how I ended up moving to Sayulita

Mexico diaries: the story of how I ended up moving to Sayulita

Reader Mail: Trisha, thank you for all the information about Sayulita! I really love your blog because it is real and is very helpful. I am planning to move to Sayulita this year. Any thoughts? I know you just moved there but I want to know how you are liking it. Thanks a lot!

Robert B., Texas, USA

I lived in Milan, Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Paracas, and Tel Aviv but whenever I am asked how I decide to move to a place, I don’t really know how to answer it. This is probably the first time I am writing about ‘moving somewhere’ and I feel like it’s the right time because today, there was a strong feeling that I’d stay here longer than those cities mentioned above.

In April 2019, I started feeling that I didn’t want to live in Mexico City anymore. I always lived in big cities – Buenos Aires, Tel Aviv, Rio de Janeiro – all different on many levels but I loved those indifferences. However, I didn’t feel that love and acceptance when I decided to move to Mexico City. It was difficult to see friends all the time since they have full-time jobs. Most nights, I was alone in my apartment, swiping on Tinder without any luck. I was in a time of my life where dating apps were my channels to make friends or at least have a drink with someone every weekend. It became very difficult to have relationships.

moving to sayulita

Blogger friends already visited me in Sayulita!

I’m not even talking about romantic relationships, but you know, just relationships. I longed for friends to go out with any time I want. I became so tired of going out on my own in a city as big as Mexico. Though Condesa and Roma are very good neighborhoods to live in, there was still something missing in terms of my social life. My social needs were not being met.

My friend Maylis who lives in Guadalajara asked me if I can watch her house while she’s on a trip. She was going aboard the Chihuahua train and then visiting family and friends in France for the spring break. I accepted her invitation since Guadalajara is a smaller city than Mexico. I thought maybe, just maybe, I’d like Guadalajara and eventually move there. And so, I packed my bags and took a blabla car to Guadalajara. I stayed there for 3 weeks watching my friend’s house (and plants).

moving to sayulita

When you make world citizenship your mission, you will come across extraordinary allies.

Guadalajara isn’t like what you see in Netflix’s Narcos series. Today’s Guadalajara is more vibrant, modern, and a lot safer than the ’70s. Of course, I still considered a lot of factors like walking alone at night. Maylis said that if I am alone at night, it is better to take the Uber. It’s cheap and it’s safer than walking. I followed all the advice she gave me and I didn’t feel harmed. I’d take her bicycle during the day and hang out in cafes. I’d go to Chapultepec Avenue to see the vibrant nightlife in Guadalajara. I also went to Couchsurfing meet-ups as they have a very active community there. But after all these weeks staying in Guadalajara, it didn’t cross my mind to move there.

Maylis was coming back from her travels soon so I had to decide where I was going next. Oh, I didn’t leave my house in Mexico City yet. It was just a ‘vacation’ kind of thing that I imposed on myself, to finally see if living in Mexico City is still worth it. I started Googling (and I remember doing it for long hours) for places near Guadalajara. Perhaps, a beach? It was then San Pancho, Nayarit came up in the search results.

San Pancho (or San Francisco) is a small beach town in the state of Nayarit just 4 hours away by bus from Guadalajara. It has a hippie-slash-surfer kind of place where I imagine, all the creative people live. I read it had a big art scene and surfing is also one of the top activities. Beach, art, surfing? Why not.

moving to sayulita

Weekend sailing with the girls of Sayulita!

I didn’t want to rent an apartment there so I figured the best way to get to know San Pancho is to look for a hostel job. After all, this is what I did when I was a young backpacker. Living in hostels weren’t difficult for me. I could easily get a house to live in but I wasn’t committed to something long-term. I just wanted to see and take it from there. I contacted this hostel and asked if they were looking for volunteers. I remember how the pictures of the beach in San Pancho were so appealing to me.

“Sorry, we are full of hostel volunteers right now,” he said. “But I can recommend you to our sister hostel in Sayulita. They are looking for more volunteers.”

I never heard of Sayulita nor saw any volunteering opportunities while I was researching. He said it was just 15 minutes away from San Pancho so to secure my volunteering spot, I said yes to him even if I had no idea where Sayulita is. And to be honest, I didn’t research it either. He said it was a hostel near the beach so there goes the magic word: the beach. I didn’t have to know anything more. That was sufficient enough for me to go. If I don’t like it, I can always come back to Mexico City anyway.

Moving to Sayulita

Sayulita: the first encounter

So I took a bus and headed to Sayulita. The bus only goes to Puerto Vallarta so I needed to take another bus to Sayulita (about an hour away). My backpacker self will go to the other station to take the bus to Sayulita and save money but my now self who works her as* off told me to book an Uber. I was so tired to go to the other terminal so I checked if Uber works in Vallarta and it did. I ordered an Uber to Sayulita which was very costly. It was around $550 MXN ($30 USD est) to get there but anyway, I wouldn’t spend on accommodations once I am in Sayulita.

I arrived at 7:00 in the morning and the town was unbelievably quiet. Apart from the loud mariachi music playing in the long row of breakfast places, I didn’t hear a sound. I knocked on the hostel door and Snow White opened the door.

“Are you the new volunteer?” she asked. I said yes and I gave her a hug. The Latina in me hugs and kisses everyone even if I don’t know them. She responded with an “oh” and hugged back. I think she was shocked by how I greeted people. I was a little bit shocked, too. She appeared to be a girl who was from another part of the world and is still not used to the Latin greeting.

RELATED: SOLO FEMALE TRAVEL IN SAYULITA – IS IT SAFE?
moving to sayulita

Meggy and Marian are two German sisters in their early 20s and they are hitchhiking in Mexico!

The girl who received me is from Germany. She has blue piercing eyes and I couldn’t take my eyes off her. She looks obviously young, more so when I learned that she is only 21 years old. It was a reminder of my 21-year-old self hopping the globe without a care in the world. We chatted for a bit until her sister came. She’s traveling with her sister! How freaking cool is that? I find it really “cool” to travel with your sister because I never (and I don’t think I can ever) travel with my sister. We are 2 very different individuals so I got curious how these 2 German girls get along so well.

I didn’t have to work that day (yet) so they assigned me a bed in the dorm, I dropped my bags and started exploring Sayulita. First thing’s first: coffee. Sayulita is obviously filled with specialty coffee shops. I had no idea where to go so I went to a coffee shop near the hostel. It looked decent, hipster, and vegan. I never thought that moving to Mexico will convert me to a healthy eater so the place was perfect for what I was looking for. I ordered a cappuccino with coconut milk and paid a whopping $70 MXN ($3.73 USD). It seemed cheap but in cities like Guadalajara and Mexico City, coffee of the same quality barely costs $2 USD.

moving to sayulita

My childhood best friend from the Philippines visited me in Sayulita, too!

First lesson learned: Sayulita is expensive. I went through the menu of the coffee shop as I didn’t check the price of the cappuccino and man, there is no food on the menu that costs less than $7 USD. Okay, don’t get me wrong, this is not that expensive but one of the reasons I moved to Mexico is that it is cheap. I fully understood why small Mexican towns are more expensive. They probably get everything from the nearest city which is Puerto Vallarta. More often, transporting goods is very expensive so I figured Sayulita gets most of their supplies outside.

I sat down at the cafe and waited for my order. As I was entering the seating area, I noticed there were no locals in the place. Obviously, it’s expensive so I bet local people wouldn’t go to coffee shops like this. But the cafe was filled with white people and all the conversations I hear were in English. I felt like I was in a bar in Miami.

moving to sayulita

Julia and I traveled to Bolivia and Peru together. She visited me in Sayulita and now she permanently lives here.

Which brings me to the second lesson learned: Sayulita is gringo land. In Mexico, gringo is a term used to refer to Americans, but nowadays, it is applicable to anyone white. After finishing my coffee, I went to the beach and saw more gringos. Gringos with dogs, gringos working out, gringos surfing, gringos sunbathing – every freakin’ person I saw on this day were white. Believe it or not, this was a relief to me. I love hanging out and learning from locals but I miss speaking English sometimes. Since I moved to Mexico, I only spoke Spanish as all my friends in Mexico City and Guadalajara only spoke Spanish. There wasn’t an opportunity for me to speak English so this was great.

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Moving to Sayulita

Life as a hostel volunteer in Sayulita

Most of the people I volunteered with were between 19 – 25 years old. I was turning 32 that year and I have no idea how I started feeling insecure about age. Maybe I’m too old for this is what always blared in my mind. I spent most of my formative years volunteering in hostels all over the world but this is the first time I felt that it wasn’t for me. In the beginning, my co-volunteers and I were not the type who’d spend our free hours together. Marianne and Meggy are travel partners so they tend to not go with the group all the time, except when it’s time for bar hops.

After 24 hours, a girl from Spain arrive and this changed my dynamics at the hostel. Mariam is from Madrid but is living in Vancouver. She’s doing a visa-run so she has 2 weeks to spare. She chose Mexico. When Mariam arrived at the hostel, she was only carrying a small backpack so I asked: “that’s all you have?”

8 weeks ago, Mariam went out of her home in Vancouver with the idea that she will be back after 24 hours. She needed to go to Seattle to renew her working visa in Canada. To her surprise, the consulate told her it will take at least 8 weeks to process her visa. As someone who is continuously challenged by visa applications, the beginning of her story made me already think it’s not only me — first world passport holders like her also experience some bumps along the way, especially when we choose to live out of our home country.

SEE ALSO: VOLUNTEERING OPPORTUNITIES IN MEXICO’S BEACH TOWNS

moving to sayulita

Mariam is deeply in love with Vancouver. She even has the skyline tattoo of the city on her back. I never heard anyone so spoke highly of a Canadian city with so much love and admiration, let alone from a full-blood Spanish woman. Filled with overwhelming fear, Mariam booked a ticket to Mexico with her last savings of the month. She’s like, “why not? I have nothing to do anyway.” The hostel I was staying in had more girls and all of us lent her clothes that will last her 2 weeks in Sayulita. She couldn’t believe how incredibly kind the world has been to her on this mishap.

She is my closest friend in the hostel and I admire her courage, her attitude, her outlook on life, her honesty, her love, her respect for herself as a woman. Above all, through Mariam, I proved that it really is true: until we do what creates a revolution in our hearts, we’ll never know what will happen. It’s better to go out there and know than sit there waiting and wondering. The rest will take care of itself.

HOSTEL LIFE: PEOPLE ALWAYS COME AND GO

And I don’t mean this the bad way. When you’re living and working in a hostel, you will see how many people you’ll meet in a span of a week. The friendship wasn’t exclusive for people who are working at the hostel but it extended to guests, too. Every week, we’d get Australians, Britons, Americans, staying in the hostel, and going out with us every night. The good thing about being in a hostel is that everyone does everything together so even if you are backpacking alone, you’re never really alone.

moving to sayulita

We went out literally every night. I was surprisingly not drinking during this period but being around these people made me go out. I felt like I was 21 again, backpacking in some faraway land in South America. It felt pretty much the same since Mexico is a Latin country. Backpacking culture is very similar. We also went to the beach every day, I can’t believe how I got so burnt! The whole hostel, in groups of 15-20 would walk together to the beach, bring some drinks, and watch the sunset. It was the same routine every day – wake up, breakfast, work, go to the beach, dinner, go out. It surprisingly didn’t tire me at all. I thought I was going to be tired about seeing the same people every day (including sleeping in the same room with them) but I didn’t. I spent every waking day of 2 weeks with these people. The new guests added spice to our daily routines but we, the volunteers, did the exact same thing every day.

After two weeks, Mariam got word from the Canadian Consulate that her visa was approved. She had to go back to work in Vancouver and couldn’t stay any longer because she didn’t plan this trip – she wasn’t supposed to be on vacation but she was forced to because of her visa application. I didn’t know what to do. I still like to work in the hostel but it felt really weird if Mariam wasn’t around.

RECOMMENDED: 30 THINGS TO DO IN SAYULITA

moving to sayulita

I stayed another week volunteering in the hostel but I felt jaded all the time. With Mariam gone, I hated it when people came and go. We had long-term guests at the hostel and it made me sad when they all left. It was like everyone’s moving on and I was still living the hostel life like a teenager running away to some Latin American country. I felt this way but I know that I didn’t want to leave Sayulita.

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Moving to Sayulita

How I ended up moving to Sayulita

For some reason, I wanted to get out of the hostel asap. I already met a lot of locals living in Sayulita so I asked them if they know any rooms or houses for rent. It was time for me to be an adult again and live on my own – I longed to have a space of my own. They all pointed me to a certain Facebook group in Sayulita where there are lots of houses for rent. I was warned that once they are posted, they will be taken in minutes so I have to be very fast in contacting the owner.

things to do in sayulita

I saw a decent studio apartment with AC and even without seeing the place in person, I paid for the downpayment right away. I didn’t ask where it was. Sayulita is a small town so I figured this couldn’t be that far from town. The owner was a young man in his late ’20s. He was going to Madrid for 20 days and he was subletting the apartment. I hated the thought that I might have to move again after 20 days but anyway, it was cheap so I took it. This apartment ended up being so beautiful and I really loved my time living there. When my ‘landlord’ came back from his trip, he told me if I was looking, his sister is renting a way bigger house (but is more expensive). I asked him to connect me to his sister so I can see the house. I eventually did a house visit and even if it was way costly, I took it.

And that house is the same house I live in now. Whenever friends come to visit my house, they keep wondering how in the world was I able to get a sweet 2-bedroom apartment with my little time living here. Most of my American friends have lived here for years and they still couldn’t find a decent space at a reasonable price. It was then I realized that my American friends don’t speak Spanish, and have very low interaction with the locals. I realized that learning to speak Spanish fluently was one of the best things I’ve done when I was young. Now, it really serves me well.

moving to sayulita

I knew I love living in Sayulita when I stayed here all summer. I didn’t have any travels planned nor did I go out of town – I was just here for 5 months! My family was even surprised I got to stay someplace that long – I lived in many cities in the world but I tend to travel every month. In Sayulita, I always feel like I never want to leave.

One of the major decisions I made while only living here for three months was adopting a dog. Yes, I adopted a dog right away! My friend who fosters/rescues dogs told me that if you don’t have a dog, then you’re not a Sayulita local. Everyone here loves dogs (which will be my next Youtube video). I know that I will still keep traveling despite the decision of moving to Sayulita but I am not doubtful of my capacity as a dog owner. I’ve had dogs all my life and I know I will love it and care for it the best way I know how.

The thing is, with or without dogs, no matter what I decide, for now, I know that Sayulita is where I want to live. For the first time in my life, I feel like this is a place I’d stay a while. I am in love with everything that it is!

Do you have plans to move to Sayulita? If not, have you been?

Sayulita is truly a great chapter in my life so if you have any questions about moving to Sayulita, please leave your thoughts in the comment box below! If you haven't been to Sayulita, let me know if you plan to visit - I will surely find time for you!

Trisha is one of those people who left their comfortable life to travel the world and learn about life. Her style is to stay in one place she likes for 3 months (or more) to know what it feels like to eat, cook, speak, and sleep in another culture that isn’t hers. She'd like to believe she's not traditionally traveling but she just chooses to be somewhere else all the time. In no particular order, her favorite cities in the world are Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Hong Kong, Mexico City, and Tel Aviv.

Comments

  • Jessica Pruett
    March 30, 2020

    What an awesome adventure! I am new here. I came across this post while researching for moving to Sayulita. Do you have a more technical post on the logistics of moving there? Considering my options! Thank you!

    reply
    • clyde
      April 30, 2021

      mexico and the philippines are very very much alike.so whats better about mexico? personally i see no benefits in mexico.

      reply
  • April 28, 2020

    Sayulita looks like an amazing place, so beautiful. Its funny how a simple decision of volunteering in a hostel can change your life and where you live. I volunteered in a hostel in a surf town in Peru and am now here for my 4th summer!!! I too lived and worked in Mexico City and its very hard to make friends there, I loved doing the tourist stuff on a weekend but during the week and evenings I barely got to speak to anyone!! I am now thinking I need to have a little holiday to the beach towns in Mexico.

    reply
  • April 28, 2020

    What an adventurous woman you are. I love how you painted a picture of Sayulita in my mind and how you are so brave to move to new places, rent a house you haven’t seen before and volunteer in hostels.
    I have a huge respect for you. You are an amazing person.

    reply
  • April 28, 2020

    Yes you got me. Now i will include Mexico to my list to visit specially Guadalajara. Omg!! That kind of background really? Look how beautiful it is. Im not into beach kind of person but Sayulita is a trully hidden gem with picturesque beaches. Thanks for sharing your story with us.

    reply
  • May 1, 2020

    Oh wow! That’s an incredible story. Its amazing how a short house-watching influenced you so much to fall in love with the town.
    I’ve only stayed in hostels, but never volunteered in one. It sounds fun! The hostel are Sayulita looks super cool and you had me at the pool by the reception. Its adorable that you adopted a dog as well!

    reply
  • Anda
    May 1, 2020

    Interesting to see how different places appeal to different people. Sayulita must have changed a lot since the last time I’ve seen it. We’ve been there about 25 years ago and I wasn’t impressed with it at all. Maybe we visited Sayulita at the wrong time. It was in full summer there there wasn’t even a single hotel that had AC. We slept (or better said we tried to survive the night!) in a hotel room that had a ceiling fan that was working only now and then. But probably Sayulita must have changed lately, since you decided to move there.

    reply
  • May 1, 2020

    I must say that I admire you for making the move. So many times and to such interesting places. Your initial impressions of Sayulita were interesting . But glad that neither the prices or the gringos stopped you from moving there. So true that speaking the local language opens up more options for you. And a great apartment too.

    reply
  • blair villanueva
    May 1, 2020

    I like reading your journey, and your living experiences From Mexico City, Guadalajara, and now Sayulita. Sometimes, finding the place you want to live is like relationships, you test the waters and see if it suits you. Glad you found Sayulita and your puppy.

    reply
  • Amrita
    May 2, 2020

    Wow! This is quite an interesting anecdote of your journey. I was totally engrossed reading it. Sayulita looks like a beautiful place. And I can totally understand your feeling when Mariam left for Vancouver. Sometimes, we forge such beautiful bonds with people that once they leave the place doesn’t stay the same anymore. So happy that you got a perfect apartment as well. Keep sharing your stories.

    reply
  • May 3, 2020

    wow what an experience! i am loving this post. I have always wanted to visit mexico and now i am buzzing to buy a ticket! You are so brave and have an amazing story! im so inspired

    reply
  • Yukti Agrawal
    May 3, 2020

    I loved present Guadalajara as it is more vibrant, modern, and a lot safer than the ’70s. Good to know that you could walk alone in night. Also you traveled in a very unique way by not renting an apartment and looked for hostel job in San Pancho. You look so happy with Lolita on that beautiful beach. Loved reading your post.

    reply
  • May 9, 2020

    What a weird age 30s is. Sometimes I felt that I’m too old for some kind of adventures, but I disagree to be said I’m old because actually we can having fun at any age we were. Trisha, I love the way you fell in love with Sayulita. I don’t have experience like that (yet) but I think you’re doing a very awesome life.

    Kiss for Lolita.

    reply
  • September 15, 2020

    Thank You for this. I’m moving to tulum in a few weeks and I knew I didn’t want to stay put so I looked up other safe toward and Sayulita came up and I didn’t find a lot of blogs on it I’m excited. I’m 33 and I feel like it’s such a weird age to be a wanderer but I crave it, it excites me. Are you still there?

    reply
  • Ciara
    December 10, 2020

    Hi Trisha…Loved your information, wonderful photos and passion for living! I’m a 64 years young woman who wants to retire in Sayulita and learn how to surf. 🙂 I’ was there a few years ago and love how lively, beautiful and tropical it is. Do you think I could make it happen? I have about $3500 a month to live on. Thank you! 🙂

    reply
  • Melissa Hoskins
    December 19, 2020

    I love Sayulita too. Visited last year before COVID. Planning a trip this spring. Long term plan is to stay 4 to 6 months a year eventually. From US.

    Thanks for the advice

    reply
  • January 16, 2021

    Hi Trisha,
    Thank you for sharing and I’m definitely donating to your coffee fund! I’m looking to relocate to Sayulita because, since covid, my industry has collapsed and I’m barely making rent up here in Santa Cruz, California. I’m starting an online wellness program and looking for a beach town with similar relaxed vibes to call home. I liked your hostel volunteer idea, however, I’m 36, broke, and starting from scratch all over again. Is it possible to find a place for under $700/mo that is clean and with a kitchen? Maybe I should come down there for a week or so and see for myself what opportunities I can attract. Also, you mentioned a Facebook message board? Any suggestions would be appreciated.
    Con Amor,
    Laura Nova

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  • March 12, 2021

    That’s so amazing! It takes a lot of courage to change places just like that. Honestly, I heard about Sayulita the first time ever here on your blog, and now I will never forget the place. I will surely visit the place when I visit Mexico.

    reply
  • April 20, 2021

    Hi, I would love to visit Mexico but I have not enough resources to visit there can you suggest me the best way to visit Mexico on a low budget. Thank you & keep sharing.

    reply
  • May 6, 2021

    I really enjoyed reading about your journey. What an incredible life you’ve lived.

    I’m originally from Los Ángeles but live in Mexico City with my boyfriend (from Mexicali.) I’m thinking about the future and where I’d like to be in 5-10 years when city life is no longer for me and I’d like to raise a family. We plan to travel to many places beforehand of course but a beach is definitely a priority. Do you think sayulita is a good place to raise kids? Is there another beach town, in or outside of Mexico, that you recommend we look into? Do you happen to know any successful hairdressers there or do you think it’s a thriving industry?

    Thank you in advance for your advice and thanks again for sharing. Te mando un abrazo.

    reply
  • June 7, 2021

    I came across your YouTube video and website during a Google search about the possibility of opening a bank a/c in Mexico as a tourist. I am a retired Jamaican-Canadian snowbird who spends winters in southern climes including Mexico. Due to Covid, I had to skip last winter and spend it in Calgary. As I am an Island Boy, I will be adding Sayulita to my next travel itinerary! Cheers!

    reply
  • Theresa Tran
    July 4, 2021

    hi trisha! i’m going to visit sayulita for a week in early august! your blog post helped a lot. would you be able to recommend a driver to pick us up from pvr and back? who could also possibly take us to take a COVID test as well?

    reply
  • Loquita
    September 1, 2021

    We have been to Sayulita!!! What a awesome time ! We called it the hippie town 🙂 Best food ever! Hope to go again one day !

    reply

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P.S. I'm On My Way is a blog by Trisha Velarmino. She didn't
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