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By Gercine Carter

For the last three years, Sheri Hoad has been feeling welcome in Barbados. The Canadian from Ottawa has embraced Barbados, and has made up her mind that this is where she wants to live and is even contemplating applying for citizenship.

Hoad was living in Canada in September 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic was rampaging across the world and as winter began to set in, she decided it was time to make a move to more hospitable conditions.

“I just realised that I could not handle a winter lock-down in Canada and a couple of my friends were talking about these visas that the islands were giving to work remotely.

They thought, as most people do, that it was for The Bahamas. The visa I found was for Bermuda, so I flew to Bermuda.” Searching on-line, she discovered Barbados’ Welcome Stamp programme, one that “seemed like a better fix” and elected to come to the island “because they were letting people in when a lot of countries were not and were already locked down.”

Chartered accountant

When the chartered accountant is not at her computer doing riskmanagement consulting, you are likely to catch sight of her engaged in her Barbados-found pastime – riding the waves at Atlantic Shores, Christ Church. It is a lifestyle the lover of the outdoors never before thought she would be leading one day.

“The Welcome Stamp brought me here. Before the pandemic, I did all my work face-to-face, but once the pandemic hit, all my work went remote, so I decided to go for it.”

Having made the decision to move, she sold her house and went to stay

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in Airbnb accommodations before heading to Barbados in November 2020.

Travelling to Barbados and arriving here was not an easy ride, however.

“I kind of braced myself. Getting through the airport was pretty bad. When I left Toronto you could shoot a canon through Pearson International Airport. It was eerie, almost scary. There was nobody in the airport, but it took way longer to check in. Then I got to Barbados and it was waiting in line after line; getting your vaccine certificate checked; waiting in line to get your band to know which hotel you are going to; waiting in this line for immigration; I think it took me three hours to get through the airport that day.”

There was some respite both in the scenic taxi ride from the Grantley Adams International Airport to Sugar Cane Club, the quarantine hotel in St Peter, and in the salubrious atmosphere and setting of the inland hotel. “It was amazing. I had a balcony, so I walked on the terrace and I was like, I have never been so thankful to be in someplace in my entire life. When I got here, it was total lock-down at home, which was really, really depressing. I came to Barbados and it was like the pandemic was not happening here.

“People were shaking my hand and hugging me, we were going out to clubs and dancing.” That was before New Year’s Eve 2020 when everything got locked down.

After her quarantine period ended, Sheri moved in with a Canadian friend who accommodated her for a week within which she was able to find long-term accommodation for her first year on the Welcome Stamp programme. However, up front she was advised by her landlord that the place would only be available for one year, since the regular winter tenants would be returning.

Unbelievable rates

“But so many people did not come to Barbados that winter, that the Welcome Stampers were able to find accommodation without problems and we got unbelievable rates,” Sheri recalled. Meanwhile, she fell in love with the “amazing” two-bedroom apartment she was able to rent in the Blue Waters area of Christ Church.

“That first year was easy. I still say that if you knew someone on the island and knew what website to look at, it was very easy to get settled.”

She had taken surfing lessons before Barbados was placed on lock down and they served her well after the curfews and restrictions were imposed. Accompanied by a friend, she took advantage of the 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. open window for beaches, heading to Freights Bay at Atlantic Shores every morning to ride the waves there. “Here, I was outside, surfing, talking to people on the water though social distancing.”

In her second year on the Welcome Stamp programme, Sheri moved to the Garrison district.

She recently purchased a permanent home in Barbados.

Renting expensive

“I am now here two and a half years and coming into the third year I decided to buy a place because it is so expensive to rent. I wanted to make sure I always knew how much it would cost to be here, because it does spike sometimes. When I was coming to Barbados, I had sold most of my stuff except for a five-by-ten foot storage locker and last summer I went back and either sold most that stuff and shipped the rest to Barbados.” At age 50, she is settling down to her new life in Barbados. “It is a different pace here. The pace drives me crazy sometimes and I would love some things to happen a little quicker, but for the most part it allows me to relax and just feel less intense. My old life was quite intense. I now go back to North America and I can only stay for small periods of time because I feel the intensity of being back. I also feel it when people from North America come to visit and I can feel their intensity.”

For her there is no typical work day. “I will have calls on Zoom or I will facilitate groups on Zoom, or I may do some research for projects I have for clients and then I have plenty of flexibility to go out to do yoga and do surfing.

“Typical work is on-line and the majority of my time would be in discussion with people on-line.” Pointing out she does not allocate any specific time during the day for work, she said: “Generally, first thing in the morning, I would often go to yoga and do surfing and then I would do my work, or I would work [until] 3 p.m. and then go down to the beach. I am not tied to a corporate schedule any more, except if my clients want to meet in business hours.”

Sheri was formerly employed in Canada’s corporate world for 15 years and has been self-employed for 14 years.

As she gets in step with the rhythm of life of in Barbados, she joins like-minded friends for the popular Saturday morning social outings at the Brighton Farmers Market in St George. In addition, there is the thrill of being on the surfboard catching the surf along with “an amazing group of people, close friends” whom she met through the shared passion of surfing, all of them coming to Barbados on a Welcome Stamp visa during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I just find Barbados is community-oriented. I had lots of friends back in Canada, but I don’t think I had community like here.” She is also finding ways to battle high prices in Barbados, observing that: “The first time you go . . . you wonder how can anyone afford to live here. It was shocking for me, but I have now gotten sensitised and I have learnt to go to different places [to shop around] . . . . It is a different world.”

“I am here for good now,” Sheri said. She looks forward to that time when she can formally acquire citizenship and call herself Barbadian.

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