Thursday, 1 July 2021

Plitvice Lakes Through the Lens of a Croatian Digital Nomad Permit Holder

June 1, 2021 - Digital nomads give back to communities in various ways. The second 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 Plitvice Lakes National Park?

One of the discussion 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 thing 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 Plitvice Lakes National Park. 

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. So I will shut up now. 

You can follow Steve on Instagram.



















Thursday, 1 July 2021

Zagreb Ranked 43 in Global Work-from-Anywhere Index, 18 in Europe

July 1, 2021 - As Zagreb Digital Nomad Week 2021 ends, the Croatian capital finds itself ranking highly on a new Work-from-Anywhere Index. 

One of the msot interesting aspects of the recent Zagreb Digital Nomad Week was observing the reactions of the visiting nomads. Things that impressed - or probably better, surprised - them was the high level of English, the quality of the Internet, the diverse offer of the city and its surrounding area, and just how cool Zagreb was. When I asked Dean Kuchel, founder of Digital Nomads Israel and Digital Nomad World what Zagreb was missing, his response was very encouraging indeed.

"Zagreb is missing more digital nomads. It has perfect weather, great nightlife. Everybody speaks English, everybody is kind to you, and it is easy to get around. The Internet is fantastic, thank you. It has been very helpful with work. I don't think it misses anything really. It checks all the boxes. It has good city life, nature, access to the sea. Just stay the same please."

Zagreb still has a lot of work to do to establish itself on the digital nomad map, and while events such as Zagreb Digital Nomad Week will certainly help, there was more encouraging news today, with the publication of a new study "highlighting the destinations that are most attractive to digital nomads in search of a new home, according to legislation as well as livability factors such as weather, cost of living and equality."

The Work-from-Anywhere Index by NestPick highlighted 75 destinations and ranked them according to three sections:

Costs & Infrastructure - Home office room rent, accommodation availability, income tax including social contributions, and Internet speed and capacity.

Legislation and Freedoms - Remote worker immigration, remote worker infrastructure, gender equality, LGBT+ equality, and minority equality. 

Livability - COVID-19 vaccination rate, cost of living, healthcare, culture & leisure, weather, and pollution (air, light, noise). 

Zagreb came in 43rd overall, with a combined score of 74.31, with Melbourne the most desirable place. 

Even more encouragingly, the Croatian capital was listed 18th in Europe, with Tallinn taking the number one spot. You can see the full results of the entire study here

While such studies are not official and open to interpretation, the very fact that Zagreb finds itself in such a position as it looks to pivot itself to take advantage of the digital nomad opportunity is hugely encouraging. Here are some of the key takeaways from Zagreb Digital Nomad Week 2021, which was an important first step in the city's strategy. More promotional activities are planned, starting with the arrival of the first Zagreb Digital Nomad Ambassador tonight - meet Veronica Mulhall.  

Why not become the next Zagreb Digital Nomad Ambassador?

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

Thursday, 1 July 2021

Meet Veronica Mulhall, First Zagreb Digital Nomad Ambassador, Arriving Tonight

July 1, 2021 - The second component of Zagreb Digital Nomad Week 2021 & Zagreb Digital Nomad Ambassador Project begins today - welcome to our first ambassador, Veronica Mulhall. 

After an intense and stimulating 7 days of the inaugural Zagreb Digital Nomad Week, which covered 7 themes in 7 locations in 7 days, attention turns to the second part of the programme, as the Croatian capital prepares to welcome its first-ever digital nomad ambassador.

The Zagreb Digital Nomad Ambassador Project will run for an initial period of six months, from July 1 - December 31, 2021, with each calendar month hosting a new ambassador. Each ambassador will have a programme for the month, and the city will benefit from their insights and suggestions over the 6-month period, as the project explores digital nomad life in the city through the seasons. The project is a collaboration between Saltwater Nomads, Total Croatia News, and Zagreb Tourist Board, with accommodation support from Doma Zagreb Aparthotel


At the finale of Zagreb Digital Nomad Week (you can read some key takeaways here), the first ambassador was announced - Veronica Mulhall from the USA, but living in Africa. You can see Veronica's application video below.

Veronica was already in Croatia when she applied for the ambassadorship, having flown in from Senegal. She is Marketing Director for the African Leadership Group, and her goal is to visit every country in the world. She has a particular interest in national parks, cultural centres, and UNESCO World Heritage. As such, Veronica is clearly in the right country, as Croatia has no less than 11 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, as well as countless intangible UNESCO heritage (you can find the full list here). 


Her undergraduate degree is in adventure education, and she has a certificate in community development focused on sustainable tourism. The deep-rooted passion to applying to be a Zagreb Digital Nomad Ambassador is to show others that these lesser-known cities and destinations have so much to offer the world, so much rich history and culture.

Veronica will be arriving with her partner Julian, who is from Zimbabwe and the UK, and is traveling here from Ghana. They are an inter-racial couple who have already travelled in the region - Albania, North Macedonia and Serbia - as well as Africa, the US and Europe. Veronica has over 8 years of international living experience, while Julian has been a nomad for a year - his arrival will give Zagreb an additional DN perspective. 

Veronica is a fully remote worker and is an outdoor enthusiast and a huge foodie, so it sounds like she has found the right city to spend a month in.


(Doma Zagreb Aparthotel - 4-star luxury in central Zagreb)

The couple arrive tonight from the coast, and they will be hosted by project partner, Doma Zagreb Aparthotel, in the centre of the city.

TCN will be publishing an interview with Veronica shortly, and there will be more details of the programme and opportunities to connect published early next week. 


(The Doma Zagreb Aparthotel is located in central Zagreb, with offroad parking, just a few minutes walk from the main square)

Are you interested in being a Zagreb Digital Nomad Ambassador? Learn more about the project - rolling applications are ongoing until November.

For the latest news and features about digital nomads in Croatia, visit the dedicated TCN section


You can follow Veronica Mulhall on Instagram or visit her website here.


Monday, 28 June 2021

Zagreb Digital Nomad Week 2021: 5 Key Takeaways

June 28, 2021 - After an action-packed and thought-provoking Zagreb Digital Nomad Week 2021, some key takeaways for Zagreb and Croatia.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from Zagreb Digital Nomad Week 2021, but I knew that it would be inspiring. Sometimes, when I write about an opportunity for Croatia from within Croatia, it is hard to have a global perspective. Local viewpoints are not necessarily transferred to the global viewpoint. And while a lot has been written by TCN about the digital nomad opportunity for more than 2 years now, what were the true feelings of significant names in the global nomad community?

I got my chance to find out last week with a range of keynote speeches, panel discussions, and lots of informal chats with various international nomads from all over the world who were in Zagreb. All of the feedback was extremely positive, and much of it very inspiring. Here are 6 of my takeaways from Zagreb Digital Nomad Week 2021. 


1. The impact of the digital nomad permit is far greater than the number of applications

The Croatian Prime Minister's decision to act on the LinkedIn open letter from Dutch entrepreneur Jan de Jong last year, meant that Croatia announced that it would be only the second country in Europe to offer such a visa. The ensuing 12-month permit came into effect on January 1 this year, and the whole story had global headlines - CNN, Washington Post, Euronews and many more. The timing coincided with several other factors. The most important of these was that Croatia remained open to non-EU/EEA citizens during last year's pandemic, and it was also in the EU but not in the Schengen zone (thereby making it an attractive option for those on Schengen visas to wait out 90 days). 

A combination of these factors I believe helped raise the profile of Croatia considerably. Many discovered Croatia for the first time, and more and more remote workers headed in Croatia's direction. Although the number of applications for the permit is relatively low at the moment (147 in total), the number of digital nomads is growing. I must have met over 50 digital nomads in the last week, only 2 of whom had the permit. The point was made that nomads are by definition nomadic and not necessarily looking to live in one country for 12 months. But the number of people coming for a month, two, three is on the rise.   


2. Croatia is a leader in public-private partnership for advancing digital nomad tourism opportunities

This was a surprising finding for me, as Croatia is not known for its public-private partnership initiatives. Talking to Dean Kuchel of Digital Nomad World was especially instructive. He had never come across a country with such engangement between the public and private sector, a partnership he described as groundbreaking. 

The headline cooperation, of course, was between de Jong, the Prime Minister, 5 government ministries and numerous other parties to deliver the DN permit.  But the engagement was far deeper than that. Dean was impressed at the involvement at Zagreb Digital Nomad Week 2021 of the banking section (Raiffeisen Bank Hrvatska), financial consulting (KPMG Croatia), and communications (Hrvatski Telekom), as well as SKIFT. Co-working spaces such as Impact Hub, HUB385 and BIZkosnica. Winebars such as Bornstein, Hotels such as Canopy by Hilton, Hostels such as Swanky Mint Hostel and private accommodation of Doma Zagreb.  The formation of the Digital Nomad Association Croatia is an important bridge between the authorities and digital nomad community. 


ZDNW was a great public-private partnership between Saltwater Nomads, Total Croatia News, and Zagreb Tourist Board (funded by the latter), with Zagreb County Tourist Board hosting the final day in Samobor and Zumberak Nature Park. ZDNW followed on from two other successful public-private partnerships in Dubrovnik, with the Dubrovnik for Digital Nomads conference last October, and the recent Dubrovnik Digital Nomads-in-Residence program, both of which were a partnership between Saltwater Nomads, TCN, and the city and tourist board of Dubrovnik. 

3. The seeds of collaboration not competition are already sown and bearing fruit among destinations.

Having written about tourism in Croatia for 10 years, one of the most positive aspects of this whole initiative has been the collaboration between different tourist boards and other official bodies. Croatia has a very fragmented tourist board structure, and there has been a tendency to treat another tourist board as competition.  


Zagreb Tourist Board made a great contribution on a final day panel at the Dubrovnik Digital Nomads-in-Residence progamme, and Dubrovnik Tourist Board director Ana Hrnic was a great panellist on ZDNW. The partnership of Zagreb city and county tourist boards is a great example of how to improve the quality of a destination by working together. At ZDNW, there were representatives from Zadar, Split, Osijek and Istria, all interested in taking this story forward... together. Zagreb as a digital nomad destination will be all the stronger if there are other communities in other destinations in Croatia. The concept of a Croatian digital nomad trail was discussed in Dubrovnik. By working together to develop that, the various stakeholders can produce an incredible end product. 

What was especially encouraging to me was the number of local people who ended the week a lot more enlightened about the digital nomad movement. The concept of WiFi and a bed being all that is required was relatively widely held a year ago. That is changing quickly. 


4. The development of community is key to success.

In an interview prior to ZDNW, keynote speaker and future of work explorer Albert Cañigueral talked about the importance of having a digital nomad community in place:

The sentence “content is king, context is queen” is widely used in marketing. In the DN universe I would translate as people (community) is king and location is queen. Our experience was just mind-blowing because of the community of DNs that were selected to participate, the partners of some DNs who decided to be part of the adventure, the local people who joined the workshops and other moments, the professional team that ran the whole programme and also the support from the city hall (in the middle of local elections!).   

Dean Kuchel's simple mantra perhaps explained it best. I travel solo, but I never travel alone. 

The strength of the community is probably the key deciding factor for many in where to travel to next. 

5. The positive mindsets of the digital nomad community will have a majorly positive effect on the mindsets of the next Croatian generation.

One could not help but be positive last week. So much great energy, so many inspiring people. People who care about community and the world around them. People will new ideas, a fresh look on life. As those communities grow and more digital nomads come to explore Croatia, the safe, authentic lifestyle destination, that energy will trickle into the mindset of the local population. After decades of emigration and no opportunity, an influx of new ideas and people coming into the country rather than running away will be a long-term positive. 


6. Zagreb is a truly exciting destination for digital nomads, with most of the essentials already in place. 

I was really curious what our visiting digital nomads would think of Zagreb. I think it has become a very cool city and think it has plenty to offer, but how does it compare internationally, and what is it missing? Dean Kuchel of Digital Nomad World gave his verdict:

"Zagreb is missing more digital nomads. It has perfect weather, great nightlife. Everybody speaks English, everybody is kind to you, and it is easy to get around. The Internet is fantastic, thank you. It has been very helpful with work. I don't think it misses anything really. It checks all the boxes. It has good city life, nature, access to the sea. Just stay the same please." 

A great week, an important milestone for Croatia moving forward, and lots of exciting possibilities moving forward. 

The keynote speakers at Zagreb Digital Nomad Week 2021:

Day 1 - Cybersecurity - Marko Rakar of MRAK Services

Day 2 - Online Presence - Mandy Fransz of Make the Leap Digital, and Taki Moore of Million Dollar Coach

Day 3 - Remote Careers - Kristie Sullivan and Ron Tardiff, followed by panel of Dubrovnik Digital Nomads-in-Residence hosted by Michael Freer

Day 4 - Tax and Finance - Kathleen McPaul, followed by Kristina Grbavac from KPMG Croatia

You can see all these presentations in the Day 1-4 recap

Day 5 - Future of Work

You can see all the presentations for Day 5 above, with a guide to the speakers below.



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

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

Sunday, 27 June 2021

Dean Kuchel of Digital Nomad World: Zagreb Checks All the Boxes

June 27, 2021 - As Zagreb Digital Nomad Week 2021 draws to a close, Dean Kuchel of Digital Nomad World shares his thoughts on Zagreb as a digital nomad destination. 

Day 5 of Zagreb Digital Nomad Week 2021 was undoubtedly the highlight in terms of content, with a number of quality keynote presentations and panels focused on the topic of the Future of Work. 

Israeli Dean Kuchel, founder of the online communities Digital Nomads Israel and Digital Nomad World, brought a bundle of energy and positivity to the proceedings, with an energetic keynote speech on the topic of building community. 

His simple mantra that he travels solo but never travels alone is a key message for Croatian stakeholders to pick up on. If the digital nomad infrastructure is in, and Croatia is attractive for nomads, then they will come. And a key element of that is building up a community of like-minded people who choose to spend time in Croatia and who can meet and interact with like-minded digital nomads who have chosen Croatia.  

Here is what he had to say when asked what Zagreb is missing for digital nomads:

"Zagreb is missing more digital nomads. It has perfect weather, great nightlife. Everybody speaks English, everybody is kind to you, and it is easy to get around. The Internet is fantastic, thank you. It has been very helpful with work. I don't think it misses anything really. It checks all the boxes. It has good city life, nature, access to the sea. Just stay the same please."

One of the most interesting things I learned this week was that one of the biggest and most successful communities and DN destinations in Europe is Bansko in Bulgaria. A ski resort which attracts snowboarders, Bansko has a highly developed DN community, and the sense of community and lfestyle and like-minded people it offers is often more important than the destination itself. 


And if Croatia could develop that... Probably the most encouraging things that Dean told me was his opinion that Croatia is very much on the right path. He was very surprised and encouraged to see the level of public/private partnership and participation in Croatia's push to welcome the DN sector, which is something he has seen very rarely in other countries. While the most high-profile example of that is the public/private partnership to deliver Croatia's digital nomad permit, that cooperation exists at a deeper level. ZDNW was financed by Zagreb Tourist Board, with help from Digital Nomad Association Croatia, and delivered by Saltwater Nomads and Total Croatia News. But the commitment of the public and private sector to this initiative was demonstrated in the speaker and panel participants - the City of Zagreb, Zagreb Tourist Board, Dubrovnik Tourist Board, Ministry of Tourism, KPMG Croatia, Raaiffeisen Bank, and Hrvatski Telekom. It wa also a pleasure to welcome His Excellency Ilan Mor, Ambassador to the State of Israel, who came to meet and support Dean. 

A solid base on which to grow things in partnership.  

You can see all the presentations from the main day of the conference, whose important topic was the Future of Work. I highly recommend you watch them all if you are interested in the topic, but do find time to watch Dean Kuchel's VERY entertaining presenation on the importance of community building. If there was one presentation for Croatian stakeholders to listen to as they try and position themselves, it would be this one. It starts at 2 hours 42 minutes 50 seconds. 

You can follow Dean Kuchel's escapades on his Where is Dean? Instagram. Having visited over 100 countries in just 7 years (one of those being the pandemic year of 2020), Dean will not be in one place for long and is already in Bulgaria, having arrived in Zagreb from Ukraine in the middle of the week. 

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

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

Thursday, 24 June 2021

Zagreb Digital Nomad Week Recap, Keynote Videos, Weekend Program Announced

June 24, 2021 - Day four of Zagreb Digital Nomad Week - the keynote speeches so far.

A very international week in the Croatian capital, as the inaugural Zagreb Digital Nomad Week began on Monday, 7 days covering 7 themes in 7 locations to showcase the diversity of the city. The themes - cybersecurity, online presence, remote careers, tax & finance, wellbeing, and exploring Zagreb, have attracted a range of expert Croatian and international speakers, several of whom flew in for the event.

After months of lockdown, the more relaxed atmosphere in Croatia has been welcomed by its visitors, and the chance to finally attend an in-person event, as well as the social apects of the event - a daily Happy Hour in a different location, as well as nightly themed walking tours with the city's most innovative tour guide, Iva Silla from Secret Zagreb - have been a welcome addition to the week. 


Zagreb Digital Nomad Week 2021 & Zagreb Digital Nomad Ambassador Project is a collaboration between Saltwater Nomads, Total Croatia News, and Zagreb Tourist Board, with the latter financing the project. Each major session is being livestreamed on the TCN Facebook page and Zagreb Tourist Board YouTube channel. These sessions will remain available on the web and are useful resources for future reference. All of the panels an keynotes from the first 4 days can be found below.

The week was opened at Canopy by Hilton by Saltwater Nomads CEO Tanja Polegubic, State Secretary for Tourism and Sports, Sandra Herman, representing the Mayor of Zagreb, Ivo Spigel, Zagreb Tourist Board CEO Martina Bienenfeld, and TCN CEO Paul Bradbury. 

The main sessions were as follows:

Marko Rakar - recognised by the World eGovernment forum as one of the “Top 10 who are changing the world of politics on the internet” - was the keynote on the day's first topic, cybersecurity. Marko's audience grew visibly less comfortable the longer he spoke, with more attention to passwords and online security agreed by all at the end.

Mandy Fransz flew in from the  Netherlands to talk about the importance of online presence, with a special focus on the power of LinkedIn. Mandy is an Online Business Consultant, LinkedIn Expert, Remote Work Advocate, and the owner and founder of Make the Leap Digital, a boutique consulting agency helping purpose-driven entrepreneurs and businesses to unlock the power of LinkedIn and remote

She founded Make the Leap Digital from a tropical co-working space in Bali and often shares practical tips and behind-the-scenes content with her community of +23,000 social media followers. By now, she has helped dozens of clients worldwide through speaking, consulting, and interactive (virtual) workshops.

In 2019, Mandy was nominated one of the most inspiring and ambitious women entrepreneurs in The Netherlands and she has been featured in top international publications such as Thrive Global, VIVA400, & LINDA. Mandy currently manages the Remote Workers on LI - a LinkedIn community of over 65,000 members.

Beaming in from Australia was Taki Moore, who leads Million Dollar Coach - a community and proprietary tools and resources
exclusively available to the world’s top coaches. With an online community of over 20,000 - this “coach to the coaches” operates on 3 principles, each masterfully crafted to ATTRACT the right prospects, CONVERT them to happy clients, and DELIVER programs at scale.

Kristie Sullivan and Ron Tardiff  

Making the swtich to the digital nomad lifestyle was an interesting session with two American nomads from different backgrounds.Kristie Sullivan has an accountancy background and was an office worker until she took a severance package last year.She now travels the world and has an online community to help executives go remote. Kristie is currently on her second visit to Croatia.

Ron Tardiff is a scientist whose work is related to ecology and marine protection. He has studied marine sciences, maritime affairs, aquaculture and sustainable blue growth in seven institutions around the world. Ron conducted research, developed a strategy, managed projects and initiatives for 11 organizations with the aim of promoting a sustainable blue economy and maritime issues at the highest levels of government. Ron is from the States but currently living in Budapest. 


One of the most interesting panels was catching up with 4 of the Dubrovnik Digital Nomads-in-Residence to learn more about the realities of being a digital nomad, with topics covered including travelling with pets, finding a social life in a new destination, and how  to choose a destination.Charlie is currently in London, Vanessa in Bol on Brac, Alyssa in Barcelona, and Ron in Zagreb. 

Day 4 was tax and finance and opened by Kathleen di Paolo. Kathleen is an International Consultant, Founder and Owner of Wanderers Wealth. Her goal at Wanderers Wealth is to empower Digital Nomads and all other Wanderers of the World with financial freedom. She is an expert in offshore tax issues, international corporate structuring and global residency matters.

Kristina Grbavac of KPMG was on hand to discuss the implications for Croatia's digital nomad permit, and a range of tax questions and issues. A strong supporter of the digital nomad opportunity, Kristina is an international tax and finance expert - who leads the way in her field, with an award winning career with a respected global consultancy.

Kristina joined KPMG in Croatia in 2000 as a graduate trainee after completing her bachelor’s degree in economics at the University of Zagreb. Since then Kristina has provided a full range of tax planning, advisory and compliance services to clients in various industry sectors. Kristina is a fellow of the UK Association of Chartered Certified Accountants. She is responsible for Global Mobility Services at KPMG in Croatia since 2009.
Kristina is a Women in Adria award winner in the Future Leaders category.

Friday is the biggest day of the week, with several quality keynotes and panel sessions - see the programme below. And PLEASE NOTE that there has been a location change for tomorrow's event. The event will now take place at HUB385. Registrations are required (attendance is free). You can register here.

Friday's session will finish with the announcement of the first Zagreb Digital Nomad Ambassador, who will take up residence in Doma Zagreb on July 1. Learn more about that programme and why not apply yourself? The project runs initially until December 31.



Saturday's Wellbeing theme will kick off with yoga with the Indian Embassy in Maksimir Park. Head over and introduce yourself. This will be followed by SHBAM at 10:30 and Pilates at Adidas Sports Studio, and a Wellbeing Livestream by the Well-Being Workplace from 12:30 to 13:30. 

Sunday's Explore Zagreb programme is in more detail below. Registrations will open shortly on the Saltwater Nomads website here.

1000 - Depart from Canopy by Hilton

1030 - Short 15-min walking tour of Samobor with Samobor Tourist Board

1100 - Option 1 - 1 hour quad biking. MAX 8 people - cost 225 kuna per person, 2 per bike. (I hour)

1100 - Option 2 - Tour of Samobor Museum 

1300 - Lunch at Samoborski Klet (everyone pays their own bill) 

1500 - Departure for Zumberak Nature Park and Green Hills Tihocaj Eco-village

1600 - Arrival at Green Hills

Welcome drink and presentation from owner Davorin Stetner

Overview of Zumberak Nature Park by principal Robert Brkic

Wine tasting and barbecue 

Short tour of the eco-village

1900 - Departure to Zagreb

1945 -  Arrival in Zagreb

Meet one of Friday's keynote speakers, Albert Cañigueral, one of the Dubrovnik nomads-in-residence, and recently appointed to lead the Catalan Government's Transparency and Open Data division. Albert will be focusing on the topic of the day, the future of work.  

Tourist Board Director Martina Bienenfeld on Zagreb Digital Nomad Week, Ryanair, Tourism in Pandemic

Want to be a Zagreb Digital Nomad Ambassador and live in the city for a month between July and December? 

For the latest news and features od digital nomads in Croatia, check out the dedicated TCN section

Wednesday, 23 June 2021

Building Zagreb Community: ZDNW Keynote Dean Kuchel, Digital Nomad World Interview

June 23, 2021 - It is Zagreb Digital Nomad Week, and among the speakers are the owners of the two biggest DN LinkedIn groups. Meet one of them, Dean Kuchel of Digital Nomad Israel and Digital Nomad World.

We are delighted to welcome Dean Kuchel from Israel to Zagreb Digital Nomad Week. Dean will be delivering a keynote speech on community building, an essential step Croatia will take in its efforts to develop its digital nomad presence. You can register to attend online or in person here.

1. More than 100 countries visited, a digital nomad for years. It sounds like a perfect life! Tell us how it all started. What was the trigger to set you on your path?


Yes, I have visited over 100 countries in 7 years. It is the perfect life and I am living my dream. I don't think the way I do it is right for everyone, but there are definitely many bonus points, and I have been living a great life on the road for the last 7-8 years. 

It all started almost by mistake for me. The most lucrative job you can have is a relocation, to somewhere like the States. Do a few years there, then return to your home country - in my case, Tel Aviv in Israel. I got a job in San Francisco, but after I waited for 2-3 months for the visa, my company asked me to work remotely, which I did. 

This is how I met the nomadic lifestyle. I travelled to Taiwan and Japan, then visited a few countries in Europe, all while working remotely. While I was on this journey back in 2014, I started to meet other people enjoying a remote lifestyle. This is where I first met with digital nomads. I discovered a whole new world where I could combine one of my biggest passions - travel - and work. 

It is important to step back and note that my mother is a tour guide and has been travelling from an early age. She has been leading groups abroad and around the world. So travel was in my DNA from a very young age, and I always loved to travel. I generally say that I travel for people not places. The world is beautiful but it is the people that make travel special. 

When I finally got my work visa, I told my company that it was too late and that I was hooked on this lifestyle and could not return to the office. They answered very simply - you earned it. Remote work can be just as effective, sometimes more so, than being in the office. I showed that I was an effective communicator and team player working anywhere in the world. 


2. Focusing on Europe, where do you think the best places are for digital nomads and why?

There are many, many good countries and hot spots. The highlights would be the Canary Islands and Bansko in Bulgaria. Mostly for the community. Having a like-minded community to connect to which understands you,  with people who have made the same life choices as you. It is very supportive and helps each other to grow. Community is key to make a destination lucrative as a digital nomad destination, as happened in the Canary Islands and Bansko over time. 

We are seeing beautiful efforts from countries such as Portugal, and of course Croatia, spearheading this change in Europe, allowing nomads to spend time in the country,  putting in infrastructure. Events such as Zagreb Digital Nomad Week are great. We are seeing more co-working spaces and more accommodation available on short-term leases. 

This broadens the range of countries to visit, and when we mix the basic needs for digital nomads, such as a good WiFi connection, good places to work from, and an affordable cost of living, then we are definitely looking at countries such as Hungary, Poland, Czechia, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Croatia. These are beautiful countries with great culture and good infrastructure. They will be very attractive for nomads in the coming years, and they will benefit greatly from this shift in forces when it comes to where people choose to work from. We will see people leave the States, UK, Germany and other 'first-world' economies, and relocating to more affordable places. Those countries welcoming digital nomads will gain a lot form digital nomads, both economically and immersion in the local community. 


3. The concept of digital nomad tourism is quite new here, and we are learning about the importance of community. Tell us more about this. 

Community is to compensate for what we leave behind, for the sacrifice we make, the family, friends and coleagues. It is a network of people who understand our needs, our choices, our lifestyle. The community doesn't question us, about why we do things or how we do them. It gives you a sense of belonging be part of something bigger than just yourself, the movement.  

4. I have noticed around Croatia that there are a growing number of nomads, but this building of community is not as strong as it could be. Tell us about the importance of community. 

Community is of course a key part of life for all of us, not just digital nomads. But it is especially important for digital nomads, many of whom travel solo, but do not want to travel alone. This is where community comes to compensate for lack of family and friends. This is why we see organic communities developing in places like the Canary Islands, Bansko in Bulgaria, Medellin in Colombia, Bali, and Chiang Mail in Thailand. 


It is this natural need to connect to other people, people often with the same interests and life choices. The community also understands the lifestyle. Sometimes other people look at us and say we are crazy with this life. But a lot of us believe that this lifestyle can work and be sustainable, and when you have a community of people who have made the same life choices and sacrifices, it can be a lot of fun and great way to see the world. We all have our down time, of course, our hearts broken and our bad days, and we need that community to support us. Especially when we cross borders into cultures which are very different from our own. The community makes the transition into new places much easier. There is also the bonus of meeting people who you have already befriended in online communities. 

Moving from community to community can be to see the world, but also to be around like-minded people, driven people. For me personally, there is no way I could sustain 7-8 years of travel with no sense of community. I myself run an online community of some 23,000 people, the fourth largest of its kind in the world - Digital Nomads Israel. And I am working on a new global community called Digital Nomad World, with the idea of connecting us digital nomads with each other to exchange ideas, support, and to share all the love and good ideas that we experience. 


5. If we are looking for a community-building case study, which country and why?

If we talk about community-driven, Bansko in Bulgaria or the Canary Islands are great examples. In both cases, there are individuals like Matthias in Bansko, or Nacho in the Canary Islands. People who put a lot of effort and risk their own money to create co-living and co-working spaces. They put on conferences for digital nomads, and build up community. They are true leaders, and this helps to create these places as hot spots for nomads. 

When we look at the authorities, I don't see enough initiatives. If we look at Estonia and the e-residency, I don't think this is really geared towards nomads. If we want to focus on nomads, take a look at what Barbados is doing, although the entry price is quite high, as they are targeting higher-earning nomads. 

Countries such as Czechia and Georgia and other countries are also opening up, welcoming people who are earning money abroad. I am happy to say that Zagreb right now at the top in terms of action taken, but we also have places like Bali and Thailand.

Bermuda, Barbados, Dubai are all forming visa policies allowing digital nomads to come. Some countries target different audiences, with Barbados targeting high earners, while Georgia is more accepting of all. Georgia will be interesting to follow, and I think it will benefit a lot. It is becoming popular and the community is starting. It is relatively close to Croatia and the two countries could form a nice travel bubble. 

And Croatia. It was one of the first to attract nomads with the visa. It will be interesting to follow progress to see people take residency, start forming companies. 


6. How does Croatia rate as a nomad destination in your view, and what should it be doing to raise its profile to digital nomads?

I think Croatia is currently somewhere in the middle at the moment. It has all the great things that nomads are looking for  - lifestyle, nature, city life, beautiful see, affordable, history and easy to move around. It has the basic ingredients. 

What needs to be added is that community, which will take time. But we are seeing leaders like Tanja from Saltwater Nomads taking this forward. The authorities should continue to stay involved, but Croatia has positioned itself very well. It has great potential. Keep being an innovator and grow that community. 

I believe that Zagreb and Croatia are on the right path to become a digital nomad hot spot in the near future.   We are seeing a very rare and unique effort by the local authorities and local community and the digital nomad community. The digital nomad permits, which Croatia came up with as a result of the local community working closely with the local authorities. 

What Tanja is doing at Saltwater Nomads is doing is an amazing achievement, really unique right now in the world. It makes it very attractive for nomads to come to Croatia and spend time. Kudos to everyone involved in this project. Right now a lot of nomads are stuck in one place due to COVID-19, but I believe that once the world opens up, we will see more and more people coming to visit your beautiful country. 


It is just a matter of time to see initiatives such as Zagreb Digital Nomad Week to bear fruit. This is exactly the right thing to do at the moment, this is what attracts people. Of course, as well as keeping the infrastructure up to date. I am talking about good Internet, encouaging short-term lets, and solving other challenges that nomads face, such as access to banking, access to healthcare, access to local services such as gyms, market opportunities for investments for nomads.

A great place to learn from is Estonia. Take a look at what they did with their e-residency programme, for example. And events. More and more events. Events bring people together. Affordable living and co-working spaces bring people together and helps to strengthen the community. 

And of course, leadership. Every community needs a leader. To have it happen organically is not always easy. I think Tanja is setting an amazing example as a leader in Zagreb and Dubrovnik. With time, you will have more leaders, local people but also people from all over the world. 

Social media is also very important, and digital nomad communities rely more on new forms of media. We see more social networks, more social media, platforms such as Instagram and Tik Tok. Croatia needs to be there to put itself on the map, providing simple information on where to go, where to stay and what to do, tailored for digital nomads. 

But really overall I think Croatia is putting in the right effort, it has the right leaders, including the support of the government which is incredible to see. All this together will make Croatia a hot spot in the next couple of years. 


7. Tell us about your involvement in Zagreb Digital Nomad Week, and why did you decide to come?

It was an easy decision to come. I have been following Croatia and Tanja for some time. I am happy to take part in every event that helps to grow the community. I am very happy to play a small part in helping all this grow, and I look forward to meeting old friends, making new friends, and taking part in this great event. I will be speaking about community building.

Meet Friday's keynote speaker, Albert Cañigueral, one of the Dubrovnik nomads-in-residence, and recently appointed to lead the Catalan Government's Transparency and Open Data division. Albert will be focusing on the topic of the day, the future of work.  

Meet tomorrow's host - BIZkoshnica, Zagreb Coworking Since 2015: Mirela Marovic Omerzu Interview.

Tourist Board Director Martina Bienenfeld on Zagreb Digital Nomad Week, Ryanair, Tourism in Pandemic

Want to be a Zagreb Digital Nomad Ambassador and live in the city for a month between July and December? 

For the latest news and features od digital nomads in Croatia, check out the dedicated TCN section

Monday, 21 June 2021

Martina Bienenfeld: Zagreb will Become a Desirable Digital Nomad Destination

21 June 2021 –  The Zagreb Tourist Board (TZGZ) organises the first-ever Zagreb Digital Nomad Week from the 21st to 27th of June after which the project called Zagreb Digital Nomad Ambassador will start. The latter will enable selected digital nomads to spend a month in Zagreb for free and share their experiences. A closer look at why Zagreb is a desirable digital nomad destination. 

As translated from Seebiz.eZagreb Digital Nomad Week 2021 and the Digital Nomad Ambassador project TZGZ is organising together with Saltwater Nomads (a company specialising in organising digital nomads' stays in Croatia) and Total Croatia News (media portal).

It is these programs focusing on digital nomads that were the motivation for our conversation with Martina Bienenfeld, the head of the Zagreb Tourist Board.

SEEbiz: what was the main motivation behind deciding for the Zagreb Digital Nomad Ambassador program?

Bienenfeld: Last year changed the way of life for many people. The pandemic, which made working from home common, accelerated the trend of digital nomads and we now have generations of employees that are no longer bound by working hours, but wish to enjoy a more flexible way of life. Also, at the beginning of this year, the new Law on Foreign Nationals came into power. Under it, digital nomads can be allowed to stay in Croatia for up to a year on a non-resident basis. Zagreb, being the capital city, didn't want to miss out on this growing opportunity, so we've decided to organise Zagreb Digital Nomad Week and the Zagreb Digital Nomad Ambassador project.

SEEbiz: it is no secret many fast-expanding IT companies have their headquarters in Zagreb. Is this one of the reasons Zagreb is perceived as a destination for digital nomads? What are the prerequisites Zagreb needs to fulfil to become an attractive and desirable destination for this demographic?

Bienenfeld: That certainly is one of the reasons, but there are numerous factors that influence the choice of a destination. Above all, digital nomads are staying within one place as long as they can and want, and because they are working they value quick and reliable internet connection more than anything, which means the destination needs to have good quality telecommunication infrastructure. After that, they need good value for money and accessibility of co-working spaces. Nice weather is also high on the list. Also, proximity or at least easy accessibility of the destination is one of the conditions. Zagreb offers all these things. In this sense, the level of attractiveness of Zagreb is high and I believe there is potential to grow further, especially seeing how we are one of the first countries to regulate this type of work by law.

SEEbiz: Do you believe digital nomads are just a trend that is, among other things, here because of a global pandemic or is it something that will remain after this situation has subsided?

Bienenfeld: Assessments and research suggest more and more people will want to work independently like this in the future. In other words, they will want the freedom to travel and the ability to work where ever they are at any given time. Therefore, I believe this is not a passing trend, but a new style of working and living that will remain long after this situation.

SEEbiz: The Croatian Tourist Board (HTZ) digital nomads campaign “Croatia, your new office!” garnered great results in the first two months. What are you expecting from the projects taking place in Zagreb?

Bienenfeld: I’m expecting Zagreb to further improve its position as a desirable destination for digital nomads. Croatia’s capital can surely be positioned as a centre for digital nomads and draw in foreigners coming for work and leisure.

SEEbiz: Zagreb has been recognised as a city break destination. In spite of all the restrictions, Zagreb was a good host for Croatia Rally, and then there is also the World Rowing Cup. Is sport, professional or recreational, one of the ways of attracting digital nomads?

Bienenfeld: As I mentioned before – you always need a combination of different factors in order to attract digital nomads. Generally, when speaking of sporting events, we have to be aware they are one of the most important ambassadors of any country or the city in which they are being held. We at TZGZ are especially pleased Zagreb hosted such huge sporting events – World Rally Championship and World Rowing Cup – during these times of uncertainty. This points to the significance of our city in the segment of sports tourism as a special part of the travel industry which contributes to the creation of new quality and competitive position in the travel market. Namely, events like these cast a spotlight on the host destination and make organisers of other similar events across the world consider organising their future events in the same city or country. In the same way, the effects of such a synergy of sports and tourism add to the popularity of the destination hosting these events and represent one of the best ways of promoting Zagreb as well as Croatia.

SEEbiz: Zagreb Tourist Board saw a focus on developing new digital platforms proving successful. How do you view the importance of digitalisation in tourism?

Bienenfeld: Tourist Boards always kept pace with new technological trends and implemented them readily into their projects. We need only remember Zagreb Be There app developed in now distant 2014, which was a multiple award-winning treasure hunt sightseeing app, or QR code city tour implemented in 2013. The pandemic and, unfortunately, Zagreb earthquakes, taught us the importance of being able to respond well and quickly to new situations, follow trends by using digital tools and platforms, and adjust our tourism offer to new conditions. We have turned to digital innovations that allow us to add value, attractiveness, but also visibility to our tourism offer. A recent example is the interactive AR project Virtual Christmas Windows, in which we were first in Croatia to apply augmented reality technology in our Christmas festival awareness campaign. Digitalisation in tourism is imperative today. Tourism and technology are tightly intertwined and travel is unthinkable without digital technology.

SEEbiz: The Around Zagreb project and cooperation of the Zagreb Tourist Board and Zagreb County Tourist Board is one of the first big steps in strategic destination development in Croatia because the focus is on quality content and finding new benefits for tourists, seeing how it promotes quality tourist-focused content in Zagreb’s surroundings or only half an hour from the city centre. Zagreb and its surroundings as a unique green destination, is this the strategy for the post-pandemic period?

Bienenfeld: I’m glad you’ve asked me that as we are just starting with our refreshed campaign in cooperation with the Zagreb County Tourist Board, and soon we will go ahead with Krapina – Zagorje County as well. Project Blizu grada, blizu srca (Close to the City, close to Heart) / Around Zagreb is created with a long-term goal and vision and we would like to have started it even without the pandemic situation. It is natural for Zagreb and its surrounding area to promote together because guests do not care about our administrative borders. They are after quality and interesting content. The pandemic in a sense helped the campaign along because guests are now, more than ever, searching for the options of spending time in nature, on fresh air, surrounded by greenery, all combined with diverse local culture and gastronomic offer.

Last year, most of the visitors to came from Croatia (40%), but also from the markets where the campaign was run – Slovenia (35%), Austria, Germany, and Bosnia and Herzegovina (25%). Interestingly, we are seeing a rising interest from the American market as well, even though there was no advertising campaign specifically aiming at that market, which represents a guideline for future activities. Inspired by the success of the campaign so far, recording over 37 million views, we have improved our platform and are showing it to the important markets again. With this in mind, along with refreshed visuals and itineraries, we have started a new section called “Did You Know?” which showcases various interesting points from our surrounding areas. Besides that, we also have cooking videos featuring authentic local cuisine recipes from Zagreb and the surrounding area. They are made by the famous Croatian chef Mr. Almo Catlak. He set out to present local delicacies to a wide audience with an emphasis on tradition with a bit of a modern approach. We are now starting the campaign for the markets of Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Serbia, and Germany and soon we will be updating it with Krapina – Zagorje County materials. I would hereby also like to give my thanks to all involved in this.

SEEbiz: Zagreb is also an airplane destination. What effects do you expect as a result of RyanAir coming to Zagreb Airport, or how important in this respect is the survival of the national airline company?

Bienenfeld: We welcome all new airlines coming to Zagreb and will be glad to see the RyanAir airplane “tales” among those of other companies already landing in our city. This will contribute to the further positioning of Zagreb as a city break destination and will make it more accessible to interested visitors. As far as the national carrier is concerned, we mustn’t forget it was Croatia Airlines that connected us to the rest of the world when all other companies stopped flying here during the toughest pandemic restrictions. In this sense, I wouldn’t compare these two airline companies because their profiles and business models are vastly different.

SEEbiz: We know we are living in very uncertain times, but at the end of the interview, let me ask you: What is your vision for the long-term tourism development of Zagreb.

Bienenfeld: We need to keep in mind it will take a few years after the pandemic for tourism to bounce back. The earthquake made things even more difficult because it damaged a variety of buildings, some of which contribute to tourist offers or architectural and urban distinctions of the city. The state of tourism will depend on the organisation and readiness of the destination to adapt to new conditions and provide solutions. Further development of tourism in a smart, responsible and sustainable way will depend on how much are we as a sector prepared for new challenges. From the perspective of tourism, it is clear more and more travellers take into account ecology and sustainability, and we, therefore, need to apply sustainable concepts in order to potentially make them into one of the key promotional factors.

Also, it is important to activate underused tourist resources and continue to develop key tourist products of the destination. With the goal of defining a stronger position in the travel market in this context, it is necessary to support innovative and creative development initiatives that contribute to further building of the destination as a centre for urban, regenerative, and cultural scene and encourage dispersion of tourist activities. For the MICE segment we are expecting a slower recovery, but we need to continue communicating with the organisers of conferences and events and position Zagreb as a regional centre for business meetings, gatherings, and conferences. I see additional potential in health tourism, sports and active tourism, and of course food tourism. In any case, what is important and we’ll continue to insist on is that Zagreb is and always was a people’s city.

For more on Digital Nomads in Croatia, click here

Monday, 21 June 2021

Zagreb Digital Nomad Week 2021 Opens at Canopy by Hilton

June 21, 2021 - A strong lineup of Zagreb officials opens Zagreb Digital Nomad Week at Canopy by Hilton. 

Tourism is changing, and new opportunities are presenting themselves, just as more tradiional mass tourism seem to be a thing of the past. 

The pandemic has helped accelerate the previous trend towards remote work, with an oft-quoted pre-pandemic figure of one billion remote workers globally by 2035, a number which now sounds conservative. 

Croatia has been one of the more high-profile countries in the world over the last year with its efforts to introduce the digital nomad permit, which came into effect on January 1, 2021. 

The number of applicants is increasingly steadily, but the bigger PR message gained both from the visa push (only Estonia in Europe had a digital nomad visa when Croatia's was announced last summer), coupled with  Croatia's more relaxed stance on allowing travellers to come in, and its position as an EU country outside the Schengen zone, has attracted a steady number of digital nomads over the last year. 

Saltwater Nomads, in cooperation with TCN, the City of Dubrovnik and the Dubrovnik Tourist Board organised the first-ever digital nomad conference in Croatia last October, followed by the world's first digital nomad-in-residence program in Dubrovnik which ended last month.   


The focus has now shifted to the Croatian capital, where Zagreb Digital Nomad Week 2021 & Zagreb Digital Nomad Ambassador Project kicked off this morning at Canopy by Hilton, one of 7 locations over 7 days, exploring 7 DN-related themes. 

The project is a collaboration between Saltwater Nomads, TCN, Doma Zagreb, the Digital Nomad Association Croatia, and the Zagreb Tourist Board (funded by the latter), and there was a high-profile turn out from city and national officials to open the conference. 


After the opening welcome from Saltwater Nomads CEO Tanja Polegubic, State Secretary for Tourism and Sport, Sandra Herman, was next to speak. Herman pointed out the support the Ministry has given to the push for the digital nomad permit, a collaboration between various ministries, and Dutch entrepreneur Jan de Jong, whose open letter to Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic on LinkedIn last July started the permit initiative. 


The new Mayor of Zagreb, Tomislav Tomasevic, was represented by Ivo Spigel, one of the founders of the Mozemo platform working with the new city administration. Spigel pointed out the excellence of the Croatian startup scene and plans for digitalisation. A younger and more forward-thinking city administration seems keen to engage with the new opportunity of remote work for Zagreb. 


Martina Bienenfled, CEO of the Zagreb Tourist Board, voiced her strong support for the digital nomad initiative, seeing it as a great opportunity for Zagreb tourism to develop in a new direction. A safe, affordable European capital, with enviable lifestyle, great gourmet options, activities and nature in and around the city,, with great connectivity and English widely spoken are just some of the competitive advantages. 


The 7 days will each focus on an individual theme - cybersecurty, online presence, remote careers, tax & finance, the future of work, wellbeing, and explore Zagreb. The keynote speakers are a mixture of in person and remote speakers. Mandy Fransz of Make the Leap Digital, flew in from the Netherlands, and she will have her keynote speech on Oline Presence tomorrow at 09:00 at BIZkoshnica Coworking, tomorrow's host. 


Day 1 focused on the theme of cybersecurity, with Marko Rakar - recognised by the World eGovernment forum as one of the “Top 10 who are changing the world of politics on the internet” - as the keynote speaker. Rakar gaven an entertaining and thought-provoking presentation, which had everyone in the room a little more concerned about their online security. You can read Rakar's pre-conference TCN interview here.  


And no digital nomad conference would be complete without its own mascot, and Miso the dog made his presence felt during the opening speeches. 

Each evening this week includes a networking Happy Hour, followed by a themed tour of the city by local specialists, Secret Zagreb. 

The rest of the programme is available online on the Saltwater Nomads website, and each session is livestreamed. Registration is free, both online and in person, and you can see the rest of the program and register here.


Meet Friday's keynote speaker, Albert Cañigueral, one of the Dubrovnik nomads-in-residence, and recently appointed to lead the Catalan Government's Transparency and Open Data division. Albert will be focusing on the topic of the day, the future of work.  

Meet tomorrow's host - BIZkoshnica, Zagreb Coworking Since 2015: Mirela Marovic Omerzu Interview.

Tourist Board Director Martina Bienenfeld on Zagreb Digital Nomad Week, Ryanair, Tourism in Pandemic

Want to be a Zagreb Digital Nomad Ambassador and live in the city for a month between July and December? 

For the latest news and features od digital nomads in Croatia, check out the dedicated TCN section

Sunday, 20 June 2021

Sara Peranić: Don't Blame Your Surroundings for Results You Are Not Satisfied with

June 20, 2021 - One of the most common misconceptions in our society is that any kind of success is the result of an exception, rather than a rule, with a bit of luck and divine intervention thrown into the mix. And yet, according to the latest CEPOR report, there are currently 134.365 thriving micro and small business in Croatia. Meet Sara Peranić, whose business took off - in the middle of the pandemic.

Sara Peranić is a social pedagogue, blogger, founder of the project Licence for Imperfection, and the author of SamopouzdaniJA (English: ConfIdent), an online personal development course for women, with over 8 years of volunteer experience in various nonprofit organizations. She is currently studying to become a certified psychotherapist. 

An average person usually comes into contact with social pedagogues at government-run institutions –  schools, social welfare centers, youth centers, prisons. Given that social pedagogues mostly work in the public sector, would you say that you have chosen an unorthodox career path? Is there such a thing at all? How did it all come about?

„Create what you miss in the world“ – that was my guiding thought. I truly respect science, but it seems to me sometimes that there is a huge gap between scientific knowledge and people that need that knowledge to improve their lives. So, I see my work as building a bridge between.

On your blog, you describe yourself as a personal development addict. Where did you get the inspiration for your blog and later, your online course SamopouzdaniJa? Also, how much time does it take to come up and create content?

Back in high school, I started watching Ted Talks instead of series that young people usually watch. When I moved to Zagreb I was delighted by the number of various educations, courses, etc. I started volunteering and realized pretty soon that faculty knowledge is just not enough. So I attended all that was offered. After a few years, there was accumulated a lot of experience and knowledge and I just felt like it should be spread. Once I was online and realized how helpful it was for people that were following me, I started studying and reading more than ever. So, it all started as a hobby and soon it grew into a business. My programme SamopouzdaniJA is a result of all my educations, books that I've read, workshops that I attended and created, courses, especially psychotherapy education, and my own psychotherapy experience. It is a combination of counselling, psychotherapy, coaching, and some alternative methods and techniques. I created that programme in 1 month, but the knowledge I poured into was an accumulation of 8 years in self-development and education.


Sara Peranić/private archive

 You have launched your blog, Sluša-Lica, in 2019, a year preceding the infamous 2020. Despite the unusual circumstances, you have successfully built a commendable online presence, not through one, but six different channels –  your blog, Youtube, Instagram, Facebook, Spotify, and your newsletter. What was it like, being an entrepreneur in that situation?

Interest in topics that I talk about was huge even before the pandemic, but in lockdown, people were enormously looking for some sort of self-help content since the circumstances were very unpredictable. Also, they finally had some time to be with themselves, and various distractions that usually occupy their mind were now removed, so many thoughts and emotions came out. And the reason why I posted on so many platforms is that different people consume different content, some prefer to listen to podcasts, others prefer reading blogs. I always enjoyed writing, while recording podcasts was a huge challenge for me. But, I believe there are only 2 options in life: you challenge yourself the way you choose or life challenges you the way you dislike - your choice. Interestingly, I never thought about developing my business and how was it in the pandemic, all I was thinking about is what do people need and how may I serve them best. Business is the result of that.

I have been following your work for over a year and the idea that you often come back to is, 'It's not about the circumstances, it's about you.' What are your experiences with the Croatian bureaucracy as an independent businesswoman? Is it all truly so bleak? Or is it about the point of view we decide to take?

It's up to us, not the circumstances that we are surrounded by is one of the hardest and most powerful lectures that I learned in psychotherapy school. That does not mean that our bureaucracy in comparison with some other countries is not complicated (and in many ways unlogic), but the point is that some give up on building a business because of that while others build one despite that.


Sara Peranić/private archive

 Your unique business model enables you to tailor your schedule to your specific needs and work from practically anywhere in the world. Would you consider yourself a digital nomad?

Absolutely, that is how I see my future self. To be a solopreneur, I think your must-haves are: consistency, time management skills, quick decision-making skill, creativity, financial management, and an enormous responsibility. Once you master that, you can create the life you adore living. (PS, it doesn't mean you start living a perfect life without problems – problems and unpleasant emotions are a part of human life experience).

You are also training to become a psychotherapist. Until the changes of the national legislation in 2018, psychotherapy could, more or less, only be practiced by doctors of medicine. There is still no standalone psychotherapy study program in Croatia. What is the role of psychotherapy with regard to psychology and psychiatry, the other two disciplines which also revolve around the psyche, the human soul?

Psychotherapists and counsellors help people with psychological problems and mental health issues through therapeutic relationships and conversations. Psychiatrists, on the other side, deal with mental illness (diagnoses) and are the only ones that are allowed to give prescriptions. Psychologists are firstly concerned with the normal functioning of the mind and behaviour. Psychologists and psychiatrists can further specialize in psychotherapy. In Croatia, just like in other countries, different psychotherapy schools are associated with European and then World Institutes. 

During your years at the university, you started a project Licence for Imperfection, aimed at Croatian high school students. Your current project, SamopouzdaniJA - the first of its kind in our region – has, since its launch about a year ago, brought together an international community of more than 250 women from all walks of life. What do women most commonly struggle with? Are these universal challenges or are there some that have to do with our specific Eastern European mindset?


    Sara Peranić/private archive

Even though we are all individuals, we all have some core beliefs that bind us, such as "I am not enough, others are better than me, my body should not look like this, the world is a dangerous place". Also, problems that so many women struggle with are other people's opinions and self-doubting.

A bit more specific for our region is the way we think we „should“ live (school, college, marriage, car, apartment, children, work, work, work, die) and money mindset issues (ex. a lot of money can not be earned fair, money changes people), etc. 

You teach women that self-respect and self-confidence are not one and the same, but both require a genuine wish and effort to be developed. Working on yourself is not selfishness, as you say. What is the greatest myth on the journey of self-development that you work on deconstructing?

Self-confidence is a much popular term than self-respect, so many women think they have a problem with confidence, while most of them primarily struggle with self-respect. In my programme SamopouzdaniJA we work on both concepts because even if you believe that you can achieve goals (you have confidence) if you do not have self-esteem, you will not be satisfied when you achieve them. After all, you will still believe that you are not good enough or worthy. On the other side, if you have high self-respect, but low confidence, you will be unsatisfied because you will not be able to achieve your goals.

One of the greatest myths of self-development is surely the one you just mentioned, that if we love ourselves and work on ourselves it means that we are selfish while just the opposite is true. If we do not learn how to respond to our needs and expect others to do that for us, we become people-pleasers, codependent, etc. The other myth is that we are defined by our past and there is nothing we can do about it. The truth is we can do a lot. We can not change what happened in the past, but we can surely change our opinion of what happened and also choose how it will or will not affect us in the future. And lastly, people often believe that they don't have a choice when it comes to feelings. Feelings are not something that affects us from outside but something that we create within us by the way we think. Since we can manage our thoughts we can also change how we feel.


Sara Peranić/private archive

You are soon launching a comprehensive new course which has to do with female leadership, is that right? I notice that you put a lot of importance on the power of the right kind of community. Essentially, we should surround ourselves with people we consider our equals, as being solely around those we strongly admire and think 'above' us can stunt our growth, do you agree?

Currently, I help women build self-confidence and change their lives by changing the relationship they have with themselves. The more I am in business, the more I realize how important self-development is when it comes to growing your business. I am 100% sure that my fast business growth happened because I worked on myself first. So, I decided to create a programme that will help entrepreneurs set up their mindset to achieve big goals while enjoying the process of who they become and what they create. Being an entrepreneur means dealing with fears, negative thoughts, and lots of decisions on a daily basis. The faster you learn how to manage your mind, the faster your business will grow.

If you want to change your results, you have to change who you are. In any aspect of your life.

Speaking of surroundings, I see it a bit differently. I would say that you should surround yourself with people you want to become. For example, if you want to get yourself in good shape, you have to surround yourself with people who regularly go to the gym. If you want to quit drinking, consider not visiting places you used to drink at. If you don't know where to find those people, find them online – you have to start somewhere.

My advice would be: don't ever blame your surroundings for results you are not satisfied with. Your surroundings, just like your results are your responsibility.

For more on Made in Croatia, CLICK HERE.

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