Lifestyle, Madeira
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Meet your “Madeira Friends”

Meet your “Madeira Friends”

I believe that the best way to experience a destination is through the eyes of those who live there. So, I created this entry on the blog called “Meet the locals”. The goal is to show, through short interviews, the destination and in this post, I’d like to introduce you to a local community that I’ve recently discovered called Madeira Friends.

Photo courtesy of Madeira Friends

I found out about them through a post on instagram that mentioned “Sunday Walks” in Madeira and so I texted them to go hiking in Vereda do Larano.

I wasn’t sure about the “rules” to join this community, as Madeira Friends was born in the pandemic, when digital nomads from all over the world discovered Madeira Island as a top place to work and live, which then became a crossover for Madeira Friends.

As I texted them on whatsapp saying that I was a local and wanted to join their Sunday walk to Vereda do Larano, they immediately replied with a big YES! – Everyone is welcome; and details on how/when to meet were sent.

When I arrived at the bus meeting point, people from different walks of life (including a beautiful dog named Cash) were also arriving and introducing themselves. The first question, of course, was…where are you from? And even though there were only a few other Madeirans, (the community is mostly remote workers or people that are here mid-long term), I immediately felt welcomed and connected, as everyone was super friendly and helpful.

Photo courtesy of Madeira Friends

I was also happy to find out, that they host many other events and activities throughout the year, from weekly lunches, community dinners, parties, meet-ups, outdoor workouts, skill sharing workshops, to conferences and giving-back initiatives. A great example of this is – tree planting! 

Photo courtesy of Madeira Friends

The walk in itself was stunning (as expected), definitely one of my favorites in the island. You can listen to the sea waves while trekking and the views keep surprising you along the way. See a small sample video by clicking – here.


So without further ado, allow me to introduce to the founders of Madeira Friends – Luis Calado and Marelin Gonçalves:

1. Please tell us about yourselves!

I am Luis Calado, born in Madeira Island but raised in the mainland. I also lived in Ireland, and worked for over ten years for an American tech company. I love fitness, crossfit specifically, hence why you will hear people say “burpees” a lot when I am around and in fact as one of the co-founders of Madeira Friends, that’s how it all started… with burpees.

“It’s hard to explain, but this project felt just right. I couldn’t stop thinking about it and working on it, so I decided to quit my tech job to follow this passion project and see how far it can go!” 

I am Marelin Gonçalves, born in South Africa, I finished University in Madeira with a background in tourism. I lived abroad on the island of Guernsey and also a few years in London where I worked in Real Estate. Returning to Madeira, I continued to be in the real estate industry but as co-founder of Madeira Friends and passionate about helping and connecting, I am fully dedicated to this project.

“We are both in love with the island, with fitness and… animals! We love it when dogs join us on hikes and the workouts although I become easily distracted…”

2. How did you come across the idea of starting Madeira Friends?

The association’s history began when we returned to the island, at the beginning of the pandemic, and decided to bring together some friends, (foreigners and locals), for a Saturday morning outdoor workout, after the quarantine.

Saturday morning workout nowadays…;) – Photo courtesy of Madeira Friends

“From this initiative, the “Madeira Fitness Friends” group emerged in December 2020, as a community bonded by a love for fitness, the island, and social connection. As bonds deepened and interests diversified, the group expanded its scope, dropping “fitness” from its name and rebranding as “Madeira Friends,” now a registered non-profit local association. As occasional connections turned into close friendships, we discovered shared interests beyond fitness, embracing art, culture, innovation, and giving-back initiatives.”

3. What are the community goals?

As a non profit, our goal is to leave a positive footprint on the island, and this involves creating a transfer of knowledge and opportunities between this international community and the locals.

“In Madeira Friends we have people of all kinds, from remote workers working on the digital space, to writers, to people with 9-5 traditional jobs, people who own businesses or have big titles, people with decision-making power and people who want to have a positive impact on Madeira. We’re a very inclusive and diverse community and we welcome everyone who loves Madeira and wants to do good.”

4. What do you think are the main reasons why most people in this community choose to come and live in Madeira?

In reality we know that one of the biggest key features is the high quality of life the island has to offer. It is very hard to find a location that ticks all the boxes such as great weather, stunning natural landscapes, island vibe, low crime rate, amazing food, great roads & infrastructures, internet speed and of course, the slow pace lifestyle people love. However, “community” is why people stay. We hear, all the time, that the whole international community we’re building, the support and love we give to people, ie, all the work we do is the cherry on top.”

“As humans, we all want to feel a sense of belonging, support, and shared identity, of course having a community which focuses on this, will only contribute to enhancing the quality of life. We work hard behind the scenes to ensure that this is met, that there is inclusion and diversion, we want people to feel like this is their home away from home.”

5. Most frequently asked requests to Madeira Friends?

The requests vary every day but the most common are accommodation and “what to do”, “where do I start”, legal and tax advice, plus assistance with events, conferences, retreats and workshops. We open the door for people, we onboard them in the community, we find them accommodation, we tell them where to eat, and sometimes we even help them buy a house here. However, not all people stay, some go back home to pack all their things and come back as fast as they can. Hehe!But really, we’re the ones to welcome people and we’re also there when people say goodbye and hug them.

“Madeira is a special place and after spending time here, it’s really hard to go somewhere else.”

We’re currently managing several different channels with thousands of users. We’re talking about whatsapp, facebook, instagram, slack, e-mail, etc. In total we’re probably managing a database of 30.000 people and every month, on instagram alone, we reach 50.000+ accounts with our posts, stories and reels. In 2023, our events drew over 10,000 attendees, with aspirations to exceed this number in 2024.

6. How can people support this community?

The main challenge we have as an independent non-profit is funds. Despite having not really figured out our “business model”, we’re not in a rush, we know Rome wasn’t built in a day. Our focus is on doing good. That’s also why we’re not yet where we want to be…

We are an out-of-the-box project and therefore we are still looking for more partners that believe in our vision and would like to be part of it. We’re extremely thankful to have found members who we call “supporters” and also in some key local partners. In the meantime, we are also still looking for a big space for our community, where we can host our members and activities and we are also looking for more volunteers to help us reach our big goals.

We are grateful for the backing received and welcome those interested in contributing or learning more about our initiatives to connect with us through the website or @madeirafriends on Instagram and Facebook.

I believe Luis & Marelin have great ideas and will power, they spread unity by getting people together to have fun, learn from shared experiences and grow.

I wish them both the best and lots of success in their life goals!

Thank you Madeira Friends! 😉

Sofia ♥

Filed under: Lifestyle, Madeira


This blog talks about the island where I was born and live - Madeira, and my endless journey to discover the world until (one day, who knows) I get to visit Mars.

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