Wednesday, 3 November 2021

Dubrovnik Digital Nomads-in-Residence 6 Months On: Alyssa Isogawa

October 21, 2021 - In April this year, 10 digital nomads from all over the world came together for the inaugural Dubrovnik Digital Nomads-in-Residence (DNIR) program. As part of European Freelancer Week 2021, TCN caught up with some of them 6 months on - next up Alyssa Isogawa from California. 

A year ago, the city of Dubrovnik held the first-ever digital nomad conference in Croatia - Dubrovnik for Digital Nomads - as part of European Freelancer Week. The city has made great strides advancing its DN credentials and strategy, thanks in part to the award-winning Dubrovnik Digital Nomads-in-Residence program, which ran from April 23 - May 23. 


The program was all the richer for the presence of Alyssa Isogawa from California. TCN caught up with Alyssa 6 months later to get her current perspective on the program, Dubrovnik and the Croatian digital nomad journey.

1. It is 6 months since you arrived in Dubrovnik for the Dubrovnik Digital Nomads-in-Residence program. Firstly, a brief look back at that month. How was it for you, and how did it change your perceptions of Dubrovnik as a nomad destination?


DNiR has completely changed my life. I can’t think of a better way to have jumpstarted my DN journey than spending an entire month around other experienced nomads. There was so much diversity among the group - we varied in nationalities, ages, life experiences, and views. However we all shared the same passion of living unconventionally and not being tied to one location. I am still so amazed by how well we got along. I think back often about my time there and the small, tight-knit community we created, and I feel that I owe so much to this experience and the people who made it happen! (Thanks Paul, the city of Dubrovnik, and of course, Tanja!)

As a first-time nomad, I had no expectations of Dubrovnik as a nomad destination. I left it up to Dubrovnik to shape what nomad life would look like for me. I had previously never read or heard of Dubrovnik being on any nomad lists, so I had very little previous knowledge on what to expect.


2.  Have you kept in touch with others from the project? Spent any more time in Croatia?

Of course! It’s only been 6 months since DNiR but I have met many of the others in Spain, Estonia, and Croatia. We frequently reach out to each other and plan when and where in the world we will meet next. The friendships I’ve created with the nomads are unlike any I’ve made before. We are all up to something exciting, and it’s fun to see where everyone is. A friend can be in Turkey one day, then Tokyo the next. And we all know that we are all just one plane ride and adventure away from each other. It’s super cool.

I recently spent a month in Split and 10 days in Zagreb. Both places were very different from Dubrovnik and I enjoyed both cities very much. I loved being able to swim and enjoy the wonderful weather every day in Split and I liked the city life and underground feeling of Zagreb. I was also pleasantly surprised by the great vegan options available there as well. I would like to go back again!


3. It seems that a lot has been happening in the DN scene in the last few months since the program. Zagreb Digital Nomad Week, Digital Nomad Valley Zagreb, the Cross Border Coworking Conference in Budva, Croatia performing strongly in the Nomad List 2021 survey. What changes have you noticed since arriving in Dubrovnik back in April?

I’ve seen a lot more exposure and buzz in the nomad community regarding Croatia, and an increasingly positive and progressive attitude and acceptance of nomad-ism in the country/surrounding areas. I am excited to see the momentum continue.


4. Have you noticed any change in the way Croatia is talked about in the global DN groups you engage with online? In what way if yes?

To be honest, I am not really active in DN groups online as I prefer to travel via word of mouth and meet people I’ve met along my travels. So I can’t comment on this but the nomad visa is something I see mentioned online quite often. 


5. What would you say are the key next steps for Dubrovnik on this journey, and for Croatia as a whole

I’d like to see Dubrovnik take action on our proposals we created for them in our workshops. One thing that I’m especially keen on seeing them doing is working on the city life outside of the walls, and making it more accessible and cost-effective for nomads (getting rid of the touristy-ness and tourist pricing). I personally prefer visiting places that are not blatantly just for tourists, and I feel Dubrovnik could really benefit from becoming a city that is easily livable all year round. It doesn’t need to become the next Barcelona - I think Dubrovnik just needs to become a holistically livable place that doesn’t sit on its (over)tourism laurels and is a pleasant place to work and live all year long.

I think Zagreb has good potential to be a more popular DN destination. It’s quite livable and while it’s a small city compared to other capitals, it has everything you need. I can see myself coming back in the warmer months and spending some non-schengen time there.


6. Your favourite memory/experience from DNIR, and when do expect that Dubrovnik will see you next?

Definitely our rooftop parties at Tanja’s apartment. Making food together with all the DNs while partying and enjoying the sunset and the beautiful views in Dubrovnik. So much good conversation and company. I hope we can all have a reunion soon whether in Dubrovnik or somewhere in the world!

For more news and features on digital nomads in Croatia, follow the dedicated TCN section

Saturday, 17 April 2021

Meet Dubrovnik's Digital Nomads-in-Residence: Alyssa Isogawa from USA/Japan in California

April 17, 2021 - The 10 winners of the innovative Dubrovnik Digital Nomad-in-Residence (DNiR) competition have been announced. Meet them one by one. Next up, Alyssa Isogawa from USA/Japan, currently in California.

The DNiR programme, which has been designed by Saltwater Nomads, in partnership with Total Croatia News, the CIty of Dubrovnik and the Dubrovnik Tourist Board (and financed by the latter two), is an innovative direction for the Pearl of the Adriatic, as it looks to diversify its tourism strategy away from overtourism and in the wake of the pandemic. 


Hello! I am Alyssa Isogawa from California. I love creating and building things, laughing, exploring places and imagining new ones, and eating vegan food. I feel best when I am out of my comfort zone. 

1. You are a DN-i-R winner. Congratulations! How do you feel?

Someone pinch me, I must be dreaming! Maybe the judges liked the checkered water polo robe in my video. Or could it have been the disco ball?! Either way - I don’t feel anything other than gratitude for having been picked. I feel a great sense of honor and responsibility to do my very best for the city and people of Dubrovnik, and for Croatia. I know the past year hasn’t been easy and has forced the city to “reset” and rethink its strategy. Personally, I truly believe it is a blessing in disguise. Croatia has so much to offer beyond tourism, and I am excited thinking of all the ways we can make it the #1 destination for all digital nomads - especially aspiring digital nomads like me. There isn’t anywhere else in the world I’d rather start my DN journey.

2. How did you hear about the competition, and why did you decide to apply?

I was researching the best places to be a digital nomad via Youtube, and I randomly came across 45 Degrees Sailing and Saltwater’s “Croatia's Digital Nomad Permit Application FAQ“ video. That initially sparked my interest, and I went to their website interested to learn more about the DN visa. Then I saw that they were having a competition, so I decided to give it a go!

I mainly applied because I’ve always felt a special affinity (or should I say pride?) for Croatia. I grew up playing water polo, and I would hear about how team Croatia was the best. Whenever coaches from Croatia would come visit, we would always revere them. My brother traveled to Croatia to play water polo, and he brought back an insanely cool Croatian water polo robe that I was obsessed with and wore every day to practice. I felt like the coolest kid in the entire pool. He also came back with a Croatian flag, and to this day that’s the only flag that’s displayed in our house. Not even an American flag or a Japanese one. A Croatian flag! Haha.


3. Which particular skills and ideas will you be bringing to the party?

I am very impressed with the diversity of skills of all the applicants. I think what I can offer is my experience in entrepreneurship, specifically in ecommerce. I started my own ecommerce business and brand back in 2016 while I was still a teen, and I’ve learned a lot since then. From designing a product, to marketing via social media and paid advertising, to photography and delegating and hiring a remote team that feels like family - there’s so much I’ve learned and a lot I can share. 

I know I can provide a very valuable perspective of the younger, aspiring DNs out there as well. I have a good understanding of where they are doing their research, what they are looking for, and the questions and concerns they’d have. I have a knack for reading trends and what people are thinking about, and what will be popular. That’s why I am hopeful for Croatia. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t believe in it.

4. What are you most looking forward to about DNIR?

There is too much, I can’t name them all! I am looking forward to meeting everyone. I am impressed with how tirelessly, yet cheerfully the entire team is working to make this event a success - from Tanja, to Paul (TCN), the tourism board, and many others. I would like to meet them all, because I don’t know of any other country that is so agile and has put so much effort to create such a forward-thinking initiative as this. I find it very impressive and quite endearing.

Of course, I am also looking forward to meeting the rest of the DNiRs as well. I am really excited to hear their stories and their backgrounds. 

My brother would share stories of how the Croats were so kind and friendly. So I am really looking forward to making Croatian friends and learning about Croatian culture and history from an actual Croatian. In Japan, it’s tradition to bring gifts (omiyage) from home when we visit a new place. I am planning on bringing some gifts from America (as much as the space in my suitcase allows), so if anyone reading this wants to be friends let me know :)

And maybe this is a little embarrassing, but I am also excited to finally be living on my own. I have lived in the same home with my lovely parents my entire life, but I am really excited to spread my wings! Sorry mom and dad, love you! 

5. Let's get you involved in the Dubrovnik community. Who or what would you like to connect with?

Oh gosh, I would really love to connect with the local community. I am down for anything.

I want to learn more about history, so if anyone has any good stories to share, I would love to listen. I love the water, music, singing, dancing, and plant-based/vegan food. I love animals. If anyone swims or does any water related activity, I will join. I love music and singing, and I am also trying to find some good Croatian music, so if anyone wants to share their music with me, please do. I’m also dipping my toes into music production (one of my goals is to create my own song) so if there are any music lovers out there, let’s be friends! And if you like dancing, that is a plus.

Here is Alyssa's application video:

You can learn more about the programme here

Saltwater Nomads' Tanja Polegubic on Dubrovnik Digital Nomad-in-Residence Programme

Dubrovnik Mayor Mato Frankovic on Digital Nomads, US Flights, 2021 Season

For the latest digital nomad news from Croatia, follow the dedicated TCN section.

The winner announcement video:

Other winners featured so far:

Albert Cañigueral in Barcelona

Marlee McCormick in Texas

Carolyn Zenilow from USA in Stari Grad, Hvar

Kelsey Kay Love from Texas in LA

Rob Schubert from the Netherlands in Estonia

Ron Tardiff from USA in Budapest

Kaisu Koskela from Finland in Las Palmas