“I think everyone should be a digital nomad at least once”: Working remotely from the Cayman Islands
Arun Nagratha was used to travelling for work, but he never thought he could do so with his family in tow
One year ago, as we were all living without knowing how long the pandemic would continue, I started to think about the difficulties of the winter ahead and how nice it would be to go somewhere warm. With the pandemic and our safety in mind, I thought about how the school year would play out for my then 11- and 13-year-old children and what work would look like for my wife and me.
During “normal times,” I would travel for business frequently. I travelled to our U.K. office during the pandemic. I help corporations with similarly mobile employees navigate international tax and reporting requirements in Canada, as well as abroad with our worldwide affiliates. But then, while I was in London, I received a notification from Air Canada indicating that the U.K. was going back into lockdown. I got home quickly and began thinking in earnest: where could I temporarily relocate for work?
My wife and I had each eased into a good virtual rhythm with our teams at work. We anticipated that we would hit a point where our kids would be forced into online school. In the early days of the fall semester, we had to make a decision about whether they would attend in person—even with the likelihood that in-person classes would be cancelled—or to choose an online cohort for the year. We opted for the latter, and figured that if they were learning virtually, what difference would it make if they were at a home desk in Toronto or somewhere else? The idea of becoming digital nomads became more and more appealing.
I learned of the Cayman Islands Global Citizen Concierge program from a contact in Cayman, which would allow us to live and work in the Cayman Islands for a minimum of three months and up to two years. We met the criteria: we were employed in good standing, and had health insurance and bank references. They offered a centralized concierge to help with processing paperwork, booking flights on Cayman Airways, and finding places to stay. Since the program accepted families—and not just individuals—it seemed ideal, as we’d previously been to the Cayman Islands and had fallen for their culture. By early December, after a three-month wait, we were accepted.
We booked flights immediately to Fort Lauderdale. We picked up a car at the airport, drove to Miami and stayed for a night before boarding a flight into Grand Cayman. Upon our arrival, the program concierge helped us find and rent a beautiful three-bedroom, three-bathroom flat with a gorgeous yard. We had groceries delivered on our 14-day quarantine, and spent two weeks as a family where we hung out in our tropical backyard, playing games and planning for things and events to discover like the Seven Mile Beach, Rum Point and Stingray City.
As soon as quarantine ended, we got tickets to the Cayman Cookout—celebrity chef Eric Ripert’s beachside culinary extravaganza—featuring other celebrity chefs and the very best of Cayman’s culinary offerings. There were hundreds of people on the beach, mingling with chefs and eating local favourites like snapper and conch. And with over 200 restaurants in the Cayman Islands specializing in dozens of international cuisines, it was immediately apparent how this oasis had earned its reputation as the “Culinary Capital of the Caribbean”. Given what was happening around the rest of the world, it all felt surreal: the Cayman Islands were very quick to close their borders at the onset of the pandemic, preventing widespread community infection; it felt like we could live normally. I wanted to share my pictures of the celebrations with everyone back home, but I didn’t want to upset anyone by showing them what a great time we were having while they were locked down.
On most Sundays, we would head out to Governor’s Beach, where a lot of ex-pats gathered. We would grill waterside, and enjoy drinks while relaxing. During the week, we would work remotely—like everyone else around the world, we’d set up our laptops and have our cell phones at the ready, participating in conference calls while our kids studied online in their virtual classrooms. If we finished work early, and the kids didn’t have too much homework, we’d go to Seven Mile Beach for a swim before watching a glorious sunset.
Even though I travel a lot for work, I never spend a lot of time in one place. Being a “global citizen” in Cayman was very different for me. Being on conference calls felt normal, but this experience gave me the rare opportunity to be together with my family. And over the winter, it offered my children exposure to another culture and allowed them to learn about the local community. It seemed like a living classroom that, selfishly, gave my wife and I family time that we knew would be fleeting as our kids ease into their teenage years. The weather was perfect, the people were wonderful, and we felt like we belonged.
It’s easy enough to navigate your way through the Cayman Islands, and we were impressed by the abundance of restaurants, grocery stores, health care options and activities. There are many places in the world that I love, but it would be difficult to take a family to most of them – especially during COVID. Although we missed friends and family, we were having such a good time and making so many new friends—ex-pats and locals alike—that we instead embraced the Caymans and all of its comforts. In hindsight, it was such a welcome respite from the reality of the pandemic elsewhere.
We made great friends and will go back time and time again. And with the Cayman Islands Global Citizen Concierge program extended, I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be. I think everyone should be a digital nomad at least once, with the Cayman Islands at the top of their list.