Bermuda by Bike

Bermuda by Bike

It may come as a surprise to many, but there are actually some similarities between life in a great metropolitan area and life on a tiny tropical rock. As a woman who has inhabited the islands of New York City and Bermuda, the most obvious comparison for me is that of transport. In both places, I witnessed how well people can adapt to living without a car – something many would consider unthinkable elsewhere.

In NYC, most city dwellers actually choose not to have a car – to save the headache, to avoid the insurance costs of keeping one, and to be spared the insanity of constantly driving around blocks and blocks to find an illusive parking space. The options for getting around when you don’t own a car there include: a bicycle (not a chance for me); the subway (so convenient; also allows you to remain anonymous and people watch in all its splendid glory); taxis (easy enough so long as the parade of the month isn’t in session); or by foot (all weather conditions be damned).

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In Bermuda, whether or not you own a car is not completely your choice. The island has a standard law which allows only one car per household. Not only are we conscious of not wasting our most precious everyday essentials (water, electricity, food, etc), we also prioritize our beautiful environment by protecting our air quality and reducing our carbon footprint. Tree huggers are we! As a result, most of us are happy to comply with this regulation. Besides – our tiny, infamously narrow, and windy roads don’t need the extra congestion.

Car rentals are also prohibited on island, which means only bikes are available for tourists – both risky and humorous all at the same time. Not having a car myself (and until I’m blessed with children, I don’t even desire one), I can sympathize with their plight. Since bikes are not under the same regulation as cars – one can own as many as they fancy – the bike life was the easy choice for me. I will admit though that it did take me awhile and some creative adjustments to my lifestyle to get adapted to the bike life on island.

Here are a couple helpful notes from my experience of The Bike Life on Bermuda:

Condense what you think you “need”.

Learning how to condense my everyday essentials to just the very basics so I have less to travel with and become discombobulated with has been key. It has also served as a useful reminder that I don’t really need as much as I think.

Back in my days of New York City living, though I didn’t feel the need for designer apparel (despite having clients so fickle I could smell their Chanel a stone’s throw away), I did always carry around a rather massive purse. I put as much as I could squeeze into my bag from a makeup bag, perfume, snacks, a book for the subway – pretty much everything except a little dog. However, for a night out, I did manage to go minimal: the latest clutch and stilettos. Now, heels don’t match well with island living, too much makeup combined with our humidity can make us ladies look like the perfect extra for the Walking Dead, and having a massive handbag if your mode of transport is a bike can mean a lot more maneuvering than is necessary. Therefore, I’ve downsized to a simple clutch for my basics or a bag I can place over my shoulders.

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Storage is key – don’t be afraid to get creative.

My bike has the biggest lock box on the back, a floorboard with a handy hook, room under the seat, and in the front it has a metal-like contraption that opens up to put more useful stuff inside. This leaves plenty of room for a couple bags of groceries in the back and front, and the floorboard and my front contraption have enough room for a case of beer, pillows, scuba diving gear, and a value-pack of toilet paper. Believe me – I’ve tested and perfected this again and again.

Having moved several times, I’ve learned how to squeeze as much as possible onto my bike – no joke – and I’m not the only one. I’ve seen fellow islanders travel with even more than I’ve attempted – microwave ovens, fishing poles, chairs, a lawn mower, 2 extra riders, and Christmas trees. The latter is just about expected every December and there are often photos galore. Tourists are always in awe. The Christmas tree thing I have yet to master, though I don’t intend on trying.

The inventors of bungee cords were (are?) geniuses.

A biker’s nightmare (aside from sliding out) is to find yourself transporting a ton of items only to have something (or worse – all the things) go flying off. In times like these, I am constantly sending my whispered thanks to the innovative minds behind bungee cords for holding so much of my shite together! I always have at least 4 of them in my box. I’d die of humiliation if my snorkeling/scuba gear, case of expensive coveted drinks, or especially, my rolls of paper towels caused a traffic jam by escaping me. Thanks to bungee cords, I can rest a little easier. (Though I recently had visitors and had to stock up a bit, so I ran out of bungees and had to balance a multi-pack of stuff between my legs and go the speed limit of 20 kmph so the heaviness wouldn’t weigh my tiny self down. Now that was a challenge!)

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Expect the Unexpected.

My lock box contains an umbrella and a light rain jacket for those (many) unexpected rain showers. I also always keep a tiny wardrobe with me for spontaneous days or nights out to save me from using a few extra dollars and time to go home – a woman always has to be prepared! Under my seat, I keep a rainsuit – a given for every rider – a towel, and enough room for my coffee cups and a newspaper. And I always save a spot for a spare pair of going out shoes and a bikini, because there’s nothing better than a random day or night beach frolic!

Parking a bike is a special skill. Practice!

I believe parking a bike here should warrant a degree of some sort. It’s a challenge in and of itself to parallel park a car in a tiny spot in town because our narrow streets don’t have shoulders for other drivers to get around. But parking my flashy Vespa in a slanted diagonal slot? Now that’s a tricky move. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I’ve even gotten unexpected compliments whilst being observed. My bike is heavy, and I myself am kind of pint-sized (but strong with a big backside to help maneuver), so it looks like a good show, I’m sure!

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A friend in the US once asked me if the island actually has any cars. It took all my self-control to not sarcastically reply, “Why no! We still rely on horse and buggy!” Beyond that, I do get asked often if I miss having a car. Sure, of course. Whenever the spontaneous rain storm unleashes on me or I get splashed with road muck by a passing truck, I really do wish I was in a car. But then I remind myself that there are pros and cons to everything. If I had a car, I might be missing out on a ton of fun, no matter how crazy. Like carrying a huge package of paper towels between my legs and using a pillow to cushion my back from bedroom furniture when moving apartments. Now that’s classic Bermuda life. I wouldn’t want to miss it.

Culinary Trade-offs in the Tropics

Culinary Trade-offs in the Tropics

You know the story. Standing at a window, staring at a foot of snow, shuddering at the knowledge your commute will be equivalent to a ruthless hockey game. Endless wishing you lived somewhere Old Man Winter can’t touch you. Husband and I know that story. We lived that story. Now we live in Maui.

To make this dream our reality, we sold just about everything. We let go of things that were meaningful, things that were not, and things we didn’t even remember we had. Many times we second guessed ourselves. Stepping off the plane and onto this island, this paradise that always smells like flowers, we knew we were many times right in our decision. But right does not always equate to easy. Life as we had always known it immediately changed – and changed in ways we didn’t anticipate.

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Like the kitchen. Our humble island abode is about the size of a large closet. If you want to know what island life is like, go into your closet on the hottest day of the year and try to cook dinner. A galley kitchen would be an enormous upgrade from the one we have now. Actually, I’d just take a cabinet. A single cabinet hung on the wall in which to put a glass. Or a plate. Or any of the items currently sitting on the remarkably limited counter space we are now enjoying. Making a meal starts with the world’s weirdest game of Jenga.

A quiet couple who loves tasty food, we spend a lot of time in the kitchen. In our pre-rock days, we collected all the gadgets, ordered expensive exotic ingredients, and labored for hours to create tiny two-bite treats. Here, with fewer big box stores, shelves can be a bit sparse at times. Fresh and local may be easier to come by, but there are also a lot more unfamiliar wares. Our gadgets gone, budget tightened, ingredients limited, we stared at our tiny propane powered stove top and pondered that timeless question.

What’s for dinner?

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Admittedly, I am not the culinary wizard Husband was born to be. While my brain was busy floating options that involve more chopping than actual cooking, he morphed into Food MacGyver and got to work making miracles. With virtually no tools. By no tools, I mean two forks, two spoons, a single 4-inch pan, one spatula, a chef’s knife, and a wine key. It’s like we’re on a strange episode of Chopped where kitchen tools are in the basket instead of odd food items.

The fact of the matter is, we’re in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, not the Midwest of the mainland. Things take a lot longer to get here. Some things are simply not available here. We’re pulling food stuffs and utensils from different parts of the world in many cases. Things that arrive have to travel on very slow ships across long distances or be available on island. Did I mention slow ships? For some perspective, the few belongings we shipped we said goodbye to in Indiana the last week in January. We hope they arrive this week. Very. Slow. Ships.

The first thing purchased for our Maui kitchen was a toaster oven. Notably smaller than the one we sold before our journey to this rock, it was the cheapest option on the shelf. To me, it was an expensive method of making crunchy bread or defrosting frozen nonsense. I couldn’t fathom how this toaster oven was essential. But, as I often do, I trusted Husband when it came to all things culinary.

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Good thing I did. Ever had a perfect medium-rare steak seared on a skillet and finished in the toaster oven? I have. Homestyle meatloaf? Roasted veggies? Yep and yep. Fish of all shapes and sizes? The best I’ve ever tasted. He even produced a perfectly cooked Gratin Dauphinoise. But the most impressive, jaw-dropping feat was the melt-in-your-mouth pork butt.

If you’ve ever cooked a pork butt, you know the logistics aren’t complex. In an oven, that is. An actual oven. In a toaster oven, things are a bit more complicated. First issue: the 2-1/2 pound lump of meat wouldn’t fit. At least not with the racks situated as they are designed to. Out they went. Husband triple-wrapped the pork butt in foil and was able to wedge it between the two heating elements. Seriously convinced the situation was a fire waiting to happen, I was a nervous wreck for almost 5 hours fearing we were pushing this instrument too far. I was wrong. Actually, I was probably both right and wrong. We were definitely operating outside the toaster oven manufacturer boundaries, defying all safety warnings, but boy was that pork delicious. Feet up on the lanai, forks shoveling melty pork into our mouths, staring at the lush vegetation that permeates Upcountry, we felt ready to conquer the world.

We’ve learned (quickly) in our short time on a rock that ingenuity will get you far. We may not be working with a kitchen full of gadgets or a pantry worthy of a gourmet grocer anymore, but we are eating healthy, staying on a budget, and happier than we’ve ever been. We’ve found there is no point in being frustrated and it can be a lot of fun getting creative. Learning to use what limited resources we have available has given us a sense that we’re only beginning to scratch the surface of what we are capable of. CERN will surely soon be recruiting us to help solve the world’s most complicated problems. We will no doubt provide solutions that involve using only a screwdriver, a mirror, and palm fronds.

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Before we can join that crew of geniuses, we’ll have to adjust to the way technology outside of the kitchen works in our island paradise. Like GPS. Because ours apparently thinks you can get gasoline from a cow in the middle of a field on the side of a mountain. For the record, you can’t. But that is a post for another day…

Keep in touch with the tropics!

 

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