Friday, 13 May 2022

Dubrovnik Connects as Global Remote Workers Bond at Work. Place. Culture

May 13, 2022 - Continuing our look at last week's Work. Place. Culture. conference - and diverse conference locations - in Dubrovnik, with an overview of the first day, as global remote workers bond and network in the Pearl of the Adriatic. 

It is a little over 18 months since Dubrovnik publicly dipped its toes into the world of digital nomads with the Dubrovnik for Digital Nomads conference. The event, the first of its kind in Croatia, was the start of a new direction towards a more sustainable tourism direction for the city which has been plagued by overtourism in recent years. This was followed by the award-winning Digital Nomads-in-Residence program - the first of its kind in the world - where the city, community and 10 resident nomads co-created a roadmap to help Dubrovnik develop a strategy to meet the needs of the future of work for remote workers interested in spending time in the city. 

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Both events attracted considerable international attention, and last week;'s Work. Place. Culture. conference demonstrated how much Dubrovnik is now part of this emerging story, as a number of top names in the world of remote work travelled to the city to attend the event, and Dubrovnik continues to pivot itself as a pioneering destination in the field. 

Work. Place. Culture. was a collaboration between the City of Dubrovnik, Dubrovnik Tourist Board, Saltwater Nomads, and Total Croatia News - as both earlier events had been - but with additional partnership this time with the Croatian National Tourist Board, Digital Nomad Association Croatia, and Dubrovnik Heritage. The unity of purpose of key stakeholders, especially the public and private partnership, has been a key element in Croatia's success.

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As we reported previously, the welcome party in the spectacular Sponza Palace (sponsored by the Croatian National Tourist Board) in the heart of the UNESCO Old Town provided the perfect welcome. Sponza Palace was just one of several spectacular settings for the conference, and an example of how the backdrop of Dubrovnik, its beauty and its heritage, can significantly enhance the conference experience with its varied and flexible locations. In the second of this four-part look at the 4 days of the Work. Place. Culture. conference, we look at Day 1, which was mainly located in Lazareti, but with some fabulous outdoor extra locations as well. 

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Having hosted both Dubrovnik for Digital Nomads and the Digital Nomads-in-Residence program, as well as the first co-working space in the city, Lazareti is the cultural home of the Dubrovnik digital nomad story. Its use as such is the latest in a long list of creative uses of the space which has quite a history and which recently underwent complete renovation.  Its original purpose had been a quarantine base for traders and travellers wanting to visit the city (Dubrovnik is credited as the birthplace of quarantine back in 1377). Today, in addition to conferences, its multiple waterfront spaces - both inside and out - are used for concerts, conferences, exhibitions and other events. The historic buildings just a few metres from the famous old town walls and Banje beach, are the ideal base for a conference with multiple components and locations to explore. 

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And so to the rich list of speakers from all over the world, experts in the field of remote work. To give an indication of the quality of the lineup assembled by Saltwater Nomads, Mandy Fransz of Make the Leap Digital was one of 3 of the top 10 LinkedIn voices on remote work speaking at the conference. Fransz was the first keynote speaker on Day 1, charting her story of how she built up her remote work business after quitting her job at LinkedIn, and then offering her services and LinkedIn expertise to help others leverage their LinkedIn profiles to improve their businesses.

Her top piece of advice for remote workers: LinkedIn is the world's most powerful online network with more than 810 million users who you can tap into at the comfort of your own fingertips. If you're not investing in building your personal brand as a remote professional on LinkedIn, you're missing out on massive business potential.

(Please note that recordings of the individual presentations will be added to this article as they become available.)

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One of the most eagerly-awaited keynote speeches at Work. Place. Culture. joining from Australia was Aaron McEwan, who as VP, Research & Advisory for Gartner’s HR Practice for Gartner a $4.1 billion company and member of the S&P 500, he provides strategic advice to some of the biggest companies on the planet about the future of work. Recently named as a Top 100 Global HR Influencer and one of 5 HR Leaders to Follow in 2022, Aaron is clearly a voice worth listening to on the subject of the future of work.

And for an overview of the radical shift in work and the need for a radically more flexible approach, McEwan's presentation was outstanding, as he showed how the way we relate to work has fundamentally changed. McEwan is advocating for radical flexibility as a major solution to the Great Resignation and one of the biggest movements of talent we have ever seen. He likened the pandemic to hybrid work revolution to a seismic change on the way we work on a level such as the invention of electricity to the industrial revolution, or the Internet to the digital revolution. The pandemic has changed the way we work and society, and people now want a different relationship to work. Competition for talent is at an unprecedented - and global - level, and across all sectors. In addition to this, there is also competition from lifestyles, priorities and alternative careers. Radical flexibility from employers - extending beyond merely from home - is needed, and research has shown that companies implementing radical flexibility strategies enjoy improved productivity. 

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Sarah Hawley of Growmotely was the next to take the microphone, the second of three of the top 10 LinkedIn voices on remote work presenting in person. Sarah launched the Growmotely platform during the pandemic, with the goal of connecting professionals with their dream jobs at companies they love.

Her presentation, Conscious Culture, and Thriving Teams of the Future, focused on how remote work was the key that unlocked the door to a more conscious way of leading and doing business. She defined this conscious leadership approach as:

"The most important thing we can do as leaders is our inner work, and then bring that growth and transformation into our companies... creating a safe space for our team to do the same."

In what was probably my favourite moment of the conference after she opened her talk to questions, Ukrainian digital nomad Orest Zub asked if there was something that Growmotely could do to help the tens of thousands of Ukrainian freelancers who had become refugees overnight.

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Without a second thought, Sarah agreed to develop a special section of Growmotely to help Ukrainians, a decision which was sealed with a photo of Orest and the Growmotely team. It was one of several examples of the outstanding collaboration between the various conference participants.  

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The initial keynote speakers then handed over to the first of several panels, which wrapped up the morning's events before lunch: Remote and Cultural Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging, with Marty Lewis (ABC Travel Network - named as a Leading Voice in Travel by Skift), Julian Green (Headroom), Dr. Irene Cop, and Sarah Hawley (Growmotely), moderated by Carolyn Zelikow, one of last year's Dubrovnik Digital Nomads-in-Residence. 

You can view the panel discussion above.

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Work. Place. Culture., in association with Sun Gardens Dubrovnik, offered a free 7-day luxury workation competition, as guests of the luxury Sun Gardens resort. Applications came from all over the globe, with video travel app, Navi Savi, winning the trip. Despite being in business for over a year, most of the team had never met, so this was a first meeting for many. CEO Sally Bunnell expressed her gratitude, as well as talking about her new startup, during her Win a Workation presentation.  

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The conference was a hybrid event, with attendees from all over the world, and one of the most thought-provoking sessions of the day brought some heavyweights together on the panel: Remote & Hybrid Policy and the Benefits Boom - Aaron McEwan (Gartner), Nadia Vatalidis (Remote), John Lee (Work from Anywhere), Matthew Parsons (Skift), Francisca Russo (Juno), moderated by Tanja Polegubic of Saltwater Nomads. 

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18 months ago, Dubrovnik and digital nomads were rarely mentioned in the same sentence, and yet here were a number of destinations at various stages of their nomad journey, swapping experiences and learning from each other in Dubrovnik.  Global Stories: Early Phase, Emerging Phase and Established Digital Nomad Destinations featured three destinations at very different stages in their journeys. Scotland is now exploring how best to move into the sector, with a theme of food and drink, while Venywhere (Venice) is making significant progress to diversify away from overtourism much like Dubrovnik. And many destinations look for guidance to Estonia, who gave a great presentation on how they are pushing the boundaries of the remote work story. 

You can watch the three destination presentations in the video above. 

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One of the initiatives launched at Dubrovnik for Digital Nomads in October 2020 was the Digital Nomad Association Croatia, the first of its kind in the world. DNA Croatia has played a pivotal role in coordinating stakeholders and initiatives over the last year, and it should be congratulated on the success of its efforts.

And it seems that those efforts are being closely followed elsewhere, with no less than four DNA associations now formed and presenting in the session Destinations - Digital Nomad Focused Associations & Initiatives - DNA Croatia, DNA USA, DNA Italy, and DNA Bulgaria. Check out the session in the panel above. 

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Having a pretty destination for a conference is not much use if you are stuck in a conference hall all day, and it was time to explore the infamous and majestic old walls of Dubrovnik, a chance to stretch one's legs, take in the city's breathtaking beauty and history, while listening to the next presentation in an idyllic setting - on the very walls themselves - by the self-proclaimed King of Nomads, himself: NetWALLking - Dean Kuchel on the Power of Yes. 

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And having explored the Dubrovnik Great Outdoors and the historic walls, the wrapup panel location before dinner was pretty hard to beat, with Banje Beach against a background of the island of Lokrum the setting for Happy Hour Panel: Business Growth, Burnout & Boundaries, with Sara Dyson (Expat in Croatia), Lona Alia (Safety Wing), Jan de Jong (DNA Croatia), Orest Zub, moderated by Rowena Hennigan. 

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An intense and thought-provoking opening day, and rarely have I seen conference participants so engaged or networking so passionately. Many participants knew each other by reputation or online contact, but this was the first in-person meeting for many. The level of brainstorming only increased as the evening wore on, with the majority heading into the old town to continue discussions over a glass of wine over dinner. 

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It is clear that the world of work is changing considerably, and that Croatia is very much at the forefront of that change. Exciting times in Dubrovnik. And this was just the first day. 

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For more information about the conference visit the official website

 

For more news and features about Digital Nomads in Croatia, follow the dedicated TCN section

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Thursday, 12 May 2022

Sponza Palace, Spectacular Setting to Open Dubrovnik's Work. Place. Culture.

May 12, 2022 - Last week's Work. Place. Culture. conference combined animated discussions on the remote work revolution with Dubrovnik's stylish and versatile conference settings. The first in a 4-part series looking at 4 incredible and very productive days - the opening night at Sponza Palace.  

There are few cities that do it better than Dubrovnik when it comes to putting on a how of heritage, beauty and hospitality, and so it proved again last week for the latest step the Pearl of the Adriatic is taking in its digital nomad story. 

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Having hosted the first-ever digital nomad conference in Croatia back in October 2020, Dubrovnik for Digital Nomads, followed by the award-winning Digital Nomads-in-Residence program in April last year, the City of Dubrovnik and Dubrovnik Tourist Board, continued its cooperation with Saltwater Nomads and Total Croatia News, with additional support from the Croatian National Tourist Board, Digital Nomad Association Croatia, and Dubrovnik Heritage, with the Work. Place. Culture. conference. 

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(Sponza Palace, which hosted the opening night, sponsored by the Croatian National Tourist Board)

The 3-day event, which attracted a high-quality lineup of global speakers, including three of the top 10 LinkedIn voices on remote work, was chiefly held at Lazareti, but with other components dotted around the city, showcasing the beauty and magic of Croatia's most famous tourist destination, and allowing stimulating conversations to take place in relaxed environments. 

Having attended each day and watched attendees marvel at each setting, I thought an in-depth look not only at the conference but how the city's various locations and treasures can add to a conference appeal, was a topic worth exploring in depth. 

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(From left to right: Lucijana Jerkovic, Tanja Polegubic, Ana Hrnic, and Jelka Tepsic)

And how better to start than with a stroll down Stradun to be greeted by traditional guards at the entrance to Sponza Palace? Built in the 16th century in a mixture of Gothic and Renaissance styles, the inner courtyard is one of the city's most picturesque meeting points. 

The Croatian National Tourist Board sponsored the welcome party, with Head of Global PR, Lucijana Jerkovic, joining Deputy Mayor Jelka Tepsic, Dubrovnik Tourist Board director, Ana Hrnic, Digital Nomad Association Croatia President, Jan de Jong, and Saltwater Nomads CEO, Tanja Polegubic, welcoming delegates to the conference to the soothing tunes of an accompanying saxophone. Check out the atmosphere in the opening night video by Hashtag Content Agency. 

Some photos from the opening night:

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(Sally Bunnell, CEO of NaviSavi, who flew in from Nebraska, flanked by the marketing team from Sun Gardens Dubrovnik. NaviSavi won the 7-day Win a Workation competition at the luxury 5-star resort)

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(Part of the sizable team from Albania, who came to learn and network, ahead of the inaugural Tirana Nomad Festival in September. The Estonian Tourist Board, considered European leaders in the digital nomad story, are behind to the right.)

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(Dean Kuchel, self-proclaimed King of Digital Nomads, and a previous Zagreb Digital Nomad Ambassador, together with current Dubrovnik Digital Nomad Ambassadors, Yvette Pelgrom and Mandy Fransz)

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(When NaviSavi met Saltwater Nomads)

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A look at the first day of the conference, as well as more of Dubrovnik's picturesque conference settings, tomorrow. 

To learn more about the Work. Place. Culture. conference, visit the official website

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

Tuesday, 3 May 2022

Work. Place. Culture. Press Conference Held in Dubrovnik, Starts Tomorrow

 May 2, 2022 - Dubrovnik continues to establish its credentials as a remote work leader in Croatia, as Mayor Mato Franković is among those at this morning's press conference for the upcoming Work. Place. Culture. conference, which starts tomorrow evening. 

The ''Work. Place. Culture.'' conference, which will bring together around 100 participants from around the world, with distinguished lecturers and workshop leaders, aimed at telecommuting professionals and decision makers, destinations, companies and service providers in the sector, was announced this morning at Lazareti. It will be held from 5 to 7 May 2022 in Dubrovnik, organized and cooperated by the City of Dubrovnik, the Dubrovnik Tourist Board, Saltwater Nomads and Total Croatia News, with the support of the Digital Nomad Croatia Association and Dubrovnik Heritage.

Today, the topic of digital nomads and the development of this type of tourism in Dubrovnik, ie the entire system of organization and offers for people working remotely, was addressed by Dubrovnik Mayor Mato Franković, Director of the Dubrovnik Tourist Board Ana Hrnić, Head of the Global PR Department of the Croatian National Tourist Board Lucijana Jerković, and Tanja Polegubić on behalf of the Saltwater Nomads agency, which presented the conference program and some of the speakers.

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Mayor Mato Franković reminded the audience that Dubrovnik started the story of digital nomads two years ago, as the first in Croatia, thanks to an initiative that recognized the opportunity to rethink Dubrovnik tourism in a new way and open it to those who want to live and work here temporarily. remote work, and at the same time contribute to tourism and the promotion of the city.

"Today, what once seemed like science fiction, is a reality that can be measured by the numbers and great interest in Dubrovnik, which is already on the world map among the top 10 cities that are desirable for executive digital nomads, according to Savills. We are still working to reach the first place in the ranking, which is primarily strengthening the infrastructure network, which we have already started with Hrvatski Telekom through the 93 million kuna project "Development of broadband infrastructure in Dubrovnik", which brings high speed Internet to every family home. We will continue to introduce the 5G network because this type of infrastructure is most important for their work. I am sure that all digital nomads who come to Dubrovnik on this occasion as part of the conference will talk about our city as a perfect place to live and work," said Mayor Franković.

The director of the Dubrovnik Tourist Board Ana Hrnić announced a new website Dubrovnik long stay, intended for digital nomads, but also for those who plan a longer stay in Dubrovnik. The purpose of this station is to have all the information in one place such as where to find accommodation, how to get a visa and work permit, and other important paperwork and other procedures.

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A Digital Nomad Check Point is planned at the Pile Gate office of the Dubrovnik Tourist Board, where digital nomads would be able to purchase a special Digital Nomad Card by registering, which includes a number of benefits and all the information that can make it easier for them to find and organize a longer stay in Dubrovnik. Since last year, the Tourist Board has also been actively working to encourage stakeholders in the tourism sector to engage in projects related to digital nomads - from private accommodation to restaurants and shops, and transport, creating a register of offers for this specific group of visitors.

Head of the Global PR Department of the Croatian Tourist Board Lucijana Jerković pointed out that the national promotion of the project began with a change in the law that introduced long-term work permits, emphasizing that the goal is to launch activities, continue promotion through social networks and associations through which to offer various information that is closest to digital nomads.

"As far as trends in the world are concerned, the pandemic is waning, but we believe that this trend of virtual work and longer stays will continue and that people will start living and working in Dubrovnik," Jerkovic said. 

The aim of this conference is to further strengthen the position of Dubrovnik as a Digital Nomad Friendly destination and a direct promotional effect for the city of Dubrovnik and the whole of Croatia to attract more and more people working remotely and looking for new destinations to live and work.

Want to attend the conference? More details on th official website.

Friday, 29 April 2022

My Year in Paradise: An Ode to the Croatian Digital Nomad Permit - Hvala!

April 30, 2022 - One of the first recipients of the Croatian digital nomad permit, Steve Tsentserensky, is back in the States and reflecting on an incredible 15 months in Paradise. A really heartwarming read for lovers of Croatia. 

Croatia: a year in the life/life in a year (and more)

Waiting in the cold outside a restaurant on Tomićeva in Zagreb, a server approaches, “sorry for the wait, here’s a couple shots of rakija to warm you up”.

In Bol, on Brac off the coast of Split, I off-handedly mention I love ljuti ajvar in the morning. The next morning, a knock on the door and a delivery of freshly baked bread and a jar of ajvar.

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In Zagreb, a quick stop at a wine shop on Vlaška while waiting for (excellent) Thai takeaway turns into a complimentary full-blown tasting.

There are more moments, endlessly occurring over 15 sensational months spent in Croatia. From candid, pleasant morning conversations in Rovinj about how tourism has changed over the decades to moving memories, distant yet viscerally present, recounted in Vukovar about what’s changed and what hasn’t to charity dinners in Zagreb that change the landscape for those in Africa.

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If a country’s riches lie in its people, Croatia is among the wealthiest nations I know.

People who are equal parts generous, welcoming and hospitable with a certain tenacity and stubbornness all the same. Salt of the earth with a brand of often bone dry humor that’s well appreciated and always well-timed.

The impossibility of paying for a coffee when meeting someone for the first time or when visiting a friend in their town was frustratingly endearing.

A country that’s famed for its tourism is nothing without its people. The finest coast is just where the sea meets the shore without the warmth of the people who share it with you and regale you with its stories.

Oh is the seaside breathlessly beautiful though.

And I managed to pack in a lot of coast.

From the truffle and wine-soaked decadence of Istria down to the dramatic and rugged (and also wine-soaked) Dalmatian coast with the towering Dinaric Alps (well, towering by Croatian standards anyway) as the backdrop.

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If Dubrovnik is the Pearl of the Adriatic, Rovinj is undoubtedly one of its brightest gems. Pula’s truly stunning Roman amphitheater – among the best preserved on earth – defied all expectations. In a world of “must-sees”, Pula Arena is truly one of them.

Opatija to Rijeka is a mere 13 km drive yet they felt like entirely separate worlds.

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Driving any stretch of the coast – though infinitely more time-consuming – was a treat with infinite islands melting into the horizon on one side and a steady stream of roadside cheese and honey stands on the other.

Discovering the coast’s “lesser” treasures was a joy too. If Zadar or Sibenik felt too packed, a short drive to Sukosan or Zaton gave you breathing room and almost a vacation from the vacationers.

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Split, somewhere I first visited by cruise ship in 2014 became home for 4 months, something I still pinch myself about. After a month or so and the return of cruise ships, I lamented their arrival as much as the next person but took solace in the fact that they were there largely during fjaka hours. The bad of over-tourism was outweighed by the joy of early morning strolls in an empty, magnificently preserved Diocletian’s Palace. A quiet dip on the backside of Marjan was always a welcome respite from the masses at Bacvice.

I discovered sand beaches were for amateurs and that Hvar is so much more than Hvar Town.

The shower of beer at a brimming Zvončac park as Croatia took Spain to extra time in the Euros to the euphoria and pandemonium of a packed house at Poljud Stadium to watch Vatreni qualify for the World Cup are permanently etched in my mind.

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And finally, Dubrovnik, what is there to write about it that hasn’t been written before? No matter what I muster, I’ll never manage the brevity of George Bernard Shaw who said, “those who seek paradise on Earth should come and see Dubrovnik”. Nailed it.

I occasionally came across folks up and down the Adriatic that clamored for the Caribbean and while on the one hand, I get it, the grass is always greener and all of that, on the other, there’s simply no competition. The Adriatic is superior in every way to the Caribbean.

Natural beauty clearly knows no bounds in this country; Telašćica, Kornati, Plitvice Lakes, Krka, Kopački Rit and Medvednica just to name a handful of the nature parks and national parks strewn about the land that I had the chance to see.

Gotta say I really loved the guy selling rakija and kuhano vino 3/4ths of the way up Sljeme.

The place that made me fall for Croatia though has nothing to do with those crystal clear, shimmering waters or natural wonders though. It was Zagreb. Formerly renowned as the place you have to fly to in order to get to the coast…Zagreb is now a destination in its own right with digital nomads, expats and tourists alike discovering the charms and beauty of the underappreciated capital.

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After 60-odd countries and hundreds of cities, Zagreb easily lands in my top 5 favorite places. The view from the lookout point atop Strossmayerovo šetalište remains the lock screen image on my phone, something I happily see a dozen or so times a day.

The lost in translation back and forths at the markets that dot the town, the scores of quality bars – the funky to the Swanky to the traditional – to lose yourself in conversation in, the seemingly perpetual events that bring a dozen people to the pub, thousands out to a nighttime race or hundreds of thousands out for Advent and the Festival of Lights. It’s a city for all seasons I found.

Will everyone agree? No. And that’s fine, that’s part of the charm in fact, but like a fine wine, Zagreb only gets better with time.

North, south, east and west, all corners of Croatia surprised me, none more so than what lies east of Zagreb. Not because it’s “better” but because it’s largely undiscovered.

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Perhaps forgotten is a more appropriate way to describe Slavonia though.

People flock to the sea like moths to the flame but getting anyone out to the unexplored east seems akin to pulling teeth.

And that’s a shame because it’s a wholly different country. Forgotten yet resilient. History that's ever-present while also stretching back 3,000 BCE to early Indo-European civilization and home to, without a doubt, the nicest people in the country. A high bar in a country chock full of wonderful people, hordes of whom show their support for far-flung Vukovar yearly, in a somber, yet somehow uplifting procession.

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There’s a quiet allure to the rolling hills and the patchwork of vineyards and farms out east. A certain beauty in the calm along the rivers that traverse Slavonia and Baranja. Awe at the unexpected cathedrals in Djakovo and Aljmas.

Complement that with rich, hearty cuisine to match the rich, hearty people in places like Baranjska kuća in Karanac or Etno kuća Stari Dud in Erdut and you’ve got a real experience.

No matter how many times I tried to order water at a lunch in Djakovo (three), I got wine.

Do I really need to mention the wine again? From Belje to Zmajevac to Ilok, the wines were nothing short of exceptional. The pairing with poderane gaće and cheese at Ilocki Podrumi being particularly special.

That said, it’s not all roses.

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There’s a distinct sadness that you felt passing through the decaying towns outside of still vibrant Osijek and Vinkovci. The difficult to shake pall that continues to shroud Vukovar despite its gorgeous location on the Danube and passionate citizens.

Zagreb remains under construction from an earthquake that happened over 2 years ago. The “iconic” building on the corner Đorđićeva and Petrinjska street only being torn down days before I left and exactly 1 year and 363 days after it was rendered unlivable.

Petrinja remains essentially in ruins.

The infamous bureaucracy can turn the most basic of tasks into a multi-day ordeal.

Continued emigration means the country has shrunk by nearly 10% in the last decade. While the brain drain is real, the brains that stayed – and the brains that have immigrated – are at the forefront of creating something special.

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Despite the difficulties, stubborn progress is progress no less and the entrepreneurs, creatives and forward-thinking people I had the pleasure of meeting over my time in Croatia, both homegrown and from abroad, were working miracles showing what’s possible in a country that doesn’t necessarily make it easy right now. From coffee roasters to gin distillers, drone equipment makers to email marketers, ideas are flourishing and success stories aren’t quite so rare. All of them, plus a unicorn in Vodnjan and a supercar maker in Sveta Nedelja, hopefully inspiring some in the next generation to stay and build at home.

In terms of the pandemic-induced turmoil of the last couple of years, I don’t think there was a better place on earth to be than Croatia. Reading news from the States and elsewhere, I felt like I was on another planet entirely over in Hrvatska. By comparison, life was…normal.

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15 months of it.

Nearly 40 cities and towns.

Countless people along the way.

If life is meant to be truly lived, I found that Croatia is among the very best places to live it.

Looking forward to coming back and having a proper coffee. And a spot of travarica.

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Join Steve on a tour of eastern Croatia in the video below.

How many places do you recognise?

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

Friday, 29 April 2022

Work. Place. Culture. Dubrovnik Conference Next Week: Full Programme

April 30, 2022 - A number of movers and shakers in the global remote work industry will be heading to Dubrovnik next week - meet the full programme.

It is almost exactly 18 months since the first-ever digital nomad conference in Croatia, Dubrovnik for Digital Nomads. The Pearl of the Adriatic followed this up with the award-winner Dubrovnik Nomads-in-Residence programme in April 2021. Dubrovnik's determination to establish itself as a digital nomad destination continues with the latest initiative bringing influential players and destinations in the remote work space to Dubrovnik for next week's Work. Place. Culture. conference, from May 5-7.  The conference is part of the continued collaboration between the City of Dubrovnik, Dubrovnik Tourist Board, Saltwater Nomads, Digital Nomad Association Croatia, and Total Croatia News. 

Some of the highlights:

  • There will be 50 presenters over 2 days, with over 20+ virtual, the rest in person.
  • Leading remote companies have been eager to join - including VP People at Remote.com, CEO Butter and our keynote speakers (Gartner, RoRemote, Growmotely, Make The Leap Digital) and presenters from the ABC Travel Network, The Remote Life Podcast, Expat in Croatia, DNA Croatia and more.
  • 3 leaders in digital nomad hubs: Bansko, Estonia and Sun & Co Coliving Spain.
  • Initiatives from destinations looking to position themselves to the DN market - such as Scotland, Mostar, BiH, Venice, Central Istria, Croatia and Tirana, Albania.
  • The speakers includes on of last year's Dubrovnik Nomads-in-Residence (and baby DNIR) joining remotely from Hvar to moderate a panel. 

The full programme is now available and can be viewed below or on the official Work. Place. Culture. website. Some tickets are still available, and they can be obtained through the website. It promises to be a stimulating few days, and it is encouraging to see such global interest from individuals and destinations which are helping to define the future of work.

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Looking to attend the Work. Place. Culture. conference? More details here.

To learn more about the destination, check out the Total Croatia Dubrovnik in a Page guide, and also visit the official Sun Gardens Dubrovnik website.  

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

Thursday, 28 April 2022

Work & Play in Paradise: NaviSavi Wins Sun Gardens Dubrovnik Workation

April 28, 2022 - Imagine you worked in a global startup and had never met your colleagues but had worked together for over a year. And then you won a 7-day luxury workation in the Pearl of the Adriartic at Sun Gardens Dubrovnik. Congratulations NaviSavi! 

They are flying in from Nebraska, Costa Rica, Stockholm and Mumbai. Most have never met, even though they have been working intensely together for well over a year. And now, a 7-day luxury stay at the award-winning Sun Gardens Dubrovnik resort awaits. 

As part of next week's Work. Place. Culture. conference in Dubrovnik, Sun Gardens Dubrovnik generously agreed to host a 7-day workation package for the successful applicants of the conference 'Win a Workation' package. Travel app startup NaviSavi won the prize (you can see their video entry above).

CEO Sally Bunnell was more than happy to talk to TCN about what it means to finally meet some of her senior team in the flesh, as well as a fifth visit to Dubrovnik: 

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1. Congratulations on winning the Sun Gardens Dubrovnik Workation competition. A week by the pool on the Adriatic coast. How did you hear about the competition, and why did you decide to apply?

I don’t know if the universe was listening, but I had just said to myself recently, "I need just one week (literally) to sit still at a pool or a beach, unwind, and preferably somewhere warm!"

I am part of a digital nomad group called the Wi-Fi Tribe and we have a very strong community in person and online. Someone from the Tribe posted about this opportunity in our Slack Channel and I thought, I would love to win that! I had it on my agenda to apply, but I’ve been so busy, I had completely forgotten. When I went back to check it out more, I noticed it was just an hour before the submission deadline! Since we were all spread out in time zones (and it was Friday evening!) I quickly applied on behalf of my entire team. So, I think this was the universe responding, when we found out we had been chosen! 

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2. According to your application video, you have never met most of your colleagues, and your team is spread across the USA, Costa Rica, India, England and Stockholm. For those of us from older generations, take us through the process of starting a company remotely and working for over a year with colleagues you have never met?

Well, I never intended to start a remote company!  I have always worked ‘semi-remote’ and traveled for my professions in the music and entertainment industry, but it was all kind of by luck. I was supposed to release NaviSavi, April 1, 2020, and guess what hit just a few weeks previous…. The Pandemic! 

I wasn’t happy with the current development team and since we decided to not release the app during COVID, I thought it was time to look elsewhere for help. I called up an old music industry friend, David Pears, from the UK, who had recently transitioned into Tech, and asked him for some ‘advice.’ Before I knew it, he and his two developer friends from coding school in Edinburg, were building me a brand-new app from scratch. 

We were all a bit new to this app building process, but during lockdowns we had the time and technology, in which we could all connect, and build a strong founding team. I then began hiring interns via Zoom interviews for the 2020 Summer and had eight great candidates that helped me prepare research, social media and well, try out my own leadership skills. You’d be surprised, 20-year old’s can be quick intimidating when they all sit there with their mics off! 

From there, I expanded the next Fall/Springs Semester 2020/2021 intern teams and at one point we had nearly 40 people working on NaviSavi! I had only met ONE of them in person. I had ‘interns’ who were VPs at Capital One Bank, getting master’s in business, finance, marketing, all working on NaviSavi, as everyone was stuck at home! Some of those have even stayed on and complete our C-Level team!

We even met most of our content creators and influencers at virtual conferences, where we got them signed on to help us populate the app with video content. None of them were able to travel and yet were sitting on thousands of great videos from their past travels and their own cities. 

The pandemic was the best thing that happened to NaviSavi. I’m sure not many travel companies can say that. 

A year later, I finally got the chance for meet about 10 of the interns and a handful of creators in person, and yet, still many I’ve only seen from a screen. Everyone who works with us is forever a part of our NaviSavi family. NaviSavi was built by a community of people who gave their time, energy, and hearts because they too believed in the idea.

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3. How do you encourage things such as teambuilding in such a remote environment?

I always lead with my ‘4H’s’ - Honestly, Humble, Hustle, Have Fun. 

You lead a team by being the example you want them to follow. 

Honesty - I always give it to them real. We are a startup, there is NO BUDGET for that. :) 

Humble - You are never too big or too small in this company. I may be the CEO, but I still will 'sweep the floors' so we can get a job done. Also, if you are in the wrong, acknowledge it and apologize. I do it all the time. 

Hustle - I always encourage my team to charge and take a chance, versus hesitate. It hard to find ‘drive’ and ‘dedication’ but when you do, you never want to stifle that ambition.

Have FUN - Don’t take ourselves too seriously. We are only a video travel app! It’s ok if something goes wrong. Also, it means, Happy Hours! Even on zoom call we play ’NaviSavi Bingo’ or “Caption This” parties in which we all come up with fun social media post captions. I keep doing random, crazy stuff that keeps the team wondering 'what is Rally Sally going to do next!' 

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4. You have visited 96 countries so far. Do they include Croatia? What is your experience of Croatia and Dubrovnik so far?

I’ve been to Croatia six times! Four of those times I spent several nights each in Dubrovnik! It is one of my favorite cities in the world. Amazing history, a mix of cultures, and the FOOD! I’ve been sailing up and down the coasts, parties in Hvar, and even the beautiful Plitvice Lakes national Park!

It was an absolute dream to be welcomed back with this opportunity and to be able to now share this amazing country with my own team! 

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5. Is this your first workcation? How do you envision the week from a work and play perspective? And how to get that balance right?

Technically, as a full-time digital nomad, I’m always on ‘workcation’ - but most people usually only really see it as one big vacation! 

I have spoken many times to my team about getting a ‘weeklong house’ where we can all work together somewhere amazing. This now just happens now to be the first honorary “NaviSavi Retreat Week” in Dubrovnik! What a way to start!  

I am a big work hard, play hard type of person, but I realize that can’t always apply to my team. The first time I meet a new group of my team members in person, I think it’s best over a casual drink. Break the ice a bit and people loosen up quick around each other. But, the next day, when I say we start at 10AM, I am all business and I expect the team to do the same. It’s a level of respect for everyone there. Have fun but show up ready to work. I know my team will great time this week; having some time to themselves, exploring, relaxing, but we walk away from the day of work, once we all feel accomplished. 

As for myself, I get a bit out of balance myself and just end up getting sick in a hotel for a few days, as there is no time to stop when I am jumping from work and events around the world. But as the CEO, I’m learning, taking care of myself is also taking care of my team in the long run. 

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(The winning team will stay in 2 x 2 bedroom residences. Each bedroom has a kingsize bed and ensuite with shared living area.)

6. Tell us a little about your NaviSavi video app, and how it can be used to promote Croatian tourism. Do you have a Dubrovnik addition in your plans?

NaviSavi is simple — point, shoot, and upload, phone videos of experiences and places you love. The app is free and there are no photos, no reviews, and no bullsh*t. Just unedited and unfiltered videos, that show the exact experience in 30 seconds or less. 

We verify each clip for authenticity, so users feel like they are there in the destination with the person holding the camera. We also categorize each clip by location, price and interest so our users don’t have to do any additional research. Since there is no negativity of places, you only see the hidden gems and must do’s things people recommend. Now everyone can build and book travel itineraries with videos.

Our nomads, travel influencers, and even locals are uploading videos and building ‘playlists’ of their favorite places, so others can plan trips from their positive recommendations.

We currently have 25,000 approved videos on our app covering 144 countries, including Croatia. We even brought in one of our favorites, high profile creators, with our team to upload videos of all the must-see places, and the best hidden gems. (We need your suggestions!) In fact, the entire local community can upload and create playlists of their favorite spots, so we can help bring tourists to the small businesses in the area. 

This month we plan to officially launch Dubrovnik as our newest Featured City in our ‘Where 2 Next’ campaign for this summer, to help promote tourism and nomads to the city. 

 7. Tell us about the culture of the workation as a concept. Do you see it becoming mainstream?

There is a new generation of travelers coming, and they are coming with their laptops. The digital age of travel is here, and that means hotels, cities, and businesses need to rethink all the traditional ways of how travel and work used to be. The last two years has seen an absolute boom in digital nomads and remote workers, in additional to how the younger generation craves real experiences, slower travel, and is consuming short form video at an unprecedented rate. I think after this generation has gotten a taste of the work-cation; businesses are going to have a tough time ever getting people back into a traditional job setting. 

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8. And finally, how do you plan your first evening at Sun Gardens Dubrovnik, finally meeting your team for the first time after all this time?

Well, it will start with big hugs. Even though we’ve never met some of the team in person, we have been together as a ‘work family’ through the ‘screen’ now almost two years! Then, if I know my crew well, you will see us all celebrating being together with some drinks, food, and I’m sure someone will end up in the pool! Oh, and don’t forget we will be shooting videos of the amazing hotel all night on our phones for NaviSavi! :) 

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Check out the magical Old Town and Sun Gardens Dubrovnik video teaser above - why would you take a workation anywhere else?

Looking to attend the Work. Place. Culture. conference? More details here.

To learn more about the destination, check out the Total Croatia Dubrovnik in a Page guide, and also visit the official Sun Gardens Dubrovnik website.  

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

Monday, 25 April 2022

Ana Hrnic, Dubrovnik Tourist Board Director, on Nomads, Work. Place. Culture. Conference

April 25, 2022 - Dubrovnik's enthusiastic embracing of the digital nomad revolution continues. Ahead of net month's Work. Place. Culture. conference, an in-depth look at progress with Ana Hrnic, Dubrovnik Tourist Board director. 

Back in October, 2020, Dubrovnik hosted the first-ever digital nomad conference in Croatia, Dubrovnik for Digital Nomads. This was followed in April 2021 with the award-winning Dubrovnik Nomads-in-Residence program, the first of its kind in the world where digital nomads and a destination co-created a strategy for the destination's nomad offer. 

Croatia's most famous tourist destination is continuing its push towards more sustainable tourism and building on its early digital nomad success with a range of new initiatives. Next up, the Work. Place. Culture. conference next month, a collaboration between the City of Dubrovnik, Dubrovnik Tourist Board, Saltwater Nomads, and Total Croatia News. Ahead of this latest conference, TCN catches up wth Dubrovnik Tourist Board director, Ana Hrnic.  

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1. Dubrovnik is Croatia's most famous tourist destination, attracting millions of visitors every year, but it is also emerging as a regional leader in the digital nomad/remote work revolution, which has surprised some. Tell us a little more about the background of that initiative. 

One of our strategic goals is certainly to extend the season. In this context, we have recognized the potential of positioning the city of Dubrovnik as a digital nomad-friendly destination, that digital nomads will choose for their stay, especially in periods outside the main tourist season. We can also say that the Covid crisis prompted us to turn to this fast-growing segment, which we recognized as a great potential.

2. You held the first digital nomad conference in Croatia back in October 2020, followed by the world's first Digital Nomads-in-Residence program a year ago. What were the key takeaways for you, and how did it help you define your future planning?

Dubrovnik Tourist Board and the City of Dubrovnik have been successfully implementing a project aimed at diversifying the tourist offer and intended for digital nomads for two years now. Faced with pandemic challenges and the stagnation of tourism, we decided to focus on the fast-growing digital nomad market. The first event was held in October 2020, entitled "Dubrovnik for Digital Nomads" as part of the European Freelancers Week 2020 and was aimed at presenting Dubrovnik as a year-round destination for digital nomads, which helped the future positioning of our city in this modern world way of doing business. The positive echoes of the conference were the motive for an extremely successful project - a program called "The Dubrovnik digital nomad-in-residence". Through a series of activities, workshops and excursions, the participants explored the city and its surroundings in detail, got familiar with the way of life of the local population, cultural events and other offers. With their experience, they helped create a better atmosphere for future nomads who will choose Dubrovnik as their place of work, but also contribute to the global promotion of the destination.

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3. Rather than just tick a box - event completed - Dubrovnik has implemented, and is implementing an impressive set of initiatives based on recommendations. Give us an overview of those.

So far, we have launched a series of activities, inspired by all previous knowledge and experiences from the previous two years. Let's mention just a few - we have organized a coworking space in Lazareti, we are finalizing a special website dedicated to digital nomads and all those who plan or have been staying for a long time in the area of the city of Dubrovnik. We are also launching special profiles on social media, where we will be available for all questions. We have created a special visual identity, as well as other materials and content. Our info office in Pile will be a special DN Checkpoint where all digital nomads will be able to get all the useful information they need. We are also working on a special DN card, which will include various benefits and offers. I also consider it important to emphasize that we have introduced the local community with the needs and expectations of digital nomads, because we can say that before these activities for most people this was a completely new and unexplored topic. There is still a lot of work ahead of us, but I think we are going in the right direction.

4. And so to 2022, and the Work. Place. Culture. conference from May 5-7. What is it, and why should people attend?

From 4 to 7 May, the second conference entitled "Work.Place.Culture" is organized by the Tourist Board of Dubrovnik and the City of Dubrovnik, created by Saltwater Nomads. The conference aims to strengthen the position of Dubrovnik as a globally recognized work environment. It is a conference that will bring together about 100 participants from around the world, with distinguished lecturers and workshop leaders, aimed at professionals working remotely and decision-makers.

5. You have obviously worked hard to position Dubrovnik in the remote work scene. Are you happy with progress so far, and what are the short to medium-term goals?

We are very pleased with what has been done so far, but as I have already mentioned, there is still a lot of work ahead of us. In the short term, the goal is to complete a new website, successfully complete the conference, launch the Dubrovnik DN card ... We will continue to work on animating the stakeholders of the tourism sector to get involved in projects related to digital nomads - from private accommodation to restaurants and shops, and transportation...In the long run, I believe that we will position ourselves as one of the globally most desirable digital nomad destinations.

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6. And finally, there is much more to your beautiful city than remote work conferences. What can people expect from Dubrovnik this year?

Every season in Dubrovnik brings something special. Dubrovnik is a magical city, which after two years of pandemics is finally returning to normal. Optimism is felt at every step, and all our visitors will surely have an unforgettable and unique experience when visiting Dubrovnik. Welcome!

Tickets are still available for Work. Place. Culture. - more information about the conference on the official website

Learn more about the Pearl of the Adriatic in the Total Croatia Dubrovnik in a Page guide.

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

Sunday, 24 April 2022

From Dubrovnik to Primosten to Zagreb: All Nomad Roads Lead to Bansko

April 24, 2022 - A new type of tourism is emerging which is connecting the countries of South-East Europe, with all roads leading to Bansko in Bulgaria. 

One of the main differences I have noticed over 20 years living in Croatia is the perception of the term 'the Balkans' by locals and tourists. Many Croats will get very irate at the mere mention of their country being part of the Balkans, an association which is considered primitive and laced with conflict, as opposed to the supposedly more civilised lifestyle of Central and Western Europe. For many tourists, however, the Balkans is a place of undiscovered fascination, with many not quite sure exactly where each country is in the Balkans. The concept that it is a mysterious melting pot of intrigue, culture, history and ethnicity makes it one of the most exciting tourism destinations in this increasingly sanitised tourism world. 

And with exceptional prices, great lifestyle and a ton of authentic experiences, it is quietly becoming a magnet for the remote work revolution. Rather than just focusing on an individual country, as happens elsewhere, South-East Europe is home to some of the most progressive countries in Europe for digital nomads, and their combined offer is attracting increased attention from the global digital nomad community.

Croatia might have attracted many of the global headlines when it introduced only the second digital nomad visa/permit in Europe back in January 2021, but plenty of other countries in the region are also making significant strides. Belgrade in Serbia is emerging as one of the top nomad hubs in Eastern Europe, Montenegro has announced its own digital nomad visa, and Bulgaria is home to arguably the most important and well-established nomad festival of all - Bansko Nomad Fest. Add to this the considerable networking and collaboration which is going on behind the scenes (as witnesses in conferences such as last September's Budva Cross Border Coworking Conference in Montenegro), and it is clear that this is a region which is only going to become more attractive to digital nomads in the future. 

July and August are considered the peak tourist season in the region, but it is clear that this new type of tourism is starting to shift the thinking in terms of season as well. Nomads are typically price-sensitive and so usually looking for temporary homes away from peak season prices, and the Balkan region is emerging as an excellent choice for lifestyle and affordability in the shoulder season months. With winter over and the swimming season in full swing, countries like Croatia from late April to the end of June are increasingly attractive to the digital nomad mindset - especially as the nomad communities and offer continue to grow in those countries. And with distances between the countries relatively small, there is an opportunity to take in a multitude of experiences in a relatively short space of time. 

In terms of content, Croatia continues to lead the way in the region, and nomads considering a new region to check out over the next few months would be well-advised to check out Croatia and the Balkan region, which will be attracting a number of digital nomads with various excellent conferences over the next couple of months. Most are repeats of 2021, and Spring and early Summer are slowly turning into an attractive nomad destination option. 

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Following the award-winning Dubrovnik Digital Nomads-in-Residence program a year ago, the Pearl of the Adriatic will be hosting Work. Place. Culture. from May 5-7, bringing remote professionals and destinations from around the world will together to inspire a global workforce who have greater location flexibility than ever before, and the destinations which are reinventing to support them through policy, infrastructure and community. You can learn more about Work. Place. Culture. on the official website.

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Croatia's reputation as an emerging nomad destination received a boost in March, when the world's first nomad business and travel club chose the idyllic coastal town of Primosten as the local for only its third-ever conference and meetup. The Nomadbase conference will take place just two days after the Dubrovnik event, from May 9-15. More information on the official Nomadbase website

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While a lot of nomad interest in Croatia is understandably focused on its spectacular Adriatic coast, the Croatian nomad destination which has been making all the waves has been much further inland. A year ago, the capital city of Zagreb rarely featured in any nomad discussion. By October, however, all that had changed, and Zagreb was named the 5th most-liked nomad city in the world (and first in Europe) in the extensive and influential 2021 NomadList survey.

The most high-profile nomad event in Zagreb last year was the inaugural Zagreb Digital Nomad Week and Ambassador program, which took place in June, one of the few global nomad events to take place that summer. You can check out the atmosphere in the video below. Zagreb Digital Nomad Week 2022 has been announced for June 13-19 this year (information as it is posted on the official website), just before the INMusic Festival in the Croatian capital, and just a few days before one of the top nomad events in the European calendar...  

... Bankso Nomad Fest. 

Billed as a celebration of the location independent lifestyle and nomad mindset, for one week hundreds of nomads, remote workers and freelancers will take over a beautiful village in Bulgaria for an amazing mix of presentations, workshops, sports, mindfulness and nature. The famous Bulgarian ski resort is becoming extremely well-known as one of the top coworking spaces in Europe for its affordable pricing and dynamic year-round community.  

This year's Bansko Nomad Fest will take place from June 26 to July 3 (book your ticket here), the perfect end to a nomadic few months in South-East Europe, experiencing Croatia in Spring with its growing community and numerous conferences. The collaboration of the regional community is intensifying, and one thing is for sure - there will be even more reasons to pencil in Croatia, Bansko and other regional attractions for a digital nomad visit from April to June 2023. 

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

Thursday, 21 April 2022

Medical Tourism, the Hidden Gem in Croatia's Remote Work Revolution

One of the joys of living and writing about Croatia over the last 20 years has been the constant stream of new discoveries. When I first bought my house back in 2002 on Hvar, there was very little in the English-speaking media about Croatia apart from the aftermath of war and the fabled coast of former Yugoslavia.

I myself knew little about my new home island (having only heard its name 2 days before I arrived and agreed my purchase), but it was not long before I got to learn just what a treasure I had stumbled upon. Named by Conde Nast in 1997 as one of the top 10 most beautiful islands in the world, few had bothered to delve any deeper into the island beyond the beach and the nightlife, and when I started my first blog, Total Hvar, back in 2011, I began to discover a real bunch of treasures. For here was an island which boasted the oldest public theatre in Europe, had more UNESCO heritage than any island in the world, several outstanding grape varieties found only in the island's excellent wines, and even (it seems) the oldest olive tree in the country dating back some 2,500 years. The more I researched, the more I learned, and the more even locals followed the blog so that they could learn more about the island of their birth from this curious foreigner. 

But it wasn't just Hvar. As I became more established as a writer based in Croatia and curious about the Croatia away from the beach, the more interesting the inbox became. Did I know about... would I like to attend... come and see this unique festival... Over the years, the invitations have been constant, inspiring, and often unique - it has been genuinely a privilege to learn - and write about - such interesting topics as rarely get reported on outside the Croatian language. 

And one thing I have learned over the years here was that Croatia would always be the most surprising when I least expected it. And so it proved a few years ago, when a chap called Ognjen Bagatin asked me to come to his polyclinic. He was a long-term fan of my blog and had something to show me that he thought I would find interesting. 

Croatia's medical tourism industry. 

An industry I had not even heard about in my 15 years living in the country, but within an hour of Ognjen's time and a subsequent tour of three Zagreb facilities, I realised that here was an incredible gem that was already competing on the world stage in terms of excellence and affordability, and was - once again - a Croatian tourism story untold. After a tour of Bagatin Clinic, St Catherine's Specialty Hospital, and Svjetlost Eye Clinic, I was hooked and wrote the first of many articles on medical tourism in Croatia and its potential - Health Tourism is Coming Home: Why Zagreb is the Next Big Medical Tourism Destination.

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(Ognjen Bagatin with his Berlin award)

And it seems that my introductory medical tourism facilities were rather impressive on the world stage. A couple of years later, I was in Berlin at the International Medical Travel Journal awards, as Bagatin won best international cosmetic surgery in the world. St Catherine's (among MANY other things) was the first facility in Europe to partner with Mayo Clinic on its innovative OneOme pharmacogenetic test, and a host of global celebrities were heading to Zagreb to fix their eyes at Svjetlost, including Ivana Trump.

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(Ivana Trump with much better vision after a visit to Svjetlost - Photo credit: Svjetlost.hr)

And yet, as impressive as the Zagreb medical tourism offer appeared to be, the really exciting centre of Croatia's medical tourism industry appeared to be on the coast close to Rijeka, in the region of Kvarner. Hvar (another amazing thing I learned about my adopted island) was the home of organised health tourism in Europe, dating back to 1868, but Opatija and the Crikvenica riviera were not far behind, and they had built on their impressive history by offering a quite phenomenal range of leading medical tourism services. One clinic in Rijeka was treating a staggering 60,000 (mostly Italian) dental patients a year. The key factors being high quality and low price. 

Just how much of a saving, and just how much of an impact that successful medical tourism can have, is encapsulated in Carl's Story, one of the best Croatian tourism promotion stories I have ever come across - and a story which transformed Carl's mouth, self-confidence and future, while saving him tens of thousands of dollars. You can read the story here

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For me, the epicentre of Croatian medical tourism excellence pivoted around the annual Crikvenica International Health Tourism conference, which brought together the best of the country's health tourism experts, as well as some truly world-class speakers and examples of best practice, including Sherine Azli, CEO of the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council, whose interview with TCN had me on a flight to Kuala Lumpur the following year to collect a media award for medical tourism

Having attended the 2018 and 2019 conferences in Crikvenica, the 2021 conference opened my eyes to a new synergy for Croatian tourism, and one which had not been discussed before - digital nomads and remote workers. One of the key target markets for the industry was the 1.2 million Croatian diaspora in the United States, and with the Cleveland Clinic CEO himself a Croat, word of Croatian medical excellence was an easy story to tell. It was a good strategy, and the work done by ACAP (Association of Croatian American Professionals) was commendable. 

But by 2021 - at least in my opinion - the market had changed considerably, and one of Croatia's most untapped tourism potentials revealed itself. Listening to the ACAP presentation on efforts to promote to the 1.2 million diaspora made a lot of sense, but the world had changed since the 2019 conference. And rather than working hard to persuade a niche market to board a plane from halfway across the world, a new, much bigger market presented itself, with the additional benefit that they were already here. 

Digital nomads. 

Croatia is becoming one of the hottest nomad destinations in Europe, as more and more people are choosing to spend time working remotely from Croatia. They are attracted by the lifestyle, climate, nature, gastronomy, safety, spoken English, great WiFi, affordability and accessibility. All great reasons to come and spend a month or twelve. 

But very few foreigners know of the excellence and affordability of Croatia's medical tourism offer. From dental services and cosmetic surgery, to eye surgery and physiotherapy, the best of the best in Croatia compares with the very best in the world in numerous cases, but at a fraction of the price. 

And with the increased flexibility and mobility of the workforce, it has never been easier to plan for affordable medical procedures - and the recuperation time in idyllic nature, climate and lifestyle as might be necessary. 

Croatia, your safe, affordable, lifestyle destination where your medical needs can be addressed for a fraction of the price back home. It is perhaps not classic tourism, but it is tourism which is sustainable, lucrative, and for the future. The stars are aligning on this latest tourism gift. It remains to be seen if Croatia will take advantage. 

To learn more about medical tourism in Croatia, check out the dedicated Total Croatia guide.   

Wednesday, 20 April 2022

The Story Continues: Zagreb Digital Nomad Week 2022 Announced

MAY 20 UPDATE - Zagreb Digital Nomad Week has been postponed until Autumn 2022 - More details and finalised dates coming shortly. 

April 20, 2022 - As Croatia continues to develop its digital nomad story, the return of Zagreb Digital Nomad Week is announced. 

It has been quite a journey. 

Two years ago, few people in Croatia had heard about digital nomads, and perhaps even less nomads considered Croatia as a nomad destination. 

Croatia's early adoption of a digital nomad visa/permit and the associated global media interest at the height of the pandemic changed all that, and suddenly Croatia became one of the most talked-about nomad destinations in Europe. 

One year ago, few people would have used Zagreb and digital nomads in the same sentence, as most of the destination interest was on the coast. 

And yet, six months ago, in October 2021, Zagreb was named as the 5th most-liked city in the world in the influential and comprehensive NomadList 2021 survey of its members. Not only fifth in the world, but also the first in Europe!

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(Zagreb Digital Nomad Week won two awards at Conventa 2021 in Ljubljana)

A key component of last year's Zagreb nomad calendar was the award-winning Zagreb Digital Nomad Week and Ambassador program, which put the Croatian capital firmly on the global nomad map. At a time when travel was restricted due to the pandemic, Zagreb Digital Nomad Week was one of the first live conferences to be held, with many speakers and participants visibly joyful at the opportunity to meet in person. Seven themes over seven days in seven locations all over the city, the true potential of Zagreb as a nomad destination was revealed. And the visitors were impressed. As keynote speaker Dean Kuchel from Israel noted in his video interview below, the only thing missing in Zagreb for digital nomads was more digital nomads. 

And those nomads are coming... 

And with a good crowd expected in June for the return of Zagreb Digital Nomad Week! The 2022 edition will take place from June 13-19, continuing the partnership between Zagreb Tourist Board, Saltwater Nomads, the Digital Nomad Association Croatia, and Total Croatia News, building on the considerable success of 2021. To get a flavour of last year's event, check out the conference overview video below, as well as the Jolly Wrap Up event in December.

Zagreb Digital Nomad Week 2022, which conveniently takes place just before the legendary INMusic Festival (this year featuring The Killers) promises to be even better than last year. WIth both Zagreb as a nomad destination, and the conference itself firmly established, coupled with the ease of travel compared to a year ago, this year's event is already attracting some exciting global names as keynote speakers, with many more live attendees expected to contribute to the vibe.  

And with a lively social plan incorporating Zagreb's growing nomad community to complement a stimulating week of presentations and panels all over the city, why are you not bookmarking Zagreb for your travels in June?

More details on Zagreb Digital Nomad Week 2022 will be released this week. To follow the latest and register your interest, check out the official event website which will be fully updated shortly as well as other news and features on digital nomads in Croatia, follow the dedicated TCN section

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