Photo Credit: Courtesy of Amber Edwards
The Black Expat: 'I'm Developing A Small Apartment Community In Antigua'
Texas native Amber C. Edwards can’t stop singing the praises of Antigua and Barbuda, where she has lived as part of her Black expat journey for the past two years. But the twin-island nation, nestled between the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean, wasn’t just a random pick by Edwards. Her dad grew up there, and she has vivid memories of her first visit at age 12.
“I remember driving around the island on the left side of the road, seeing where my Dad grew up, going to Shirley Heights for their Sunday Party, and of course, visiting as many of the 365 beaches as I could,” Edwards told Travel Noire.
After graduating from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in Communication, Edwards returned to the island. It was then she truly fell in love with it and vowed to return before her 30th birthday and apply for her Antigua passport.
“I didn’t know how I was going to live here, so I put the idea on the back burner and continued working in sports and nonprofits.” ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
In 2015, Edwards was living in DC and working for the Former Player Services Department of the NFL Players Association when she had a conversation with her co-worker, former NFL player Johnathan Reese, about moving overseas.
“Johnathan had lived overseas for over a decade, so with his advice, I realized that Black people actually move overseas,” she said. “Then I felt ecstatic entertaining this idea that I could move to Antigua.”
A year after that conversation with her now-husband Johnathan, he got a job in Doha, Qatar and the couple embarked on their overseas odyssey. Unfortunately, she could not get residency in Qatar so their move only lasted six months. But it presented them with the chance to finally head to Antigua to work on Edwards’ dual citizenship through descent.
They arrived in Antigua at the end of October 2018 and immediately immersed themselves in the culture, visiting over 60 beaches, countless local restaurants, and most of Antigua’s natural wonders. Edwards received her Antiguan passport in January 2019. Since then, she has had the opportunity to network with the Prime Minister, Governor-General, and several senators and ministers who have encouraged their ideas. Edwards and her husband have also started two businesses and formed multiple business partnerships. ⠀
The couple has lived in eight cities on the island, spending as low as $1,000 USD for a 2bed/2bath lower-level apartment with a pool to $1800 for a 2bed/2bath house in the suburbs with a generator.
“The flexibility is excellent for those who are starting their expat journey and want to hop around until they find the perfect country. The only challenges I have come across were all solvable once I learned the local way.”
She describes living in Antigua as “a dream,” citing local experiences and interaction with the people as the best aspects of island life. Edwards advised that eating local and reducing your imported, processed foods will help keep expenses down, as anything touristy is taxed.
“Make sure you also try some ital food from the local Rastaman and grab an Antiguan Black Pineapple (the world’s sweetest pineapple) when in season,” she suggested.
But it’s not all sightseeing and beach days. Edwards has been actively helping others who are interested in plotting a similar path. She partnered with a local events company to help them pivot during COVID, creating The Vacation Boutique which curates custom itineraries for Black Americans interested in getting the ‘local experience’ in Antigua and Barbuda. In 2020 Edwards started working on 30 Day Blaxit, a personal coaching program teaching Black women how to move overseas.
This led to a collaboration with property owners on the island to develop the Local In Training (L.I.T.) House in Antigua: a boutique, newly built apartment community in north Antigua which includes the best internet-wifi on the island, rent, water, a fuel generator, rental car, and a local SIM card. Everything you need to move overseas is handled all at once.
“Well, my goal is to help 500 Black women move overseas in 2021, so right now I am focused on enrollment for the next class of 30 Day Blaxit, starting February 1,” she revealed. “The class is open to only five Black women so I can really spend time learning about your needs and place you in the best country for your personality and occupation.”
In the meantime Edwards has plans to hop over to Curaçao, where her Dad was born. Antigua will always be home, she said, but it is unlikely that she will settle in one country permanently.
“I prefer to island hop until I have visited the entire Caribbean (since every island has its own vibe), then travel around East Africa since that is where my husband has most of his overseas network.”
But one thing that will never change is her desire to see other Black women thriving overseas.
“I hope other Black women make the move overseas,” shared Edwards. “I want us to know that we can do it, that there is someone in our corner helping us along the way, and that together we can create the lives we know we deserve. I honestly don’t think Black Americans realize the trauma we face living while Black in the US. Come to the Caribbean (Antigua is just a four-hour flight from JFK), be around other Black people, activate your melanin, and get in the sea. Heal yourself and your soul in the sun.”
Check out Amber’s expat life on her Instagram @ambercedwards or catch her on Clubhouse at Expat Coach Amber C Edwards. You can also find more information about the 30 Day Blaxit coaching program or the L.I.T. House at 30dayblaxit.com.