Irishman in Spain: ‘The passing of my girlfriend made me focus on health’

Working Abroad Q&A: Dubliner Robin Meredith wanted an outdoor and active type job that would still link him with Ireland, and he found it in Granada

When did you leave Ireland, and why?

I decided to leave Ireland in 2009 with the plan to travel around South East Asia and end up in Australia. From there it was very much a see what happens next approach. After finishing my degree in landscape architecture in University College Dublin (UCD) there were very few job opportunities in Ireland, so moving abroad for a while seemed the best option. I ended up working for a landscaping company in Sydney for a year and then for a swimming pool installations company in Melbourne for another year. But it was the Australian active, outdoor lifestyle that had the biggest impact on me, that was my calling.

Why Spain?

I, along with my Spanish girlfriend at the time, decided to visit Fiji. She was in Australia on a student visa, which meant no working. However, she decided to work for two weeks before the Fiji trip to have some extra cash. The trip was great and we were all set to come back to Australia when we were stopped by immigration in the airport. They quickly found out she had been working without the correct visa and was told to leave. Long story short, we were on a plane to Spain.


Why did you gravitate towards fitness?

At first, I couldn’t speak a word of Spanish, so teaching English seemed like a good plan, which I did for five years. But it wasn’t the job I wanted to stay with. I wanted an outdoors and active type job, which would somehow have a link to Ireland. That combined with the sad passing of my Spanish girlfriend, who had fought for years with breast and finally brain cancer, was the reason I wanted to focus on my health and wellbeing through good nutrition and an active lifestyle, and I wanted to promote it to others too.

What does your day-to-day work involve?

It varies. At the moment we offer a six night fitness bootcamp and also an active holiday for people aged 50 plus. A typical day for me at the fitness bootcamp starts by bringing our guests for an early morning beachside jog followed by a high-intensity beach workout session with myself and our pro trainers. We then have breakfast followed by a yoga session with our amazing yogi Brice.

Few of the locals speak English and the real Spanish culture can be seen unlike in many other coastal parts of Spain

After that I take our guests to a nice spot to eat a fresh and healthy lunch. After lunch is our wild adventure activity, which every day is something new,  such as cycling in the countryside, kayaking or hiking. Later our guests eat a healthy dinner, and are free to relax and recover for the rest of the evening. I’d normally finish up my day about 8pm.

You do active holidays for the over 50s- why is it important for people over 50 to keep active and fit?

It’s extremely important. I’m a firm believer that your body reacts and adapts to what you say and think about it. We love phrases like “I’m too old for that” or “I wouldn’t be able for that, not at my age”. Like the popular phrase “You are what you eat”, I believe you become what you think. So getting your mind in shape is the first step and the rest follows. By maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle, you can expect massive improvements to your quality of life such as increased energy levels, a stronger and fitter physique, a much stronger defence to illness and disease, better sleep, improved memory, improved mental health, stress reduction, an increase in positivity and happiness, and a decrease in depression and anxiety. It can even reverse the symptoms of aging. This list goes on.

Is 50 the new 30?

I prefer to think of it as a modern, updated version of the old 50. You have all the knowledge and experience accumulated by a 50 year old combined with the agility and fitness levels of a 30 year old.

What is it like living on the coast of Granada?

I live here with my girlfriend Ieva and we both really love it. The town is called Almuñecar and is your typical Spanish town. Very few of the locals speak English and the real Spanish culture can truly be seen unlike in many other coastal parts of Spain. It’s the perfect place to do outdoor activities. We both love to hike, cycle and kayak, so being beside the sea and the mountains suits us perfectly. The weather is mild and warm all year round, which also helps.

Are there any other Irish people in your circles?

Not many. I have one close friend, Laura from Co Cork, who, like me, arrived in Granada with the plan to stay for a couple of years and has never left. The majority of expats in Almuñecar seem to be from Denmark, Sweden, Belgium and a few from England.

What is it like living there? What are the costs like compared to Ireland?

The town is quite relaxed and very easy to get around on foot. The bus to other towns and cities are frequent and inexpensive. The cost of living is very reasonable. While rent prices are increasing slightly, it’s certainly nothing like the increase you can see back in Ireland. Food is very good value. A coffee and toast in the morning can cost just under €2. A paella for two in a chiringuito (beach restaurant) is about €24 and a large glass of beer is about €2. And, as this is Granada, it is expected that you get a free tapa with every drink you order, which in some places means you’ll have enough to eat just by ordering a few drinks.

Is there anything you miss about living and working in Ireland?

The Irish humour, lighting the fire on a cold and miserable day, walking in the Wicklow mountains and gazing at a dangerously rough sea on the west coast of Ireland.