Monday, 6 September 2021

Reflections of a Month as a Zagreb Digital Nomad Ambassador

September 6, 2021 - Rudi Witkowsky, the Zagreb Digital Nomad Ambassador for August, is back in his native Cape Town after a month in Zagreb. Some reflections of digital nomad life in the Croatian capital.

Where do I begin?... I was sitting in self isolation in Split and wanted to get up to speed with Croatian news as we had planned a minimum stay of 3 months.

I cam across the application for digital nomad ambassador. At the time I really did not see myself as a digital nomad, but then I realized I have been working remotely and via my laptop for the past 2 years from hotels to endless amounts of coffee shops. At that point I realized I am a digital nomad. I am working remotely online as business and finance consultant and fitness instructor from Croatia. Surely, I am a digital nomad right?

I loved Croatia as it was my 3rd time. I thought this will be an amazing experience and merely thought of networking with people in Croatia.

I decided to apply and not thinking much of it. I was still sitting in my sleeveless t-shirt and did a quick 1 minute video about myself. I was in my gym attire.

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I had totally forgot about it and did not think anything further. We ventured off to Dubrovnik where I received the news that I was selected as the new Zagreb digital nomad ambassador. I could not believe it. I was in shock and woke up my girlfriend whom was sleeping. She was recovering from a water skiing accident where she was in a neck brace.

She thought I was lying. I was so excited and she was more excited. I thought that immediately meant we are leaving the coast. We are leaving the Adriatic ocean during prime summer? I then became concerned with moving to the city. Long story short we decided let's do this. We extended our Dubrovnik stay and booked a flight to Zagreb to start a new adventure entirely with not really knowing what to expect.

Zagreb was on the cards, but merely to purchase property as we were interested in purchasing in Zagreb as we love Croatia so much. We knew that the city would be a good buy, but it felt like work if we went there and kept on delaying our visit to Zagreb. I had passed through Zagreb before for 4 hours before a flight. I really did not know much about Zagreb, after all everyone comes to Croatia for the clear blue ocean and fresh seafood along the Adriatic.

First experience with arriving in Zagreb on Sunday the 1st August, I was shocked. The city was dead with everyone closed and minimal people. Could not find an open restaurant. I was concerned that we made a mistake.

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However, the accommodation was really great. We had a lovely welcome from Adel , the manager of the Doma Zagreb Serviced apartments https://www.domazagreb.com/ The apartment was central , right in the city center with a tram that stopped outside the place. It was fully fitted with a full kitchenette, working desk, bright and sunny apartments with a modern touch. Not to mention that the wifi was absolutely incredible. I struggled with Wifi in some Coastal locations. Many a days I worked from home as it was too comfortable to leave. The apartment had everything that I needed. I could finally relax and settle in nicely in Croatia as we were centrally based. It is easy not to venture off more than a 5km radius from your apartment as everything is in close proximity.

However, I had already missed the sea breeze, however the weather was amazing in Zagreb. A lot more mild without the strong sunshine on the coast.

We met the team on Sunday and received the most amazing welcome ever from top quality wine to quality meats and cheeses. We had so much fun. I then thought that this city might just be amazing. The food and wine was really great.

After the first days of settling in and getting to explore the city had picked up and become a lot more lively. With the trams running through the city and all the cyclists it felt like a real authentic city. It started growing on me bearing in mind that I am not a city person. I am all things water.

I was in awe the trams running through the city. I loved it. Walking through the Ban Jelacic Square felt like a real authentic Croatian experience. The city was alive.

The food was incredible at every restaurant we went to. Not to mention we ate out every single day (sometimes 2 or 3 times a day). The food was just too good and a lot more affordable than the Coastal region.

There were amazing bars and restaurants on every corner with excellent WIFI. Victoria and I are major foodies and Zagreb did not disappoint. We were in love with the food scene. The fitness centers were of top quality and I signed up immediately. I was the happiest person alive as I could work, keep fit and healthy, travel and live my best life ever in Zagreb.

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I was extremely shocked to find that English was as widely spoken in Zagreb. I was concerned as it was the capital city with more Croatians. I think more people spoke English in Zagreb than the coast.

Zagreb started growing on us very fast and it was extremely safe. I never felt weary or unsafe at any point of the day. Victoria felt super safe and she would walk around on her late at night. Many a time we would casually wonder through the streets for hours and just admire all the beauty and people watch. You might be in the heart of a city, but it is has a calming effect on you.

I loved the lifestyle and pace in Zagreb where people would sip a double espresso for 2 hours. The city was great for my mental health as I started to adapt the relaxed way of life in Zagreb. I was like what have I been missing all this time in my life? People would meet up for hours and chat with you and take in the fresh air. This is what you call living!

We met a few people briefly for 2 minutes and offered to take us for a drink or join them at lunch there and then. The people were friendly and loved hearing stories of tourists. 2 locals even offered to drop us off at home one evening.

We also loved that there were so many green spaces/parks were one can go for walks and escape the city life not that it is chaotic, but merely to find some more natural beauty.

We went to the coast – Opatija and Rovinj for a weekend from Zagreb. It was a quick 2hr 10min bus ride from Zagreb to the coast. A week later we visited the most magnificent wine farms just 40mins from Zagreb which included Zagorje. It was absolutely the BEST wine experience ever with the most amazing wines, vineyards and scenery. One could easily spend days there. The vineyard felt like something out of a dream. At that point I realized that If I had to stay in Croatia I would stay in Zagreb. It is centrally located in Croatia from the best wine regions to the most exotic coastal regions all within a 2 hour drive. Not to mention Zagreb has many farmers markets with fresh and organic produce. We bought most of our veggies and fruits from Dolac farmers market.

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Not to mention we had the privilege of attending the LMF music festival in Zagreb which was world class. They hosted world class artists with the likes of Claptone with the most amazing lighting and stage all based at the beautiful Jarun lake. LMF consisted of 7 different dance stages with plenty of green space and areas to relax. If you are a lover of dance music or festivals, Zagreb surely hosts the best in the world and are right up there in terms of festivals.

Zagreb is also more affordable than the coast and you can experience so much. Everything is easily accessible and in close proximity. Zagreb would definitely see us again. This city has touched our hearts in many ways. I believe Zagreb is something not to miss during Christmas time and hopefully we can make it back up for Christmas.

From a digital nomad perspective Zagreb has everything you need from quality wifi to exceptional co working spaces.

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We worked form many co working spaces namely, Canopy by Hilton and BIZKoshnica in Zagreb which offers everything you need from fast wifi, to networking events, to casual drink meet ups and a space where you can break away from work to clear you head space. If you require further information on co-working or co-living I found Saltwater Nomads to be extremely helpful. Feel free to reach out to them as they will answer all your questions on co-working and co-living. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

If you are looking for amazing events or things to do reach out to the Zagreb Tourist board as they are willing to assist you with anything you need. They are a young vibrant team and sure to share the best secrets with you about Zagreb. Thank you for all your recommendations.

I am beyond happy to have ventured to Zagreb as it was truly something special and it did not disappoint. Please make sure to include Zagreb on your list of places to see in Croatia, but not just visit actually live there for a bit and immerse yourself in the culture. You will fall in love.

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Everyone is extremely friendly in Croatia. Even the Tax director at KPMG was willing to take my calls and have a casual conversation on how things are etc. Tax directors normally have no time for you. KPMG was extremely helpful. For all your tax related queries as a digital nomad please reach out to Kristina at KPMG in Zagreb This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . She is extremely knowledgeable and helpful. 

Thank you for the most special time in Zagreb. You will be missed, but will definitely see you soon.

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

Monday, 6 September 2021

Has the Croatian Digital Nomad Permit Been a Success So Far?

September 7, 2021 - It is just over 8 months since the introduction of the Croatian digital nomad permit. A look at the impact so far. 

Eighteen months ago, hardly anyone mentioned Croatia and digital nomads in the same sentence. Today, Croatia is one of the first European countries that comes to mind when talking about digital nomad destinations. The phenomenal free PR generated by the Croatian digital nomad visa story was responsible for much of that. But just over a year since the Croatian government announced its intention to introduce only the second digital nomad visa in Europe after Estonia, how successful has the initiative been, both directly and indirectly, and what are the next steps?

I must confess that a number of things have surprised me about the initiative to introduce a digital nomad visa to Croatia after THAT LinkedIn post by Dutch entrepreneur Jan de Jong, in which he invited Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic to introduce the visa on May 11, 2020. 

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The first surprise was the speed. A meeting was arranged, and then another, and then a few weeks later, a Twitter post from PM Plenkovic with de Jong announcing his intention to introduce the visa as requested. Amendments to the Foreigners Act were introduced the following day in Parliament. No less than 5 ministries were brought together to work on the initiative, the tax code was amended, the Foreigners Act changed, rules for health insurance adjusted, and on January 1, 2021, the new law regulating digital nomads came into force. 

The second surprise was the surprise of the first visa recipient, Melissa Paul, an American in Istria who was frantically trying to find a solution to stay in the country after some unusual personal circumstances.  Having been advised to try her luck with the new digital nomad visa option (the application only went online on March 1) at her local police station, she was both delighted that this approach worked and then a little taken aback to find out she was officially Croatia's first digital nomad permit (as the 'visa' became) holder in Croatia on January 25. TCN managed to get the first interview with Melissa, but she was soon a global star, giving interviews to the likes of CNN and Euronews. 

In my 11 years of writing about Croatian tourism, I can't recall a single story which has generated more positive PR for Croatia, or has had so wide a reach, with the exception of the World Cup. 

And that was part of the third - and probably the biggest - surprise: the global media coverage. De Jong - and gorgeous  images of Croatia and the Croatian lifestyle - were everywhere. CNN, Washington Post, Lonely Planet, the list went on. It seemed that Croatia was 'in', and the buzz of Croatia as a digital nomad hot spot was taking off.  People who had never considered Croatia before were beginning to check it out, and they liked what they saw. 

The timing of the visa story also combined with some other factors which made Croatia seem even more welcoming at the height of the pandemic. As the EU shut its doors to travellers from North America and other non-EU/EEA countries, Croatia broke with the bloc and declared Americans welcome last summer. ABC News hopped on a plane to Dubrovnik and did a series of feature stories on magical Dubrovnik, a potential lifestyle capital of Europe, and more gorgeous images were beamed into the homes of 12.5 million Americans on ABC News. 

There was also the Schengen factor to consider. Although Croatia is in the EU, it is not yet in the Schengen zone. As such, it makes a convenient exit point for those on a Schengen visa looking for somewhere to spend 90 days before they can reenter the Schengen zone. With all the buzz surrounding Croatia as a cool DN destination, many opted to continue their remote journey here. 

It is more than a year since the permit was announced and 8 months sonce it came into effect. So has it been a success so far?

I think that there are a few things to consider when answering that question. These include the actual numbers themselves, the seeds that have been sown, and the overall effect of the PR generated from it all. 

The Croatian digital nomad permit is far from perfect, at least in my opinion. I personally think that it is too bureaucratic and that a more streamlined application process would be beneficial and attract more applications. The requirement for a background police check in the home country, while understandable, is a major issue for many wannabe applicants. This is particularly true in the COVID era where there are huge backlogs in some departments for official documents such as this. 

The good news is that this is the Croatian Digital Nomad Permit 1.0. Lessons can be learned, changes made, and a smoother process introduced. 

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The actual number of applicants has been very disappointing, and I don't think I am alone in thinking that there would be a lot more. As of September 3, just 227 applications, of which 86 have been approved. Approval time is taking about 3-6 weeks on average, with the need to go back and forth for that background check one of the biggest issues.The largest number of applications come from the USA, followed by the UK, Russia, Ukraine and Brazil. 

Perhaps the low number of applications is due to the pandemic, the bureaucracy, or simply the fact that digital nomads are nomadic by nature and not all of them want to be in one place for a year. Whatever the reasons, if the permit was being judged on initial results of applications and approvals alone, it would hardly be classed as a roaring success. 

And yet... 

The Internet was getting busier with more articles about Croatia, more nomads sharing the wonders of Croatia, and more social media groups dedicating themselves to all things digital nomad in Croatia. The largest of these, Digital Nomads Croatia, now has over 6,700 members. 

Co-working spaces, once thin on the ground, are opening all over the country. There are at least 17 in Zagreb alone.  It certainly feels that there are more foreigners around in Split and Zagreb here for more than just a holiday. 

And the data from the article I published this morning, Zagreb, Split Attracting More Digital Nomads than Prague, Krakow, Budapest, would seem to bear that out. 

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The data (extrapolated from Nomad List) is all explained in the article link above, with an estimated 2,400 nomads in Split and Zagreb in July alone. Numbers that not only compare favourably, but outperform other more established DN destinations in Europe. And with monthly average visitors sharply up on a year ago, a healthy trend for future growth.

And it is not just Nomad List pointing to the popularity of Croatia. A big new survey  of digital nomads concludes that "Croatia was rated the top location in the Balkans and Eastern Europe."

Not bad for a small country that was barely mentioned on the digital nomad scene just over a year ago. 

As I am learning, the word of mouth effect in the digital nomad community is far more effective than normal. As one nomad put it to me, "we are like herd aninals, create something cool and we will follow." 

And Croatia is officially cool. What is nice to see when promoting a destination is for others to come in and do that promotion for you, for free. To global audiences. 

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I was a little surprised - and encouraged - to hear Kashlee Kucheran of the influential DN community, Travel Off Path, naming Croatia as her number 1 digital nomad country back in October. Kucheran does an excellent job helping travellers keep up to date with the ever-shifting global travel rules. The Croatian visa caught her attention, and she has been enthusiastically waxing lyrical about Croatia to her global audience ever since. 

Official permit holders may be small in number, but some of them are more than making up for the lack of numbers with the noise of their message. Steve Tsentserensky from the USA was the 7th recipient of the permit, and he has had a very active year so far. An in-demand DN conference speaker, Tsentserensky recently published a viral article on CNBC News, with the accompanying video above, which has been watched over 200,000 times already. Simple messages of a high-quality, affordable and relaxed lifestyle, with most of his expenditure going into the local economy. His story has already inspired others to make the move to Croatia.

Another digital nomad whose interest in Croatia was piqued by the visa story was Dean Kuchel, who runs his own digital nomad community numbering 24,000 members. He spontaneously hopped on a plane to Zagreb to present a very entertaining presentation on building community at Zagreb Digital Nomad Week. As you can see from the short video interview above, Dean was very impressed with all things Zagreb, concluding that Zagreb ticks all the digital nomad boxes, and that the only thing Zagreb was missing was more digital nomads.

Indeed, so impressed was he that Dean is currently back in Zagreb for the month of September as the latest Zagreb Digital Nomad Ambassador. For a man who has travelled to over 100 countries in 7 years, tying him down to a 12-month visa will be a challenge, but he will certainly help to spread the message to his niche community and beyond. 

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(Photo credit Croatian National Tourist Board)

One area where the visa initiative has played a big role but has not been written about is the success in mobilising official resources and funding. A few weeks before de Jong's LinkedIn post to the Prime Minister, I had a meeting with the national tourist board to pitch some ideas, including promoting Trogir as a digital nomad town. While the idea was well received, I was informed that the national tourist board could not support it due to some tax issue regarding nomads. It was a valid point. 

And so the dream of official digital tourism promotion might have ended, but for a private sector initiative which brought together five ministries to thrash out the conditions of the visa. This was followed - almost a year to the day from my meeeting - by a new national tourist board campaign promoting Croatia as a digital nomad destination under the slogan, Croatia, Your New Office.

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Last week a digital nomad conference in Opatija, featuring Minister of Tourism, Nikolina Brnjac, Director of the Coratian National Tourist Board, Kristjan Stanicic, and State Secretary for the Ministry of the Interior, Terezija Gras, who did perhaps more than any official to make the permit a reality. 

And the tourism minister has recognised the promotional value of this new breed of visitor, as TCN reported recently in Digital Nomads Promote Croatian Tourism Best, Says Minister Nikolina Brnjac

De Jong's inbox has been full since he embarked on this initiative. Global players interested in the remote work possibilities in Croatia. Co-living spaces, digital nomad villages and other ideas which one cannot see the results of right now. But they are coming. 

When Croatia announced its digital nomad visa plans last summer, it would have been the fifth country in the world (and the second in Europe after Estonia) to introduce such a visa. Today, just over a year later, there are almost 30 countries offering some version of a permit, a number which will continue to increase.

It may well be that the terms of the permit are improved, and that applications increase considerably once the pandemic subsides. Or not. And if the answer is no, I don't necessarily think that this is a bad thing, for the true value of the Croatian digital nomad visa initiative in (some) hindsight, is the  catalyst it provided to move Croatia along in this potentially very lucrative sector. Most things are almost in place, now it takes some good management and clever steering for Croatia to establish itself as a top remote work destination for the next decade based on a simple formula of safety, authentic experiences, and lifestyle. 

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

Monday, 6 September 2021

Dugi Otok Through the Lens of a Croatian Digital Nomad Permit Holder

September 6, 2021 - Digital nomads give back to communities in various ways. The fifth in a new series on TCN, following the lens of Steve Tsentserensky, one of the early recipients of the Croatian digital nomad permit. Where better to continue than gorgeous Dugi Otok?

One of the discussions in Croatia these days surrounds digital nomads. What EXACTLY does Croatia get from digital nomads, especially if they do not have to pay income tax locally with the 12-month permit?

It is a classic Croatian tourism short-term mindset, which has become sadly familiar over the decade I have been writing about the subject. 

For me, there are three key wins for Croatia - and they all cost nothing.

1. Permit holders may not pay tax, but they are spending on rent, food, drink, entertainment once they leave their virtual office. Think of them as long-stay tourists if you will. I never heard of anyone here complaining about tourists spending here.

2. The mindset. This, to me, is one of the most exciting aspects of the digital nomad era. People with fresh ideas, different experiences, stimulating lifestyles. If they are moving to Croatia because it is so great, perhaps Croatia has something to offer, rather than the sad path of emigration. 

3. The fabulous free promo from digital nomads, clearly in love with this beautiful country. They decided to come, love what they find, and want to tell the world how amazing Croatia is - through blogs, Instagram posts and various other forms of social media. Kind of like the national tourist board's job if you like. Only better. 

This series will focus on the last point, the fantastic free promotion of Croatia by these longer term visitors. TCN is thoroughly enjoying our working partnership with one of the early recipients of the digital nomad permit. Steve Tsentserensky from Ohio. Steve first came to my attention with this fabulous video of Zagreb.

We are big fans of Steve's work, and we met recently over a beer or three in Zagreb. Steve will be travelling around the country over the next 12 months (actually, we think a little longer) documenting Croatia through his lens. We thought it would make a nice feature on the site, as well as showing how just one nomad with the permit is spreading the word about this beautiful country, so that others may see and come. 

And so continues our new series - Croatia through the lens of a Croatian digital nomad permit holder, this time on Dugi Otok.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. And so too a great video. So I will shut up now. 

You can follow Steve on Instagram, where he picked up over 2,000 new followers recently, after his CNBC News video about the Croatian digital nomad lifestyle went viral. Check it out above..

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Friday, 3 September 2021

Dean Kuchel of Digital Nomad World Arrives as Latest Zagreb Ambassador

September 3, 2021 - The Croatian capital welcomes back Dean Kuchel from Digital Nomad World as its third Zagreb Digital Nomad Ambassador.

He decided to come to Croatia spontaneously in June when he was invited to speak at the inaugural Zagreb Digital Nomad Week conference. 

Israeli Dean Kuchel was undoubtedly one of the stars of the week, and his highly entertaining presentation on building community was certainly one of the highlights.  A serial traveller to more than 100 countries in just 7 years (including travel-restricted 2020), there are few better examples of someone embracing the freedom of the digital nomad lifestyle. 

One of his mantras is the simple maxim - I travel solo, but I never travel alone. A simple sentence which gets to the core of the theme of building community. If a destination has a vibrant digital nomad community, then nomads will come. And Kuchel certainly knows a thing or two about building community, as his own community now numbers some 24,000 online nomad fans.  

Of all the many stimulating people I met at Zagreb Digital Noamd Week, I learned the most from him about this relatively new lifestyle, and the opportunities which it presents for Croatia. For such a restless spirit, the idea of a 12-month visa application would not appeal to him, but the buzz of Croatia as a dynamic destination for nomads certainly helped get him on the plane. His observations about Zagreb after the week were certainly encouraging, as you can see in the brief interview above. Zagreb ticks all the boxes, and the only thing missing for digital nomads in the city are more digital nomads. Build that community and they will come. 

The  second mantra is even shorter. Say yes! Embrace things and give them a try.

"Would  you say yes to applying to be one of our Zagreb Digital Nomad Ambassadors," I asked. 

"Ha, why not? This is a great city and I love this project and conference."

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And  then, less than two weeks later, an application.  

Dean arrived to take up residence at Doma Zagreb Aparthotel, the official accommodation partner of the Zagreb Digital Nomad Ambassador project on Wednesday. We caught  up for a drink last night, and Dean is very keen to work on building community to help take Zagreb (and Croatia) to the next level. It promises to be an exciting month.

You can follow Dean Kuchel's escapades on his Where is Dean? Instagram

For more information about the Zagreb Digital Nomad Ambassador project, check out Saltwater Nomads.

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

 

 

 

Sunday, 29 August 2021

Digital Nomad Ambassador Veronica Mulhall: 7 Things that Surprised Me in Zagreb

August 29, 2021 - There were plenty of pleasant Zagreb surprises for Veronica Mulhall during the stay in the Croatian capital as the first Zagreb Digital Nomad Ambassador in July. Her top 7. 


Before becoming a Zagreb Digital Nomad Ambassador, I had researched to get a good idea of what my time in Croatia’s capital would be like, and yet when I arrived in Zagreb were still so many things that surprised me during my stay.

Zagreb is the type of city where it is helpful to have someone on the ground to give you the insider details you might not find on Google. I took the time to consolidate the top seven things for you that make Zagreb even more of a desirable place for a digital nomad to call home.


1. Dogs (and Cats) Rule Zagreb
People in Zagreb love their pets. I mean LOVE their pets. You can find countless cafes and bars that are dog-friendly and dogs are allowed at events, concerts, and festivals. There are even shops with dog-specific skincare products and doggie-vino. If you have ever thought, I want to travel but I can’t think to leave my fur-baby, worry no more, Zagreb is waiting for you.


2. Fantastic Wine Found
Whether you are going to a local bar, a friend’s wine cellar, or a wine vineyard within city limits, Zagreb surely delivers on high-quality wine offered at multiple price points in and around the city. Don’t bother with imported. The local wines have dramatically gone up in quality with this generation of Croatian winemakers and even the most discerning wine connoisseur will find bottles that make their pallet happy.

3. Everyone Speaks English
Croatia has been expanding its tourism advertising to Western countries over the last few years and Zagreb is well-prepared for English-speaking visitors. Not only do many people speak English fluently, but also many of the restaurant menus, movie theaters, and museums have English translations as well. 


4. Booming Art Scene
Zagreb dates back almost 1000 years and its art scene isn’t far behind. Even now, it seems to be going through its own mini-renaissance of street art, theater, music, art festivals, pop-ups and I even found salsa dance socials. Don’t miss the museums. Zagreb is known for its museums, including the Museum of Broken Relationships, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Arts and Crafts, and the Croatian Museum of Naive Art.


5. Stunning Architecture
While Zagreb is still restoring and rebuilding post the 2020 earthquake, many stunning buildings remain. By simply exploring the city center, you can find architecture from multiple periods of the city’s history including Neo-Baroque, Art Nouveau, modernist minimalism, brutalism, and more. 

6. Modern Fashion Meets 80s Throwbacks
While you don’t need to travel with a suitcase of formal attire, Zagreb locals know how to get dressed up for a night on the town. Don’t be surprised to see women wearing runway fashion down the street and, surprise, the 80s are in. Often people will mix and match with new styles and 80s vintage - bright colors, puff sleeves, you will see it all.


7. Parks and Green Spaces
Walk in any direction around Zagreb and you will hit a park in a matter of blocks. Walk north and you will find endless trails into the mountains. Streets are lined with old-growth trees and people’s patio gardens overflow off balconies. All the green almost makes you forget you are in a city; it is perfect.

If this all hasn’t already made you wonder why you are waiting to book your ticket and work as a digital nomad in Zagreb, the city is widely known for hospitality, spotless internet, and budget-friendly living. Looking forward to seeing you in the Zagreb digital nomad community sometime soon!

Veronica Mulhall is a strategic marketer on a mission to connect people. When Veronica is not traveling and leading marketing and communications projects, she is a salsa dancing foodie on the hunt for the world’s undiscovered cultural adventures.

Veronica was the Zagreb Digital Nomad Ambassador July 2021. You can connect with her via her website www.veronicamulhall.com

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

Sunday, 29 August 2021

Finding the Balance Between Health, Fitness & Work as a Zagreb Digital Nomad

August 29, 2021 - Rudi Witkowsky's time as the second Zagreb Digital Nomad Ambassador is coming to an end. The South African reflects on the Croatian capital as a fitness destination for digital nomads.  

In Rudy's own words... 

I worked remotely in Zagreb online as a business consulting expert and online fitness professional.

After a long day of working on client projects and providing/filming online workouts I too need a break from work and would seek my own personal therapy through finding different locations to work out and healthy eateries to eat from.

Fitness studios:

Orlando Fit

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I signed up to Orlando fit for roughly 380 Kuna per month and 50 Kuna once off joining fee. I was super impressed by facilities and service at Orlando. It was more of a luxury training facility. It consisted of a sauna, functional and yoga fitness area, boxing ring, Pilates studio, crossfit arena and the state of the art fitness machines and fully loaded weight/strength and cardio section. Not mention excellent Wi-Fi. 

The quality of the machines was excellent, and each machine consisted of a sanitizing solution for your use. Everyone was fit and took their health seriously. It is located right next to the Canopy Hilton Hotel so there was no reason not to break away for a quick sweat if you worked from the co-work space.

The gym has showering and drying facilities together with locker rooms.

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After a workout you can always grab a protein shake or coffee on the go where you can select a single serving with many different flavors to choose from. They also have vegan options.

They have 3 working desks which I used a few times to work from.

Truly a gym that is of a world class standard. I loved it and had everything that you need and more.

Adidas fitness studio in Zagreb:

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A boutique fitness studio in the heart of Zagreb. The fitness studio is situated above the adidas clothing store. It offers personal training, Pilates, Spinning and many group functional workout classes such as ab attack, full body body pump. If you love group training this is definitely for you. The facility is all white and black with amazing natural light and energetic trainers that is sure to get you burning a sweat. I had the honour of Leading a spinning class at the facility and sound quality and energy in the room is incredible.

They also have a book room area and area for your kids to play at. The book room area and training facility is the perfect combination to keeping your mental health in a good state.

It a very relaxed training facility and offers one on one coaching if need be.

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The facility consists of weights, resistance bands, T- rex bands, bosu balls, yoga mats and spinning bikes. I would definitely recommend this training facility if you love to be social at gym and love the idea of group training. The facility is close to BIZKoshnika co working space and is perfect for a quick sweat session.

Jarun Lake

I loved Jarun Lake. It is perfect for all outdoor enthusiasts. It is perfect to break away from the city life and workout within nature. Jarun consist of walking, running and cycling track around a lake. It is about a 6km loop and perfect if you prefer running, cycling or even just going for a nice walk. 

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Other options include roller blading and skating. That looked like a lot of fun.

If you are more of a water baby, you can swim laps within the lake or canoe from one side to the other.

Other sporting options available at Jarun consist of beach volleyball, beach hand ball and football.

After a quality workout you can grab some lunch or a good coffee at one of many near by cafes.

I loved Jarun and personally went for a run around the lake.

Green parks

Within the city you will find many green parks- it is unbelievable as it is right in the center of the city and feels like another world. It is great to relax your mind and take a break from the concrete jungle. I would do workouts in the park. 

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No equipment is needed. Just set aside 20 minutes and do a body weight workout within the park:

Suggestion:

Squats - 1 minute

Bear crawl - 1 minute

Jumping jacks - 1 minute

Push ups – 1 minute

Ab crunches – 1 minutes

Repeat the above set 4 times. Rest for 1 minute of your 1 round of 10 minutes.

Explore Zagreb:

Another option is to explore the beautiful Zagreb and run through the city. I did this and was the perfect way to see the city. Or you can run a few laps around the horseshoe which is absolutely beautiful.

Indoor and outdoor pools:

Zagreb also has many indoor and outdoor pool facilities if you love the water and swimming. I personally never had the time to try this out, but if I had more time I would definitely do this. Swimming is one of the best exercises you can do with minimal impact on your joints and body. Perfect if you suffering from an injury or merely want to prevent injury. 

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Healthy eateries:

Dolac farmers market:

This was one of my favorites: This organic farmers food market in the center of the city has all your fresh veggies and fruits. It was one of my personal favourites as many a time I picked up fresh veggies for cooking. This is a local market and consists of organic produce freshly picked. The market closes at 3pm so be sure to get your fresh goods before.

I loved the fresh berries and was ideal for snacking during summer while on the go. The market is well priced.

You can also find fresh and quality cuts of different meats and cheeses.

Roots café:

Zagreb has a few healthy eateries to choose from. I personally loved Roots Café which has many healthy green smoothies and smoothie bowls. They are more vegan focused which is amazing to see. They even go as far as providing noodle straws (bio degradable straws) and offer quality protein smoothies I loved the perfect purple bowl and green tropical smoothie.

Melt Brunch bar

Another spot that I loved which offers healthy meals is Melt. They offer many vegan and healthy alternatives with a trendy vibe. Great place to grab a healthy smoothie and work from.

Good food:

I spent a lot of time at Good food. They have many health salad bowls that you can choose form with fresh ingredients. You also have the option of choosing your own ingredients and making your own fresh salad. Absolutely loved it for a quick healthy meal post workout.

Healthy stores:

Bio&bio is an amazing healthy store where you can find all natural vegan options, vitamins and healthy snacks on the go. It is the perfect wellness store which caters to all your health needs.

Studenac market: I few stores offered freshly squeezed orange juice which was amazing and perfect refreshment during a hot summer’s day.

More and more people in Zagreb are focused on their health and wellness especially since the pandemic and it is amazing to see. More and more restaurants offer healthy alternatives and more sporting facilities are popping up. As a digital nomad you should not have a probably staying fit and healthy in Zagreb although the smell of the bakeries can try to lure you in the wrong direction. Wink* Wink* I got caught off guard a few times lol.

I was impressed to see that they have a Herbalife Nutrition store in Zagreb for all your supplement needs I am a Herbalife distributor and was impressed by the store so if you need your protein supplements should me a message and you can pick them up at the health store.

I hope that you found this article useful. If you are not sure of what home workouts to do and do not have any equipment feel free to sign up to my home online body weight workouts via my app ( pre recorded and live). Only $10 USD per month for unlimited access with the first 7 days free.

www.sudor.fit/about/rudiwitkowsky

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

Thursday, 26 August 2021

Hvar Through the Lens of a Croatian Digital Nomad Permit Holder

August 26, 2021 - Digital nomads give back to communities in various ways. The fourth in a new series on TCN, following the lens of Steve Tsentserensky, one of the early recipients of the Croatian digital nomad permit. Where better to continue than gorgeous Hvar?

One of the discussions in Croatia these days surrounds digital nomads. What EXACTLY does Croatia get from digital nomads, especially if they do not have to pay income tax locally with the 12-month permit?

It is a classic Croatian tourism short-term mindset, which has become sadly familiar over the decade I have been writing about the subject. 

For me, there are three key wins for Croatia - and they all cost nothing.

1. Permit holders may not pay tax, but they are spending on rent, food, drink, entertainment once they leave their virtual office. Think of them as long-stay tourists if you will. I never heard of anyone here complaining about tourists spending here.

2. The mindset. This, to me, is one of the most exciting aspects of the digital nomad era. People with fresh ideas, different experiences, stimulating lifestyles. If they are moving to Croatia because it is so great, perhaps Croatia has something to offer, rather than the sad path of emigration. 

3. The fabulous free promo from digital nomads, clearly in love with this beautiful country. They decided to come, love what they find, and want to tell the world how amazing Croatia is - through blogs, Instagram posts and various other forms of social media. Kind of like the national tourist board's job if you like. Only better. 

This series will focus on the last point, the fantastic free promotion of Croatia by these longer term visitors. TCN is thoroughly enjoying our working partnership with one of the early recipients of the digital nomad permit. Steve Tsentserensky from Ohio. Steve first came to my attention with this fabulous video of Zagreb.

We are big fans of Steve's work, and we met recently over a beer or three in Zagreb. Steve will be travelling around the country over the next 12 months (actually, we think a little longer) documenting Croatia through his lens. We thought it would make a nice feature on the site, as well as showing how just one nomad with the permit is spreading the word about this beautiful country, so that others may see and come. 

And so continues our new series - Croatia through the lens of a Croatian digital nomad permit holder, this time in Hvar. Steve visited Hvar Town and Total Croatia partner Suncani Hvar recently. 

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. And so too a great video. So I will shut up now. 

You can follow Steve on Instagram, where he picked up almost 2,000 new followers this week, after his CNBC News video about the Croatian digital nomad lifestyle went viral. Check it out below.

To learn more about the city, check the TC Hvar in a Page guide

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Tuesday, 24 August 2021

Dubrovnik, Zagreb Digital Nomad Events Finalists in 2021 Conventa Best Event Awards

August 24, 2021 - Recognition for both Zagreb Digital Nomad Week and Dubrovnik Digital Nomads-in-Residence program, as both are shortlisted as finalists at the 2021 Conventa Best Event Awards in Ljubljana.

The Conventa Crossover Festival of Events and Live Marketing will be held 26-27 August in Ljubljana, Slovenia. The event is the only one of its kind in the region, and every year brings together leading speakers, workshops and in 2021, over 300 MICE professionals. Winners of the Conventa Best Event Award will be announced this Friday at the festival. The 18 finalists, listed on the Conventa event website, include 7 Croatian entries across the B2B, B2C, B2I (internal events) and ‘crossover’ (B2B/B2C) categories.

The Zagreb Digital Nomad Week and Dubrovnik Digital Nomads-in-Residence program entries and all other finalists can be viewed on the Conventa Crossover Best Event Awards website.

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To be eligible, events were held between 1 January 2020 to 15 July 2021. The Croatian finalists include Saltwater and TCN’s digital nomad events in Zagreb and Dubrovnik, a Croatian/Slovenian Phillip Morris internal event and four clients of Komunikacijski Laboritorij agency including Porsche Digital Croatia, the Croatian Chamber of Commerce, DOK-ING Robotics and Photomath learning app.

The project co-founder, Gorazd Čad, reflected on the state of the industry to Kongres Magazine, noting “the competition is an indicator of the industry’s condition and enables comparison while showing the way for the future. Judging by the registered projects, the regional meetings industry has a bright future ahead.”

The jury consisted of experts from across Europe’s event sector. Entries were scored on innovation, sustainability, creativity, relevance, results, execution and overall impression.Total Croatia News covered the two digital nomad events extensively in its features on digital nomads. The events collectively reached large audiences on LinkedIn Remote Work groups, digital nomad forums and over 20 media features including Fast Company, Cities Today, Travel Off Path, The Mayor EU, ARTE TV and a number of Croatian media outlets including Slobodna Dalmacija, Vecernji, Jutarnji and HR Turizam among others.

Excerpts from the award entries:

Zagreb Digital Nomad Week
Event description and key objectives

7 days. 7 themes. Plus a 6 month global ambassador project. Zagreb held a groundbreaking event for digital nomads in June 2021, only 6 months after devastating earthquakes in 2020.

The entire city was the venue.

For one special week in June, the capital city drew in remote professionals in person, and reached a global online audience of over 70,000, to cover emerging themes in remote work and highlight lifestyle and experiences in the city.

Zagreb Digital Nomad Week ran from 21 to 27 June 2021, in person and online for a series of 7 themes over 7 days, covering: cyber security, online presence, remote careers, tax & finance, future of work, wellbeing and exploring Zagreb.

There were over 26 speakers, streaming live from Bali to Barcelona, Manly Beach in Sydney, to a coworking space on Zagreb’s British Square, struck by one of the earthquakes.

Dubrovnik Digital Nomads-in-Residence
Event description and key objectives

10 winners. 4 weeks. A once in a lifetime experience.

The Dubrovnik digital nomad-in-residence (DN-I-R) program is a collaboration between the city of Dubrovnik and the global digital nomad community it hosts. It was held from 23 April to 23 May 2021.

Using a co-creation model, the Saltwater program team brought together residents and 10 digital nomads selected as DN-I-Rs. Over a four week period, the digital nomads attended design thinking workshops to create a strategic direction for the city, especially as it adjusts to a more sustainable direction and manages the impact of COVID19.

Winners stayed free in Dubrovnik for 4 weeks to collaborate, upskill and contribute as Dubrovnik’s first special guest Digital Nomads-in-Residence.

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The activities in the program were intended to contribute to enhancing the city’s standing among digital nomads globally. DN-I-Rs were expected to engage fully, respect their position and bring their collective expertise to benefit incoming digital nomads and the City. DN-I-Rs received professional development training, participated in workshops and presented their findings on shaping Dubrovnik as a Digital Nomad Friendly city. This was presented at a finale event at the end of the program as a roadmap of quick wins, mid and long term goals.

The program team included design thinking experts and a placemaking strategist. They led representatives from the city and digital nomads ranging from CEOs, radio hosts to writers and a migration scholar.

You can view the full entries for the Zagreb Digital Nomad Week and Dubrovnik Digital Nomads-in-Residence program and all other finalists on the Conventa Crossover Best Event Awards website.

Tuesday, 24 August 2021

Zagreb Digital Nomad Ambassador Rudi Witkowsky on Life in the Croatian Capital

August 24, 2021 - The story is starting to spread. Zagreb as a fantastic remote work destination. Some thoughts from the second Zagreb Digital Nomad Ambassador, Rudi Witkowsky.

Word of mouth tourism promotion is arguably the most precious of all. Zero cost, full of passion, and endorsements from friends and family - no fake reviews here.

It is just over two years since TCN started writing about the potential of Croatia as a digital nomad destination. The story has been growing steadily, and all the global coverage surrounding the introduction of the digital nomad permit helped to make it a global story. Suddenly, digital nomads were looking at Croatia as their next remote work destination. Maybe not for the 12-month permit, but for a month, two, three - nomads are by definition nomadic. 

And the general feedback  that I have observed is that these new arrivals very much like what they see. Excellent English and Internet, stunning nature and a beautiful coast, great food and wine, culture, history, affordability, accessibility, friendly locals, safety, and lifestyle - the list goes on. Zagreb Digital Nomad Week speaker Dean Kuchel of Digital Nomad World summed it up very nicely when he was asked what Zagreb was missing regarding its digital nomad offer:

"The only thing Zagreb is missing is more digital nomads."

A number of nomads have been very pleasantly surprised at what they have found in Croatia, and particularly Zagreb, and they have been busy relaying their experiences and enthusiasm to their friends and nomad communities. The buzz about Croatia, with its great lifestyle, is getting louder. Only this week, TCN contributor Steve Tsentserensky's explanation of his life in Croatia on $47 a day went viral as the top trending story on CNBC News - the video above has had almost 100,000 views at time of writing. The latest example of free global promotion of Croatia's digital nomad opportunity. It is a story which is being dripfed organically, and the message is starting to resonate.

After the success of Zagreb Digital Nomad Week, a collaboration between Saltwater Nomads, Zagreb Tourist Board and TCN,  the second component of the project, Zagreb Digital Nomad Ambassador Project, in partnership with Doma Zagreb Aparthotel, began on July 1 and runs until December 31. 

This month's ambassador is Rudi Witkowsky from South Africa, who swapped a couple of months remote working on the Adriatic coast to take up residence at Doma Zagreb Aparthotel with his partner Victoria. Rudi has been enjoying the Croatian capital and indulging in his fitness passion in the city's gyms and parks, while working his financial day job from the coworking spaces around town. 

A first-time visitor to the city, certain themes in the impressions of Rudi so far seem to be consistent with many other nomads I have spoken to about the Zagreb experience. The level of English is outstanding, the Internet is excellent, the choice of coworking spaces superb. And the food... You can listen to Rudi's full interview in the video below. All messages that need to be amplified moree loudly, but which are already being shared among friends, family and communities.

And that word of mouth recommendation seems to be working. Rudi explains that he has had a phenomenal response from back home to all his social media posts about his remote life in Croatia, a life he plans to continue if his application for the digital nomad permit is successful. But he is also working on another project with partners, which could also see some nice benefits for Croatia - to bring groups of up to 50 financial consultants to remote work in Croatia for 4 months a year, as they are actively looking for a European base. 

Tell the story and they will come. And the more stories which are being told, the more they are coming. 

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

Want to be a Zagreb Digital Nomad Ambassador? Here's how

Sunday, 22 August 2021

Croatian Digital Nomad Lifestyle Trending #1 on CNBC News

August 22, 2021 - More great exposure of the Croatian digital nomad lifestyle, this time trending as the top story on CNBC News. 

They say that success breeds success.

And when it comees to tourism promotion, there is nothing better than word of mouth recommendations from family and friends. A hidden gem recommended by an enthusiastic friend, backed up with incredible photos and tales of a wondrous land work much better than expensive advertising campaigns. 

Croatia has thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of such word of mouth promoters, whose experiences are opening up Croatian tourism to new tourists. And a new sector of willing promoters has arrived - digital nomads. 

There has been a lot of buzz about Croatia and the digital nomad permit since Jan de Jong wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic back in May 2020. Reaction was mixed, with many locals wondering what was in it for Croatia - allowing foreigners to come and live and work remotely in Croatia without paying any local income tax. 

Takeup of the 12-month visa has been a little slow to take off, but there has been a noticeable rise in the number of digital nomads for whom Croatia is on their radar for the first time. Nomadic by definition, worcations of 1-3 months seem to be the most popular (no permit required), and the general feedback being shared is that Croatia is a great destination with its outstanding food, wine, nature, coast, culture, safety, Internet, affordability, accessibility, and excellent English.  

One nomad who is reaching a larger network of people through his excellent photo and videography is American Steve Tsentserenky, who was one of the first to obtain the 12-month permit earlier this year (read his experience in this TCN piece). 

Total Croatia - Zagreb in a Page - Canopy by Hilton from total-croatia.com on Vimeo.

Steve has been showcasing some of his work on TCN with both his photography in our Croatia Through the Lens of a Digital Nomad Permit Holder series, as well as some excellent videos in the TC Destinations in a Page series, including Zagreb above and Zadar below. Fantastic images which are proving very popular and are one more great free promo of Croatia.

But this weekend, Steve has gone one better, with a detailed breakdown of his lifestyle and cost of living in Croatia, compared to back home in the States. With a total monthly spend of $1,424 (compared to just average rent in New Jersey of $2,779), the case for a more affordable remote lifestyle in Croatia is clear. Add to that the quality of life, as Steve explains in the accompanying video in his piece for CNBC News, and the case for Croatia as a remote work destination is a little more compelling. 

Good news too for the Croatian economy. A spend of $17,000 a year (the majority of which is within Croatia), in addition to the constant free promotion, is not a bad return for having someone stay for 12 months without taking any job from a local. Increase that number to 100 remote workers, then a thousand, then... There is a simple roadmap to growing this potentially lucrative sector, as well as breathing life back into communities which traditionally die in the winter months when the conventional tourists have left. 

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And it seems that Steve's story has struck a chord. His article has been trending as the top story on CNBC all morning. A little like the story of the digital nomad permit itself, which got massive free global coverage due to the pro bono efforts of a Dutch entrepreneur, small initiatives with zero budget can have a big effect. As Steve explains in his video, he first heard of the visa opportunity in a TCN article last August. And the rest is history. 

Croatia has a fantastic opportunity to develop its tourism around this remote work opportunity, focusing on its safety, authenticity and lifestyle. The feedback from nomads here has been broadly very positive. All we need to do now is to continue telling the story. Ambassadors such as Steve are very welcome, as they make the job much easier. 

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

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