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).
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.
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!)
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.