Friday, 12 February 2021

CNN Features Croatia's Digital Nomad Opportunity

February 12, 2021 - The story is slowly spreading around the globe, as CNN features Croatia and its digital nomad opportunity.

Sometimes, just sometimes, things can go smoothly in Croatia, where forces align and things actually change - and change for the better. 

It is less than a year since I had a chat with Dutch entrepreneur Jan de Jong to talk about some interesting topics about Croatian tourism for a panel he was sitting on, among them the potential of digital nomad tourism. What happened next is known by anyone following the topic, as de Jong's persistence following his open letter to Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, asking for a digital nomad visa for Croatia, paid off. Just 44 days later, Plenkovic tweeted a photo of him and de Jong, announcing that he would introduce changes to legislation which would allow the visa to come into effect, which would have made Croatia only the second country in Europe (after Estonia) and the fifth in the world at the time, to introduce the visa. 

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Observers of the wheels of change in Croatian bureaucracy looked on with interest. Someone had clearly oiled the wheels, for not only were changes to the tax code and Aliens Act in place for January 1, 2021, but just 199 days after the PM's announcement, Croatian bureaucracy officially welcomed its first digital nomad. You can read all about her and how she did it in this TCN interview - Meet Melissa Paul, Owner of Croatia's First Digital Nomad Visa

Soonafter, the Ministry of the Interior published guidelines for those wishing to apply for the 12-month stay. A shiny new website and online application procedure is promised from next month. 

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The first digital nomad conference in Croatia was held in Dubrovnik in October. Organised by Tanja Polegubic of Saltwater Nomads, in partnership with the City of Dubrovnik, the Dubrovnik Tourist Board and TCN, it reached a worldwide audience, and even got a mention in The Washington Post. A followup project in Dubrovnik is scheduled to be announced shortly. 

And the international column inches continue, with CNN the latest to feature Croatia and the digital nomad lifestyle. In addition to the first successful visa applicant, Melissa Paul, the feature also talked to a nomad from Singapore in Zagreb, as well as a Mexican couple in Split. There are currently numerous applications being processed by Croatian immigration, from New Zealand, South Korea, USA and UK, to name but four countries. 

You can read the CNN article in full here

For the latest information about digital nomads in Croatia, follow the dedicated TCN section

 

 

Tuesday, 9 February 2021

Digital Nomad Life in Croatia: Megumi Hosogai, from Hawaii to Opatija

February 9, 2021 - As the number of digital nomads rises globally, some are choosing to spend some of their time in Croatia. Continuing our TCN series meeting international digital nomads calling Croatia their temporary home. Meet Megumi Hosogai, from Hawaii to Opatija.

Tell us about you and your work.

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I was born in Japan and I grew up as a Japanese Expat kid in Hawaii. I went back and forth twice and had to learn Japanese and English twice. My parents realized my personality wasn’t fit for life in Japan and decided to stay in Hawaii. I went to college in Los Angeles and New Orleans and settled in Los Angeles until 2017. I’ve worked as an actress, then a commercial real estate agent until I founded my sunglasses brand MEGUMI-O. MEGUMI-O drop ships from California. In February 2016, I flew to Milan to attend Mido, an optical expo and I fell in love with Milan. I moved to Milan in April 2017 and traveled all over Europe.  

How did you choose Croatia and specifically Opatija?

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In summer 2019, I did my bus tour of Croatia starting from Dubrovnik finishing up north in Pula. As soon as I saw Opatija, I fell in love with it and decided to spend the month of January 2020 in Opatija to see if I would still like it during the coldest month. Having a dog that’s too big to fly in the cabin, Opatija is convenient since I can take a train from Milan to Trieste and have a driver pick me up there. I loved Opatija last January so I booked a month from July to August. The Covid situation is far worse in Milan and I was having such a great time with my new friends I ended up staying. I bought an apartment from an Albanian man who I communicate with in Italian. Being one of two Asians and one of two Americans in Opatija, I’ve become a bit of a local celebrity. I was discovered by FoodyTV a streaming service in the US on Instagram and I started filming my travel series “According To Megumi.”

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Pros and cons of working remotely? 

Pro, I can shoot “According To Megumi,”  invest in real estate, and promote MEGUMI-O from anywhere in the world. Pro, the cost of living in Croatia is cheap.  Another reason beyond Covid that keeps me from rushing back to Milan, is the US Dollar is low now and the Kuna is much cheaper than Euro. Con, Opatija and Europe outside of Spain and France are not exactly entertainment industry countries so I can’t just call a friend to shoot and edit me. A camera person or editor who doesn’t speak English as a first language doesn’t understand my humor and timing. Pro, I could dropbox my videos to my friends in the future to make the edits tighter. 


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What’s important for a destination to offer to be compatible with a digital nomad lifestyle, apart from good WiFi? 

A community of English speaking people and Amazon. Without Amazon, I have had to live without many things. Mall.hr is NOT Amazon. If you’re ethnic like me, it would be best to be in a city where you can find decent ethnic cuisine. While I will always summer in Opatija, I Google sunnier winter locations constantly to see if they have an Asian population. As soon as I’m vaccinated, I will fly to Budapest to eat Escargot at the French Institute and Pho. Brussels also has great Vietnamese food and a Michelin star sushi place.  

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What’s your view on the future of remote work?  

Covid has made the world super friendly for remote work. A classmate who saw According To Megumi is trying to move to Opatija. He’s now based in London with a Japanese corporation and he’s trying to get them to agree to let him leave London since he’s just been working from home for the last year. If you can make money in a high currency and live in a country with a low currency, you can live very well without grinding so much.

Do you have any advice for people looking to make the transition to digital nomad life? 

Save money before making the move. Be flexible and learn at least a second language. I communicate with a lot of people in Italian in Opatija. The owner of a fast-food restaurant I frequent is a Spanish man married to a Croatian woman and he speaks Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and German. Off-season, you can find yourself in situations where the workers of a certain restaurant or store are no longer the young ones off from school who spoke English. Before making the move, search Google in the country where you’re considering the move, to see if you can buy things you MUST have. Even if a country has Amazon, Amazon and eBay don’t offer the same things throughout the world. 

You can follow Megumi Hosogai's adventures on her official website.  

Are you a digital nomad in Croatia who would like to be featured in this series? Please contact us on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Subject Nomad

Read more: Meet Melissa Paul, Owner of Croatia's First Digital Nomad Visa.

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Monday, 8 February 2021

Croatian Digital Nomad Visa: Government Publishes Official Guidelines

February 8, 2021 - Guidelines for the application process for the Croatian digital nomad visa have been published by the Ministry of the Interior.

As we await the online application process and dedicated website, the Ministry of the Interior has published guidelines and costs for the application process for the new Croatian digital nomad visa. So far, 11 successful applications have been accepted and in processing - from the UK, USA, South Korea and New Zealand. 

The guidelines in full:

Temporary stay of digital nomads

A DIGITAL NOMAD IS a third-country national who is employed or performs work through communication technology for a company or his own company that is not registered in the Republic of Croatia and does not perform work or provide services to employers in the Republic of Croatia.
 
Temporary stay is granted for up to a year (possibly even less) and it cannot be extended. A new application for regulating a stay of digital nomads can be submitted 6 months after the expiry of the previously granted temporary stay of digital nomads.
 
Close family members of a digital nomad who has been granted temporary stay in the Republic of Croatia may join him in the Republic of Croatia (see temporary stay for the purpose of family reunification here).

APPLYING FOR TEMPORARY STAY

The application is submitted to the competent authority depending on whether a third-country national is or isn’t required to hold a visa to enter the Republic of Croatia. Information on the visa system can be found here.

IF YOU ARE REQUIRED TO HOLD A VISA TO ENTER THE REPUBLIC OF CROATIA:

you can submit your application abroad at a diplomatic mission/consular post of the Republic of Croatia (list of diplomatic missions/consular posts can be found on the website of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs http://www.mvep.hr/hr/predstavnistva/dmkurh-u-svijetu/). 

IF YOU ARE NOT REQUIRED TO HOLD A VISA TO ENTER THE REPUBLIC OF CROATIA:

you can submit your application at a diplomatic mission/consular post of the Republic of Croatia or at the competent police administration/police station according to your temporary residence address (you can find the list of police administrations/police stations here or you can contact the competent police administration/police station for further information on submitting your application in compliance with the epidemiological measures in force due to the COVID-19 epidemic). 

APPLICATION AND DOCUMENTATION

Copies of documents should be submitted in the Croatian or English language.
 
1. Fill in Form 1a (bilingual form available here) and enclose the following:
2. copy of a valid travel document (period of validity of a travel document must be three months longer than the period of validity of intended stay)
3. proof of health insurance (travel or private health insurance must cover the territory of the Republic of Croatia)
4. proof of purpose (contract of employment or other document proving that the person performs work through communication technology for a foreign employer or his own company which is not registered in the Republic of Croatia), that is

  • statement from the employer or third-country national (as proof that the person performs work through communication technology), and          
  • contract of employment or service contract with a foreign employer, or
  • copy of the registration of his own company and proof that he performs the said tasks through his own company          

 

5. proof of means of subsistence during his stay in the Republic of Croatia,Until the adoption of a new Regulation on the manner of calculating and the amount of means of subsistence for third-country nationals in the Republic of Croatia, you can submit a bank statement or proof of regular income to your account in which you must have available a minimum of HRK 28,800 for a period of 12 months.

6. proof that he/she has not been convicted of criminal offences from his/her home country or a country in which he/she resided for more than one year immediately before arriving in the Republic of Croatia. Information on the legalization of documents can be found here

7. provide address in the Republic of Croatia

When submitting your application and filling in your form, you will be required to provide your address of stay or of intended stay in the Republic of Croatia. This is important for determining the police administration/police station which is locally competent for processing your application. If this is the first time you are applying and you do not have an address in the Republic of Croatia, you can provide a temporary address as the address of your intended stay (hostel/hotel if you have a reservation/confirmed reservation of accommodation).
 
AFTER YOU RECEIVE NOTIFICATION ON GRANTED TEMPORARY STAY

IF YOU ARE REQUIRED TO HOLD A VISA TO ENTER THE REPUBLIC OF CROATIA:

Once you are informed that your temporary stay was granted, you have to contact the diplomatic mission/consular post once again to obtain a biometric residence permit (please inquire beforehand about this possibility at the diplomatic mission/consular post) or a visa to enter the Republic of Croatia.
You can also submit your visa application online here

IF YOU ARE NOT REQUIRED TO HOLD A VISA TO ENTER THE REPUBLIC OF CROATIA: 

You are not required to take the steps described above and you can enter the Republic of Croatia in line with the provisions of the Aliens Act.  

NOTE: Third-country nationals are obligated to register their temporary residence address at a police administration/police station within 30 days from being granted temporary stay or obtaining the visa, or otherwise their temporary stay will be revoked.
 
UPON ARRIVAL IN THE REPUBLIC OF CROATIA - REGISTERING TEMPORARY RESIDENCE ADDRESS AND ISSUANCE OF A BIOMETRIC RESIDENCE PERMIT 

REGISTERING TEMPORARY RESIDENCE ADDRESS

Third-country nationals are obligated to register their temporary residence address within 3 days from their entry in the Republic of Croatia at the competent police administration/police station according to the location of their stay.
You can do this by filling in Form 8a (available here) and enclosing a lease contract, a statement from the landlord, or a title deed.
 

ISSUANCE OF A BIOMETRIC RESIDENCE PERMIT
Both third-country nationals who are not required to hold a visa to enter the Republic of Croatia and those who are required to hold a visa have to obtain a residence permit - biometric card (mustprovide photos and biometric data) in person at a police administration/police station.

More information available here,

Chapter 6.

COSTS 

If the application is submitted at a diplomatic mission/consular post - the costs are paid when applying

  • HRK 420.00 for granting temporary stay, and
  • HRK 460.00 for the visa, or
  • HRK 310.00 for the biometric residence card (check with the diplomatic mission/consular post about the possibility of obtaining the card). 

If the application is submitted at a police administration/police station - the costs are paid after the stay is granted

  • HRK 350.00 for granting temporary stay, and
  • HRK 70.00 for administrative fees for the issuance of the biometric residence permit and HRK 240.00 for the biometric residence card. 


IF THE APPLICATION IS SUBMITTED AT A POLICE ADMINISTRATION/POLICE STATION-PAYMENT OF FEES ONLINE

ADMINISTRATIVE FEE FOR TEMPORARY RESIDENCE

Payment of administrative fees for the issuance of temporary residence through Internet banking (350 HRK) will be made in favor of the State Budget.
IBAN of the State Budget is: HR1210010051863000160, model: HR64, reference number: 5002-713-OIB (enter OIB of the person for whom the administrative fee is being paid, if OIB has been assigned).

For persons who do not have an assigned OIB, the reference number is: 5002-713-number of a valid travel document. (IMPORTANT: a maximum of 10 numbers, and if the number code initially contains zeros (0), they are not entered. NO letter marks, slashes, periods, commas, etc. are being entered).

For example, the number of the travel document / identity card of a foreign citizen is AZ004586, then the reference number is: 5002-713-4586 (without letters and zeros, the maximum is ten numbers).
 
FEES FOR BIOMETRIC RESIDENCE PERMIT

a) The payment of a fee in the amount of 240 HRK for biometric residence permits via Internet banking will be made in favor of the State Budget.IBAN of the State Budget is: HR1210010051863000160, model: HR65, reference number: 7005-485-OIB (enter OIB of the person for whom the payment is being made).
For those who have not been assigned an OIB, the reference number is: 7005-485-RKP-case number.

b) The payment of an administrative fee in the amount of 70 HRK for the biometric residence permit through Internet banking will be made in favor of the State Budget.IBAN of the State Budget:  HR1210010051863000160, model: HR64, call number: 5002-713-OIB.

For those who do not have an OIB, the reference number is: 5002-713-number of a valid travel document. (IMPORTANT: a maximum of 10 numbers, and if the number code initially contains zeros (0), they are not entered. NO letter marks, slashes, periods, commas, etc. are being entered).

For more information on the Croatian digital nomad visa and lifestyle, follow the dedicated TCN section

Meet Melissa Paul, the first foreigner to obtain the Croatian digital nomad visa. Find out how she did it

Monday, 8 February 2021

National Television Features Digital Nomad Opportunity in Croatia

February 8, 2021 - As the final touches are being applied to the online application process, HRT features the digital nomad opportunity. 

Although the official website and online application process has still not been launched (although I understand it should be next month), there are several people who are a little too impatient to wait to take advantage of the digital nomad opportunity being offered in Croatia with the introduction of the new 12-month digital nomad visa. 

That the system works (and the paperwork required) has been proven by the first foreigner to be granted the 12-month stay. You can read how American Melissa Paul did it, and what she submitted as part of her application in our TCN interview - Meet Melissa Paul, Owner of Croatia's First Digital Nomad Visa.

There has so far been applications from the UK, USA, Mexico and South Korea, with the majority of applications in the Central Dalmatia area, which is already establishing itself as an emerging hub for nomads in and around Split. Some American friends of mine visited the local police station last week to find out if they could apply for the visa. They are loving live here, are fully integrated into the community, work in IT, and are very keen to continue their stay and contribute their dollars to the Croatian economy. The police told them that they can apply and gave them a list of documents to submit, which will happen this week. Once approved, we will do a feature story on the process to bring a bit more clarity for those wanting more information on this option. 

The digital nomad opportunity is starting to get a little more traction in the Croatian media, and it was the subject of a news feature on HRT this weekend (mostly in English, with Croatian subtitles). The report features the initiator of the visa, Dutch entrepreneur Jan de Jong from Split, whose open letter to Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic on July 11 started the process. You can watch the report above, which was originally filmed in November. 

For more about digital nomad life in Croatia, follow the dedicated TCN section

 

Saturday, 6 February 2021

€4m Wespa Spaces Coworking Hub Opens in Zagreb

ZAGREB, 6 February (Hina) - Wespa Spaces, a new business centre in the form of a coworking hub has opened in Zagreb providing 3,000 square metres of office space and 320 workstations, with its founders investing €4 million in the project, Wespa Spaces says.

The centre is a private investment by five founders, Nikola Perković, Amir Babović, Lovro Petrač, Filip Duvnjak and Damir Ismailović who, based on their own experiences, designed the centre as a campus.

Coworking hubs are not new to Croatia. There are several already operating on the model of leasing out office space with the necessary accessories and equipment (Internet, printing, work stations, cleaning service, use of common areas like tea kitchens, meeting rooms, parking lots and so on).

Wespa Space is the largest and has the most work stations and supporting equipment in this part of Europe covering companies' business needs with regard to an innovative and digitalised approach to sharing resources and content.

"We currently have a 30 percent occupancy with about 15 companies that are working in the premises or have booked office space and intend to move in in the next few weeks. Companies that become hub members do not have any specific obligations except to pay their lease while utility costs are included," Wespa Spaces said.

The plan is to hold conventions as well, but that will have to wait because of current coronavirus restrictions.

Wespa Spaces is located in Zagreb's Zavrtnica district and has been designed as a modern office space fit for the digital era while providing other features necessary for productive work, including a relax zone, restaurant, cafe and even a media room, cinema and other facilities, Wespa said, adding that the hub's name is short for "work-eat-socialise-play-anytime."

"We are the first centre of this kind in this part of Europe offering our members and guests a maximum experience through a very simple and digitised approach. We hope that apart from being an ideal working environment we will become a place where respectable companies, young founders and innovators, artists and other creative people can work,"  Wespa said.

Follow the latest remote working news in the dedicated TCN digital nomad section.

Monday, 1 February 2021

Digital Nomad Life in Croatia: Ian & Amy Anderson, from Florida to Split

February 1, 2021 - As the number of digital nomads rises globally, some are choosing to spend some of their time in Croatia. Continuing our TCN series meeting international digital nomads calling Croatia their temporary home. Meet Ian and Amy Anderson, from Florida to Split. 

 

Searching for a coastal European town with all the amenities of modern-day living, this digital nomad couple from Tampa, Florida found the perfect place to work. This AirBNB had everything that they were looking for and best of all, it was located in an ancient Croatian palace. Take a peek into their digital nomad lifestyle and learn some tips on how you can become one too. Say hello to Ian & Amy Anderson.

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Tell us a bit about you and your work.

We both grew up in Massachusetts (USA) about one hour south of Boston in a city called New Bedford. Like most people, our twenties were filled with jobs we hated. But one good thing was that we both happened to be working at one of those awful jobs at the same time. We started dating in 2001 and by 2009 we had gotten married.

At that point in time we couldn’t take working jobs that we hated anymore and we finally got the courage to venture out into the world of self-employment and started our own web design company. It was one of the scariest things we had ever done, but it turned out to be one of the best decisions that we ever made.

Eleven years later, we’ve created a thriving web design company that creates websites for small to medium-sized businesses in the USA. The best part is that we get to do it together, from anywhere in the world. We are really lucky because we don't just love each other, we actually like each other too.

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Pros and cons of working remotely?

One of the biggest pros of working remotely is the freedom and flexibility that this lifestyle offers. Like any other job, some days can be stressful and make you want to pull your hair out, but the good days far outnumber the bad. At the end of the day, our clients don’t care how we get the project done, they only care that we complete the project on time and deliver a high-quality end result. This means we don’t have to work a set “9-5” schedule.

Because (for the most part) we are able to choose our own schedule, we don’t have to wake up to an alarm clock. Working remotely also means that we don’t have to drive to an office every day, which saves both time and money. We don’t have to sit in a cubicle for eight hours a day and we have zero office drama. 

Working remotely not only allows you to work from the comfort of your own home but also from anywhere in the world... such as Croatia! Once you experience this lifestyle, your days will stop being black and white copies of the day before and they will come alive with bursts of color. Your life will finally have some flavor. If you choose to add the traveling aspect to working remotely, you’ll get to see gorgeous places, have conversations with people from other cultures and eat interesting food in faraway places. You’ll become the exotic “International Traveler” in your family!

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Now onto the not-so-good things.

Remember being a kid on Christmas morning? You would jump out of bed, run to the brightly colored tree in the living room, grab the biggest present you can find and yell out “Mom, can I open my presents now? Pleeeeeeeese?”

But it wasn’t time to open presents just yet and you were told to wait.

Devastated, you rolled your eyes and let out a “uuugggggghhhhhh!” as you sulked your way into the kitchen to get some cereal. 

As digital nomads we feel like this on most days.

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We know that there is an amazing city just outside these AirBNB walls but we also know that we can only go out and explore it once we get all our work done. We can’t let our business suffer because we want to go outside and play. It’s like being a kid who is told to wait to open their presents, except now the presents are new cities waiting to be unwrapped. And our work is like a strict mother telling us that we have to wait to open it.

Another downside is that we also miss our family and friends. When you are a “digital nomad” you miss out on things like family dinners, holiday gatherings and birthday parties. Sure, you can make FaceTime appearances for a few minutes at each event but it’s not the same as actually being there.

Like anything else in your life, you have to make sacrifices in order to get the things you really want.

You can’t fly a plane while keeping one foot on the ground. 

How did you choose Croatia and specifically Split?

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From August to November 2020 we were “digital nomading” in the Caribbean, enjoying the endless sunshine and sandy beaches of Aruba. But you can only stay in Aruba for 90 days as a tourist and that window was soon closing for us. We needed a new country to visit but as US Citizens traveling during a global pandemic, our options were limited. 

While researching which countries US Citizens could travel to, we found an article in Forbes magazine that featured Croatia. It sounded like an interesting country, so we looked more into the top travel destinations within Croatia.

One of the locations that immediately caught our attention was Split. 

It seemed to have an old-world charm perfectly blended with modern-day amenities. We watched YouTube videos that explored the labyrinth-like alleys of Diocletian's Palace, the smooth cobblestone streets filled with lots of artisanal shops and the many cafes and restaurants located along the waterfront. It seemed to have just about anything that we would want or need (all within walking distance) plus gorgeous palm trees right along the Adriatic Sea.

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Once we arrived in Split and saw the majestic views, it was love at first sight.

It was even better than what we saw in the YouTube videos! We were also pleasantly surprised that overall Split was reasonably priced and best of all very safe!

Another great thing about Split is Marjan Park. Just to the west of the palace walls there is a large elevated area of trees. If you walk up the southern side pathway and you turn around, you’ll see something you’ll never forget.

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In one breathtaking glance, you’ll see all of the ancient architecture with the cream colored walls and orange roofs, the perfect blue sea and sailboats, the inspiring green trees and the faded mountains far off in the distance.

It’s one of the most spectacular views we have ever seen.

What’s important for a destination to offer to be compatible with a digital nomad lifestyle, apart from good WiFi?

While everyone has a different opinion of what is important for a destination to offer, everyone can agree that safety is very important. When traveling to a new place somewhere in your home country or a new country abroad, it’s comforting to know that you can walk around (even after the sun sets) and have peace of mind that you are safe. And that’s one of the many things that we love about Split. It is very safe at all times. We would often venture out for a late-night stroll down the Promenade or through Diocletian's Palace and we always felt safe.

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After safety, the location of where you’re staying is the next most important thing to consider. For us that means close proximity to things like beaches, restaurants and historical landmarks, as well as essential services like grocery stores and pharmacies. The closer we are to those things, the less likely it is that we’ll need to rent a car, which saves us from an unnecessary expense. Another great thing about Split is that even when we wanted to venture out farther than we could walk, Uber is available in the area and there are also bikes and scooters available to rent. 

While it’s not a deal-breaker for us if a destination doesn’t offer food and grocery delivery, if they do it’s definitely a bonus. After all, us digital nomads still have a business to run which sometimes means long workdays and not having time to run out to the grocery store. So a grocery delivery service can come in handy… and yes, there are companies in Split that offer this service, which made things very convenient on days we weren’t able to venture out.

What’s your view on the future of remote work? 

When COVID-19 first disrupted our species, businesses around the world were forced to make their employees work from home. At first this was a chaotic change but after a few months companies realized that their employees were still able to get the work done remotely. They also noticed employees seemed happier as a result of not having to commute every day and no rush hour traffic!

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COVID-19 has caused many companies to re-examine their business model. They are starting to see remote work as a way to not only have happier employees but also lower their overhead costs, creating a win-win for business owners. Happier employees tend to be more productive with their work and are also more likely to continue to work for a company. And the more employees that a company is able to have work remotely, the more likely it is that they can downsize their office space and in some cases completely eliminate it, which will greatly reduce their expenses.

So we think that as time goes on the ability for people to work remotely is only going to grow, making it an ideal time for anyone who is looking to travel to become a digital nomad.

Do you have any advice for people looking to make the transition to digital nomad life? 

Lower Your Expenses

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Before you start your journey as a digital nomad see if you can lower your expenses. Would you believe that we’re actually saving money while travelling the world (without giving up the lifestyle that we’re accustomed to)? The reality is that this lifestyle is allowing us to travel the world while saving money that we can then use for fun adventures. Before becoming digital nomads, we typically would go on one or two week-long vacations each year because that’s all we could afford. We realized that there is a lot more to see in the world and at that rate it was going to take us many years to see it all. And honestly, how much can you even learn about a place when you’re only there for a week? So how did we actually lower our expenses? We hired a property manager and he got our house in Tampa rented. We were able to rent it for more than our mortgage (which actually puts some extra money in our pocket each month). With our house rented that means we no longer have any utility expenses (water, electric and internet; it’s all paid for by our tenant)... which saves us hundreds of dollars each month.

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Since we knew we were going to be travelling long term, we sold our car which means no more car payment or car insurance, saving us even more money. 

These are just some of the ways that we were able to cut down our expenses. Obviously everyone’s personal financial situation is different, but the reality is there are lots of ways to cut down on your expenses, all while getting to explore new places around the world. Change Your Schedule

Create a work schedule that revolves around meeting a deadline. This allows for more flexible days. For example, instead of having to be at your laptop at a certain time every day to complete your work, change your arrangement to get the work completed by a certain date. This is how our business operates. When we get a project, we tell the client what day we will have it completed. Not only does this type of business model give you flexibility to create your own schedule, but it is very helpful when you are in a vastly different timezone than the people you are working with. Most of our clients are located in the East Coast of the United States and Split is six hours ahead of that time zone, so if we had to be available to work at the normal business hours of our clients, the time zone difference would make it very challenging. If you’re an employee of a company that requires you to do your work / be available on a specific schedule, working remotely from a different time zone can be challenging, but not impossible. If that’s the case, we recommend that you be mindful of the timezone when you’re selecting a destination and find a place that compliments your work schedule. 

Try To Make Yourself Smile

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If you’re even a little bit interested in this type of lifestyle, do it! Give it a try on a short term basis and see if it works for you, there is no rule that says you have to do it forever. 

Even if it isn’t feasible for you to work remotely with your current job, remember there has never been a greater opportunity or demand for remote work then there is right now. You may be surprised at the remote work opportunities that are available.

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Here is some final advice on making this decision (actually any decision): do the thing that will make your 90-year-old self look back and smile. Most people tend to look back in life and regret the things that they did not do, rather than the things that they did do.

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Follow these digital nomads on Instagram:

Amy Anderson https://www.instagram.com/unleashingamy/

Ian Anderson https://www.instagram.com/ianrobertanderson/

Are you a digital nomad in Croatia who would like to be featured in this series? Please contact us on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Subject Nomad

Read more: Meet Melissa Paul, Owner of Croatia's First Digital Nomad Visa.

 

Tuesday, 26 January 2021

Meet Melissa Paul, Owner of Croatia's First Digital Nomad Visa

January 26, 2021 - An historic day for digital nomad tourism in Croatia - meet Melissa Paul, proud owner of Croatia's first digital nomad visa. Find out how she did it.

It has been quite a day in the world of digital nomads in Croatia. 

After Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic delivered on his promise to introduce a visa for digital nomads in Croatia last year by pushing changes to the tax code and Aliens Act, effective January 1. The final details were imminent, as was the promised online application process, with a timeframe of the first quarter of this year the target for the introduction of the visa.

And then, just before lunch - this from the man whose open letter to Plenkovic asking for the visa to be introduced got the ball rolling 199 days ago - Jan de Jong: US Citizen Gets First Croatian Digital Nomad Visa.

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Jan's news - delightful as it was - was a little thin on detail. Who WAS this successful digital nomad visa bearer, and how did he/she do it?

Some phone calls were made, and our groundbreaking nomad was tracked down to Istria, and the town of Labin. Not only that, but Melissa Paul was more than delighted to tell her story and explain in great detail the process and the documentation required. 

Melissa Paul is a brand storyteller, social media manager, and blog editor for design, travel, and lifestyle businesses.

Raised in Southern California, Melissa she was born craving adventure and kept traveling east to find it. From the mountains of Arizona to the big cities of Los Angeles, New York and Philadelphia, Melissa managed to get all the way to Croatia, first landing on the island of Krk before falling in love with the hilltop artist town of Labin, Istria. In the six years she’s called Croatia home Melissa has renovated an old stone house and learned the benefits of slowing down to enjoy the beauty of everyday life in Croatia.

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1.      Let's start at the beginning. Why Croatia? What are you doing here and how long have you been here?

I came to Croatia in 2014 with my then husband, seeking a slower lifestyle in his parents’ home country. We divorced in early 2018, but I couldn’t imagine leaving my home, neighbors, and friends in Croatia!

2.      As an American, you obviously have residency issues without the digital nomad visa. What was your particular situation?

Yes, it can be, and has been, challenging for third-country nationals. Originally, as a spouse of a citizen I was granted a 5-year temporary stay visa. Then, the moment our divorce (which was brought here in HR) was final, that visa also terminated. But, with the help of an excellent attorney, the Ministry gave me permission to finish my existing 5-year visa. (there are provisions in the law for this situation if you have been married and have lived in Croatia together for at least 3 years full-time). Next, I applied for an extension on that visa using ownership of my home as the reason. I was granted that extension for one-year.

This past summer, when I read about the potential for a Digital Nomad Visa, I got excited as I realized that not only do I qualify as a digital nomad, but it could be my only way to stay! But this past October, when it was time again for me to reapply for another stay visa, the Digital Nomad Visa was not enacted. I had no options available to me but to apply for humanitarian reasons. The fear was real, with COVID out of control around the globe, where would I be able to go? Even returning to the United States was not comforting. Of course, to find a way to stay in my beautiful, much safer Istra was my ultimate goal!

3.      I understand that the suggestion of you applying for the digital nomad visa came from a rather unusual proactive source - the Croatian police in Zagreb. Tell us about that. 

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I took the suggestion of many local friends, one of whom has a friend in MUP Zagreb, and applied with letters from neighbors, local businesses I had helped, and even my local Catholic church. All to show that I had become a part of the community around me. But to no avail. I learned just days before my current visa expired that this humanitarian reason was not enough. I was denied. But in that “decision” from the Ministry in Zagreb was their suggestion that I reapply quickly (within 36 hours) using the new Digital Nomad Visa option as they could see that I qualified. Sadly, I was not given that letter to show you as it was an internal document from Zagreb to Labin MUP, but I was shown the section that offered the exact paragraphs in the Alien Act that were recommended.

4.      Now - and I want you to give us as much detail as possible as there is a LOT of interest in this (you will forever be known as First Nomad Visa Lady...), take us through the process of what happened when you went to apply. 


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Okay, these details are spread about here in different answers. The documents I needed to provide:

1)      Completed Form 1A provided by the MUP office, noting the reason of requested temporary stay as DIGITAL NOMAD, and the length of requested stay;
2)      OIB (personal identification number);
3)      Valid Passport that shows it is active beyond the timeframe requested in my visa application;
4)      Written statement from me that I am a Digital Nomad with a company/work/clients outside of Croatia, why I want to stay/work in Croatia, how long I have been a digital nomad and any detail about my services. Specifically, I was told to reference “communications” and “technology” in my statement as services I provide as well as where the company I own is registered; and offering any detail about the names and locations of the companies I work with. This document was written by me in English but professionally translated into Croatian, then my signature was notarized by a local, Croatian notary;
5)      Since I own my company (US-based) servicing clients in Mexico and the US, I was asked to provide a copy of my business registration, articles of incorporation, and proof that the company was active and in good standing. The latter was obtained online from the US state in which I originally incorporated my business in;
6)      Written statement of some form from my employer, in this case, an Employment Agreement from my own company, stating that I work for the company, what role I service, what my annual salary is, and the term of my contract. This agreement needed to be stamped with the official company seal. This document was written by me in English but professionally translated into Croatian, then my signature was notarized by a local, Croatian notary;
7)      Proof of health insurance coverage for the length of the visa term requested. In my case, I went to the HZZO office and got a statement from them that I was paid up. Otherwise, proof of the foreign health insurance coverage is required;
8)      Proof of minimally 28,800 kuna sitting in my bank account at the time of application. Better, of course, if this was shown in a Croatian bank account. Otherwise, a statement from the foreign bank on their letterhead that this amount is in the account.


5. How long did the process last and what did it cost?

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I applied in mid-November 2020 for my Temporary Stay and received a stamped letter from MUP Labin that the application was received and in process. On January 11th, 2021, I received a call at my home telling me I was denied and should come to their office in the police station immediately to discuss other options. I was told to bring a friend who spoke Croatian. I was there in an hour and they saw me immediately. I was shown the decision referenced above and it was read by my friend, and the suggestion to apply as a Digital Nomad was explained in detail. I was told I needed to get all the required documents back to MUP as soon as possible, and before my current visa expired in 4 days. I returned with all documents and ID/Passport photo. It was approved and I was given the decision, fee requirements and tax stamp requests. Tax stamps of 35 kuna were required and I paid 590 kuna for the visa application.

6. Is it actually a visa? Do you have a stamp or piece of paper you could share with us? 

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It is a reason to get a Temporary Stay Visa. So, the only document I have is the Rjesenje (decision) stating it was approved and the tariff stamp (tax stamp) of 35 kuna was due. Once I showed receipts from my bank that I paid the fee and brought back the tax stamps (available at a local Tisak) I was given a temporary white ID card and told to return in 3-4 weeks for the official card with photo.

7. When did you realise that you had become First Nomad Visa Lady - the first person to get the Croatian digital nomad visa?

My dear friend Isabel Putinja told me I must be the first, but I didn’t believe her! And then today I got a call from the Ministry in Zagreb who told me the article in TCN was about me… they asked if I would give them permission to use my name, etc.

8. Tell us how you feel now that you have it, and what are the exact conditions?

How I felt was GREAT RELIEF! To have the chance to stay here in Croatia for another year, and to not have to leave my home, my friends and neighbors, is amazing! Not to mention all the added complications COVID brings… I really have made my home here in Istria, but to have the opportunity to stay here while working remotely, is a gift. Truly! I have been a digital nomad for years and whether or not I own my home doesn’t negate the fact that I work for foreign companies while living on the other side of the world from them.
 
I have a new Privremeni Boravak for 12 months, which is the length of the DNVisa. It cannot be renewed or extended. When it expires, I either must have a stalni boravak (permanent residence) in place, a sexy Croatian or EU husband, or live out of Croatia for six months. (well, 3 months out, 3 months in as a tourist).

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9.  How have your plans changed now with regard to your stay in Croatia?

Getting my new temporary stay with the digital nomad reason means I can continue to write about Istria and Croatia, a personal project in the works for some time now. BUT, it affords me the opportunity to get a permanent stay visa as you must have one while the other is in process!

10. What advice do you have for others who are also looking to apply? What should they take with them to the police station?  

Take a lot of patience with you, each time you go! And, someone who speaks fluent Croatian, as beginner’s Croatian is not enough for when faced with bureaucratic hurdles to jump! The best language is a smile, I found, but when I left frustrated I would be reminded that this is what it is, for everyone, and that it is not personal. I also believe going with everything copied already, translated and notarized is super helpful to speeding things up.

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Fabulous stuff, and thanks, Melissa, for going into so much detail. You can follow Melissa Paul, Croatia's First Nomad Visa lady, on Instagram.

As I wrote in the earlier piece today announcing the first visa, the finishing touches are being applied to the process, including online registration forms. I would expect this all to be in place by the end of the first quarter of 2021, quite probably next month. We will bring you the latest in the dedicated TCN digital nomad section

If you are applying for a digital nomad visa via your local police station and would like to share your experiences, please contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Subject Nomad Visa.

Monday, 25 January 2021

Zagreb Tourism Adjusting to the Digital Nomad Opportunity

January 25, 2021 – After a challenging 2020, the digital nomad future is looking bright for Zagreb tourism.

It is almost exactly a year since I wrote an article called Why Zagreb is Increasingly Attractive to a Growing Number of Digital Nomads. A year, but seemingly a lifetime, ago. But while 2020 was a terrible year for most of us, it was a very good one for the digital nomad movement, with Zagreb making more advances to position itself as one of the most interesting destinations for remote workers in Europe once things return to a semblance of normality.

In the pre-pandemic article a year ago, I explored 10 reasons why Zagreb was growing in popularity for digital nomads. A year later, all ten are still valid, with several more to add to the list. Affordability, accessibility, safety, English spoken, excellent food & wine, a great tourist destination, a thriving tech scene, quality medical tourism, proximity to the Schengen zone, and that unbeatable relaxed Croatian lifestyle were the ten hooks for digital nomads a year ago.

And then the pandemic hit, shifting the focus of many lives during lockdown to a more virtual world. It was estimated before the pandemic that there would be one billion remote workers by 2035. That estimate now looks very conservative, as many people got used to working from home and away from the office. Many of those jobs will never return to the office – even more digital nomads for tourism in the future.

While the tourism potential of the concept of providing services for digital nomads gradually took hold globally with the prospect of the new normal, things moved forward much faster in Croatia. An open letter to the Croatian Prime Minister from a Dutch entrepreneur asking for a digital nomad visa resulted in Parliament passing legislation for Croatia to become only the second country in Europe to offer a digital nomad visa.

The final bureaucratic touches are being applied to the new permit, which will allow digital nomads of a certain income level to spend 12 months in Zagreb and elsewhere in Croatia, with no local tax burdens. Legislation has already been passed by Parliament, and the visa is scheduled to be available by the end of March latest.

News of the proposed visa went global, leading to intense interest in Croatian destinations, but it also had another positive impact for Zagreb tourism – by generating interest and attention from the city's tourism businesses, keen to learn how to take advantage of the opportunity.

Initial understanding of the needs of digital nomads has moved on from a year ago when the general perception was that an apartment with clean sheets and decent Internet was 'digital nomad friendly.' More Zagreb tourism businesses are understanding that lifestyle and quality of life are also essential elements of the offer, rather than just a bed and WiFi. Some Zagreb hostels, for example, are adapting to the new reality by offering special digital nomad monthly rental packages, including meals, for a fixed fee, with their outreach services available through their hostel services.

The formation of the Digital Nomad Association is another step in the right direction. The Zagreb-based assocation will be fully functional in the coming weeks, offering a bridge of support between nomads, their hosts and issues with the Croatian authorities and bureacracy. There are plans to educate local tourism providers on the needs of these mobile guests, as well as a platform for services such as accommodation which are 'nomad-friendly' which are certified by the association.

Zagreb tourism promotion has changed in the last year as well, offering even more to the visitor. Arguably one of the best initiatives last year was the launch of Around Zagreb, a new platform combining the treasures and activities in Zagreb the city and the surrounding county. The site has been a revelation since going online, offering countless new options to city visitors which had previously been ignored. From hiking and cycling on Sljeme, to wine tasting in Plesivca, truffle hunting in Turopolje, or a round of golf in Zapresic, the lifestyle options for longer-term remote workers are only increasing in Zagreb.

Tourism is changing, and there are many reasons to be positive. The 10 reasons why Zagreb is increasingly attractive to digital nomads are still as true one year on, with several quality additions to the list after the challenges of 2020.

To follow the digital nomad story in Croatia, follow the dedicated TCN section.  

Monday, 28 December 2020

Croatia Through the Eyes of a Digital Nomad: Dalmatia’s Underground Fungi is Croatia’s Black Gold

December 28, 2020 - Cyndie Burkhardt continues her nomad lifestyle with her experiences in Croatia - this week with a little truffle hunting in Dalmatia. 

The area surrounding Split is joining the exclusive and rarified world of wild truffle hunting, where these underground mushrooms are highly prized delicacies and adorable dogs track them down in secret locations.

One fine day I sat in a cozy hilltop restaurant in Motovun sipping Croatian red wine and gazing at both the picturesque view out across the countryside and the eyes of my handsome boyfriend across the table. We were exploring Istria and I was about to have the most anticipated meal of our trip. The entire place had a gentle whiff of truffles and it filled my nose. The waiter placed two bowls of pasta in front of us and started shaving truffles on top. He asked if I wanted more. I smiled and said “yes!” and he proceeded to cover my dish. I think I melted before I even took a bite.

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(Dogs experience the world through scent. The key to training them to find truffles is scent and positive rewards—they smell a truffle, they get a treat.)

That was years ago and I’ve eaten truffle pasta only one other time—until now, that is—but I’ve never forgotten the experience. The area surrounding Split is joining Istria and Zagreb in the truffle economy, as recently reported here. Learning that I could go on a real hunt with dogs, and eat truffles, I jumped at the chance. 

Secret location

Ivana Najev met me near Mall of Split and blindfolded me before we drove to meet her father Tonci and the dogs at a secret location. It’s well known that truffles are highly coveted for elite dining tables and they rank among the rarest foods in the world with some of the highest prices. Given the stakes, I was only told that we were going to Mosor Mountain. The intrigue was killing me, but it was certain to be an adventure and I acquiesced.

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(Dalmatia’s soil is predominantly black, which produces black truffles like this black winter Tuber Melanosporum.)

Truffle dogs

Once the car stopped and I got out and saw the dogs, they were irresistible. Aldi is seven years old and a seasoned professional. Indi is one and a half years old and is still full of puppy energy. Both are medium sized Lagotto Romagnolos with golden brown curly coats, and they’re absolutely adorable. Their fur reminded me of my grandmother’s hair, God rest her soul. I liked them immediately. The dogs darted around the forest bursting with excitement before getting to work. I laughed out loud watching them run about, their faces and tails full of expression.

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(One tactic in training dogs is to stuff toys with truffles and bury them, making a hide-and-seek game fun for them.)

When it was time to hunt the dogs were focused, moving from one spot to another as scents caught their attention. Aldi and Indi work together but they don’t dig in the same hole. When one finds a truffle spot the other one watches over his shoulder, as if waiting for the results. I don’t know if this is typical behavior for truffle dogs but it looked like team spirit, sort of like saying “hey buddy, nice score” and giving a high-five. Sometimes a dog would lay down right next to his spot while Tonci or Ivana dug into the soil to retrieve the prize.

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(Lagotto Romagnolos are the primary dogs specifically bred for truffle hunting. Truffle dogs can be expensive, it's not unheard of to pay $4,000 for a prime Lagotto and another $5,000 to train it. Training starts from two months of age and takes about two years for a dog to mature and become really good. They want to play, but they’re still working.)

Seductive smell

These trained animals were constantly moving and sniffing for good reason. As a truffle matures it releases a pungent odor when ripe, which is key to the hunting process. The smell comes from volatile organic compounds, similar to pheromones released by a male pig. I knew about truffle hunting with pigs and now I know the reason—they’re an aphrodisiac for a female. Pigs are natural hunters but also feeders, which is an abrupt way to watch your hard work and profit go down the drain; dogs are preferred.

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(Aldi and Indi are more than working dogs, they’re beloved family pets. They have their own room in the house with a carpet, a couch, and a television. What do they eat? Regular dog food.)

Intoxicating appeal

It turns out there’s more to truffles than sex appeal. Researchers in Italy found that black truffles produce a natural chemical compound similar to marijuana's active compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Truffles are not chemically addictive but many people find them intoxicating. “You start to eat and you always want them,” says Ivana. “The dogs have the same reaction, it’s like a drug. Indi lays down on the hole because the smell makes him happy, and crazy.”

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(A truffle’s size and smell are factored into their overall value, which can reach into tens of thousands of dollars at market.)

Nature Lover

How does someone get into this business anyway? It helps to be a nature lover and like most Croatians, Tonci Najev thrives on being outdoors. This is clear from his notable background as a professional diver. His feats include being on the expedition team that made the first-ever dive into the Red Lake, near Imotski, and earning records for descending 100+ meters (330+ feet) with pure oxygen, no mixing of gases in the tank. 

In those days Tonci spent the mornings diving for sea coral and the afternoons hiking. Up in Split’s mountains, locals told him they’d found truffles. His interest was piqued and he began researching the land, the trees, and the dogs. Today, with perseverance and persistence, Tonci has discovered 100+ truffle locations and he holds the first and only truffle hunting business permit in Dalmatia.

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(People often ask if the dogs work just to get a reward. Ivana says Indi and Aldi are eager to please and to see their father (Tonci) happy.)

Black and white

Two main truffle species are among the most esteemed food products in the Mediterranean: Piedmont/Italian white truffles (tuber magnatum pico) and Périgord/French black truffles (tuber melanosporum). They are the first and second most expensive truffles in the world, respectively. 

They grow wild in the forests of southern Europe and they’re native to France, Spain, Italy, Slovenia, and Croatia. Limited availability contributes to their value, as the majority of truffles on the market are cultivated.

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(What do Aldi and Indi eat? Regular dog food.)

Exclusive and expensive

Given the secret growing locations, labor-intensive sourcing, specially trained animals, limited quantity, and a short lifespan, truffes are a delicacy in the same camp as other rare foods: saffron, caviar, kobe beef, Densuke watermelon, and fugu. 

In 2020, white winter truffles (magnatum) sold in the range of $3,000-$4,000 USD per lb. (retail) and black winter truffles (melanosporum) sold for an average of $1,500 USD per lb. Prices constantly change and vary per the yields of the growing season, the class of truffles (including size and smell), and the rarity of the type. I found reports on European wild truffles selling at auction for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Damn. I’d love to know the life story of one of those mushrooms.

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(Dalmatia’s oak trees and karst landscape make a special environment that’s ideal for wild truffles to grow.)

Dalmatian truffles

On Mosor, we found two types of black winter truffles: tuber melanosporum and tuber brumale. Yesss! We got the good ones! I was impressed that we found anything at all, the ground seems to favor rocks. It’s described as a karst landscape, one that’s made up of limestone and has some sort of a natural drainage system beneath. As it turns out, the terrain and Croatia’s climate make an ideal habitat for wild truffles.

One other thing is needed—the right tree. Truffles grow underground in symbiosis with certain trees; specifically, truffle spores and tree roots share nutrients. Dalmatia delivers on this too and some of the most common “truffle trees” grow here—Hrast (Oak), Grab (Hornbeam), Smrič (Spruce/shrub), Corylus Avellana (Hazel), and Populus Alba (Poplar).

Dobak Tek

After a successful morning hunting, it was time to eat. Our dining room was Mosor Mountain, under a large oak tree, appropriately. Once again, I enjoyed fresh truffle pasta—prepared right in front of me—while sipping local wine and gazing at Croatia’s beautiful scenery. A spread of cheese, meat, and soparnik was the second course, all of it topped with freshly shaved truffles. I was glad I had skipped breakfast.

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(The morning hunt culminates with a fresh meal of homemade truffle pasta. Once a truffle has been unearthed, its journey from ground to plate should be no longer than ten days.)

It’s funny, the pasta was delicious but I can’t describe the taste that truffles add. Ton

i said chocolate and strawberry but I’d go toward earthy and musky. My palate isn’t that refined but I know what I like and I craved more. I really think there’s something to that seductive, intoxicating aroma; it engulfs your senses and your brain like a potion. Maybe the mere anticipation of truffles is what drives behavior such as auction madness… 

Winding down

After an upbeat morning I was pleasantly surprised that the tour kept going. On the drive back to our meeting location Ivana pointed out several places of cultural and historical importance—the remains of Skočiba, an old village in Gata that dates back to the Middle Ages; the church of Sveti Jure, on one of the highest mountain peaks in the country. It was a nice way to round things off and see more of Dalmatia’s heritage.

Leaving the seductive world of truffles, I thought about a modest comment Ivana made when we first discussed where to meet, “We do not have an office, nature is all we need.” I love that. I scored another great day outdoors, with good people and animals, in this country that I’m coming to appreciate more and more. By the way, there was no blindfold.

Learn more about tours with Truffle Hunting Dalmatia on the website.

Learn more at TCN’s Digital Nomads channel. 

Story and photographs ©2020, Cyndie Burkhardt. https://photo-diaries.com

For more of Cyndie's experiences, check out her Croatia Through the Eyes of a Digital Nomad column.  

Sunday, 27 December 2020

After Digital Nomads, Will Croatian Tourism Chiefs Act on 4 More Gifts?

Two small but very significant things for Croatian tourism happened in one Facebook post just before Christmas. 

The post was by arguably the most communicative senior member of the government on social media, State Secretary for Tourism, Tonci Glavina, who regularly updates his followers on good news regarding Croatian tourism and government activity, communication which is very welcome. 

And Glavina's status update of December 23 caught my attention in particular, for two reasons, and opens a small window of opportunity for progressing tourism strategy in Croatia:

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The post was significant firstly as this was the first time (to my knowledge) that a senior government official had given a concrete statement on the reality of the Croatian digital nomad visa since Prime Minister Plenkovic tweeted his intention in late August to act on a LinkedIn open letter from Dutch entrepreneur Jan de Jong asking for the introduction of a digital nomad visa for Croatia. As regular readers of TCN will know, digital nomad tourism is something we have been advocating for more than 18 months now, as well as reporting on progress on the visa every step of the way, from the law changes in the Aliens Act and the tax code. You can follow the TCN digital nomad coverage past, present and future here. Having a senior government official confirm what we have been reporting for months is most welcome, as is the additional news that Glavina brought that there will soon be a big global promotion by the Croatian National Tourist Board to attract digital nomads to Croatia. 

The second thing that was significant in Glavina's post was his acknowledgment that this was an initiative from the private sector, namely the efforts of de Jong and those supporting his initiative. I have long advocated for the private sector to play a more active role in shaping Croatia's tourism, simply because the private tourism sector understands tourism so much better than those running Croatian tourism (in my opinion), and in many cases they manage to succeed in spite of official tourism strategies, rather than because of them. So to see the Croatian tourism chiefs not only recognise a private sector initiative but to make it a key theme for 2021 promotion is a very encouraging development indeed. And one I hope will be a precedent for future development. 

National tourist board director was also ebullient about the prospects of digital nomad tourism and was quoted in Vecernji List, timeline December 23, 2020:

We plan various activities to position our country as an attractive destination for digital nomads. The focus of marketing campaigns will be on the fact that Croatia can guarantee a safe and quality stay for digital nomads. We will emphasize the excellent transport connections and the geographical position of an EU country in which many speak English and which has an excellent infrastructure and quality of offer. In the promotion, we will focus on the fact that our life is accessible according to European standards, that we have good health care with well-known benefits such as a favorable climate, beautiful nature and rich cultural and historical heritage. At the beginning of 2021, an online campaign is planned in Great Britain, the USA and Australia, and we will soon start teaser activities, ie posts with initial information about the legislative changes on social networks Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn - says the director of the Croatian Tourist Board Kristjan Stanicic.

This is all wonderful (and I mean that sincerely), but I have a question which is important if we are to develop this concept of public-private cooperation:

If de Jong had not posted his online appeal to Plenkovic, and if there had been no private sector initiative regarding the digital nomad visa, would our Croatian tourism chiefs even be talking about digital nomads as a tourism strategy? 

A few weeks before de Jong posted his LinkedIn request, I request a meeting with the national tourist board to present three new initiatives for Croatian tourism. The three ideas were a concept to brand Trogir the first digital nomad town in Croatia, a new sporting event to celebrate Dalmatia's unique sporting heritage and tradition with the Olympics of Traditional Dalmatian Games, and a concept for developing religious tourism based on the only certified miracle in Croatia, the Eucharistic Miracle of Ludbreg

I left the meeting empty-handed but with plenty to think about. Funding rules had changed and I was advised to approach regional tourist boards on the financial side. And while I was more than a little surprised that one of the senior tourist board members couldn't name Croatia's only miracle, it was the reaction to the digital nomad project that stayed with me. While my Trogir idea was apparently good, I was advised to check on taxation rules for nomads planning to work in Croatia. With the situation as it was, it was not something that they could officially promote.

And that, I believe, is how the situation would be today without de Jong's initiative and all that followed.

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Private initiatives to promote digital nomad tourism continued, and there were more receptive ears. None more so than Dubrovnik, who not only embraced the concept, but acted on it very quickly. After a very cordial meeting with Mayor of Dubrovnik, Mato Frankovic, in July, wheels were set in motion to prepare for an international digital nomad contest to work with the city on improving its digital nomad offering and branding. 

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Corona budget issues have delayed that project until April/May 2021, but Tanja Polegubic from Saltwater Nomads suggested Dubrovnik start the discussion by organising Croatia's first-ever digital nomad conference, Digital Nomads for Dubrovnik, in October, in partnership with the Dubrovnik Tourist Board, City of Dubrovnik and TCN.  

News of the imminent visa and the Dubrovnik conference caused quite a buzz internationally, and there were many articles in the international media about Croatia as a new hot spot for remote workers, with the Dubrovnik for Digital Nomads conference even getting a mention in the Washington Post

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And there was plenty of more niche promotion within the digital nomad community, with TravelOffPath co-founder Kashlee Kucheran, a website and community dedicated to global travel information for remote workers, extolling the virtues of Croatia as a destination for digital nomads - you can learn more in this TCN interview with Kashlee

Zagreb has also been very receptive to the digital nomad opportunity. Sadly, we had to cancel plans for a Digital Nomad Bootcamp as part of Advent in Zagreb due to the pandemic, but we will be announcing a great initiative in partnership with Zagreb in the new year. 

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And yet, despite all the activity and December 23 announcement and upbeat quote from Director Stanicic, not a single word about this new tourist sector on the national tourist board site. This is what greets you when you search the national tourist board website for information about digital nomads (see above).

The main point of this article is to show how important the private sector is for tourism and what a positive effect it could  - and should - have, and so it is worth taking a closer look at the origins of this initiative, as well as looking at others which may exist. As Jan de Jong has explained, he is also quite new to the concept of digital nomad tourism. Back in May, he was due to speak at a tourism conference and asked me for some advice about tourism initiatives. I sent him a few articles to read including two about digital nomad tourism, both written in mid-2019, a full 18 months before Director Stanicic's enthusiastic embracing of his new initiative. 

How Croatia is Becoming Increasingly Attractive for the Digital Nomad Lifestyle (June 19, 2019)

Branding Croatia for the Future: 5 Gifts and Trends to Focus On (June 9, 2019)

If these articles planted a seed in de Jong's mind regarding digital nomad tourism, who in turn planted a seed in the Prime Minister's mind with his LinkedIn post, who in turn planted more seeds for Croatian tourism chiefs, which results in a visa and strategy for digital nomad tourism for Croatia, then I will be very happy. There have been lots of people involved from the private sector on the way as I explored in Croatia's Digital Nomad Visa Story: The Expat Contribution.

The big question is that if this approach of private initiative which is helped along the way with a collection of different skillsets and influences can be embraced by the Croatian tourism chiefs, are there any other such ideas which could yield similar fruit? And the answer is an emphatic YES! Here are just 4, and let's go back to that 2019 article, Branding Croatia for the Future: 5 Gifts and Trends to Focus On

1. Medical Tourism

One sector which is a real growth opportunity for Croatian where the private sector is trailblazing is medical tourism. It is an area I have written a lot about in the last three years, not only about Croatia, but also internationally, and it was a real honour to be named International Medical Travel Journalist of the Year in Kuala Lumpur recently by one of the star performers of the global medical tourism industry - the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council. 

I have attended several conferences, both national and international, and interviewed many of the bigger names in the medical tourism industry over the last few years. I have been constantly struck by how big the potential is for Croatia, whose reputation within the industry is very high, so at odds with the delivery of effective official promotion. At the same time, the private medical tourism companies are achieving great visibility and partnerships in order to develop not only their only clinics and hospitals, but also the Croatian industry as a whole. It is quite telling that the brand of the Kvarner Health Cluster has a bigger brand within the industry than Croatia as a national brand, for example. 

Unlike digital nomad tourism, which as we have seen has yet to get a mention on the official website despite the apparently lofty plans for 2021, there have been sporadic - and particularly ineffective - efforts to officially promote medical tourism. The video above is a case in point - dating back to 2017.  Some pretty drone shots of Croatia and some footage in some clinics, but with no coherent message, and with almost no engagement - 43 likes and zero comments despite over a million views suggests another paid campaign that failed to engage. 

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Fast forward two years and a shiny medical tourism conference called Health Spot Croatia.

All the big names were there in terms of sponsorship, and the list of speakers was no less impressive as an official show of strength. 

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No less than two ministers, the president of the Croatian Chamber of Economy and Mayor of Zagreb in the welcome speeches alone. 

And the dividend from the conference once the lights went off, the initial column inches written? Very little. Indeed my understanding is that the health tourism department of the Ministry of Health was disbanded earlier this year. 

Meanwhile, in the private sector, Croatia is excelling on the global stage, working with the biggest names in healthcare. 

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St. Catherine's Specialty Hospital, a member of the Leading Hospitals of the World, became the first place in Europe to offer the RightMed OneOme pharmacogenetic test, developed in partnership with Mayo Clinic.  

Cleveland Clinic has also been taking an interest in the Croatian medical tourism story after links were forged by Ognjen Bagatin of Bagatin Clinic on a visit to Cleveland. Cleveland Clinic CEO Tom Mihaljevic pledged his support for perhaps the most ambitious initiative to put Croatian medical tourism on the map - EPIC 2020.

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But for the pandemic, EPIC 2020 would have been Europe's first European Patient Experience and Innovation Congress, organised by Bagatin Clinic in collaboration with Cleveland Clinic, with a world-class list of international speakers, including several from Mayo and Cleveland Clinics.  

Bagatin Clinic has become synonymous with Croatian medical tourism excellence globally, thanks largely to the extraordinary efforts of Ognjen Bagatin, who has travelled the globe several times over to promote Croatia and its health tourism story. He has done more than perhaps anyone to develop this sector of Croatian tourism, as well as being an authoritative and inspirational speaker on the global level. It was a pleasure to witness him collect the award on behalf of Bagatin Clinic for Best International Cosmetic Surgery Clinic at the International Medical Travel Journal awards and conference in Berlin in 2019. IMTJ is the leading medical tourism conference in the world, attracting exhibitors from all over the world. While official promotional bodies were out in force from the biggest countries in the industry, including South Korea, Malaysia and Germany, the Croatian presence was limited to Bagatin and the Kvarner Health Cluster.

Unlike digital nomad tourism, which is just in its infancy, there is considerable experience and expertise in the private medical tourism sector in Croatia, as well as a vision and international credibility. If de Jong's private initiative for digital nomads could be replicated for the medical tourism industry, the possibilities are enticing indeed.  

2. Lessons from Portugal - retirees and the Golden Visa. 

A little legislation change is what is required to bring in the digital nomad visa, thereby making Croatia more accessible to remote workers to come and live in Croatia and contribute their spending power to the Croatian economy. 

And a little more legislation change in another area could also boost the State coffers. With its temperate climate and relaxed lifestyle, Croatia is an ideal destination for pensioners to spend at least some of their retirement time. The lower cost of living compared to Western countries also makes Croatia an attractive option.  

Just as I have come across many digital nomads from outside the EU looking to spend more time in Croatia, so too people wanting to retire and spend time here.  

And spend money. As Portugal has figured out, retirees looking to relocate to the sun are independently wealthy and not going to take away and local jobs. And they tend to have affluent friends and family who come to visit. The Portuguese Golden Visa programme has been a big success, something which can easily be emulated by Croatia - Lessons from Portugal: Taking Advantage of the Retirement Lifestyle Opportunity

3. Wine - Home of Original Zin and 130 Other Indigenous Grape Treasures

You will not be in Croatia long before you hear about how great the wines are. And they truly are. Home of the original Zinfandel and 130 other indigenous grape varieties, Croatia also offers some very diverse wine regions and exceptional tasting experiences. With the popularity of gourmet tourism in France, Spain, Italy and Germany, the potential for Croatia to present its world-class food and wine offering is there. After all, didn't the late, great Anthony Bourdain wax lyrical about Croatia's "world-class food, world-class wine, world-class cheese" back in 2011. 

And yet... 

Where to go to find the information about the wine roads and wine tasting experiences? 

Dalmatia may be the home of original Zinfandel (a FANTASTIC hook for the American market in particular), but there is no Dalmatian wine road. In fact, trying to find information about any wine roads is rather a challenge. A few years ago, I asked the national tourist board to send me a list of wine roads for Croatia. They were very helpful saying that they did not have that information but would contact the county tourist boards individually and get the information of wine roads by county. They did send information on all but one county, in varying degrees of quality, but mostly it was just a list of names. Which was better than the help from the Ministry of Tourism, who insisted that there was a map of the Biokovo Wine Road, a wine road which no wine professional in Croatia I have spoken to knows ever exists. 

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That is not to say that it is all bad. I was much cheered on a recent visit to the Zagreb County Tourist Board to come across this very useful map for the wine lover. On the one side, a map of the 11 wineries on the Zelina wine road, and on the other all the contact details, opening hours and tasting experiences on offer, details which you can also find on the official website

How hard would it be to do this on a national level, and to put up some signs for wine roads on a national level? To actually make finding information about wine roads and wineries user-friendly? There are signed wine roads at a local (and sometimes regional) level, but it Croatia wants to be taken seriously as a wine destination, it should start taking its wine promotion seriously. Need some help? Lessons from Macedonia: How Croatia Can Learn How to Market Wine. Interestingly,  Macedonia's biggest export market is... Croatia.

4. Maximising the Tesla (and Rimac) brand

 Was Nikola Tesla a Serb or a Croat? If you are looking for the answer in how he is promoted in both countries today,  then there is no contest. Despite visiting Belgrade only once, the international airport bears his name, and Serbia celebrates Science Day each year on his birthday, July 10. 

By contrast, the birthplace of Tesla, the village of Smiljan in modern-day Croatia near Gospic, is a very humble affair, and a great opportunity for Croatia which is currently very underutilised. As I wrote in my 2019 Branding Croatia article:

From Tesla to Rimac - the home of clean energy and innovation

Nikola Tesla was a genius, whose inventions transformed the way we live. He was also an ethnic Serb who was born and grew up in the village of Smiljan, in which is today modern Croatia. Tesla only visited Serbia once, and yet Belgrade named its international airport after him. Meanwhile in Croatia... 

Smiljan is a lovely spot, with plenty of space. As Telsa's birthplace, it is also the symbolic home of the Tesla revolution. So let's give people a product to match that potential, an Old Trafford Theatre of Dreams for the e-mobility generation. I have been fortunate to have taken part in the Nikola Tesla EV Rally a few times. One of the undoubted highlights of the trip for these Tesla car converts is a visit to Smiljan, a chance to pay homage to Nikola Tesla and where it all began. 

Looking forward, as branding Croatia should be doing, something like 75% of tourists to Croatia arrive by car. By 2030, there will be 21 million new electric vehicles on Europe's roads. From a tourism and economic viewpoint, it would make sense for Croatia to be at the forefront of the e-revolution, but with a gift of the Tesla birthplace, a brand to build on and develop for sure. Especially when Croatia has a modern-day Tesla in the shape of Mate Rimac, whose electric supercars and technology is taking the world by storm. 

The energy this year to push the Croatian digital nomad story forward has been inspiring, as well as encouraging. If Croatian bureaucracy really can work that fast, and if the Croatian tourism chiefs really can react to private initiatives such as de Jong's visa proposal, then it can do the same in other sectors, for the ultimate benefit of tourists, tourism providers, and the Croatian economy. So with the digital nomad box almost ticked, can we now turn our attention to legislation for foreign retirees, empower the medical tourism industry to realise its vision, coordinate a unified and comprehensive introduction to Croatia's wine potential, or raise the level of Nikola Tesla promotion to the level the great man deserves? 

As with the nomad visa, none of these is overly taxing, and the benefits for Croatia will be considerable. 

 

 

 

 

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