Last year in Ecuador I had a transformative experience participating in a type of retreat called a chautauqua. I gushed about my discoveries here, but suffice it to say that the experience left me with a new level of clarity about how I want to live.
Six months later I still have that clarity, and it’s made the time since some one the most productive and creatively fertile periods in my adult life. I still feel a certain warmth whenever I think about the retreat, or any of the people who were there.
That is the basic goal of a chautauqua (sha-TAWK-wa) — to create a kind of “meeting of minds”, where a small group of twenty or so get together in a naturally beautiful place to discuss big ideas and big plans, intentions for their lives, and values they want to live by. Over the course of the week, there are a few presentations, some day trips, group activities, lots of time for reflection and rest, and many, many interesting discussions.
Everyone comes away with renewed clarity about how they want to live, and some specific ideas about how they’re going to achieve those changes. It works so well because the attendees come from all over, bringing different perspectives and different kinds of expertise, but unlike so many social situations, everyone cares how the experience goes for everyone else. It’s a uniquely supportive environment, and I’ve never felt that sense of mutual openness anywhere else.
The resulting explosion of great ideas and plans and epiphanies is quite incredible, and you can feel it happening all around you. Everybody gets to know everybody so quickly.
I still feel so close to our little group, and most of us have kept in touch through email and Facebook, some of them have even visited each other in person. When we all said goodbye on the last day you’d think we had spent a year together. So many hugs and tears.
Anyway, it’s happening again this November (the 11th to 18th), and I’ll be one of the presenters, along with the great J.D. Roth from Money Boss, Tyler Tervooren from Riskology, and Cheryl Reed, who organizes the chautauquas.
Throughout the week, there will be four two-hour presentations, from J.D., Tyler, Cheryl and me. You also get to have a one-on-one session with the presenter of your choice, to discuss plans, get feedback, or just chat. Come pick my brain! We can talk about life, the universe and everything. (There are tons of opportunities to talk to everyone throughout the week, but these one-on-ones are dedicated sessions that let us really go deeper and get to what’s important.)
There are day trips, including a visit to the volcanic crater Lake Cuicocha, the vast Otavalo market, and an archaeological site overlooking the town, where we’ll have an Andean picnic on a giant leaf.
Here are a few of the photos from my visit to the hacienda last year:
Usually about half the attendees will also opt to visit the Galapagos Islands the following week, because they’re right there in the neighborhood. Cheryl arranges this as an optional trip for those interested. I visited the islands in 2014 and it was incredible. As mysterious and otherworldly as all the books say.
The full daily schedule is here. All the accommodations, meals, activities and overland transport are included in the cost, but you’ll have to get yourself down to Quito.
An international trip like this is obviously a big ticket item, so it’s not for everyone, but if it’s something that makes sense for you I would love to see you down there. For many people, including me, it’s been a life-changing experience.
A portion of the proceeds go to Cheryl’s charity Project One Corner, which helps local families. I will also be donating my speaking fee to Project One Corner.
If you think you might be interested, all the details on the chautauqua can be found here on Cheryl’s site. The two previous chautauquas, with Mr Money Mustache, Jim Collins and others, are already full, but registration has just opened for this third retreat.
This will be my third time in Ecuador, so you can also email me with questions about what the experience is like. It would be great to meet you.