Shari and Josh are the Founders of Afuera Getaway, offering once in a lifetime retreat travel to groups who want to visit Riviera Nayarit. They craft personalized group retreats oriented for you and your group's need and designed with immense thought and care to each detail and option provided. Learn more about what they do, how they work responsibly in the region, their local partners and more about the state of Nayarit in Mexico through interview with Shari:
Shari, thanks for taking the time to speak about Afuera Getaway. Let's start from the top - how did this all begin?
We've always been travelers, Josh and I have been traveling since our early 20s. In 2017, we took a year off and traveled around the world to 18 countries. It was amazing, rewarding, and reaffirming to this idea that we'd been circling around for a long time, which is that we wanted to prioritize meaningful experiences in our lives.
On that trip, our last stop was Riviera Nayarit in Mexico, and we realized we wanted to live here. We've been here for 5 years establishing ourselves and discovering lots of unique resources and ways to experience the area, most of which tourists do not do. Most notably, tourists visit Puerto Vallarta, but rarely come north an hour to where we are located.
We decided to create Afuera Getaway in 2022 to help tourists find these meaningful experiences while offering our services to coordinate them.
So it's all quite new! How has it been and what exactly are you offering through Afuera?
It's all new! We're working on building our brand and piloting retreats. So far the response has been great, so we're now launching out in the world. Ultimately we want to do two things: one, help people host retreats who wouldn't know how to do it themselves, two, guide visitors and tourists to more authentic experiences outside of the typical tourist trail through our local partnerships. We come up with the itineraries and everything in between.
How does it work with different types of groups and their needs?
We cater each retreat to the group and what they want to do. For example, something that would be good for a yoga retreat would be a sound bath and cacao ceremony, whereas a bachelorette might go for an agave spirits tasting and a catamaran trip to see the whale migration season.
Who do you work with in Riviera Nayarit? Who do you organize these activities with?
Our partnerships have been through our on the ground network in the area and then who we have met from there. For instance, everyone can go whale watching and there are many vendors that exist. We aim to have more unique experiences and not have the trip feel cookie-cutter like some of the offerings tourists might find in Puerto Vallarta an hour south of here.
When thinking about a traditional ceremony like the cacao ceremony, as travelers we know that there can be a fine line between commoditizing culture and celebrating culture. How does Afuera approach that?
A big consideration for a lot of expats all over the world, especially since the pandemic, is if you're not earning money or spending money locally then living abroad has a negative impact on the local people. The most obvious is with housing, raising the market rent and pushing people out. These are conversations we're having all the time, and it's worldwide.
As for Afuera, our focus is on prioritizing the relationships we've made here to be facilitators between the local culture, economy, environment and the travelers. We're not leading the experiences, the small businesses we work with are at the heart of what we offer. For instance, the cacao ceremonies are led by local women who have sat with their elders for ages and learned from them. Similarly, the hiking guides we work with grew up here and learned from their families.
With or without us, we live in a tourist destination and we aim to be part of a rising tide situation – if we can guide people through a more responsible experience, then we're going to do that. Especially as larger resorts come near, it's more important now than ever to promote the smaller experiences and give them business.
I couldn't agree more, and that's really well said. Will you tell us a little more about Riviera Nayarit, what travelers can expect and what you love about it?
We're on the Pacific Ocean, and if you've heard of Puerto Vallerta, which is in the state of Jalisco, we're an hour north of there in the state of Nayarit. All around are coastal towns and jungles on the Pacific Coast. We are in San Pancho, a little surf town sandwiched between two mega hotel regions.
We love everything about Riviera Nayarit. The sunsets are incredible, the food is amazing, there's a rich culture that is specific to living in a small town on the coast. There are often festivals, events in the plaza to celebrate weddings, quinciñeras and more. There's a big cowboy culture here, so often horses will be hanging out on the beach. Music is a huge part of life here and it permeates everywhere.
We see a lot of communuty initiative and support from EntreAmigos, it's the local community center that offers scholarships, after school tutoring, summer camp, a Spanish and English library, recycling cetner and food drives. There is a mindset here of people coming together and working together.
What's upcoming for Afuera, do you have a retreat coming up that is open for bookings?
We do! Our November retreat is open to bookings. This is a yoga and fitness retreat with Andrea Ziegler, an instructor who previously choreographed for Cirque du Soleil. This partnership offers daily movement classes, hikes led by local guides, and as November is humpback whale migration season, we'll definitely aim to see the whales. Additionally there will be a healing experience through cacao, sound bath, and soulcollage (which will be run by a certified facilitator to create self reflection, awareness and community building). Travelers will stay at an eco-resort with beach and jungle access.
For people interested in hosting their own retreat, what should they do?
Get in touch with me, Shari, to discuss the experiences you want to do! All lodging, food and activies are personalized for the group size and needs. Planning includes venue sourcing, experiences, cuisine coordination, transportation, sales materials and real-time support. Interested? Connect with Shari at email@example.com.
What does Afuera mean by the way?
Afuera translates to "outside" in Spanish. The significance of the name is that we want your experience to be getting off the typical tourist route and getting out of your comfort zone. Those experiences can really change your world, especially when they're outside in nature.
I like to close most interviews with some shoutouts, what nonprofit organizations have motivated or inspired you recently:
- EntreAmigos: This is the community center in our town that does an amazing job of bringing the residents together to create opportunities and support each other. They're all about the collective good!
- A Dog's New Life: This is a local dog rescue and actually where one of our dogs came from! We contribute a portion of proceeds from our bookings to them!
- Charity Water: This is an organization we've been a fan and supporter of for many years. Their mission of bringing clean drinking water to communities around the world is incredible, and we appreciate their transparency in costs and donation handling.