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Flying south of border for bed & breakfast

Marilyn Miller moved to Guayabitos, Mexico, in 2006 to operate a B&B.  (Jesse Tinsley)
Marilyn Miller moved to Guayabitos, Mexico, in 2006 to operate a B&B. (Jesse Tinsley)

Spokane native finds foreign way to work during retirement

It’s not that Marilyn Miller’s vision of opening a bed and breakfast was all that unusual.

It is probably fair to say that quite a few would-be hospitality entrepreneurs around here have entertained that idea at one or time or another.

Most, though, don’t wind up starting a B&B in another country.

“I’m a risk taker,” said Miller.

She and husband Rick Helberg own and operate the Guayabitos Bed & Breakfast on Mexico’s Pacific coast, about 30 miles north of the Puerto Vallarta airport. This fall will mark the start of their third tourist season.

“It works for us and we love it down there,” she said during a summer visit to Spokane to see her parents. “It’s home now.”

Miller, 61, grew up in the Spokane Valley, graduating from University High. She raised her children here while managing medical offices in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene.

She then moved to Seattle, where she met Helberg. The two of them later moved to Bend, Ore., where they were sort of retired.

Then they found themselves looking for a place to re-retire.

“We both knew Mexico separately,” Miller said.

They liked the idea of running a B&B. So, after scouting and researching, they headed south to Guayabitos in the fall of 2006. They spent their initial time there having a handsome, regionally inspired house built in their adopted small town.

For them, retirement has meant taking care of frostbitten Americans and Canadians seeking a tropical beach and a little real-Mexico flavor.

“Ours is not a normal life,” said Miller.

She’s not complaining.

Considering the gloomy economic conditions of the last couple of years, they have been pleased with their bookings, she said.

And while focusing their marketing effort on charity auction packages, Miller and Helberg hope the word-of-mouth network reaches even more of those planning vacations for between Christmas and Easter.

“Most people want to hear from someone they know that it’s OK, that it’s safe,” said Miller.

Room rates at the Guyabitos B&B typically run $90 to $125 per night. The house isn’t right on the beach, but it is close by.

Though she sounds upbeat and loves talking about her new community, it’s probably too early to declare that Miller has made her dream come true. After all, who hasn’t had second thoughts after a bold move or big decision?

“If you don’t question yourself, there’s something wrong with you,” she said. “It’s no different than a relationship. You renew your commitment every day.”

Still, Miller shakes her head when she thinks of friends here in the States who flatly declare that they could never tackle an outside-the-comfort-zone venture the way she and her husband have.

“This isn’t crazy,” she said. “It’s an adventure.”


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