Elisabeth Alleyne never thought she would find herself living on a small tropical island. (Picture by Nigel Browne.)
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As part of the Nation Publishing Company’s 50th anniversary of Independence celebrations, the WEEKEND NATION team – through this series – This Is My Story – will be speaking to people who migrated to the island and visitors who have come and fallen in love with our shores. We invite you to share with us or point us in the direction of an interesting person we can feature each week.
IF THERE IS ONE person who believes in love at first sight, it’s Elisabeth Alleyne.
And 16 years on, her love affair with Barbados is still going strong.
With a huge smile on her face, and from the comfort of her office at Coral Reef Hotel, Elisabeth recalled how an initial invitation by a friend to visit the island resulted in what can only be described as a fairy-tale ending.
Born in Bjärred, Sweden, Elisabeth had no inclination that she would have ended up living in a tropical island in the Caribbean.
She had secured a good job as a hotel manager and was living comfortably in her apartment just outside the capital city of Stockholm.
However, that all changed in 2000 on her first visit to Barbados.“I came here with one of my friends who had come here twice before that and she had wanted me to come. She kept insisting that I should come to Barbados as it was one of the most beautiful islands in the Caribbean,” Elisabeth told the WEEKEND NATION.
“At first I couldn’t because my boss wouldn’t give me the time, but then I finally came. On that first trip I fell in love with the island itself and I fell in love with the people, the food, the beaches and the sea,” Elisabeth said.
And while she admitted it wasn’t cheap to fly to Barbados from Sweden, she said both she and her friend made a commitment to save as much as they could so they could continue to spend their vacations here.
“From then we ended up coming here every year, sometimes two or three times a year and we spent five to seven weeks,” she recalled.
“It came to a point that we just used to go back to Sweden and all we did was work, work, work, work, work, just so that we could save enough money to come back to Barbados.”
Then in 2007, Elisabeth decided to take the risk to move to Barbados permanently.
She resigned from her job in Sweden, rented out her apartment and took a leap of faith.
Elisabeth said that initially she and her friend had planned to open a bar, but that didn’t go as well as expected.
“We opened the bar, but that wasn’t really for me. I wasn’t a bar person. I like to drink but I really didn’t enjoy having the bar itself as it wasn’t my cup of tea,” she said.
“So I decided that because it was so difficult to stay in Barbados, I would go on cruise ships. So I went and worked on cruise ships for four years . . . . It wasn’t easy but I was working towards a goal.”
Having literally fallen head over heels with the island, Elisabeth soon had another reason to stay.
The rooms division manager shyly admitted that it was while here that she met her husband Barry – whom she married in 2012 – through one of her friends.
She said while they didn’t hit it off initially, they grew on each other.
“Barry was always around us and in the beginning I thought he was extremely annoying. But somehow, somewhere, he would always pop up and he was always there.
“One time at The Boatyard he was just sitting there watching basketball and I talked to him and it somehow became a routine and it became natural,” Elisabeth said with a grin.
She pointed out that while her family in Sweden was sceptical about her moving to Barbados initially, after several trips to the island they’ve been converted.
In fact, she says her brother, his wife and their two children visit her every year.
“My family was extremely sceptical. They thought that I was making a foolish decision and it was going to cost them a fortune and things were going to go all crazy,” Elisabeth admitted.
“Well, it did cost them a little bit of money and it did go crazy, but at the end of the day my brother always says that he is so happy when he comes here and he sees me and he sees how relaxed I am.
“Sweden is where I go to visit, but Barbados is my home. I never thought in my life that I was going to say that I would live in a tropical island in the middle of the Atlantic. But it is where I live and I wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world,” she said.