"Las Palmas and Gran Canaria will always have a place in my life going forward".
Fiona Murray is an irish international sales director for a large corporation where she organizes Food & Wine trade shows. She usually lives in London, but decided to move to Las Palmas for a few months when panemia forced her to stay home.
I’m a 44-year-old Irish person living in London for over 20 years. I am an international sales director for a large corporation where I’m very luck to organize Food & Wine trade shows, mostly in Asia. I manage a busy sales team and normally travel 2 weeks out of every month for work. Despite constantly battling jet lag, this is the favorite part of my job - getting to see the world and meet people from all over. As with so many, COVID has massively affected our business. We have had to adapt to the new situation very quickly and it has been an incredibly challenging and busy year at work. However, I feel very lucky to be able to still do the job I love. On top of that, the city I loved living in, London, was completely changed in the last year and almost unrecognizable with everything closed, and I found myself confined to a small apartment, not able to meet with friends and family. It started to become very difficult.
I had been to Las Palmas for a week’s holiday in 2019 and met many people from all over the world who lived here for all or part of the year while remote working. I hadn’t been aware of this concept previously and it fascinated me. I never envisioned it for myself as I travel so much for work and was very much tied to the office otherwise. When the 2nd wave of Covid cases began again in September and our office closed once again to work from home, I started thinking about how to escape a possible 2nd lockdown. I thought again about the people I had met here and discovered that the islands were open, and life was more normal here. I asked my boss if there was any issue with working abroad for a short period and after some days of consideration, my company decided that in my circumstances, I’d probably be a more productive and happier employee in this new location!
Thankfully, everything was very easy. The flights were frequent at that time and very cheap. There was a lot of information on social media and online about what to expect as a teleworker here. Once I got the ok from work, I arrived the very next week!
I researched some accommodation sites but for my short-term stay, Airbnb was initially the only option. I found a fantastic apartment and I managed to contact the managing company directly. They were so helpful, it made me feel very secure that I was making a good decision. Juan and Pepe at Living Las Canteras have been fantastic, checking in regularly that everything is ok. They provide high speed internet at all their properties, so they are perfectly set up for working. I mostly work from my apartment as I am on calls most of the day. When I am less busy speaking with clients, I have spent time at some co-working places, which is great to meet new people in a similar situation.
Life on Gran Canaria is better than my wildest dreams. It’s hard to know where to start. While I missed London a lot, Las Palmas has been the perfect blend of city life but with an amazing relaxing feel. The weather of course is just the start. Lockdown in winter in the UK felt like prison, in Las Palmas I was outside most of the time if I was not working. I spent lunch on the beach and swimming, walks and cycles after I close my laptop for the day and the evening reading and enjoying a glass of wine on the balcony. I met so many people and made so many new friends from all walks of life. Some are remote workers like me but also, I have made some great friends with people who live here permanently and they have welcomed me like a local.
I came to Las Palmas initially for a month in October 2020 and extended my stay until December. I returned in February this year and stayed until June. I feel like Las Palmas will be a permanent feature now in my life and hope that when some normality returns with the world and my work life, my company will allow me to spend at least a month here working in the quiet period of the year.
The lifestyle is hugely important but the friends I’ve made on the island is absolutely the most valuable part of my life here.
Las Palmas is one of the friendliest, most relaxed cities I have ever experienced. I wanted to be as ‘local’ as possible, befriend people who lived here and not just nomads. I feel welcome here, even though my Spanish is very slowly progressing, everyone is patient and seems happy that I am making some effort to speak the language. I’ve joined local outdoor activity groups. I’ve never been hiking before I came and during my stay, I went every weekend to explore a different part of the island.
Teleworking has given me the freedom to enjoy a completely healthy lifestyle both mentally and physically during a year that could have been hugely challenging. It allowed me to meet wonderful new people when socializing had been cut off in the UK. I took up new sports that I had never tried before. It allowed me to think about work/life balance in a completely new way. I can’t think of any negative aspect… maybe having to be very muted about how good life is here with colleagues, family, and friends back home who were still dealing with the very difficult situation!
Yes, the community is a vital part of the lifestyle, particularly in the beginning. Joining the various social media groups for teleworkers gave me the support network I needed when I first arrived. Everyone was open to meeting new people of all backgrounds and it was incredibly easy to join ‘meet up’ groups and explore new group activities and sports.
I went back to UK and Ireland for 2 months over the Christmas period and friends and family were fascinated to learn I had spent lockdown in the Canaries. They had so many questions about the island, as many had not been, or it had been a long time since they were here. Many only knew of the resorts in the south so it was very pleasing introducing them to the wonderful Las Palmas and the center of the island. A lot of friends and family are now considering the island for a holiday, to explore more than just the hotels and beaches and do different things such as cycling and hiking.
I hope teleworkers can bring new more sustainable tourism options for Gran Canaria. We tend to be much more curious about exploring the island, rather than just sticking to the ‘resort’ and ‘fully inclusive’ hotels. We want to experience local life, try local restaurants, buy in local shops. We travel much more extensively within the islands, hiking and cycling in the more remote locations. Hopefully, the whole island can benefit from these more considerate visitors. I have met teleworkers who plan to set up new businesses here so hopefully that gives new opportunities, especially to young professionals who would otherwise have had to leave the island to follow their career of choice.
I only have positive things to say about teleworking. I would encourage people to just make a leap into the unknow and take the first step to come to Gran Canaria. They will be amazed how easy it is to find accommodation and a ‘set up’ ready for teleworking with fast Wi-Fi and a great community very willing to welcome you and make friends.
Las Palmas and Gran Canaria will always have a place in my life going forward. The plan is hopefully to return for at least a month every year and maybe sometime in the future, will lead to a permanent move here.