Why I moved back to Trinidad and Tobago / by Andre James

When I decided to leave my job in Atlanta and move back to Trinidad and Tobago, very few people understood. Parents, friends, family, strangers, everyone had something to say and it was mostly that I was making a terrible mistake. I, obviously, couldn’t disagree with them more. I had my reasons, here are a few.

To live in paradise

Tobago is a tropical gem, glittered with beaches and lush landscapes. Trinidad has a diverse and energetic nightlife, with some of the most beautiful women anywhere! It’s not perfect, but nowhere is perfect. In fact, GenPop on both islands is chock full of assholes, but show me a place that isn’t! As far as paradise goes, however, T&T definitely comes close. One friend went as far as saying “Some people work all their lives to retire to a place like that!” I figured: why wait for retirement? I might be too tired to enjoy it then.


Brain Gain

In the Great American Recession of 2008, many educated, and unemployed Trinis returned home to ply their acquired skills with great success. This helped me to realise something very important: There is life outside of America! Once I saw this forest past the trees I recognized that the average Trini home is ugly. In a country where people take design advice from draftsmen and contractors, T&T is plagued with plain, unattractive houses that have very little creativity, design intelligence or curb appeal.


For over a decade, I have lived in another country wearing a faded mask of who I really am, with a Yankee accent to boot. My life’s experiences and the beautiful spectrum of people I met along way helped to mould me into a better person, but I always missed Trinidad. I missed my family! I missed the food, the colourful expressions, the fun-loving-to-a-fault culture. I always missed home; I just took a long time to accept it.

“Domino! Domino! Only spot a few blacks the higher I go!”

After a few years in the Atlanta, GA, I wished there was some kinda race camouflage that I could don so that people didn’t just see my skin colour and create their own infallible idea of who I am. To many, my qualifications or character were irrelevant. I was black first, and that tainted the way they would interact with me. My complexion was good enough to represent one employer at a minority conference. My abilities, however, were not enough for them to support when I was selected by the city to construct a pavilion I designed. At least not until after it was successfully completed and they thought they could use it for good PR. Thanks, but no thanks! I was tired of being the back pocket token that people tried to use to prove how inclusive they could be.

At home, I don’t have to prove my worth DESPITE my race. Here, my race is irrelevant because many of the people with affluence or power, look just like me.

Big Fish in a Smaller Pond

My unique skill set and experience allows me stand out from the pack, much taller than I did in the States. When I look at T&T, I see the road of technological advancement that lies ahead. I have always been a tech enthusiast, and though staying in the US may have allowed me to stay right on top of the newest technology, this ever shrinking world means I can not only stay close, but can usher in these advancements to my own country.

Designed Experiment No. 001

Above all, I wouldn’t have come home if I didn’t think I could prosper here, both personally and professionally. Despite having a sound job and a future in the US, I could feel my creativity getting stifled. My new job in Tobago may not be very glamorous, but I am certainly more passionate about the work I do now that I have ever been and this is just the beginning.

How can sustainability can be contextualized our culture and economy? Can rapid prototyping and mass customization introduce a new kind of carnival mas customization? My move home was the experiment that makes all subsequent experiments possible. I moved home because I needed to try, I needed to design somewhere… different.