Years ago, when we first started talking about how we, as a family, could travel more long term, our discussions would inevitably lead toward what kinds of business opportunities we might find in another country. In fact, as entrepreneurs, this was one of the fun parts of dreaming a life of travel.
I remember when we were in a small fishing village in Nicaragua with Arjuna and Zama in 2014, and Josh and I visited a hostel to try to use the internet and check our yoga studio emails. There was a notice on the bulletin board that this particular hostel, which was owned by an American couple, was for sale. This hostel was just off the beach, was built in an eco-friendly way, and had programs in place that gave back to the local community. At that time, we weren't ready to move toward taking on that business, but we started talking about what it might look like to own some kind of a eco-hotel in another country one day.
Driving around Ecuador the following year, our dreams continued to become more clear, as we stayed in several Airbnb rentals run by expats, many of them families. We loved sitting down with our hosts over breakfast, or in the common spaces of the house, and chatting about the communities we were visiting, and what it was like to live and work in another country as a family. The comings and goings of the hotel guests created its own kind of community in these homes, centred around the hosts.
6 months after our Ecuador trip, when we committed to selling everything and going on the road with our kids, we had the loose plan of driving from BC to Argentina (the Pan-American highway), but really we had no time frame and no final destination. We were, however, always flexible with this "plan" or "route." We've always felt that we're also open to discovering special places to settle for a while, land for sale, or a business opportunity on the road.
Interestingly, while teaching at and business coaching at yoga studios all over North America, we've been offered management positions, or even rent-to-own type situations at a dozen different studios from BC to California. For some reason, none of these opportunities felt like the right move for us.
We spent 6 weeks in Sayulita Mexico last year, as well as the past 6 months. Spending so much time in one place has allowed us to experience things like Spanish, surfing, and school in a more in-depth way, and we've also had the chance to form deeper connections with the people there. We heard through friends that one of the long term Sayulita residents who was now one of our neighbours at the Sayulita Trailer Park has a house in town called Casa Buena Onda with an established mini-hotel onsite operating as the Sayulita Surf Hotel, and might be looking for someone to rent the house and business. Josh and I looked at each other and said (out loud or telepathically, I can't remember): This sounds like an opportunity that we would totally be interested in! We told the owner of the house to keep us in mind if he needs new tenants.
Meanwhile, we had been talking about our future plans. We didn't really want to leave Mexico, but our 6 months were up in June. We discussed driving North and visiting Canada and USA again, or going back South into Central America. We even had an offer to manage a yoga studio with multiple locations that we were considering.
After getting into the routine of outdoor living and beach life in Sayulita with Josh having a real office for his consulting work, it was hard for me to visualize going to back to an indefinite life on the road driving from place to place and doing homeschool, Lux wrangling, and running a business all under our one tiny roof, even though we've done it before and we love traveling! So I guess part of the serendipitous timing was that while we had many options, we also didn't have a clear plan that was propelling us forward in any particular direction as well.
It just so happened that Casa Buena Onda/The Sayulita Surf Hotel were going to be available for a one year lease. We talked to the owner, checked out the house and rooms, and did some online research. The owner seemed excited to have us as tenants, and thought we would do well, especially with our background in running our own businesses and Josh's talent with marketing. The house is pretty cool: a 4 minute walk to the beach, with 2 bedroom house on the main floor, a big front outdoor sitting area, a garden and palapa in the back, 3 rooms for rent with a common kitchen area and sundeck, and a rooftop patio and palapa with a great view where we can potentially practice yoga. Plus, the Surf Hotel is a completely established business that has been going for 10 years with great SEO, a decade of 5 star reviews, and repeat guests.
We approached the decision to take on the hotel as we have done with all of our major decisions in the last decade -- from opening our yoga studio to selling everything to travel full time -- which is by taking some time to connect with the decision on a more intuitive, energetic standpoint with an exercise called "The Polarity Square." We've found that we often end up spinning our wheels when we approach things purely rationally by talking out every possible scenario and making endless lists of pros and cons. It can cause us to arrive at a stand still and not make any choices at all. It's not that this stuff isn't important too, but we try not to base our decisions completely on reason (obviously!). With the Polarity Square, we try to ask ourselves: are we really excited about this and why? what fears are holding us back from having what we want?
In the end, while we love traveling and we love the Earthroamer and we know we still have so much more to explore and experience, our excitement about taking on Casa Buena Onda/The Sayulita Surf Hotel outweighed any doubts or fears.
Part of it is getting to live in an awesome beach town for another year. After 6 months, we feel like our Spanish, surfing, and really getting into the community and culture of Sayulita is only just beginning. Arjuna loves going to Costa Verde International school and Lux even has the opportunity to attend the Montessori-based Escuela Cooperativa full Spanish immersion pre-school next year. For our online business, Josh is able to have office space with great internet for his phone calls and videos, and we're 40 minutes from the Puerto Vallarta airport so he can easily do business trips to visit studios onsite and lecture at conferences and teacher trainings and we have easy access to big city amenities. For me, I'm enjoying making friends with some of the families in town. And after nearly 8 years of trying balance work with having toddlers at home, and with less of a role in the online business, I'm excited to have both kids in school and pour myself more fully into this new endeavour.
But beyond just living in Sayulita a little longer, part of our excitement is experiencing something new as entrepreneurs. With Josh travelling around and doing jobs as diverse as opening a dive shop in Baja to working at a marine field station in Chile, and me going to grad school and then teaching yoga, neither of us has ever really had a 9-5 job and we don't think we ever will. We loved running our yoga studio because of our passion for teaching yoga and wellness, but we also because we loved the adventure of growing and refining a business and creating a community. Since selling the studio and developing a successful online business, we're super pumped to put our enthusiasm and skills into a new industry by taking on this eco-hotel. We're fortunate that we get to experiment with running a business in another country without having to commit ourselves fully in terms of finance and time.
So we signed a 12 month lease to rent the casa and the business. Making this decision to essentially move to Mexico for a year meant that we had to get to work fast!
We bought a truck so we had a way to drive around the area, check out surf beaches, get to and from the big stores in PV and help drive to soccer games and field trips. Buying a vehicle and getting it plated in Mexico is a whole separate blog post!
Then we had to decide what to do with our home on wheels. We considered leaving the Earthroamer in Mexico, but the truth is, with running the hotel for the next year, we're not going to have as much flexibility to tour around. Plus, it's incredible how quickly the salt air causes everything to rust and break down, so we figured driving back to Canada to store the truck safely indoors was our best option.
The transition out of the Earthroamer, into the house, starting the business, and getting on the road all happened within 1 jam packed week!
We broke down and packed up our campsite after 6 months of being set up. This meant doing a major purge of stuff we had been carrying around with us for 2.5 years and not using enough to warrant the space it takes up. We had to separate stuff we wanted to leave in Mexico and stuff that we wanted to store in Canada or that we needed in the truck for the drive back.
We moved nearly everything out of the truck and into the new house.
Arjuna was wrapping up grade 2 and went on several field trips. Both kids had to say goodbye to their friends for the summer.
Along with the owner of the house, the cleaning lady, and gardener, we all went to work doing cleaning and maintenance of the garden area, rooms, and house. Then we set to work adding our own touches before we had our first guests check in to their rooms!
We rushed around Sayulita to find unique local art pieces, blankets, and decor to have the rooms prepared in time. We also got some back end set up of the business going, like cleaning checklists, responsibilities for our friends who will be housesitting for us over the summer, and playing around with some of the settings in Airbnb to optimize our listing. We have a lot more to do when we return in August, but we got everything up and running and off to a good start!
Summer can be a time of heavy rains and leaks in Mexico, but also of water and electricity shortages. When our home ran out of water, we learned right away about the inner workings of the water system in Mexican towns. (The city water pumps into Tinacos -- big vats on the roofs of houses -- then the water flows into the house with the downward pressure. But if there's not enough water coming from the city and your valve is broken, which ours happened to be, then all of the water from your Tinacos will flow back to the city!) We had a valve replaced and Josh fixed our water pump to be sure we had extra water stored and accessible in case of a future shortage!
And finally, one week later, we packed the Earthroamer back up for 6 weeks on the road, left our friends in charge of the house and hotel, and left Sayulita June 15!
The beginning of this new adventure was making the decision to grab the opportunity to take on a house and hotel in Mexico for the next 12 months. Part of this adventure is experimenting with living and running a business in Mexico, with the advantage of not having to buy any property or start a business from scratch. We also get to more fully integrate into a cool community with our kids. And we even get to do an awesome road trip this summer: driving the Earthroamer from Sayulita to Colorado to visit Earthroamer headquarters and have some much needed maintenance done on the truck, then visiting Vancouver and Victoria, biking in Whistler, visiting family and friends in interior BC, and finally catching up with our family and getting our truck safely stored in Red Deer, AB. And then there are all the unexpected places we get to stop while doing this epic road trip!
So, are we done with travelling? Are we going to move to Mexico forever? Probably not. That's the beauty of life that being nomadic highlights. We don't have to pre-plan everything. Opportunities present themselves and we feel out the situation to see if it's a fit for us in this moment. As often happens with life on the road, one adventure leads to another, and it's nearly impossible to predict what's going to come next.