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Oct 02 2015

Gabbi and Andrea Villarrubia have lived full time in Sayulita for nearly 10 years. Gabbi is originally from Bueños Aires, Argentina and grew up in San Jose, California, after his family immigrated to the United States when he was very young. Andrea grew up mostly in Louisville, Kentucky, and then finished high school and attended college in the Pacific Northwest. Gabbi and Andrea first met in San Francisco working for PDI/Dreamworks on the movie Shrek. They lived together for five years in San Francisco before they made the move to Sayulita.

How did you first hear about Sayulita?

In the summer of 2002, we were looking for a vacation spot off the beaten track in Mexico so we asked some travel-savvy friends. Our friend’s boss had visited Sayulita and recommended it to him, so we checked it out. We rented the amazing Villa Mariposa (still one of our favorite Sayulita homes) from Mona & Conrad, and during that trip we met folks that are some of our closest friends to this day. 

What was it about Sayulita that made you want to move here?

Gabbi had vacationed in Costa Rica and met some inspiring suit-turned-beach-bum types that got his wheels turning about moving to a sleepy little tropical beach town. We fell head over heels with Sayulita on that first trip. The tropical beauty, the sleepy secluded beach, the beautiful homes and architecture, and the contrast to and co-existence with the simplicity and rusticity – dirt roads, chickens, and goats in the street. But, most of all, it was the amazing people we met and connected with over those 10 days. People with open hearts, engaging in conversation, curious and friendly. There weren’t tour offices and no one was actively trying to sell you something – it was very chill, laid back, and genuine. That is still here, but there is also more business now and with that comes a little bit more of a “sell” angle. From the property manager to our taxi driver that also took us snorkeling and dove for octopus and puffer fish with us, to the guy who gave us a ride through the jungle just because he could see we were suffering in the July heat, to the best masseuse ever who picked us up and drove us to her jungle studio and is now one of our best friends – we were overwhelmed at every turn by generosity and kindness and we felt the same energy from these folks each time we returned to Sayulita.

What was the hardest adjustment you had to make when you moved to Sayulita?

Too much time on our hands! Ha ha. Coming from a very fast paced city life, surrounded by friends and things to do every night, to a slow, mellow paradise can be a hard adjust, especially when you exit the preliminary “vacation” phase. We had very clear identities in the old world, so we had to reevaluate who we were, what we wanted to be in Sayulita, and what path we were going to take to refind ourselves. It all came about very smoothly after a few bumps on the tequila trail!

What did you find most rewarding about moving to Sayulita?

Aside from the obvious reward of living in paradise in this little town we loved, the most rewarding thing about actually making the move was the satisfaction of having followed through on our dream. We had this idea to take a chance on a better life, before we had a mortgage, before we had kids. We had to take a risk in leaving our secure jobs and career tracks - something that was nearly incomprehensible for Gabbi’s parents, who had worked so hard for their sons to have the opportunity of the “American Dream.” But, we had faith in this dream, we made a detailed two-year plan with a schedule and monthly tasks, and we DID IT. When we finally gave notice at our company, we were giddy with excitement at what was to come. People we talked to about our move were amazed and envious – how did we make this happen? People said we were so lucky, but it was never luck. We made it happen, we lined up every opportunity by connecting with the right folks and by being good, honest, hardworking people. It was very rewarding to set our sights on something that seemed so “out of reach” to so many of our colleagues and make it our reality, our destiny. 

What do you like most about living in Sayulita?

In our 10 years, we have never fallen out of love with this town. We still feel like it’s a dream that we get to live in such a diverse community, moments from the beach, jungle, mountains and trails. Sayulita and Mexico allows you to work smarter, not necessarily harder, which in turns allows us more time to spend with our kids and our friends. Without the amazing friends and community we have, it would not be the same town we love. We have been blessed to be surrounded by like-minded people who we love dearly.

Are you involved with any local organizations or do volunteer work? If so, what do you do?

Yes, we try to be as involved in the community as possible! We are so proud that our children go to Costa Verde International School, and we help in any way we can, from the yearly awesome fundraiser, down to class related support. Gabbi is one of the founders of Festival Sayulita, whose sole goal is to build a community center for the town (while showing it a great time!), and we are supporters and big fans of Pro Sayulita and SayuParke, as everyone should be.

What do you do for fun and relaxation?

Not sure how relaxing it is, but we play in Sayulita’s only Mexi Punk n’ Roll band, Los Gatos Negros! We love playing music, and find it another dark blessing that we are able to play our fave kind of music, in our fave place in the world, with our favorite people in the world! Music is a big part of our lives, and having more time in our lives since being in Sayulita has allowed us to feed that musical monster.  We also love new projects, whether artistic, musical, or other. Over the years we have started magazines, festivals, bands… always with each other and great friends.

How do you support yourself in Sayulita?

When we moved here and finally got our groove during the first year, we adapted our management skills from the old world into fun work that became our livelihood. We own and operate two businesses – Sayulita Dream Weddings, one of Sayulita’s premier luxury wedding planning operations which Andrea spearheads, and Sayulita At Your Service, Gabbi and his partner Nick Sherman’s Rental and Property management company. We are very lucky to have good work, great clients and year round work which still allows us the freedom to apply energy to other projects, such as local events, festivals, etc.

How does the cost of living in Sayulita compare to where you used to live?

Well, we used to live in San Francisco, California, and even 10 years ago, it was one of the most expensive places to live in the United States. Sayulita is far more affordable than most places in the States, especially if you live a fairly simple life. We were able to build our house the first few years we lived here, and give our children a comfortable life. What more could you want?

How has the experience of living in Sayulita changed you?

You can take the person out of the city, but you can’t take the city out of the person, in our case. We often are still moving faster than we like, and maybe don’t hit the beach as often as others, but in the big picture we have slowed down and wonderful changes took hold. Andrea has taken to a far more natural lifestyle in the way she enjoys food, health, and childcare. Having more time to oneself has allowed us to focus on fitness more, which we both consider essential in our lives. Mexican culture is so amazing, and we try to live in the moment more and cherish the important things in life more, and care less for the trappings that will never matter on your last day. In a small town, we find it easier to be ourselves, and relish in our individuality. Punk rockers in a sleepy surf town? Perfect! We did not move here as young kids, so this all added on to a fairly developed look on the world, which just improved thanks to a heavy dose of Sayulita life…Oh… and tequila. Lots more tequila has been drank. 

What advice would you offer someone wanting to move to Sayulita?  

Have a plan – some idea of what you want to do here and why. Get involved – make yourself useful and be a part of making Sayulita an even better place to live. We all benefit from this amazing place that is in need of so much hands-on support due to lack of government infrastructure and support – there is always something that needs doing. Stay open to the possibilities, and don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for advice as you prep for your move. There are so many great resources online for information – just be sure to stay optimistic and positive!

Anything else you’d like to add?

We thank all the Sayuleros who have contributed to making this town the magical place that it is, and for welcoming us all those years ago. Good luck getting rid of us now!




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