LD Yeaman is a British journalist.
The most significant change for most people this past year was moving to working from home. Two-parent households had to work the same hours as each other while caring for their children. Keyworkers who had no childcare still had to find a way to make it out the door to work.
Now imagine doing all of that as a single parent. You have no one else to allow you to take a break while you have to work a full-time job in a confined space with a toddler. To add to that, you are cut off from family and friends and any support.
This was my situation. In March 2020, I was working as a college lecturer fulltime.
When we went into lockdown, I had to continue to work full-time from home. I had a toddler and a teenager, and I was on my own. I felt stress and pressure every day, and the longer I went on working like that, the more constricted my chest felt.
I started having sporadic heart palpitations and went down the avoidance route when it came to my work. I couldn’t prioritise both my kids and my work. I had to choose my kids. The more I avoided my work, the more I felt like a failure, and the harder my professional self-esteem took a hit.
This feeling grew for a while until one morning, I woke up with severe pains in my chest, my daughter called an ambulance, and after running an ECG, the paramedics decided to admit me to the hospital. I was diagnosed with stress and anxiety and signed off sick by my doctor. I knew I had to make a serious change in my life. I didn’t know then what that change would be.
I decided in 2020 that since the world was undergoing a great reset, it was time for me to reset my life and follow my dreams. I had no idea what those dreams were but here’s the thing, once I made the decision that I wanted change, It all just seemed to flow.
The thought of working somewhere beautiful and hot and escaping the UK became ingrained in me until I finally realised this was what I wanted to do more than anything. I researched all of the remote working visas in all of the countries I could find. In the end, I chose Barbados.
My visa application was accepted in December 2020. It felt like a dream the day it popped up in my inbox. My hand was shaking as I pressed the accept button, and I couldn’t believe it was real. I cried. I was so happy.
I kept waiting for someone to tell me it wasn’t real, I barely let myself enjoy it for fear that a huge disaster would intervene and stop me from going, but nothing happened.
Everything ran smoothly from the day I pushed the button accepting my visa.
When we arrived the staff at the airport were all helpful, and getting everyone into their quarantine wristbands went like clockwork. I was moved through efficiently in a conveyer belt style. After my last window visit, we got to exit the airport.
I was then escorted out with my bags by a very helpful man and had thought it was part of the airport quarantine process. I felt pretty dumb when he asked for his money, and I can’t help but laugh at that now. This was the first of many faux pas I would make while living in a new culture.
When we got our PCR test results back, we left our quarantine hotel and headed home to our apartment. We wouldn’t quite get to grips with living in
Barbados straight away. The island was in the midst of a national pause to control COVID. Movement was limited, but we did have a pool in our complex and a beach on our doorstep.
A few weeks after we arrived, the island was set to fully open, and I could barely contain my excitement at the thought of it. My son had started school, and I was beginning to feel at home. Then it happened.
La Soufriere erupted and spewed a mountain of ash on Barbados. Back into lockdown, we went. This time it was different. We had to shut all windows and doors, we couldn’t use the air-con, and we sure couldn’t go in the pool. This was a week of complete lock in with added oppressive heat. Through all of this, I never once thought of returning to the UK. It feels a little crazy to know we’re now part of Barbados history. It wasn’t pleasant in lockdown with the ash fall, but it is another experience for Leo and me to add to our list. I know my three-year-old will be telling this story for years to come. Although the way he tells it, he was in a volcano.
The friendliness I found when I moved here was unreal. I met a great friend who visited me my first week in my new place.
She stopped by to drop off mosquito nets and repellent as I had been eaten alive with mozzies. She was worried about Leo or I getting Dengue and told me to call her if I needed anything as her stepmom is a GP on the island. Despite this being my first visit to Barbados, I never once felt alone or cut off.
My landlord phoned us a few times to make sure we were okay, and even my real estate agent hit me up on Facebook to ask how I was settling in and if I needed anything.
People knew me by name quickly, and I soon started to feel at home, even through lockdowns and volcanic ash.
The most surprising thing was how much I felt a part of the community. That is something I never felt in the UK. The staff at the local gas station ask for Leo whenever I go in alone. They say, where is my boy today and I love it.
When the ash cleared, I started to appreciate how lucky I was to be here. The beach and the water need no explanation, but they aren’t all the island offers. I like getting lost here and finding new places.
I love that my son and I are so active in Barbados, and I like that at night, I still feel able to go out with a toddler.
In the UK, I felt trapped in the house in the evenings because there wasn’t much to do. I’ve found meeting people in Barbados has been easy, and the experiences I’m giving my son will broaden his mind.
The thing I love most of all is that through this experience, I found a strength I never knew I had in me, and I see how other people have responded to the change I’ve made. I leapt without really thinking through how big it was, maybe I was lost in the excitement, or perhaps the past year had made me desperate for something new.
It’s the pride I see in my family and friends when I speak to them. They have this look about them like, wow, she did that.
My cousin even followed me out.
I only know of one other single parent Stamper on the island. I think we are pretty courageous or maybe crazy. There are days I can’t pull myself out of holiday mode to get my work done. That’s probably the hardest thing about living on a beautiful island.
The day the Volcano erupted, I had a call to tell me my dad had been diagnosed with cancer.
This was a really difficult moment and I knew I couldn’t get a flight out because of the ash, I felt pretty helpless.
The move has been enormous and overwhelming and scary and exciting and wonderful. I feel like I’m really living my life this year and I’m doing it for my kids too. We’re creating memories, and I’m showing them by example that they can do anything they put their minds to. I think moving to a new country pushes you out of your comfort zone and I’m loving every minute of it.
LD Yeaman is Outreach Political Correspondent at http://www.iasservices.org.uk/