Three years ago, I joined Jim Collins and Pete Adeney (a.k.a. Mr. Money Mustache) for a sort of experiment in Ecuador. We participated in a chautauqua organized by Cheryl Reed of Above the Clouds Retreats. To be honest, I don’t think any of us knew what was going to happen when we brought a group of strangers together to talk about wealth and happiness. Turns out, what happened was magic.

Morning at Cheryl’s farm: Cheryl, Pete, J.D., and Jim plan for the first chautauqua

For seven days, an enthusiastic group of 22 attendees (and five presenters) exchanged ideas and encouraged each other toward financial and psychological growth. We did some touristy stuff, sure, but most of our time was spent bonding over cheap wine and casual conversation.

Pete shares his Mustachian vision for happiness and lifestyle design

Jim, Pete, Cheryl, and I gave presentations about our areas of exertise. We met one-on-one with as many of the attendees as possible. I think everyone left having grown. (For myself, I went away with the seeds of Money Boss in my mind — but I didn’t know it at the time.) Here’s my summary of that first retreat.

Shyam and Jesse watch as Carol is serenaded for her birthday

That first chautauqua was so successful that in 2014, we held two. The first focused on money. I attended the second, where I joined David Cain (from Raptitude) to talk about happiness and well-being. Again, the feedback on the week was fantastic. Here’s my wrap-up of the second chautauqua.

A happy Kim during our visit to the butterfly gardens in Mindo.

I wasn’t able to attend last year (because Kim and I were on the road in the RV), but…

I’m pleased to announce that I’m returning to Ecuador this autumn for another chautauqua. From October 29th to November 5th, I’ll be at El Encanto Hosteria high in the cloud forest. David Cain will be back this year, and we’ll be joined by my friend and colleague, Leo Babauta from Zen Habits. Our theme for the week is “Happiness, Mindfulness, and Living a Full Life”.

Space is limited — only about twenty spots are available — so if you’re interested, you should sign up soon:

This year, there are two additional sessions during which the usual suspects will discuss financial freedom and related topics. I plan to stick around for a few days after our retreat so that I can enjoy time with Jim, Pete, and Brandon (the Mad Fientist) but I won’t be presenting during the second or third week.

I hope you’ll consider joining us for another magical session in the mountains of South America!

Colleen endures smoke and fire (and plenty of spit) during a shamanic cleansing

Note: People sometimes wonder, “What does J.D. get out of this?” The answer is: A sense of satisfaction. Seriously. Cheryl offers to pay me every year, but I always tell her to use the money to fund her charity, Project One Corner. Part of being financially independent is having the ability to give back in small ways. This is one of the ways I give back. Cheryl pays my airfare and lodging, but that’s it.

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