FIWE 2017: A Participant’s Perspective

We asked Sarah to give us her perspective on what it was like to participate in FIWE 2017. If you’re not sure whether the event is for you, read on for some valuable insights from a former FIWE participant that will hopefully help you make up your mind. Take it away, Sarah!

The FIRE concept started taking up a lot of my brain space in early 2017. I spent a great deal of time reading material online and listening to podcasts. But I was quickly at the point of wanting to bounce ideas around in a face-to-face setting. It seems that serendipity was on my side. Googling “FIRE events Europe” led me to information about FIWE 2017, for which the application period was about to open. It didn’t take me long to decide to apply. Everything about the event was appealing to me, including the location. (I love Romania, and Timișoara is a city I’d visited only briefly.) I accepted the challenge of preparing a video and was later thrilled to learn that I had been accepted.

It’s hard to summarize a nearly week-long event in a few bullet points. But here are some tips based on my experience for anyone who is considering applying for FIWE 2018 – which I definitely encourage you to do!

Don’t let costs deter you.

Mr. & Mrs. W organize FIWE on a non-profit basis, which makes it an affordable event. (And perhaps more importantly signals their personal commitment to making it accessible.) Food, accommodation, and transport costs in Timișoara are also quite reasonable by European standards.

Don’t let the fact that there’s not a high participation fee make you think that it’s an amateur show.

Mr. & Mrs. W are extremely professional in their organization and attention to detail, go out of their way to make sure that everyone’s needs are met, and aim to create an event that is both stimulating and fun. However, they also see themselves as participants and strive to foster a sense of community, which means that the event pleasantly lacks a heavy top-down feel.

Don’t think that you have to have a certain profile to apply.

FIWE 2017 participants had a range of nationalities, countries of residence, ages, and marital/family status. A variety of FIRE stages were also represented – from aspirant to fully “FIREd” – and all of us are following very different approaches and lifestyles. The diversity led to a very rich exchange of ideas and experiences.

Do try to ensure that you can be free from distractions (at least during the formal weekend conference).

Between following a full schedule, meeting new people, learning about many new topics, and having some often heavy discussions, it would likely be hard to, say, get any work done on the side. Moreover, for me one of the event’s strengths was that everyone seemed to both attend and actively participate in every session, meal, and social event, which really helped to create a very supportive, communal atmosphere.

Do offer to make a presentation.

fiwe participant
Sarah giving her presentation

As FIWE doesn’t have any external speakers, the quality of the more structured components depends largely on the degree to which participants step up. You don’t have to discuss the latest market trends or argue for or against the 4% rule. (Although you certainly could if you wanted to.) Lifestyle issues are also welcome and create some balance. I almost didn’t volunteer to speak. But seeing that all of the proposed solo presentations were from men made me take the plunge, if for no other reason than to improve the gender balance. I’m very glad that I did, as it was a good experience for me personally and made me feel as if I had made a contribution.

Do try to stay for at least some of FIWE Extra.

Your head may be swimming by the end of the main event. And chances are that you’ll welcome the opportunity to have some time to process what you’ve just been exposed to. It’s also a wonderful way to continue to get to know other participants and enjoy a few days with a bit of a holiday feel. Many discussions of course still focused on FIRE issues, and many informal sessions were held to flesh out FIWE 2017’s brainchild of the FIREhub website. However, it was also lovely to just kick back, enjoy Romanian village life, and foster new friendships.

Do think a little about what you are hoping to get out of the experience.

On one level, my goals were to learn more about FIRE subjects and connect with some like-minded people. However, on a deeper level I also was hoping for some confirmation that my thoughts and plans relating to FIRE haven’t secured me a spot in cloud cuckooland. All of these boxes were ticked, and then some. I definitely walked away with renewed enthusiasm for FIRE as well as many new strategies and tools. The validation I received was also invaluable and has helped me take some important steps forward in the past months. Finally, the feeling of tribe was very empowering. It was really fabulous to be around so many others who “get” the whole FIRE concept and mentality, even though we all definitely have our own spin on things.

I’m not sure yet if I’ll be in a position to attend FIWE 2018, but if I cannot be there it certainly won’t be due to a lack of motivation or desire. And if I can indeed make it, I hope to meet you there!

Sarah is a digital nomad who has just reached FI. She blogs about her adventures over at So Where Are You Now. Be sure to check out her blog for some wonderful stories and breathtaking photos!

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