If going on holiday is attractive, imagine the pull of an eternal one. Sunshine, flip flops, squeaky clean sand, a laptop hanging leisurely in the background (used only to cash the massive cheques your oh-so-grateful clients throw you every couple of weeks).
Though being a digital nomad isn’t quite as mojitos-in-hand as all that, there are certainly a lot of upsides. And with a heck of a lot of downsides being thrown at the cubicle warriors of the world in 2020 (and 2021), and with working from home having suddenly shed a lot of stigma, the scales have shifted.
Welcome to the future of remote work.
In a bid to boost tourism after international travel was kneecapped in March last year, many countries introduced special offers with visas and programs to attract digital nomads. The list includes Barbados, Bahamas, Madeira, Hawaii and Bermuda.
Though it’s tempting not to look, for fear of being eternally jealous, if you do want to take a peek behind the curtain, CNN Travel has just published an article by a digital nomad who recently moved from Hong Kong to Barbados.
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Barbados started accepting international travellers again on July the 12th last year, and released a special visa – the Welcome Stamp – that same month. The visa gave people the chance to up sticks and work there remotely for a year.
Though a much different context, this comes in stark contrast to many other nations worldwide, which to this day enforce lockdowns and travel restrictions and – in the case of Australia – are not allowing people in or out without special government exemptions.
It’s not just open to anyone, however. You must earn at least $50,000 annually as a remote worker to be eligible, and you must also pay a fee of $2,000 (for individuals) or $3,000 (for families) once your visa application has been approved.
As well as declaring your salary, you also need to, in your application, explain the kind of work you’ll be doing during your stay.
“Those who are accepted continue to pay tax in their home country and are not liable for income tax in Barbados,” CNN Travel reports.
In any case, here’s what it’s like to work remotely from Barbados right now, according to Andrea Lo, writing for CNN Travel.
Getting there can be a bit of a mission
“Barbados requires passengers to present negative Covid-19 PCR test results taken three days before arrival, and only those taken by nasopharyngeal or oropharyngeal samples, rather than nasal swabs or deep throat saliva samples,” CNN Travel reports, explaining that these bureaucratic measures, though crucial for public health, can lead to plans going astray.
“It took me some time before I was able to find a clinic that satisfied all my requirements, which needed to present results with a pretty quick turnaround considering the time between testing and arriving in Barbados.”
“On November 28, I set off for the airport in Hong Kong for my big move. Unfortunately, while checking in for my Virgin Atlantic flight, I was told the London to Bridgetown leg of the journey had been cancelled weeks ago – I’d received no prior notification on this. There would be no flight for another two weeks.”
“So I ended up unexpectedly remaining in Hong Kong for a fortnight. Paranoid about the rising number of cases in Hong Kong and conscious of the fact that I had to take another Covid-19 test before my new travel date, I spent most of the two weeks – including my 30th birthday in early December – at home.
“Finally, on December 12, I got on the plane to London for the first leg of my journey.”
Barbados’ beauty can make it all worth it though
“I’d been travelling for so long… the nine-hour journey to Barbados felt like an eternity,” Lo wrote. “But I felt my fatigue instantly fade away when greeted with the sight of the deep blue Caribbean sea as we circled above Grantley Adams International Airport.”
“I soon found myself basking in the sun as we were asked to form lines to present our test results to staff.”
“Welcome Stamp was just the ticket.”
“Clearing immigration was much quicker than I thought – and people seemed genuinely excited to see another Welcome Stamper arrive.”
The tests don’t end as soon as you get there
“Perhaps unsurprisingly, the lines for interviews with health officers took the longest. I was given paperwork that explained I was to take my temperature and submit them to the authorities via WhatsApp twice a day for seven days.”
“In addition, I would need to undergo a mandatory test four to five days after the date I’d taken a test in my home country. After that, I’d be free to roam around Barbados.”
Quarantine is friendlier than some other places around the world
Unlike, say, Australia, where quarantine guests have no access to a balcony, at the CNN Travel freelancer’s quarantine hotel in Barbados she was allowed to go out into her room’s patio area.
“I’d taken my test at noon Tuesday and received my negative results in the early evening on Thursday. Three or so days in quarantine seemed relatively minor when compared with the 14-day standard countries such as Canada adopted.”
For more information check out the official government guidelines. But it’s worth noting that Lo travelled in December, and entry restrictions are now stricter.
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Working to a schedule is an interesting challenge
“Adjusting to my new working hours was not as challenging as I thought it would be,” Lo wrote.
“Barbados is exactly 12 hours behind Hong Kong. Since most of my work is based in Asia, I work during the evenings — Asia’s morning. Working into the early hours is done when necessary. That also means I typically take Fridays off – when I wake up, it’s already the beginning of the weekend in Hong Kong.”
“But on the flip side, I also work Sunday late afternoons and evenings, which is Monday morning in Hong Kong.”
Not all of the traditional perks of paradise are there to be enjoyed right now, however.
Though Lo was still able to “visit the beautiful beaches for which Barbados is famous,” not every bucket list attraction is booming right now.
“St. Lawrence Gap, an area on the south coast famous for its dining and nightlife, was empty.”
More food for thought…
It’s also worth noting that some of the cliche aspects of being a digital nomad are true. Insider interviewed a bunch of digital nomads working in Barbados too, and some of their insights may make you weep with envy.
“I’m always struck by how nice people are here,” one nomad told Insider. “Also, some of the beaches have Wi-Fi, and that is a real game-changer — I’ve been able to set up my hammock a few times, go for a dip, then carry on working from there.”
Also, contrary to the laze-on-beach stereotype that follows the phrase ‘digital nomad,’ some have told Insider that working remotely motivates them to work even harder.
“I feel so blessed that I know I need to protect my lifestyle by working hard,” one digital nomad in Barbados, from Barcelona, told Insider.