Cheryl Geoffrion

“I have extended my stay on the island twice, it’s very very hard to leave here”
Cheryl is an American consultant, imparting worldwide training in sales, negotiations, and customer relationship skills. In Gran Canaria she has found the perfect destination to balance life and work. After working in over 43 countries, the pandemic led her to look for the “warmest place of Europe in winter” and chose Las Palmas de Gran Canaria for the reliability of internet connection, access to all kinds of services and the possibility to walk in the sun along Las Canteras beach daily. An ideal combination that has exceeded her expectations.

Tell me your story, where are you from? What do you do? And how did you get to Gran Canaria? 

This chapter of my story starts when I decided to take a sabbatical from work and arrived in Europe from the United States in April of 2017 with just a backpack and a desire to trek the Camino de Santiago Francés.  I hiked over 925 kms (575 miles) and received 3 “Compostelas”, the accreditation of the pilgrimage, from Santiago, Finisterre and Muxía.  From there, I spent time exploring Portugal, Italy, Croatia, and then landed in Budapest, Hungary to visit a colleague & friend and ended up, through a series of synchronistic events, deciding to put my backpack down and stay for a while.
 
I am an independent consultant for Corporate Visions, Inc. (CVI) specializing in training and coaching customer sales conversations.  I was lucky to be able to continue my independent consulting from Budapest.  From 2017 until the world turned upside down in 2020, I travelled to 35 different countries conducting 100% of my trainings in person.  During my last business trip in February 2020 I worked in Dubrovnik, London, and Dusseldorf, landing back in Budapest on February 28th and that was the last face-2-face training I have facilitated.  As with most of the world, there was a pause while everyone held their breath to see what was going to happen.  By April, CVI had pivoted quickly and moved our training to a remote platform. Suddenly I was conducting trainings around the world from my kitchen counter.  That was my 2020, feeling blessed and lucky to still have work and not venturing much farther than my front door.

On December 10th I shut down my final zoom training for the year and had the thought, now what do I do?  No Christmas markets, no restaurants or festivities, nothing but cold and grey winter.  I decided then and there to do a search on the “warmest location in Europe.”  The Canary Islands won that search every time.  I then searched “best remote working locations in winter in Europe.”  The Canary Islands won that search as well.  I googled “best remote working location in the Canary Islands” and Las Palmas, Gran Canaria rose to the top.  “Okay, the Canary Islands it is” …now to figure out if I could make it work.  I started looking on Airbnb for a place to stay and found www.livinglascanteras.com, which had some of the most gorgeous apartments with exactly the view of the ocean I was dreaming of.  There was no looking back.

Why did you take the leap to come to Gran Canaria?

After spending some time looking into every blog and website I could find about The Canary Islands, I was determined to make it happen.  I literally stayed on my computer for hours over a 2-day period researching every detail to make sure the trip would be a successful venture into remote working from a new location.  It took some time, yet the pieces all fell into place perfectly and it just felt “meant to be.”

Did you find any hindrances when coming?

There was nothing that turned into a hindrance per se, just lots of details to get right to make it work.  After finding the Covid entry requirements to get in here, there were test appointments to make, certifications to carry in with me, and a QR code to obtain from the Spanish Government 48 hours prior to boarding the plan.  Once I figured out what I needed, there was just paying attention to all the details to make it happen.
 
During the pandemic, many flights were not being offered and that was the case to get to Las Palmas from Budapest.  I kept searching and finally found a direct flight from Budapest to Tenerife offered just twice a week. I was not working for the remainder of 2020, so I decided to fly to Tenerife direct, explore that island and then make my way to Gran Canaria after the New Year.  It was so nice to not be forced to suffer the cold, dark winter of 2020.  On Jan 4, 2021 I took the ferry from Santa Cruz to Las Palmas and checked into my lovely 2-bedroom apartment right on Las Canteras Beach.
“Faced with the prospect of the cold Budapest winter, I decided to look for the warmest place, and with the best remote work facilities in Europe. Las Palmas de Gran Canaria showed up every time as the top destination”. 

How did you find your accommodation and your place of work?

Hours of searching to find the exact right place led me to Living Las Canteras Homes, www.livinglascanteras.com.  The pictures were literally everything I wanted for my time in Gran Canaria.  I reached out to Juan Betancor, the founder, and he was instrumental in helping me figure it all out.  After bombarding him with pages of questions, all of which he answered thoroughly and with the greatest of kindness and patience, I chose the apartment I am in now.  It is literally everything I wanted and so much more.

I am working from the spare bedroom where I set up an office studio, with the help of an extra monitor supplied for free by Juan.  The Wi-Fi has never let me down.  This was the most important factor, if I was to continue my work, I needed to be able to depend on the Wi-Fi without any concern.  I have delivered online trainings to 100’s of people across industries globally since I’ve been here, including a keynote for 1200, and it’s been able to support everything I’ve needed perfectly.  

How is your life on the island? How long have you been here and how long are you going to stay?

Life on Gran Canaria is a dream come true.  Juan and Pepe, the tireless front-desk manager of Living Las Canteras, have offered guidance for me to obtain everything I needed to setup a home, an office, and to find my way around to the most fun and enjoyable spots in the area.  Every day I get to walk barefoot in the sun, sand, and surf the full length of Playa Las Canteras and back.  The promenade has so much life happening and the most amazing outdoor cafes with yummy food, drinks, and the best views ever.  There is such a local feel here, with friends and families out and about enjoying all the same things I love about this location.

I will be here for 4 months total and already feel sad to leave a place that truly feels like home to me.  I have extended my stay twice already, it’s very, very hard to leave here.  

What do you value most about your life here?

There is something very special about island life.  Time works differently here.  There is a slowing down and a sense of peace when you live near an ocean.  Access to nature is what I value most.  There is so much more than just getting outdoors to the beach.  The island being of volcanic origin has a diversity of landscapes to choose from including hikes to the highest peak at 1,949m (6,394ft) and the famous Maspalomas dunes down south that literally transport you into the experience of trekking across the Sahara Desert.  There are also so many beautiful towns and villages scattered through the mountains and by the sea, I will never run out of new adventures to explore.  

Do you relate to the community?

The Canarian people are outgoing, kind, helpful, easy-going, and fun.  I say all the time, “there is so much life in the people here.”  Even with Covid, and everyone wearing their masks while outside, it still feels upbeat and positive.  I feel so blessed to get to just marinate in this amazing energy, it’s easy to feel that life is indeed good! 

What has teleworking meant in your life? Positive and negative aspects

I would never have been able to have this experience here on Gran Canaria if it were not for the fact that I am now able to work remotely.  Prior to February 2020 I had to be near an international airport with convenient direct flights since I was traveling to a different country or two every week.  I love travel and feel extraordinarily lucky to have visited so many countries and worked with so many people in different cultures.  That was a dream come true for me.  This is a different dream come true.  I now get to have the experience of being in one location, getting to know the area, the culture, and the people in a way that is impossible when I am flying in for less than a week on a business trip.  I get to live “off the beaten path” now since I do not need to commute currently.  There are an equal number of amazing gifts in each of these experiences, they are just very different gifts and experiences.  I am blessed and grateful to have had both.  
“Wi-Fi never lets you down in Gran Canaria. For me, that is the decisive factor, to be able to do my job I need worry-free internet connection”. 

Is the community of teleworkers that has been created on the Island important to you?

It is a great community, and they have been extremely helpful to figure out if this was a location to consider working remotely in.  I joined the Facebook groups, read their blogs before I got here, and was able to make a plan I felt confident with because of access to their experience. 

When you talk to people from outside the island, what do you tell them about Gran Canaria? 

Well, I kind of wish I did not have to tell anyone about it, and it could remain my “best kept secret.”  That said, I publish a travel blog with many pictures, so I’ve not kept it a secret at all.  As they say, “a picture speaks 1,000 words” and the consistent messages I receive from people following my posts is, “I want to live there too!” and “this is now on my bucket list.”

What do you think profiles like yours bring to our destination?

 I always hope I can leave a place better for me being there.  I have had so many lovely interactions and feel so blessed to receive on so many levels, I sure hope that I leave people feeling better for their interactions with me.  I hope locals can see that those of us making the choice to be here care for their island as much as they do, and I work very hard to show true care by being environmentally and culturally awake and aware.

What would you say to another professional who wants to telecommute? What if I wanted to do it from Gran Canaria?

I would say, stop thinking about it and just do whatever you need to do to make it happen…it will exceed all your expectations, hopes, and dreams!