Afro-Latina Entrepreneur, Meet Gabi of Gabs Away
We met Gabi at the very first LMDES event in 2016 and have been obsessed with her ever since. She’s passionate. She’s bold. She talks the talk and walks the walk in the activist community. She’s been creating spaces for POC and other disenfranchised groups for as long as we’ve known her. She’s repping for the Afro-Latinas of the world, and we’re here for it!
How long you’ve been here in Spain, where are you from originally, what do you do for work?
I was born in Ecuador, and I have lived in Spain on and off (Also lived in Canada, Germany and the U.S. ) since the age of 3, I’m 29 now. I have a background in tourism, specializing in corporate and group travel, but as of recently I founded my own project Gabs Away, and teach English in the evenings.
What brought you to Spain?
The first time, my parents. The second time I came back at 23 after my Canadian visa expired. And the third time (at 26) I had finished my internship in Germany and wanted to try living in Barcelona.
How would your best friend describe you in 3 words?
Creative, witty and bold. (not my own words! lol)
What’s one book that you’ve read that has transformed you, or changed your life for the better?
Reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was such a beautiful experience because even though my experience as an Afro Latina is different, it helped me really appreciate the Black diaspora. It also encouraged me to be forthcoming about my own experiences because you never know who else feels alone because of their background.
You’ve recently started your own company! (Congrats!) First, tell us about it, and then share what’s been the most challenging, and the most rewarding experiences you’ve had thus far.
Gabs Away is a series of intimate culinary and cultural experiences that I created to showcase local businesses around the city (Barcelona) and create spaces for conversation about things that matter. Each event tackles a different topic and the conversation is moderated by me by asking 3 or 4 questions to the group, topics can range from the importance of food rituals, to sex or monogamy.
The most challenging thing has definitely been overcoming my own insecurities, and believing that what I’m doing matters. I started the project during a very tumultuous time in my life so my insecurities and anxiety have been exacerbated by personal factors. Technical challenges like how to build a website, or how to create a proposal are all things that can be easily learned.
The most rewarding experiences thus far have been internal and external. Being able to overcome my fears of rejection and putting myself out there has taught me that nothing is as scary as it is in my own head. Having dinner guests that have shared intimate stories and even never before shared stories and seeing them enjoy it has been incredibly rewarding because it makes me think there is a need for these kind of events and that I have created a safe space for people.
Fatigue: it’s a real thing. Dealing with, confronting and experiencing (micro) aggressions, racism, prejudice on the regular is draining. How do you keep yourself healthy, sane and able to create meaningful change in the world on the regular?
I’m an extremely sensitive person and an empath so fatigue has definitely been something I have learned to deal with. I am way more selective with the people I choose to surround myself with, I no longer feel like I have to be friends with everyone, or that I need to be liked by everyone. I also no longer feel the need to ‘save’ everyone from their own prejudices because I have learned that I can’t teach someone to care, but I can influence the way people approach issues so I try to be mindful of how I conduct myself. Taking personal time to enjoy the things you love is also important, you can’t be aware of all the world ills at every moment so allow yourself to take breaks. I have learned to listen to my mind more, there are days I know I have to focus on me so I make a conscious effort to not read the news and leave it for moments I know I am more mentally stable. It’s easier to be kinder to others when you learn to be kind to yourself.
You’re a freelancer, yes? What’s the first step to becoming a freelancer in Spain, and how do you create business opportunities in a new country?
Starting your own business can be very overwhelming, thankfully there’s a lot of great resources offline and online. I always recommend talking to people you know who have done it to point you in the right direction, FB groups and meetups for entrepreneurs and freelancers are also very helpful for more detailed questions.
What advice would you give WOC interested in moving to Spain?
Firstly, I encourage people to really think about why they want to move in the first place. We sometimes expect that our lives will be fixed by ‘starting over’, so figuring out what we really expect a new destination to give us is important. A new city won’t fix your anxiety or depression or your personal issues, sometimes it can even be triggering because moving is stressful, so be realistic. Think about the challenges you’ll face being in a new country or city so make a list of those things and try to get an idea of who to reach out to, or where to find the resources to help you deal with those first challenges (what neighborhood should you live in, what’s the visa application like, health insurance etc.) this will help you feel less overwhelmed once you do make the leap. Don’t lose sight of your goal, it’s easy to get hung up on all the challenges you’ll face, but remembering that you’re embarking on a great adventure will keep it fun.
How would you describe your Spain experience in 3 words?
Beautiful. Enlightening. Adventurous.
I really encourage people to practice gratitude. We’re all going to face new experiences and challenges, but remembering what we have instead of comparing our lives to others makes it easier to deal with obstacles. When I first moved to Barcelona I didn’t know a single person, I put so much pressure on myself to hit the ground running – finding a job, finding the perfect apartment etc. that I spent my first couple of months getting sick. Then one day I cancelled all my apartment viewings and napped instead, I woke up a little disoriented and when I opened the window there was a local marching band on the street and I remembered that I was living the life I had dreamt about, I was in Barcelona, I made it, everything else was details. From then I started practicing gratitude every time I felt frustrated with life, and it completely changed the way I approach obstacles now, it also forces me to stay in the moment. At first it was very conscious, walking around and counting all the things that made me smile – kids playing with their grandparents, the beautiful buildings, the sun, etc. but now it’s completely natural and I don’t even realize I’m doing it, I smile a lot more.