My Camp FI Experience

This year I decided that I was tired of just passively absorbing information from the various Financial Independence (FI) blogs and podcasts on the internet and that I wanted to actually get involved. I’d reached a point in my path to FI where most things were on auto-pilot and I felt like by getting more involved I could see the following benefits:

  • Learn some new skills (like how to write words good)
  • Hopefully help some people
  • Create something instead of just consuming
  • Meet “like-minded” people and be engaged in a community that I’m passionate about

So, to do this, I felt like these were the first 3 steps I could take:

  1. Create this blog
  2. Engage with bloggers, podcasters, and readers/listeners online
  3. Attend in-person meetups

The first two have been in progress over the past 6+ months and while I’d like to maybe expand my readership a bit, I’ve been pretty happy with everything.

This month, I was able to achieve the first instance of #3 when my wife and I went to Camp FI Southeast down in Gainesville, FL.

How was it?

The camp was great!

My wife and I are both fairly introverted, so it was a bit stressful at first to try and make conversation with a bunch of strangers, but the incredibly welcoming nature of the group went a long way in alleviating that.

Everyone was generally very friendly, positive, and interested in helping others. It was also super refreshing to be in a group that all felt the same way when it came to nerding-out about personal finance and being willing to live a bit differently to achieve FI. I’m used to being the big weirdo in my friend group that everyone is sick of hearing from about money, so it felt great to be among my “tribe”.

Furthermore, many of the people there have already achieved FI and/or have well known blogs or podcasts about it. Going into the weekend it was a bit intimidating because while I wouldn’t say they’re necessarily “celebrities”, many of these people felt at least more…legitimate in this community than I felt as just some schmuck who’s late to the party. A lot of people also already knew each other from FinCons and other events over the years.

I’m happy to report that these feelings were totally unfounded. I was taken aback at just how normal and chill everyone was, even the “famous” bloggers, who were just regular people (shocking, right?). I almost feel a bit ridiculous for having had those feelings in the first place. Everyone was friendly and welcoming to me and my wife and by the end of the weekend I felt like I’d known many of these people for ages. You really can’t ask for more.

Activities

Over the course of the weekend we shared 3 meals a day, listened to presentations from some of the content creators (bloggers, podcasters, etc.), and even had some real camp-like activities such as a ropes course and archery. There were also a couple round-tables with a live recording for the Choose FI Podcast.

These planned events were balanced with just the right amount of down time, where we all had the freedom to go be introverted by ourselves or hang out, chat, and play board games. There was even an impromptu session of acro-yoga. Despite my natural tendencies, I tried to get outside of my comfort zone and do as much of the latter set as possible. I didn’t want to leave the weekend feeling like I failed to take advantage of the opportunity to meet as many people as possible. Fortunately, with all said and done, I feel like I made the most of it.

These casual hangouts, especially in the evenings with drinks, ended up being my favorite part of the camp. It’s rare these days, even with my closest friends, to get to spend that much time just hanging out in person and there’s really no substitute. I feel like I got to know everyone a lot better during these times.

Also, for the record, while I missed the random pull-up contest that happened, I went home and busted out 13 (which everyone will have to take my word on) and I think that’s respectable. Better start training now for next year…

Other than that, there were at least 4 people with little or no voice at some point in the weekend, and apparently tons of people are now sick. Not super surprising, and I was convinced I’d end up with some cold or flu myself, but thankfully both my wife and I escaped unscathed.

Attendees

The camp was a mix of people that write or speak about this stuff regularly and others that are just living their lives and pursuing FI. As I mentioned, it was great how little this sort of distinction mattered; we’re all part of the same community and everyone was interested in sharing their experiences and helping each other.

Here’s a list of some of the great content creators I met. I’d encourage everyone to check out the great stuff they’re putting out, as it’s helped me immensely on my own journey.

There are probably others that I’m forgetting or didn’t realize they have a web presence, but this list shows just how incredible this group was. Although, it doesn’t do justice to all of the other wonderful people that don’t write or podcast. They were just as much a part of making the weekend a great experience for us.

Also, huge thanks to Stephen for planning and managing the weekend.

Wrap Up

It should be clear at this point that I’m really glad we went. It was great being able to share in this experience with my wife and we’re now more energized to keep pursuing this FI path and creating a life that we find meaningful.

I’m looking forward to going to more of these events in the future and also trying to take advantage of some of the local frequent meetups in my city. Hopefully we’ll also get to see some of the people we met again soon if we’re passing through their cities or they find themselves in DC.

Finally, here’s a picture of our pup representing how I felt after the weekend was over:

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15 Comments, RSS

  1. Bianca January 19, 2018 @ 8:02 am

    I am so glad you guys came and had such a good time!! My first experience walking into one of these things sounds as awkward as how you were feeling but a few days later I couldn’t fathom having been worried. This community is so welcoming and supportive and I have yet to have a bad experience. I hope we get a chance to catch up in person again soon. 🙂 And thanks for the shout out!
    Bianca recently posted…2017 – That’s a Wrap!My Profile

    • aardvarkadvisor January 19, 2018 @ 10:12 am

      Thanks, Bianca! I completely agree, such a great community. Now I just need to figure out what other events I’m going to try to attend in the next year…

  2. Joel January 19, 2018 @ 8:30 am

    So nice getting to meet you and your wife in person at camp! I too was pretty nervous at my first event last year, not knowing what to expect, but I was so pleasantly surprised by how welcoming and optimistic everyone was! This year it was like a reunion, seeing all my old friends again and meeting new ones, including you guys. Hoping our paths cross again soon!
    Joel recently posted…Lessons In Early RetirementMy Profile

    • aardvarkadvisor January 19, 2018 @ 10:18 am

      Great meeting you too, Joel! That’s good to hear, it’ll be good running into everyone in the future, even if it’s not until the camp next year which we’ll definitely be attending.

  3. Arrgo January 19, 2018 @ 9:13 am

    I’d imagine the tips you would pick-up as well as the inspiration/ motivation would make it well worth any time and effort you put in to attend.

    • aardvarkadvisor January 19, 2018 @ 10:25 am

      Definitely true, Arrgo. I think some people went with specific questions they wanted to get answered and I know for the military folks, talking to Nords was really helpful. I’ve been curious about real estate investing and so it was great to get to chat with Scott and understand the strategy he’s using. We’re also planning to bug Mindy by email in the future when we eventually get serious about buying a house. It’s really nice to be able to crowd-source this kind of knowledge and put it to practice in your own life.

  4. paul thompson January 19, 2018 @ 7:38 pm

    Making in-person connections with your tribe is so refreshing. Aren’t we all just trying to find our way in this crazy world? Lead a life of YOUR design and NOT by default. It was a true pleasure to meet you all in person. Great blog Andy! Looking forward to seeing you again. Until then, continue providing great content to your tribe, my friend!!

    -Paul David Thompson
    http://www.pauldavidthompson.com

    • aardvarkadvisor January 20, 2018 @ 7:22 am

      Thanks, Paul, and great meeting you too. I’m looking forward to the podcast or was it that you’re starring in a movie directed by Spielberg 😉

  5. Physician on FIRE January 19, 2018 @ 9:19 pm

    13 pullups? Dang! You know that’s unlucky, though. If you can’t make it to 14, best to stop at 12.

    Kidding, of course. I haven’t done 12 pullups at once since I was about 12 years old. Maybe by next year, though!

    It was great to meet both you and your lovely wife. Glad you two made the trip down. I’m already looking forward to Camp FI Midwest up here in Minnesota this August.

    Cheers!
    -PoF

    • aardvarkadvisor January 20, 2018 @ 7:25 am

      Haha well by next year we need to be doing 24+ to beat Cody and Todd, better get to work now!

      Great meeting you too and I hope the Midwest camp is a blast. I’m still working on seeing if I can get in on the Mid-Atlantic one coming up.

  6. J.D. Roth January 20, 2018 @ 9:32 am

    Wish we’d had a chance to talk more in person, but maybe next time. And maybe next time we can all bring our pups. My little hound would love to play with your dog…

  7. […] months ago. We got to hang out a bit in Florida a couple weeks ago, where he gave a great talk at Camp FI SE. Elements of that speech made it into his recent post in which he shares Lessons in Early […]

  8. Marla January 26, 2018 @ 5:02 pm

    It was great meeting you guys at CampFi. I wish we had more time to chat, but now I will get to know you better by reading your blog (and ChooseFI posts). Hope to see you both again at another Camp sometime!

    • aardvarkadvisor January 26, 2018 @ 5:19 pm

      Thanks, Marla. It was great meeting you too! I agree, it’s tough to get to spend as much time chatting with everyone as we might’ve liked in just a couple days time. I’m sure we’ll see you out there though, since I know you’re the queen of the meetups, even if you said you might scale back a little 😉

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