Happier And Healthier In Bermuda

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Happier And Healthier In Bermuda
Photo by Nicola Muirhead, Bloomberg

Happier and healthier: the digital nomad who came to Bermuda on vacation and never left

When Abbie Sheppard boarded a plane bound for Bermuda in July 2020 for two weeks of sunny respite from her pandemic-restricted life in the UK, she had no idea that she was effectively moving house.

The Chief of Staff of Cameo, a fast-growing US-based start-up that allows customers to book celebrity video messages for friends and family, fell in love with the island immediately and on hearing about the Work From Bermuda, One Year Residential Certificate, decided to apply. “I found out about this one-year remote working visa, applied for it within a week and four days later got the visa and never left,” Ms. Sheppard says. “I only packed for two weeks!”

“I found out about this one-year remote working visa, applied for it within a week and four days later got the visa and never left.”

Looking out from her favourite work station, the terrace of her Warwick home, on a hillside overlooking traditional white Bermuda rooftops, the island’s South Shore and the Sargasso Sea, Ms. Sheppard is delighted with the way her impulsive decision changed her life.

While her career trajectory has remained on course, she now feels happier, healthier and less stressed than when she lived in London. Bermuda has enabled her to achieve a better work-life balance.

“In the UK, I would get up in the morning, walk my dog and start meetings, first with the UK team and from about 2pm with the US team until late into the night,” Ms Sheppard says. “I wouldn’t have a break during the day. I didn’t really want to go outside, because it’s often raining and miserable 95 per cent of the time!

“Here, I wake up, work out, go for a run and then I start work. Something I took into consideration when moving here was trying to be a lot healthier. I believe that what your body is doing says a lot about your mind. I can get out and about, exercising, soaking up sunshine and being a lot healthier than I was in the UK.”

She also feels that the island stands out as a remote working location because of the way it has handled the pandemic. “The whole reason I came to Bermuda in the first place was the strict guidelines around everything,” she says. “I wanted to have a bit more freedom than I’d had in the UK, but in a really safe way. The amount of COVID testing here and the quick reaction to spikes in cases has been really reassuring.

“My family in the UK and friends in the US are seeing that it’s a lot harder to manage when you have so many people than it is when you have a small population like Bermuda. I’ve been impressed.”

The island’s mid-Atlantic position, four hours behind London and four hours ahead of Los Angeles, one of Cameo’s US hubs, provides an ideal time zone for Ms Sheppard. Like most remote workers, she is heavily reliant on a consistent internet service.

“One question I had when I got here was whether I could use Zoom and whether it would be blurry or cut out all the time,” she says. “Actually, my Wi-Fi here is better than my Wi-Fi in the UK.”

“People are just happy and loving life here and that has contributed to me wanting to stay.”

Ms Sheppard has found it easy to adapt to island life. Grocery stores have “pretty much everything I need”, she says, and the locals are “some of the nicest people I’ve ever met”. She adds: “People are just happy and loving life here and that has contributed to me wanting to stay.”

One example of that friendliness came after she had received the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. “I came out and there were two women sitting outside who thanked me for going to get vaccinated and helping to protect the community,” she says. “They were just so happy.” She ended up sitting and chatting with them about Bermuda and community.

She travels around the island on a scooter, the preferred mode of transport for many locals. “I’d never really ridden a scooter before I came here – you don’t do that in the city, so it was nice,” she says. “It was quite liberating. You get to see a lot of things around the island compared to being in a car.”

Ms Sheppard recommends the Bermuda experience to friends who can relocate. “As long as I have my laptop I can work anywhere, so it was a really easy decision,” she says. “I have friends who have their husbands or boyfriends in the UK or the US. It’s a different consideration for them, but for those people who are free to do what they want, I would absolutely recommend it.

“I’m so much happier being here – I have a lot more freedom and it’s safer from a COVID perspective.”

“I’m so much happier being here – I have a lot more freedom and it’s safer from a COVID perspective. And the work-life balance has been a lot better. On the flipside, everything’s only a plane ride away. So, if I did want to go home for a week, it’s easy, and for the US, it’s less than two hours to New York.”

The attraction of remote working will persist, even after the pandemic subsides, Ms Sheppard says. For an international, online operation like Cameo, the advantages have been so wide-ranging that it decided to get rid of all of its offices to remain a “work-from-anywhere company”.

“It’s been awesome for two reasons,” Ms Sheppard says. “We realised that people work best when they’re happy. For our team members who might not have liked to be in Chicago or LA, they could move to New York or Florida and still work for Cameo. Or, like me, you can move to Bermuda – which I would really encourage all of my team to do!

“It’s also been great for our hiring. We were looking at Chicago and LA as our two real hubs for finding employees, and now we’re looking for the best people for the job, no matter where they are – and that’s helped us to build an awesome team.”

As Ms Sheppard’s one-year residential permit approaches expiry, she is minded to apply for an extension, as Bermuda’s remote workers are welcome to do.

“I’ve been really happy here,” she says. “It’s a beautiful place and the sun’s always shining and I’m healthier than I’ve been in the past five years. I want to continue that lifestyle alongside the hours that I work and the company that we’re building.”

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