“Dubai is great for a while but we like the lifestyle in the Netherlands better”

A year and a half ago, Adriaan Hernández and Susan Poeder traded Amsterdam-Zuidas for Dubai. Now, the couple hop around between Airbnbs. Aside from the financial benefits, this lifestyle also gives them the flexibility to pack up whenever they please. Their Dubai adventure is also part of a bigger plan to grow their personal training business.

How did you two meet?
Adriaan: “I was born in Chile, but the economic situation there wasn’t good, so I decided to leave. I had an uncle living in the Netherlands, and I thought: why not? I’ve always worked in sports and fitness. In the Netherlands I started as a personal trainer at Clubsportive, and that’s where Susan and I met.” Susan: “I moved to Zuidas to study journalism at VU Amsterdam. I was living in the green building Summertime. I got to know Adriaan right at the start of the corona crisis and we lived together for six months in Zuidas before leaving for Dubai.”

You have also gone into business together. How did that come about?
Susan: “Meeting Adriaan kick-started my passion for sport. I decided to take the plunge, got certified as a personal trainer and quit my media work. When I met Adriaan, he was building an online coaching app. Thanks to my media background, I know all about branding, sales and marketing, so I took charge of that. We make a great team together.” Adriaan: “More and more people are becoming digital nomads, especially in Dubai. We’ve seen loads of Dutch people shuttling back and forth between the Netherlands and Dubai. And that’s our target group. We offer one-on-one coaching on location and the app lets them continue working out on their own as well. Demand for this kind of hybrid fitness approach is growing.”


What made you choose Dubai?
Adriaan: “That was my idea. Many gyms were closed during the pandemic and people were less motivated to work out. We had fewer clients, just when we were looking to grow our business. I thought it would be a good idea to go abroad. Dubai is an ideal place to learn and master the art of running a business, as the competition there is fierce.”

Now that you’ve been living in Dubai for a year and a half, what would you say is the main difference with Zuidas?
Susan: “When I moved to Amsterdam from Groningen, I was majorly impressed by Zuidas. Now, having got used to Dubai, it feels small. I think Zuidas was a great stepping stone to our life here. The mentality in terms of work and ambition is comparable, but even more intense in Dubai. It’s all go-go-go, non-stop. You push yourself to go the extra mile, but at the same time you have to guard against overstretching.”

In Dubai, you’ve been hopping from Airbnb to Airbnb. Doesn’t that become stressful?
Adriaan: “It can be, but our priority is being flexible. You don’t need a fixed address to live or work in Dubai, so staying in Airbnbs is no problem. We live out of two suitcases. That’s not an ideal situation, but we’re not planning to stay here forever. We came to Dubai for the experience.” Susan: “Also, in Dubai there’s the problem that if you take out a lease for a year, you have to pay up front, which puts you back 15,000 euros. We prefer renting Airbnbs, which also makes it easier any time we want to spend a month back in the Netherlands.”


Do you want to come back to the Netherlands eventually?
Adriaan: “Yes, this summer, but our business also continues in Dubai. Dubai is great for a while. We’re meeting tons of people and acquiring all sorts of knowledge and experience. But we like the lifestyle in the Netherlands better. Our objective is for our company to carry on in Dubai, without us having to be here. Then we can continue building this concept somewhere else.”