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Leaving The Rat Race For Eco Living In Hawaii

Find it on your favorite podcast player.

In this episode, we meet Sanny and Iñaki from Spain.

She left a successful career in acting and he left the world of stock markets to live a different kind of life.

Located in Haiku, Hawaii, the eco couple talks about how they both left successful careers to live a deeper and more fulfilling life in Hawaii.

Sanny and Iñaki run a blog called the Eco Couple blog with eco-friendly articles and products. They talk about how they overcame their illness and other challenges along the journey from Spain to Hawaii. They each found a new light inside themselves that pushed them toward a new life surrounded by nature, new friendships, ecology, and the ocean.

Some issues covered:

  • How did you get where you are?
  • Do you love living in Hawaii?
  • Why is ecology important for you?
  • Your bringing awareness about other brands, have you thought about creating your own eco brand?
  • Did having a child change the way think about the world?
  • Describe your first surfboard?
  • Your favorite surf trip?
  • Did we miss anything?

Links & Connect: 

Transcripts

Welcome to another episode of Saltwater High. Today, I have Sanny and Iñaki direct from Hawaii. Hello!

Hello.

Hi.

Yes, this is awesome. You guys want to say a little bit about yourselves and how you got to Hawaii and where you're from and all that good stuff?

My gosh, I don't even know where to start. How do we make it short and concise?

Well, we are from Spain.

We are from Spain. I was living in LA for a long time. Iñaki was living in the south of Spain about 30 minutes from where I grew up. And I went to my sister's wedding a few years ago and that's where I met the man of my dreams.

Very awesome. The wedding hookup. I love that.

And there's a saying "Out of one wedding comes another." Well, here we are.

Awesome. And you guys are on which island in Hawaii?

We are on Maui. Yeah, Maui. So I was in this place in the south of Spain called Tarifa, which is by the Strait of Gibraltar and over there is very windy. My hobby is windsurfing. And when I met Sanny, we were traveling back and forth to LA and to Europe and I said, "Well, I'm not moving away from Tarifa unless I go to a better place than Tarifa." And there's not many places in the world where you can windsurf and have waves. And she had to be in the US so we thought about Maui and in 3 days we pack and came over.

Yeah, we had the conversation on a Friday evening about moving to Maui on a Monday. We were heading to California.

That's amazing. So I actually, just a little bit of background, I lived in Spain for 3 years.

Oh, where?

So I lived in Madrid.

Okay. I'm from Madrid.

Yeah, I went to Complutense for about a year and I ended up falling in love with a Spanish girl. And we were together for about a decade and then split up but that was a beautiful journey and I have a deep love for Spain and everything Spanish.

Hablas Español en dónde....

Si, hablas Español. My Spanish has been bastardized because I started to learn Spanish in Mexico and then I moved to Spain and then I married a Spaniard and then but now I mainly go to Mexico. So I have this weird Spanish-Mexican hybrid kind of accent. But anyway, it's all good.

Baja is definitely a place that we love to go to as well. And there's a windsurfing spot down there that is quite hard to get to that we've been trying to get to. But I got pregnant too quickly, so we're still trying to make that drive down there.

Well, let me know when you go and I'll meet you guys down there. It's definitely a--oop, there's the 2-year old in the back. Awesome, yeah.

Hi Atlantis! We're just talking to our friends. You want the headphones? You want to say hi to everyone? Say hi, everyone!

Hi everyone!

Hello! What is her name, Alantis?

His name is Atlantis.

Oh, Atlantis. Beautiful. Wow.

He's one of the reasons that we have gotten so involved. This little man is still breastfeeding, so maybe we can...

Oh, there you go. That's the way I feel when I get hungry, too. You know, when I get hungry or I need to surf, one of the two.

Exactly.

Actually, that was interesting. This is a good segue. That was one of my question was, did having the child change the way you see the world and how did that make you see the world in a different way if it did?

It actually magnified. It actually magnified how I felt about things. I was always pre-Facebook and pre-internet and pre-social media. I was always on this kind of mission to inspire people to live more organically and get people on a path of less work and less regular society kind of thing. I was an actress and I've always been a very down to earth kind of girl. And I went to a lot of events and social gatherings and red carpet things and I always felt very uncomfortable going to these things because I felt like, "What are we doing here?" So to make it mean something to me, I started wearing eco-conscious dresses on red carpets and it would give me something fun to talk about when I got interviewed. And I felt like at least I was doing something meaningful.

And that's kind of where it started for me, where I was like, "I need to get it out there." I'm quite blessed that I have a lot of very famous friends and influential people and I was able to inspire a lot of people to kind of live more consciously, more sustainably, and kind of being an influencer to the influencers which was a privilege. And then when I had the baby, it really kicked in because I think it was right when I was pregnant, where all of a sudden the reality of what you leave behind for the generations to come becomes a true thing.

It was always a thing to save the planet and want to help. But then it becomes like, "Oh my God, I'm now bringing in another being into this world and what am I leaving for them and what am I using for when he's born and what diapers are we're going to use?" And that's when we started the blog and when we started to really research companies and go the extra mile.

Yeah, that's beautiful. I always like to think about our journey as a footprint and how big a footprint are we leaving behind us as we walk through our lives. Is that footprint, does it have a huge dumpster or a lot of waste or what is us being on this planet? What kind of footprint are we leaving? And obviously, when you bring a small child, I feel like that really changes. It kind of takes you to another level and the sensitivity around what's happening around you because you see this little creature growing, right? You're like, "Wow, what's going to happen to this person?"

Yeah. And also what they're exposed to, and what they learn from you, and how they watch your every move, and really trying to be the best version of yourself by leading by example more so than ever. Because you're being watched constantly.

Yeah, that's for sure. We're being watched by our friends and family and everyone else too, so I think there's a ripple effect, right. The more conscious we are in our actions, everyone's going to see that. And so, I love that attitude.

And that's kind of where Iñaki was really great for me too because he's a yoga teacher and he was kind of on a similar mission. I'll let him tell you his story...

Yeah, I would love to hear it.

...while I attend to the little man. I'll be right back.

So my story is I used to be a stockbroker. I also have been in Complutense in Madrid and I really love my job. But one Christmas, my mom gifted me a voucher to yoga classes. And my first reaction was, "Yoga? I don't need that." and I throw that voucher. But then I felt guilty and I felt bad, and so I decided to go to a yoga class. And the very first yoga class that I attended, it really touched me. I really felt like, "Wow!" And so I started practicing and then I started going to yoga festivals, I'm going to longer meditations, and I ended up learning, studying because I needed to read what was all that I was experiencing about. I needed to analyze and use this scientific method to read, understand, study. And so all of a sudden I was teaching.

I never thought I was going to teach in my life, but I was teaching. And then I lost my job and I thought, "Okay, I'm going to update my curriculum, my resume." And I thought, "You know what? I am not going to update my resume. I'm going to continue with the yoga." And then the next day, I had a new group of people and they loved the class. And all of a sudden I was teaching full time and that's what I did for the last 10 years.

Wow. That's a great story.

So, yeah. My story is a real one, from stockbroker into yoga teacher, like boom boom.

And where did the ocean, I mean has the ocean always been with you? As a stockbroker, you love the ocean. As a yoga teacher, you love the ocean. So when did that come into your life?

So the families in Madrid, they normally the amount of focus, they go on holidays to the coast, to the beach. So that's what I used to do with my family, with my mom and dad, we used to go to Alicante on the East Coast, and one year my dad did a windsurfing course. And then the next year, he gifted my mom a windsurfing course. And all of a sudden my dad was taking me on the big board cruising in the ocean.

And I started to feel and love like to create and increase that passion for the ocean and for these boards and to be out there. And I don't know, I grew up slowly. I was a toddler, I guess. And as the years passed, I was more hooked and hooked.

And now his whole life revolves around it.

Yeah, I was very lucky. I was talking to my dad the other day and I said, "Daddy, thank you very much because you gave me a drive for my life." Because it sounds stupid. I'm not a professional windsurfer at all."

You're still a windsurfer.

Yeah, but I mean it gives me a reason or how I go in my life. It's like following the windsurf, the good conditions. And so I moved from Madrid to Tarifa, which was a big step for me.

And with that, if I can interject, the love of the ocean that we both share. I'm also a scuba diver and just watching how the pollution has gotten and how bad it is. And a lot of times when we're in between sets or waves or wind or whatever it is, well, we try to clean up the beach or have conversations with people about living more sustainable lifestyles and finding brands such as yours, which we were so excited to find you guys because as you could see, that little blog post that we wrote about how we found our longboard.

Yeah. That was a great story.

We literally paid $15 for it and that's worth like a thousands.

Amazing. One question I had for you Iñaki, as you started to meditate and do yoga, did you find your relationship to the ocean also changing? Or was that kind of a consistent throughout your whole life?

It was very consistent throughout my whole life. Yeah. For me, the meditation and the yoga was more into my day to day. I was living in Madrid where there is no ocean. And so the ocean was always like, I could relate to the ocean to holidays and vacation. So of course, besides loving being in the water, it was also like this dream or this idea that you create of holidays and so you probably enlarge that passion for the ocean.

While the meditation and the yoga was more into my day to day like how my personality was, being more focus in my job, my career, money probably. And a normal Madrid life, where you want to have a better car and a better house and I think that was my big shift that meditation and yoga created in me was that. Actually I remember, I shifted from being this stockbroker, loving my job, all of a sudden from one day to the next, I decided that "What am I doing with my life?"

After that yoga class, I went back to the desk and I thought, "Okay, so what am I really doing here?" So I see 2 screens and 1 bank is making a profit, 1 bank is making a loss and I am the intermediary, I am the broker, I'm making a fee. I mean, my company is making a bunch of money and they're paying me a bunch of money. But what am I really doing?

Yeah. What is your cause, right?

Yeah. What am I doing? I'm doing nothing. I want to be able to build a chair. I want to be able to use my hands to create something, something real, something that I can touch. So that was my big shift and that was the yoga that affected me in that way.

Beautiful, that's beautiful. So now you guys are on Hawaii and living the dream that many people dream about. What is it like there? What's your daily life like?

Well, it depends on the summer or winter swells.

Wow. That's the perfect complete answer.

So right now in the mornings, our little routine is going down to Ho‘okipa, which on the left side is for the windsurfers, and on the right side is for longboarding. And we just go down there and enjoy the beach during the day, and then we come back home and make a lunch. And Atlantis takes his nap and Iñaki works as a caretaker and a farmhand up country a few days a week in the afternoon. So he goes to tend to the garden and bring back yummy vegetables and fruits that we get to eat.

All in all, like it's really a dream come true. He works not that many hours and we get by and life is good and I have time to focus on our little project. And it's really good. And this whole pandemic thing has been a little--I think we're extra stoked and extra grateful right now because we both actually got sick. So I think that when you face--it was very scary moment in our lives. And I think that in addition to facing that kind of fear, now we're annoyingly super happy and grateful every day to be alive and to be able to catch waves and live how we are.

So did you guys both catch COVID or was it?

Yeah. He got it first and he had the classic symptoms of pneumonia and it was scary. He got taken off by an ambulance and the fear of the whole--we try not to watch the news, but at that point, it was impossible not to get completely freaked out by what was going on in the world and it was right in the beginning, at the beginning of March. And then I got it. And I got it completely differently, I got it over months. And after a lot of research and being a part of Facebook survivor groups and people that had similar experiences to me, my experience has been very difficult because it's--I haven't actually healed a hundred percent from it. But again, just in being 80 percent, being alive, and being able to enjoy my family is so much more than many others have. So I'm super grateful.

Very funny that--sorry to interrupt, once we were back on track and we were feeling better, we were meeting people. Like me, mainly the windsurfing community, we were talking to people about our illness. And we found out that basically everybody have had a weird flu this winter starting from December, January, February. Everybody had a cough for a month or these weird flu symptoms for couple of weeks.

Or pneumonia, a lot of cases of pneumonia before they even knew what it was.

So I think most of the people have been like, just as a regular flu with maybe slightly different symptoms over this winter. And I guess that's because Maui's a very touristic island so there is a lot of thousands of people coming every day here. And so I guess we all had different multiple viruses around and the good news is that here we have the sun and the people is very healthy and we eat very good, a lot of fruit, and so on.

So I think that these elements that we have around the island help us to pass on this illness or this virus just as another simple cold that you have every winter, something like that.

Yeah, interesting. I guess the Hawaiian islands gets, like you said, so many tourists and probably a lot of Europeans and Chinese over the winter. So I'm sure...

Yeah, it pretty much got here early. But what's also amazing, speaking of the positives, we're experiencing Maui the way that people were in the 40s. We have no traffic, no tourism, the waves are accessible. Normally, if you go to a beginner spot, because I'm still not that great, but it's filled with tourists. Now, sometimes I'm in the water by myself catching wave after wave after wave. And in a way, the fact that we were so lucky to get stranded on this island during this time and be able to experience Maui the way it was before.

What a gift. That's a true gift right there. Probably will never happen again like that, right?

No. Which is why we just decided to stay.

Yeah, why not? For sure. The other thing I've noticed is you're bringing so much great awareness to other eco brands. And I want to thank you for also including Wave Tribe in that list. Have you guys thought about doing, creating something on your own, maybe, I don't know, a children's clothing brand or something like that?

We have a little bit of a dream of more like a branding thing that we'll share with you. And who knows, maybe someone will reach out to us.

I would love it. Yeah.

But what we were thinking that we would really love to do, we have a little slogan that we've used in our relationship just like people have little names for each other or whatever. And that is "Todos somos uno" which means we are all one. And we were hoping that we could make different pieces, designs with eco-friendly brands.

Like if we did a baseball cap with Wave Tribe and a pair of pants with Inner Wave Organics and we did a t-shirt with Mama New Kids and each of those pieces, we have the slogan, "We are all one" and that way, we bring together with our project all of these brands and collaboration, because I think it's really important that we all work together and I try to connect brands with each other. I mean, it was so beautiful, actually. You guys did exactly what my mission is with this when Mirame Swim posted about you guys and then you guys posted about them.

And we're all promoting to the same people, the eco-conscious consumer. And it's not competitive, it's helpful, I think, for us all to bring awareness to each other's brands and what we're doing. And so that's what we would love to do. We would love to launch pieces with different companies and be like the Eco Couple kind of, "Yey! Eco Couple's doing a piece with whomever." and inspire brands to work together as opposed to.

Yeah, and that's Sanny's dream. And that reminded me of one experience that I had in the past. I went back in Tarifa. I was starting to teach yoga. After 2 years, another Kundalini yoga came to town and then some people were asking me, "Oh, Iñaki now you have a competitor." and I never thought in that way. In fact, I feel that "Why a competitor?" Now, it was before there was one Kundalini yoga teacher and now there's two Kundalini yoga teachers. We are not competitors. We contribute to this society so more people have more access in case they want to go to class, to attend class with a man or with a woman. And I never thought in this competitive way, but more in a collaborative way for the society.

And this is what Sanny's message. That is the deeper part of her message of her ideal is to see all these different brands collaborating. That's the main goal. And then the slogan, "Todo somos uno", which makes complete sense in that way. Right?

It's funny because sometimes my ego kicks in and I'm like, "Oh, I don't have 50,000 followers." and I see other people that are living off of their social medias or whatever, and God knows whether they bought them or whatever.

But there's moments where Iñaki sometimes stops me and he goes, "But that's not your mission. Your mission is to inspire others." And it's true that sometimes I get really lucky and I have people that follow me that are verified and I have a lot of followers and those people are turned on to a brand such as yours. And then they do have their 200,000 followers or whatever. And in the end, you're benefiting from that, they're benefiting from it and actually, I made that connection. And that's a really pivotal role in the world. Those kind of silent people that bring things together.

Absolutely. Well, I just want to say sign me up for the first brand that wants to be part of your project. I'm all in.

Thank you.

Oh my God. That's such an honor. Thank you.

Absolutely. This is great. Is there anything else you guys want to talk about or touch on? Anything that we didn't say or we missed?

I'd like to know a little bit more about what your expansion plans are.

Yeah. Wave Tribe for me has been such a journey. I started it in 2007. So, we're working almost 13, 14 years. And like everything in life, it's been this wave. Sometimes it's been a really small wave and other times it's been a big wave and then a medium wave. And as I grow as a human being and as a person, Wave Tribe takes on different costumes, takes on different missions, takes on different roles.

And when I first started Wave Tribe, we really lived in a different world. I was selling to surf shops and we had reps and we had this big team and an office near the beach. And we've gone through many transitions over the years and now most of our sales are direct to customers. So the whole model in the industry is changing from one in which the brands are selling to a distributor or the brands are having surf reps go into shops and then the products getting to the customer kind of either through second or third parties.

But now I have direct relationship with my customers and I absolutely love it. I love the fact, doing this sort of thing like getting on a phone call or an email or on social and just creating connections with people. And I have to say, some of the best people in my life I've met through this business. And that for me has been the greatest gift. It is meeting people that are like-minded, have similar--that resonate in a certain way, have a certain vision about life and about how they want to live or what kind of products they want to bring. So...

We feel the same way. We've definitely made friends for life through this project. And that's so...

I wonder if your project back in 2007 when you started, the goal of your project was actually to have this experience that you're having right now, meeting all these wonderful people?

Yeah, it wasn't. I think it was in the background. But I had the blinders on of...

Of course.

I want to make some money and I have to push this product. When I first started, I started with an eco first philosophy, which was everything's eco. So the product's eco first and then we start to think about quality and some of the other issues. And what I learned is that isn't quite the right approach, because what happens is, it's great if you make an eco product, but if it falls apart in a couple of months...

Of course.

...there's nothing eco about it. Because if the product doesn't sustain time and doesn't have the highest quality available, then it's not eco no matter what materials it's made of.

And it took me years to shift that mentality because I was so interested in really educating people, pushing people towards the eco mission. And then, as I worked more and more with products and customers, I was like, "Oh wait, quality is the number like it has to be made well." And then the second element of that successful foundation is those materials are as ecologically sourced as possible.

Right.

So it took me 10 years to figure that out. Thank you for that question. That was great.

That's great, though. The durability and sustainability in there, there it is, does it last? And that's kind of why we like to get things and use them and to really try them out. We don't just want to promote things that are eco-friendly.

Yeah, I love that.

And that's it. We have really limited capsule wardrobes. We try not to purchase outside of what we believe in. And the brands that we do collaborate with, we really test our stuff out. We don't just say, "Oh, okay." We really want to make sure that it--I think that's why we have such a nice following, because our followers really trust our judgment and purchase the things that we want, that we tell them about because they trust that we're doing it the right way, I guess.

Absolutely. And there's this, in kind of the marketing circles, there's this, and you should look up this article called 1,000 True Fans. And basically, the essence of it is that if you have 1,000 people that are super into what you're doing, it's better than having 100,000 people that are like, "Yeah, it's okay." I think it was one of the business gurus that came up with it.

But it's so true. And so in a world where we're so driven by social metrics and numbers, I think that having really 1,000 or 100 true fans is way more powerful than a lot of people that are just kind of attracted to it just because of a picture or ideology. They're really into it.

Have you heard of the book, The Tipping Point?

Oh, of course. Yeah, I love that book.

There it is like word of mouth, just the right moment and the right amount of people believing in you. And it just kind of topples over into the mass.

I wanna read that article.

Yeah, no, that sounds...

Yeah, I'll send it to you guys after the call.

Please, thank you.

Of course. I love reading so happy to share.

Mostly I'd like to finish this off by saying something that I think is very, very important. And I think a lot of people get overwhelmed by this whole eco-friendly sustainability, "Oh my God, how greening my kitchen and my life and my clothes and everything" and kind of feel like, I just want to encourage that even if it's in a small segment of your life, that when you make those changes, just like the ripple effect of waves, one little drop in the ocean makes a difference.

And every drop that adds to that makes another difference. And as we slowly awaken to that process and realize that it really does make a difference where we spend our money and that we cast our vote with how we spend our money and who we promote and support. And I think that a lot of people get overwhelmed not knowing how they can help or what they can do or they don't really know where to start. And I just want to encourage people to start small with the smallest thing like using a bar of shampoo instead of a plastic bottle or a bamboo toothbrush or just small steps. And every step along the way actually makes a difference.

Beautifully said, I love it. Iñaki, would you like to say anything to send us off into meditation land before we leave?

Yeah, I just want to say about all this fear that most of us have due to this current situation. When there's a change, we automatically have fear and there is clearly a big change coming up. So I guess there's fear in all of us. I invite everybody to try to remove that fear, in whatever way they want, like going to a therapist, going to yoga or meditation or reading a lot of articles and understanding some of the news that are happening, what is truth and what is not and common sense. But let's try to work on removing fear that we have in ourselves. Be calm like "Everything is okay." but work on removing the fear that you have probably on your body. And we are going to survive, everything's gonna be okay, and go for that.

I love that. And surfing or windsurfing or whatever your sport is, is another great way to face fear and to just have it in your life in a way that it doesn't have a power over you.

Exactly. Whatever tool that works for you, whatever it is. Go jogging, read books, go and have a few drinks with your friends. Whatever tool you use to remove all that craziness that is going on your mind and shaking your body, just shake it out of yourself.

I love that. Great. And where can everyone find you guys if they want to know more about your journey and what you're doing?

Our blog is www.ecocouple.blog and our Instagram is @ecocouple and we would love to hear from people and about brands that they love and we're always looking for suggestions and we love chatting to people.

This has been a wonderful conversation. I want to encourage everyone out there in Wave Tribe land to follow Eco Couple. I know I will be and look for our collaboration coming soon.

Yes, and we really want to see each other on a wave. Share a wave with you.

Yeah, I'd love that too. Thank you guys so much. I really appreciate it.

Thank you. That was awesome. Thank you.

Thank you, Derek. Thank you so much. Have a good day.

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