“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flames by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.” ~ Albert Schweitzer
Maybe it’s not quite as dramatic as in this quote, but I think Mr. Schweitzer pretty much nails what it means to find your tribe.
Chautauqua Greece was that for me. To be sure, I don’t fit the profile of the typical attendee. I am about positive I was the oldest participant at the conference. The speakers were all living their amazing FIRE lives (maybe that’s why they were picked as speakers 8-^).
Despite the fact that my wife and I are just around the corner from bidding our jobs a fond farewell (as I write, we dropped below the 200 day mark), we were fatally attracted to this event right from the get go.
Why Did We Attend?
Chautauqua had been on our radar for several years. It’s a one of a kind event that seemed like it would a be crazy cool thing go to. It’s previously been held in Ecuador, too far away from where we are working in Africa. That, and it usually didn’t match up with our school holidays. Last year’s UK event didn’t work with our schedule either, but at least it was in the same hemisphere! This year, however was different. The first week of Chautauqua Greece (geographically reasonable) happened to be scheduled over our school’s October break. We leapt at the chance to attend this time, and I’m pretty sure we were the first participants to book. “Push the button!” I told Amanda after she showed me a photo of the hotel. Our registration confirmed, we were totally stoked about the idea that we would actually be hanging out with some of our BIG FIRE heroes.
What Did I Want From Chautauqua?
As it got closer to the time to go, Amanda started asking me questions. It’s what I love about her, but it can also be annoying as hell. Stuff like, “What questions are you gonna ask in the one-on-one sessions? You should probably write them down so you can remember them,” and “What are you hoping to get out of this whole thing?” As crazy as she sometimes makes me with her constant questions and out loud wonderings, I felt I’d better start giving it more serious thought. After all, this was not our typical October Break holiday. We were going to get to pick the brains of some of the awesomely successful bloggers who we’ve been following for quite a while –live and in person! This was going to be even better than “back stage passes”.
When it came right down to it, I decided there were really only three things I wanted to get out of our time at Chautauqua. First, I wanted affirmation. I wanted an expert to tell us that our FI number and withdrawal plan was sound, and if it wasn’t, I wanted to know what needed to change to make sure it was. Secondly, I wanted to feel confident that the real estate purchase we were about to complete made financial sense. Buying a condo is not always considered the most savvy idea. Lastly, I wanted to have a good time.
What Did I Get Out of the Chautauqua Experience?
So, “Were your expectations met?”, you ask. The short answer, is yes! The lid was utterly and completely blown off. It was a relief to get the nod that our plan was solid. Based on JL Collins’ advice, we did make an adjustment to our withdrawal strategy, one that we had not previously considered but one that would make a nice impact in a few years. His insights were perfect. AND against all Chautauquan betting odds, we were also given the rarely relinquished “stamp of approval” by Kristy (aka FIRECracker) and Bryce (aka Wanderer) (Millennial Revolution) for the condo we were about to purchase. I believe after reviewing our numbers, it went something like, “Hell yes. You guys can do whatever the Hell you want.” We were quite surprised, as they usually favor renting over buying. Win #2 for Chautauqua!
The outcome of these two one-to-one sessions alone was worth the price of admission!
So Much Added Value from Chautauqua
Mrs. Chaos (fellow Chautauquan and now a new friend) may have stated it best in her blog post, The Reluctant Chautauquan : 10 Weird Things I Learnt About a Chautauqua when she said, “all of the people there have the same value system. Speakers and participants alike see the world in a similar way, seeing money as a tool, not as an end.” She also noted, “These people are highly motivated to do something useful and productive with their time – if they have indeed ‘retired’ from a traditional job.” Where do you find such a concentration of financially independent people who are humble, down to earth and willing to help others without some sort of a catch? “What was in it for them” seemed to honestly be the satisfaction of offering their assistance (People helping people – what a concept!) and connecting with new members of the ever expanding FIRE movement.
The Final Answer
What did I really get out of my Chautauqua experience? The answer to that question may sound a little ‘woo woo’ but I’m gonna say it anyway. It sort of just came to me while I was looking across the the pool deck as everyone was informally hanging around, chatting like crazy during free time at the hotel. Maybe it was the influence of being in Litochoro, Greece at the foot of the Throne of Zeus and Mt. Olympus. I didn’t say it aloud for fear of sounding like a schmaltzy sap. But the words in my head echoed, “I am walking with Giants”. Reflecting on what had transpired over the week – I got to spend time with people who delight in taking full responsibility for their lives and their futures. They are mindful and intentional about the resources they use and consume. They are optimistic and solution focused always looking at what is possible. They inspire and encourage others to pursue their dreams and to be their very best. What I gained was meeting and connecting with a handful of members of my Tribe. And I am truly blessed!
I can’t end this post without sending a HUGE shout out to all of the Week 1 Greece Chautauqua 2018 participants (our new friends!) for being so cool and so fun and for all the amazing conversations. Thank you a million times over to organizers, Alan and Katie, you didn’t miss a detail (And my foodie wife Amanda says the food was over the top!). Finally, our gratitude goes out to to JL Collins , Kristy & Bryce (Millennial Revolution), and Carl & Mindy aka Mr. & Mrs. 1500. You all made this event a life changing experience for us with your invaluable personal advice and presentations. We can’t wait for a reunion. In the meantime, as we’re heading into the FIRE, our plan is to Go Be Invincible!