Barbados: How to go from Facebook Post joke, to leaving the country for 4 months

One July day, in the good old days of early 2020 Quarantine, while sitting at the bar top in my mother's kitchen, Kate sent me a facebook post. You know those posts I'm talking about: you get tagged or added to a house for sale in Sweden with the text “We can move here!!!!” and it's only 5 million dollars.  Clearly these are facetious posts and fun exercises in day dreaming. Well on this occasion, Kate posted on my wall, “Come to Barbados for 1 year” with the text “This could be our life!”

If you know me, I score pretty high on 2 things: Logic and Impulsivity.

The post stated that Barbados was experiencing a major downturn in visitors and it was trying to attract people to come and work there by offering visas up to 1 year.  So I thought; Why not?  I mean, it was really that simple. Everything’s shut down, and we are quarantining.  Why not quarantine in Barbados? But let’s do it for…. 4 MONTHS! Audacious, I know, so let's start with the process, cause that's what you're probably wondering.  How can you just leave? How can you go from a facebook post joking about living in Barbados in July, and actually board a plane in Miami in October and leave for 4 months?  You start by answering the big questions that follow.  The “What about?” questions.  

What about work and school?  I work 100% remote.  All my clients, all my meetings and all my work exists in the digital space.  Building apps and websites for clients is what I do for Subsplash (a company based out of Seattle).  I asked my boss and he asked me if I’d have internet.  So that was easy. As for the kids, they have been doing online school with PA Cyber for the past 3 years, so when Covid hit, we were already used to digital schooling and have become seasoned vets at traveling while doing so.  Kate has taken on the majority of the school responsibility, making sure our kids are in school, understanding their content, doing their work, and has assumed the role of at-home teacher.  It's no joke, she has done an amazing job and I am so very grateful for her.  She finally left Child’s Way at the Lemieux Family Center after 10 years to focus on our family schooling needs making this all possible. So with that said, the logic is, I have a job that supports us, can be done anywhere, a school that can be done anywhere for the kids, and a wife that can support that entirely.  We have that covered and we can go.

What About a place to live? Easy! AirBnb.  We just chose a date, looked on airbnb and found a place we could afford that met all our needs.  Rooms, beds, beach side location, and price.  We found a place and asked, reserved the house and wonderfully, there is a family living below us that are our contacts and our hosts. We have a private apartment attached to the house for 4 whole months! I will say, we missed out on the house we wanted due to the fact that we didn't have our passports ready, and I was nervous about booking a home without passports.  That being said: I booked a house without our passports the next day. In later developments my mother mentioned that my grandfather’s best friends lived in Barbados, and my mom put me in touch with their family who is still down there.  So we even have old family friends to connect with.  

What about your house here? It’s with great honor and thankfulness that most of this is possible because of Pap, Kate’s dad.  We live on the farm, a 200 year old, 120 acre homestead.  With this, the selling of our house in Pittsburgh, a Dave Ramsey class (my personal feelings about him are a little eh, but the principles got us out of debt) and our great family and friends, the house is being lived in, taken care of, and accounted for.  So now we don’t have to worry about the house because of Pap, Rachel, Garrett, Ben, Sis, and Uncle Jimmy.  That support system is probably 90% of the reason we can do this, and Pap is like 95% of that himself.  Thank You Pap.  None of this is possible without you. Kate took on the monstrous task of cleaning, and downsizing the house.  We donated the donatables, burned the burnables, and barned the barnable (what we call moving stuff up to the barn for storage). The house is so nicely organized and we have less stuff.  It made it really easy to pack our stuff into 4 big suitcases and a few carry-ons and backpacks. The cars are parked, and the Telluride, which Kate will miss terribly, has a schedule to start itself once a week for a half hour.  How cool is that?  As for the truck, its rhino lined, the whole thing… so I think it's indestructible.  And with all that taken care of, we felt comfortable to leave the house for 4 months in the care of friends and family.

What about your farm animals? Our chickens are happy and taken care of. Our cat, who we will miss terribly and who likes us very much, will give us a pissed off greeting when we get home, but he’s a cat and I think he will survive.  As long as he has someone to snuggle with (aka not give you an option other than snuggling with him) he’ll be happy.  Ellie the dog is a farm dog, so she will stay with our friends who are living at the house where she is happiest.  Thank you for that Rachel and Garrett!  As for the pigs, they left the Monday before we left and Garretts meats will call you soon to let you know your order will be wrapped up in nice white butcher paper and when it will be ready for pick-up!

What about your passports?  Kate and I traveled to Cancun for our honeymoon.  That was 2008.  We got our passports then, and haven't been anywhere out of the country in the last 2 years.  So when we decided to look into barbados, we knew we had to renew our passports and get passports for the kids.  On August 3rd, we went to the courthouse to apply and renew our passports knowing that the passport centers had been shut down since March.  This was a big risk for us and a non negotiable.  When I went to the site to see how the passport processing was going, I was dismayed to see there 968,000 backlogged Passports.  The week of August 12th, they processed 235k of them. I took weekly notes on how many passports were processed according to their website.  So by my math, I should have had my passports back within 4-5 weeks.  Well that wasn't the case; the kids' passports came back in what felt like 15 minutes.  It was probably really within 2 weeks.  Mine and Kate's were a different story.  Kate needed to have a name change on her passport due to the fact she got her last one before we left for our honeymoon, and clearly, her name wasn’t Verdesoto when she applied.  On September 28th, after checking the status of our application daily, I called the moment they opened the phone lines at 8 am to see what was going on.  At this point, Covid had shut down expedited service for the entire country.  Therefore, when I talked to an agent who told me I could expedite the service, I promptly inquired about the validity of this just to be told that they had opened up the service that very morning.  What luck! I immediately jumped on the chance to get our passports expedited and paid for the service.  Here’s where the snafu happened.  I got mine 3 days later.  Great!  Kates on the other hand, was not processed yet.  I called a week and a half later to find out that Kate’s wasn't upgraded to expedited processing but only as expedited shipping.  Oh boy was I upset with that agent. They had really messed up.  We finally got Kate’s passport 12 days prior to leaving.  A relief, but a big risk and maybe not the smartest as I already had all the flight and house booked and paid for.  Whatever, high impulsivity for the win.

What about your dog, Tuesday?  If you know Kate, then you know Tuesday.  Tuesday is our tried and true travel companion.  She’s black rescue lab pitty mix.  She’s so great.  So much so that I often slip and call her Bea: that is the highest praise a dog can receive in the Verdesoto household.  Kate always finds a way to make sure that Tuesday can travel with us.  Most of the time we just find locations, airbnbs, and hotels that will accomodate dogs and we have never had an issue.  However, air travel and overseas travel is a bit different.  Luckily, American Airlines was really helpful in making sure we could have our dog on the flight and now we can fly with Tuesday anywhere in the country with relative ease. Tuesday deserves most, if not all, of the credit for this one. She quickly won over everyone in the airport and scored herself (and her people) upgraded seats and boarding groups.   As for Barbados, this was maybe the hardest part to complete as import papers, vet visits, state verified paperwork, overnight document deliveries, and a 7 day window to complete this prior to arrival is required.  Unless the animal is a certified service dog, they treat it as an import. Therefore we had to get a broker and pay for this service.  If I'm being honest, this is probably the most painful part of this process. I'd be hard pressed to do it again, mainly because it would have to be done everytime we travel.  Why, you ask? Because every country knows that we don't have a handle on any virus; not just covid, but rabies, lyme disease, heart worms and other insidious infections that can decimate animal and ecological systems.  The hoops and medical processes I had to jump through were quite extensive and expensive.  I can just hear Kate in the other room yelling “Worth It!”.... You take care of it next time, k?  I'll probably just look for easier locations in the future.

What about Covid?  Remember how I said everyone knows we don't have a handle on the virus?  Barbados does have a handle, and has basically wiped it out.  For those who do have it, they have a government facility where people can wait it out.  When you’re dealing with an island the size of Pittsburgh, it's a little easier to monitor and quarantine an island that is … well, quarantined already.  The requirement is to get a PCR, or rapid test, for covid.  It needs to be uploaded with your documents within 72 hours of arrival, and must be negative.  Finding that test was the hard part.  In the months of this summer, limited quantities were available, but as the months dragged on, urgent care facilities started offering the tests. The problem arose when they told me they wouldn't test children, or could not get results for 7-14 days.  To get into the country, you must have proof of a negative result that was completed within 72 hours in hand.  I must admit, I played this one too loose and even up to the last day had some varying information and everything was riding on getting a test delivered to me within the 72 hour window that Barbados needs.  In the end, UPMC doctors ordered us a test and we went to the South Side screening center for 5 minutes, got a test that I can liken only to what I learned in 3rd grade as to what the Egyptians did to mummies to remove their brains, and had the results in my MyUPMC app the night before we left.  Big thanks to Stacy, our office manager and friend at our pediatrician’s office who is a miracle worker and gets everything done right for me.  Wow what a gal!

What about gymnastics, cause Edie’s gotta flip!  This was one of Kate’s very first questions; how will Edie do gymnastics?  As a competitive 8 year old in Level 4, her gymnastics team is her family and a big physical and financial commitment.  We wanted to make sure she would have options to continue.  So the next day after deciding to look into going to Barbados, I found a gym with a Canadian coach in the official USAG system and asked if there was a place for Edie on their team.  Just like that, Edie has a temporary gym!  We will have to see how that goes once we get all set up, but for now, the question has been answered.

What about keeping track of it all? A tiny little Moleskin notebook is all I needed to write down everything. I'd write down every single number I called, every name, every appointment, every conversation and cross out the info that didn’t work, and keep and highlight the stuff I needed. I’ve kept that notebook in my pocket every day.  It is tattered, it is messy, and I will look back on it in 50 years and know it was the thing that got me to Barbados with any confidence and organization.

All the rest is just learning what will work and what won't.  Phones, health insurance, outlets for our computers, internet: and we found answers to all these things that we can manage with little to no hassle.  With that, the decision was made!  We were going to live in Barbados for 4 months.  The amount of work, organization and energy was a bit much, but i'm certain that because this was our first time, it was all the more difficult.  I'm sure it won't be this difficult next time.

Now we get to share all this with you.  We’ve all shared our lives with each other via Zoom, so we will do the same from the Barbs.  So watch out Barbados, the Bajan Invasion has commenced. Here come the Verdesotos!


Jane - October 25th, 2020 at 10:04pm

Well done!!! I was thinking of you all today, and about how marvelous that you don’t have to feel anxious about soaking in the beauty and the relaxation and the experiences like you do on a vacation. You have all the time in the world — how great! And knowing you two, you’ll find out how to do it all. So very happy for you, and so happy for Kate to have 4 months of sunshine. She deserves it all after giving ten years of herself to the precious kids at the Children’s Home. Love you all...

Stacie - October 26th, 2020 at 4:33am

❤ Hugs ❤ Prayers ❤ and Much Love ❤

Dawnlee - October 26th, 2020 at 4:45am

Umm so excited for you. Shelby Is terribly envious of all the beautiful photos you will take and the warm weather. I hope you have a fantastic adventure . We will miss you. I'm sure the girls will have so many wonderful stories and memories by the time you're back. Please stay safe and send pictures and updates! If you need anything we're here for you as well. Love you guys!