After I caught my breath from covering our ever-so-chaotic election season for NBCLX, I needed a break. I didn't feel as much of a need to escape the news and my job as I needed to escape the same four apartment walls I had been living between, working between and broadcasting between for nine straight months.
So I took my work-from-home game on the road… to Bermuda, where hundreds of other Americans have found safe – and affordable – ways to work really remotely.
That safety doesn't come by accident. First, in order to even get on the island, you need a negative COVID-19 test before getting on the plane. Then, the first thing you do upon landing is get another cotton swab shoved up your nose for a second test. If it comes back negative, the island is your playground.
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Visitors are required to get tested on their fourth, eighth, and 14th days on the island too, but it’s an easy process and Bermuda’s robust testing and tracing programs have helped beat back the virus. Indoor mask mandates have also helped keep it largely COVID-free.
Bermuda had fewer than 250 coronavirus cases in the first 250 days of the pandemic and hasn’t had a COVID-related death in more than seven months.
You don’t need any special paperwork for short visits to Bermuda, but more than 500 visitors have taken advantage of “residential certificates,” allowing them to work from the island for up to a year, while also enjoying many of the perks of being a Bermudian citizen.
Barbados, Aruba and Jamaica are some of the other countries offering “digital nomad” programs for international workers who want to ride out the pandemic abroad. Hawaii also announced a remote-work program this winter, which included free round-trip airfare for lucky participants.
“There is no reason why anyone should be in an office,” laughs Ashley Hunter, the owner of a Dallas insurance business, who relocated to Bermuda in September. “We push paper for a living. Tech? They push code for a living. [And] I think what COVID has taught us is that sitting on a plane every other week is not necessary. We don't have to do that in order to keep our clients happy.”
Hunter told me it’s not just the weather lowering her stress levels; the country’s handling of the pandemic has too.
“I was a really sad person for March… and quite honestly, when things started to open up in July, I still didn't want to go out. I was still very apprehensive. [But] then coming here, you're not ostracized for the fact that you want to just keep a mask on in the restaurant until you actually start to eat.”
Other visitors on residential certificates told me Bermuda’s strict testing regimen is well worth the hassle.
“I complain about getting COVID tests, [but] it's very nice not to have to worry about [out-of-control spread], said Abbie Shepherd, a London native who visited Bermuda in July and decided to stay. “It's not an ideal situation for everyone and I'm very lucky that I didn't really have too many responsibilities in life – I don't have a child, I don't have a house and being able to just pick up and really quickly move to here is not something that everyone gets to do.”
Noah Pransky is a national political reporter at NBCLX.