Visiting the Cayman Islands has offered joy to millions of tourists over the years, but only a small percentage of those people ever get to call the country home.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, several celebrities chose to stay on Grand Cayman for extended periods of time, perhaps not long enough to call it home, but long enough to say they lived here for a while.
Television personality and entrepreneur Elizabeth Chambers — known for her appearances on Today and for her work on The Cooking Channel and Food Network — was visiting Grand Cayman when the first case of COVID-19 was discovered on the island. She made the decision to remain in the Cayman Islands through lockdown and has been here with her two children ever since, often chronicling her family's stay with posts on Instagram.
“Living here has been a privilege and a blessing,” she says. “Everything about this island feels so magical to me. I feel an enormous debt of gratitude to Cayman for keeping my children and myself safe.”
Chambers had been to Grand Cayman before, but didn't know it like a resident would.
"I only knew the island from a vacation perspective," she says, adding that she has now been able to discover the beauty in areas like West Bay and Savannah.
Living here also gave her an opportunity to discover the real meaning of "Caymankind."
"There is such a sense of community and caring on this island," she says. "Caymankind is palpable and present every day."
Chambers says that in the entertainment industry, when people are generous or say “nice to know you” they can often mean “it’s nice to know what you can do for me.” In Cayman people say it “with zero expectations. Here, it feels very genuine; nobody wants anything from you.”
Caymankind and privacy go hand in hand. As a celebrity, Chambers feels that her privacy has been respected and is thankful that there are no paparazzi or tabloids in Cayman exploiting her private life.
Chambers found a way to give back to the community that made her feel so welcome. Open Palm, a charity endeavour she established with two friends on the islands, raised more than $100,000 for the Cayman Food Bank last year.
Living here for more than a year has also allowed Chambers to realise what many families know: Grand Cayman is a great place to raise children.
“Cayman is heaven for children,” says Chambers. "My children spend so much time in nature, play cops and robbers until dinnertime and have a truly idyllic childhood here."
Chambers sees Cayman as a safe, protected and authentic place for her children, who attended a school in West Bay. Like many Cayman kids, they enjoy the privilege of extracurricular activities such as tennis, golf, swimming and horseback riding, without the hassle of long commutes.
As much as she and her children love Cayman, Chambers will leave this summer.
“If I didn’t have to work and didn’t have my companies [in the U.S.], I would live here forever.”
James Osterberg, better known professionally as Iggy Pop, owns a home on Grand Cayman that he stays in from time to time. Last March, when the COVID-19 pandemic was really taking hold, he decided to stay longer than he usually does. To do that, he had to apply for visitor extension.
“I filled out the box that asks for a reason [for the extension] as follows: 'Health, safety and happiness,'" he says.
The extended stay allowed the famous American musician to do something he hadn't done on previous stays.
"The best thing about the whole lockdown for me was that it gave me time to finally apply for residency, which I have since received," he says.
The new permanent resident wasted no time in contributing to the Cayman community, participating in a fundraiser for Inclusion Cayman in February at the Harquail Theatre.
In addition to seeing the Cayman Islands as "an idyllic place to settle," Iggy Pop also enjoys driving around Grand Cayman in his white Porsche Carrera.
"No more 'The Passenger,'" he says, referring to the song from his critically acclaimed 1977 solo album, "Lust for Life," that was partially written about the fact that, because he didn't have a driver's licence or vehicle, he was a passenger while his friend David Bowie drove around North America and Europe.
This article appears in print in the July 2021 edition of Camana Bay Times, written by Andrea Lumsden.