FIRE Escape Number 5 came and went as quickly as my money is transferred to my investment account upon payday. What a wonderful weekend!
I just want to say a big THANK YOU to everyone that came along for the weekend. It was great to see some now, familiar faces as well as meeting some new people interested in Personal Finance, Financial Independence and Early Retirement.
As is customary now, I like to do a long-winded write up of the weekend's events for the attendees to look back and reminisce and to provide an insight for those of you that couldn't make it.
The sentence "Where the bloody hell is Gaer Hall?!" must have been repeated multiple times on Friday afternoon. To start with, the location didn't have a post code and I thought with it being such a small village, it would be obviously signposted, 'Turn right for Gaer Hall'. Turns out not to be the case!
Lou and I went into a local pub to ask for direction. No one had heard of it, apart from one helpful old lady.
She said "I know the one. The owners name is Sue and she's turned the old barn into a self-accommodated house now."
Lou was listening politely and intently, whilst my 'spider sense' was tingling.
I replied "No, the owners name is definitely Margaret, although it is a self-accommodation house now."
She followed "Yes, I know the one, it's back the way you came, past the school, and then on the left hand side, I think."
Lou proceeded to take notes on where the kind, yet confused, old lady was suggesting. I on the other hand had significant doubts, which were compounded further by the barman's attempts to track the location on the phone.
His SATELLITE NAVIGATION system suggested we go in the opposite direction to the kind lady's recommendation and go North, over the bridge and it should be on the right hand side within a 1/4 of a mile or so.
We thanked the old lady and barman, and returned to the car, where Lou started to share the directions she'd been given.
I said, "Bless her, but she's got the wrong place. So much so, we're going in the exact opposite direction to where she's suggested."
I choose 'Tech over Talk' any day in those scenarios.
The barman's suggestion appeared to be accurate. We drove past the house initially, but I recognised the back of the building from a picture I saw, so we swiftly turned around.
Lou still wasn't convinced, suggesting it didn't 'look right'. I agreed, the pictures we saw prior to arrival looked like the Hall backed onto a hill and next to a wooded area. This house was right next to the road away from any hill. However, I knew the picture I had seen previously resembled the building next next to us, so we had to check it out.
Upon further investigation, we had found Gaer Hall. It had no sign, no post code, little resemblance, but it was the location and we made it.
Alan Turing would have had a sleepless night finding the blasted location, so Lou came up with an ingenious idea to make it more obvious to others.
"Put that traffic cone on top of the recycling bin to draw attention to the entrance gate."
It's why I love her.
I emailed all attendees telling them of our 'Cone Flag' and to look out for it. Most people were driving and unable to access emails, so I received several phone calls from similarly lost travellers. When I said I had placed a traffic cone on top of a recycling bin, I was met by an almost blanket response from everyone.
"Oh yes, I know. I noticed that driving past and thought it looked odd"
One by one people started to arrive. Teas and coffees were being brewed, Welsh cakes were offered, and we could officially kick off FE 5.
FE regular, Richard, was the first to arrive. Richard has recently set up his own Blog - Live Happy, Save More. After I gave him the tour of the house, he rightfully selected one of the best rooms (you snooze, you lose and all that) and we proceeded to talk money, kindle, investing and future plans.
Anonymous regulars, and date-misplacement's, A&
LZ were the next to arrive. After another brief tour, we all sat down in the living room and got conversations under way.
One thing I was aware of during this weekends greetings was my tendency to go in for hugs. I think a few of the attendees might have been taken back by my overly familiar embrace. Even Richard, with whom I'm now quite close to, put out his hand to shake mine. I grabbed his hand and pulled him in for a big old hug. Sorry if it made anyone feel uncomfortable. It's just the way I roll!
Huw Hugs were dished out on cue to the FIRE Escape Regular, and FIRE lover (of all kinds) Emma, and first time FIRE Escapee and new Blogger Organised Redhead.
OR works in IT, and Emma with Risk Management.
OR could only join us for Friday Night, and a few hours on Saturday morning, so we all proceeded to ask her questions about what she does, her plans, and how she made her home baked cookies so deliciously chewy. (Thank you so much for baking! They were bloody marvellous!)
Lou was at her hosting best once again and put together a frugal pasta dish for us all. My initial thoughts were "This isn't going to feed everyone, and am I going to hit my Macro numbers for the day?", only to be blown away by the deceptive size of the bowl. Most of us had at least seconds and the bowl still had more than half left.
As a side, I finished off the bowl at lunch on Monday, after it being served on Saturday and Sunday!
Our ingenious Cone Flag (it's now 'our' idea) was a time saving beacon for many, but it couldn't save everyone. We later found out that it had a flaw.
Our Cone could do little to help first time FIRE Escapees, Cora and her partner. They encountered car trouble just 20 miles from their home. Their weekend was resting on getting their car sorted the following day, and unfortunately they were unable to make it. Cora - I hope you've got things sorted with your car this week. So sorry we weren't able to meet in person!
'Pinch' was the final guest set to arrive on the Friday evening. Due to his night shift at work the previous day, he had slept in and was running a little later than planned, but he was dead set on starting the 2 hour journey at 7pm.
We continued to chat, drink, eat cookies and put the financial world to rights. Blissfully unaware that the Cone has been 'disabled'.
At 9.30pm, I received a call from Pinch asking for directions from the village. He was minutes away from joining us, and I smugly told him about 'my' ingenious Cone Flag idea.
15 minutes later, I received another call from Pinch saying he still hadn't found it and if I could go out on the road and wave him down. Some 'Cone arrogance' has set in at this stage. I didn't understand how anyone could miss my great attention-seeking navigation aid. But it was late, it was dark and I wanted to help, so I made my way outside.
To my horror, I saw the cone positioned next to the bin, not on top of it. A detail Lou had clearly overlooked. Pinch had not seen the orange beacon and rightfully drove on. I swiftly put the Cone back to where it belonged and would later tell Lou how her idea had let Pinch down.
After 10 minutes or so, Pinch noticed the orange beacon stood next to the Cone Flag and slowed down to turn in. He'd made it.
He could have done without a nightshift, grocery shopping, 2.5 hour drive and Cone Gate, but he didn't complain once. He quickly settled in, had some food and drink, and proceeded to talk to everyone about why he came and what his future plans were.
The conversation was flowing, and before we knew it, it was 12.50am. It was time for bed for everyone..... apart from Pinch.
Pinch had worked a long night shift the previous day, and although it had passed midnight for us, it felt more like 11am to him. Whilst everyone was in bed, he stayed up in the kitchen baked a loaf of bread, cooked us a stew for Saturday evening, and finalised his plans for revenge against that blasted cone.
The only plan I had set for the whole weekend was to do my Morning Routine on Saturday and Sunday morning. Those that were interested to join me were welcome, as I'm used to doing it on my own.
It turned out that most people were up for the walk, aside from Pinch, who had gone to bed just before most of us had woken up.
We went out in pursuit of a country path or quite road, and luckily we found one close by. At this point we had broken up into 2's or 3's and were happily chatting away. Our financial chatter had once again distracted us, and 45 mins had passed. At that stage turned back and headed home. The 90 min walk was a little longer than intended, by it blew away a few cobwebs nonetheless.
I usually move on to meditation after my morning walk/run. I wasn't sure how I was going to do this as a group or who was even interested. I wanted to make it easy on everyone if anyone felt uncomfortable, so I suggested meditating upstairs out of the way, in the beautiful beam-exposed front room you can see from the pictures. I made it clear that zero offense or pressure was being applied to join me, as I normally do it on my own anyway.
Richard, A, and Organised Redhead decided to give it a go. I gave a very brief rundown of what to do - ie. sit there and be with yourself - and ran a meditation timer on Youtube for 10 mins. It's at the low end of what I normally do, but enough for people to get a feel of the benefits.
As I closed my eyes and centred myself for 10 minutes, I hoped the others would get a taste of what I loved about meditation. There was a chance that they used the 10 minutes to pull faces, and insult me whilst I wasn't looking, but I was blissfully unaware in any case.
After the meditation, Organised Redhead's time had elapsed. She had to hit the road for a prior engagement.
As we were saying goodbye to OR, we were welcoming our next guests - M from There's Value
, her newborn son Edward, and her friend Martina.
OR got to say hello to them, but was gutted not to meet our final guest, Weenie. She asked me to pass on her regards.
M and Martina, were prepared for the weekend in all areas. First of all, they brought a car-load of food for everyone. They also prepared questions to ask everyone in attendance to make sure they made the most of their 12 hour visit.
Edward was officially the youngest person in attendance that had a Pension - only a couple of months old (Sorry M wasn't 100% sure of his age). I have a feeling he's going to financially sound growing up!
Martina and M took it in turns to keep an eye on Edward, but the rest of the group couldn't resist helping out and looking after the little man too.
Weenie from Quietly Saving was our final guest to arrive, only 30 mins or so after OR left. It was great to see Weenie again, although I didn't have a chance to have a proper catch up with her this time around.
Weenie and The FIREstarter were the reason behind me starting this whole FIRE Escape thing. I had enjoyed chatting with them both on emails and also via our respective blog comments. I wanted to meet like-minded people in person. TFS suggested Stafford upon Avon as it as was exactly in the middle of the three of us. So I organised it, and the rest is history.
At this point, the gathering was in full force, and the financial chatter continued to flow.
Bring on the weekend....
Why I love the FIRE Escape Weekends
If you asked everyone that came along, you'd get multiple opinions and takeaways from the weekend. There are several things I like about the FIRE Escape, but here are the main 5 for me:
- You get to speak to like-minded people.
- You get to learn about something you know little about.
- You get to help people with something they know little about.
- We have a lot of fun.
1. You get to speak to like-minded people
I've found that people like the freedom of the FIRE Escape for one of two main reasons. The first is being around people that are also interested in Personal Finance, Early Retirement, Financial Independence, making money, saving money, frugal living, investing etc. Usually, most of our friends and family do NOT share our enthusiasm for the topic, and we rarely get to speak about our interests with others in our 'normal lives'. For one weekend only, we can speak to people who love talking about these topics. So much so, you get to learn from others and help to share your great tips to willing recipients.
Secondly, some attendees don't have an opportunity to be open about their finances with others. This might be due to their vocation, family circumstances or previous harsh treatment by others. It's refreshing and freeing to be so open about your finances for a couple of days. The conversations we have can alienate those that are closest around you in the 'normal world', but talking about 'shares you're watching' or 'money your saving not buying x..' result in an enthusiastic reply as opposed to "You're boring" or "You're a tight ass" type responses.
2. You get to learn about something you know little about
It never ceases to surprise me. I've walked away from every weekend learning something completely new, or at least knowing something in a lot more detail. Everyone brings something to the table, and you don't have to be 6 months from FIRE to be able to provide value. Everyone brings something and the rest of us get to benefit.
3. You get to help people with something they know little about
Likewise, it isn't just about turning up and listening to everyone's great advice. Soon enough, people will be asking what you do, what you enjoy etc, and before you know it, you're sharing your thoughts on monetary topics that help others.
I particularly like the balance of the weekend. You could summarise it by saying you're likely to feel like a total novice in one area, and a relative expert in another. You get to improve and learn something, and your ego gets a stroke from helping others. Admittedly, some people are more financially savvy than others, but no-one knows everything. There's just simply too much to know.
4. We have a lot of fun
A little cliche perhaps, but nevertheless true. I'm constantly noticing other people, creating 'in jokes' or laughing myself. We're lucky to attract such down to earth, welcoming, nice people. Not one psycho as far as I can tell. Not one!
I personally love learning, but I also like having fun, and when you put a dozen people together in a relaxing environment you're bound to start cracking jokes and poking fun at each other. As the weekends are only 2 nights, I think it also prevents the inevitable 'group storming' phase and potential arguments. People have debates, and express opposing views, but there have been nothing close to any serious or distressful arguments in my experience so far. If we were to live together for a week or two, I'm sure certain personalities would start to create friction, but two days doesn't allow for that to happen in my experience.
Instead, we keep to talking about Vaginal Steaming, Share dealing based arm injuries, of if in doubt, anyone can always take the piss out of me.
I might be the only one with this on their list of benefits, but it's a significant one for me. Every 3-4 months you get to meet up with the same faces and you're inevitably asked about your progression since the last one. Not in a judgey way. Just that prior to leaving you find yourself saying things like "I'm definitely going to start Match betting" or "I'll have my online course out by the end of May". Guess what, when the next one arrives, people will ask you how you're getting on. The FIRE Escape never fails in motivating me in a certain area, and knowing that people will be asking me how it's going always motivates me to keep going. I like to stay true to my word, and when I say I'm going to do something, I'll do my utmost to follow through on that.
Back to Saturday...
We spent the first chunk of the afternoon in the beautiful long front room upstairs, next to the wood-burning fire. We set up some lovely nibbles (healthy and not so healthy) as we continued to put the financial world to rights whilst having the Formula 1 qualifying coverage in the background.
For those of you trying to picture what it's like - it's not always serious, or in a group discussion format. I've found that discussions regularly take place between 2 or 4 people, and now and again it brakes out to 8 to 12 people, on certain topics.
We made our way downstairs for lunch around the big dining table, which consisted of table and chairs. Oh right, sorry - the food consisted of oven baked vegetables, including sweet potatoes and parsnips (M's favourite!). 'A' provided some beautiful halloumi cheese, and M grilled some Salmon. We still had Lou's bucket of Pasta to work through as well some Pinch's bread. What a treat!
It's fair to say, we weren't short of food.
On the topic of food - Richard had the great idea of putting together a shared document on Google Drive that the attendees can all access. In future FIRE Escapes, I can make a list of all the food stuffs we need for the weekend (Milk, Bread, Butter etc), and people can make a note of what they're bringing and the volume. Therefore, we can make sure we don't bring too much milk or go short on Butter like this time. Watch this space.
Great idea Richard! For more of these great ideas, check out his new Blog - Live Happy Save More :-)
After our bellies had been filled, we proceeded to chat and pick away at the cakes, cookies and desserts people had brought. We stayed at the table all afternoon, until tea time.
I love this element of the FIRE Escape - Not just the food or more food, but the efficiency of time talking. No time is wasted walking in between bars or restaurants. We talk with our mouth full as we eat, and we continue to fill our mouths with food whilst we chat. It's great!
The downside being, it leads to time flying by and before you know it, the day has nearly gone. That, and speaking to people with food in your beard, which is both off-putting and somewhat of a waste. Perhaps that's just me.
After a few hours, I went outside for a CrossFit style workout on my own. I felt a little guilty for leaving, but at the same time, everyone had so much to talk about, when I returned, it didn't feel like I had even left.
No sooner had we seemingly sat down for lunch, but it was time for our evening meal. This was courtesy of Pinch. He made a beautiful meat stew the night before, and it went down a storm.
The conversations continued into the evening, with beers and wine in hand. When darkness was upon us, M and Martina decided to make a move, which was thankfully only an hour's drive for them.
Just after midnight, most of us decided to retreat to our beds, apart from the stalwart Pinch, who decided to stay up again and bake some more bread and finish off those plan for Cone Retaliation.
The final day had arrived. We had until 5pm to vacate the house, and most people were undecided on when to leave, basing their decision on the rest of the groups activities. No-one was in a rush to leave so we cracked on with the day.
We started with another morning walk. When we returned, it was only Richard who joined me for meditation in the Font Room upstairs. After our minds had been calmed, we decided to use our new focus to plan out how we were going to take over the world.
Richard and I have seemingly become like two peas in a pod. It's scary how much we've found we have in common, and when we get talking, we don't stop! I've had a couple of phone calls with Richard this year and used up the phone battery on both of my home phones before deciding we should probably end the call and do some work.
I'm finding myself getting close to the rest of the regular attendees too. After we left the FIRE Escape on the Sunday, A&
LZ drove to our house for tea and pancakes before finishing off their journey home.
I get the impression that others are starting to form solid relationships as well, which is brilliant to see.
The rest of the group came upstairs to see what Richard and I were up to (after an hour or so), so we quickly disposed of our world-conquering plots and pretended to talk about finance.
We got back into group financial talk, as well as feedback on the weekend itself, and what people's take-home's were.
The last day is a little weird. I don't know about anyone else, but I have a strange blend of sadness - for not seeing these great people for another few months. And joy - for not seeing these quickly-tiresome people for a few months. ;-) No really. I feel joy and excitement about putting some the ideas that are generated into action. I find it motivating to be around like-minded people, and a sense of accountability (as I mentioned earlier) to make some progress between now and the next one on these areas.
It was nice that most of the group stayed together until brunch (late breakfast). Unfortunately, it was my turn to serve breakfast for the group - BAD MOVE. I cooked up the sausages M left behind and being the culinary expert that I am, I cut them in half to cook a little quicker. They proceeded to shrivel up backwards, like any man would feel on a cold day, and they ended up looking like 'little turds' in a pan.
My dish was completed by serving either overcooked or undercooked bacon, with my Sous Chef Richard taking care of fried eggs.
I call the dish 'BET on Toast'. Bacon, Eggs and Turds on Toast, Ideally eaten when you're match betting.
I know I've already thanked everyone, but I want to give out a couple of 'Special Thanks'.
Lou - I drag her around to these weekends and she takes it all in her stride. She turns into hostess - much more than I do! And does her best to cook, clean and look after everyone. Thank you!
M, A & Z - These 3 have not only got cool, single letter names, but they also contribute and cook delicious, healthy dishes for everyone. Not just on this weekend, but on the previously one's too. Your efforts in the kitchen, and monetary contributions haven't gone unnoticed. Thank you!
Pinch - Similarly to the three above, contributed by bringing masses of food for everyone, cooked a dish, 4 loves of bread and took everything in his stride. What an outstanding effort. Thank you!
Organised Redhead - Finally, thank you for providing such wonderfully baked cookies for everyone. They were divine!
Of course, everyone else contributed by bringing food or in other ways, but I wanted to make a point of highlighting those above for their outstanding efforts. I'm sure you'll agree!
The Next FIRE Escape
I plan on confirming the next date and location within the next 4 weeks. It's likely to be in early June, with the final one of the year being in September.
Some of the attendees suggested staying with Gaer Hall for it's facilities, central location and price. I imagine in the summer, with the BBQ blazing, and the grounds, it would be fantastic too. I'm undecided as of yet, but feel free to convince me either way below in the comments as I base these weekends around all the attendees.
If you attended the weekend, please let me know what you thought of it.
Organised Redhead said the idea of coming along was a little weird and daunting, but the overwhelming number of comments in one of my previous write ups convinced her to come along.
Thanks again finally for everyone that came along and made a fantastic weekend for both Lou and I. We hope to see you all again, with some new faces at the next one!
Labels: Early Retirement, Financial Independence, FIRE Escape, Personal Development, UK Gathering