life. If you can really, truly produce happiness from within, or with shared experiences with the ones you love, then what else do you need? Obviously basic human necessities, but as we’ve discussed here, in first world/rich countries, those things are easy to come by.

    I suppose like anything in life, it comes down to, “How badly do you want it, and what are you willing to do to get it?” If someone is hesitant (like me), it must suggest that he still hasn’t convinced himself that he really wants it that badly.

  • HayleSt0rm September 17, 2013, 12:47 pm

    “We were all so surprised at this, that it’s worth repeating: you really do give your life a boost by meeting the right people.”

    Mr. Money Mustache – have you ever thought about incorporating some sort regional forum/area on your website? A place where Mustachians of a certain location could come together and converse about topics specific to that region? For example, I am a Minnesota Mustachian and would LOVE to compare notes with nearby Mustachians about local stores, products, bargains, transportation methods, and mustachian ways of life in general, as they pertain to our region. Who knows…maybe even meet a few felow Minnesota Mustachians someday!

    Just a passing thought. I am a relatively new (and smitten) reader to your blog. I am still trying to catch up on readings, so I apologize if this idea is redundant or already been covered.

    • arebelspy September 17, 2013, 6:32 pm

      Cme check out the MMM forums – lots of people from all over are on the forums, and many have set up various meetups to get together in person and chat with other Mustachians.

  • CincyCat September 17, 2013, 2:41 pm

    Not sure if we are allowed to share outside links, but I think this article is a great complement to this post:


  • Jeff September 18, 2013, 6:43 am

    I have had so few quality interactions like you speak of. Perhaps it’s time to start a few Mustache chapters around the US, so that we can get together and party in a Mustachian way.


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