Sunday, 2 January 2022

Inside Zadar Valley, Croatia's First 'Digital Nomad Village'

January 2, 2022 - It was hailed as the first 'Croatian digital nomad village' when it opened in October last year, but little has been heard about it since. A visit to Zadar Valley in mid-December.  

2021 was a phenomenal year for Croatia's digital nomad story. The year kicked off with the introduction of the digital nomad permit, one of the first in the world, on January 1. It was a permit which received global attention and was recently named the best in the world.  

Innovative programmes such as the award-winning Dubrovnik Digital Nomads-in-Residence and Zagreb Digital Nomad Week & Ambassador project kept Croatia in the global nomad news, and helped to attract an increasing number of nomads to check out Croatia. 

By the time the highly regarded Nomad List 2021 survey came out late in the year, the feedback was stunning - Croatia was the second most-liked country, and Zagreb in the top 5 cities in the world

There was more. On September 29, the Digital Nomads Croatia Facebook page announced Zadar Valley,  the first 'digital nomad village' and curated community in Croatia. Here is the announcement in full, with accompanying photos:

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DIGITAL NOMAD VALLEY ZADAR OFFICIAL ANNOUNCEMENT

I believe that everyone in this group knows that Croatia has a lot to offer to digital nomads. From natural beauty to culture, architecture, gastronomy, and quite importantly, the Mediterranean lifestyle.

However, we also recognize that the attractiveness of the country is not enough on its own, it’s the feeling of community that matters to digital nomads and remote workers. As moderators of this group, are working hard to empower the DN community in Croatia.

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That is why I am very happy to announce a project which would, hopefully, attract even more digital nomads to visit this beautiful land and create strong and lasting communities around the country.

As a CEO of grabAhome, in partnership with Falkensteiner H&R, I proudly present Digital Nomad Valley Zadar!

At one of the most beautiful resorts, in one of the most prominent cities in Croatia, we are organizing the first curated digital nomad community in Croatia.

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Starting October 10th, by joining the program you will get:

  • Premium mobile homes with solo or coliving options
  • Exclusive coworking office
  • Community manager
  • Free access to Spa, Gym, and indoor pool
  • Exclusive events (organized by us and the community)
  • #discordcommunity channel
  • Partner discounts
  • Most importantly, a great community of like-minded people

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JOIN US AT www.workremotelycroatia.com

Minimum 2-week stay. Starting at €130 per week, we believe that everyone will be able to find an accommodation option that suits them.

We are also able to offer the First 15 digital nomads a 15% discount for the first two weeks of stay!

This project is a part of a new initiative from grabAhome called Work Remotely Croatia, where we hope to build and support several communities around Croatia in order to promote and advocate sustainable tourism in Croatia. This project starts on October 10th until 31st March, with the possibility of an extension!

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Special thanks to Falkensteiner H&R for offering long-term rentals just for the purpose of this project, and to Digital Nomad Association Croatia and Zadar Tourist Board for supporting this project.

It sounded like a fantastic initiative - and it is - and TCN was the first to publish the announcement, and the story was soon picked up by global media such as, for example, Euronews

Zadar Valley co-founder Mario Mrksa gave a very good interview with TCN just before the launch, outlining the project and what nomads could expect at Zadar Valley. With over 200 applications in the first 10 days, it seemed that all was heading in the right direction. 

And then things got a little strange - to me at least, someone who has been following the Croatian DN scene for over two years. Zadar Valley opened, but there was no online presence or feedback whatsoever that I could see. And I looked quite hard. 

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Then some days later, something even stranger, as an article by the Croatian National Tourist Board (HTZ) appeared in Slobodna Dalmacija. This is the first time I had seen HTZ promoting a private enterprise in all my time in Croatia.

To put it in context, long before I had any issues with the Croatian National Tourist Board, back in 2015 I wrote my most successful article ever. 25 Reasons Never to Visit Croatia was visited more than 1 million times, covered by every Croatian (and some international) media, shared by almost every local and regional tourist board. 

But not by the Croatian National Tourist Board, which actually deleted links to the article when people posted on their Facebook page. I was a little upset, so I complained to the Director's office (a former director, not the current one). This was part of the reply:

The Croatian National Tourism Board is a national tourist organization founded with a view to promoting and creating the identity of Croatian tourism. The mission also includes the planning and implementation of a common strategy and the conception of its promotion, proposal and the performance of promotional activities of mutual interest for all subjects in tourism in the country and abroad, as well as raising the overall quality of the whole range of tourist services in the Republic of Croatia. Therefore, we cannot promote commercial subjects based on individual offer of tourist services. 

A fairly clear - if short-sighted - policy, but definitely a strong guideline. Which is why it was so strange to see the article in Slobodna.

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Things got even stranger at the end of November. With still nothing online about life at Zadar Valley, a hastily arranged press conference on November 28 to officially launch Zadar Valley had a star cast, including the Head of Global PR of the Croatian National Tourist Board, the Mayor Zadar, and the local MEP. Mario invited me to the press conference a couple of days before, but given my ongoing lawsuits with one of his star guests, I declined as I did not want to distract attention from the project. 

By contrast, the award-winning Zagreb Digital Nomad Week and Dubrovnik Digital Nomads-in-Residence barely (if at any) got an official mention from the Croatian National Tourist Board. Odd.

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But I did meet him and his Zadar Valley partner, Vedran, for a beer in Zagreb to discuss progress. And there was good progress, they informed me, as well as inviting me down to visit. 

I decided to take him up on the offer, and planned a quick visit in mid-December. But I also asked him to send an update on the project, as well as a quote, and some photographs of life in Zadar Valley. This is what Mario sent me, published in full: 

RECAP
Since October 2021, we have welcomed more than 20 digital nomads to the Valley. While many are from Europe (England, Germany, Czechia, Sweden); DNs also joined us from the Americas (USA, Brazil) and East Asia. A few DNs extended their stays at the Valley by several weeks. While many residents work in IT, creative, and on start-ups; several also work remotely for employers at regular 9 to 5 jobs.

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In partnership with the expat and local community, we have organized meetups at bars and nightclubs, group dinners, board games evenings, bike rides, hikes to Velebit and surrounding areas, and even a group Kizomba dance night. Through these events, we have formed friendships with long-term Expats and DNs in the area.

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In November, Gillie Sutherland joined the Valley as Wellness Ambassador. She holds daily Yoga classes, often on the beach, and conducts seminars on nutrition and healthy living.

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We have 14 new DNs coming at the beginning of January and expect Steve Tsentserensky and Dean Kuchel to join us, which are already well recognized within DN community in Croatia. In addition to building the community, organizing meetups and excursions, we are planning several local experiences (Croatian traditions and crafts) and a series of comprehensive spa and wellness packages.

"We are very proud of what we achieved within the first 75 days of the Digital Nomad Valley project. Even though we managed to bring the first batch of nomads to our small "village", we're most proud of seeing digital nomads and remote workers coming to the City of Zadar just because they heard about a new DN community here.

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Many of them decided to stay until the beginning of Summer. It's mesmerizing to think that, just because of this project, we managed to influence people to choose a destination they probably never heard of for working remotely. We accomplished putting Zadar on the DN map, and that's just a start." Mario Mrksa. 

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My visit in mid-December was hardly going to be the peak season for nomads in Zadar Valley, and so it proved. Community Manager Forrest Stilin, a very friendly and enthusiastic American returning to his Croatian roots, showed me around on a gorgeous December late morning.  He is clearly very enthusiastic about the project and very keen to see the community develop with the arrival of a bigger group of nomads in January.  At the time of my visit, there was just one nomad at Zadar Valley (all photos in this article are not from my visit, but supplied by Zadar Valley). 

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The community is building slowly, with outdoor activities such as hiking proving a hit.  

 And there is a definite plus when it comes to the spa.

 The Falkensteiner hotel partner has given free spa access to every resident of Zadar Valley. 

A nice addition for sure. There is also a coworking space in the hotel, which had a couple of people working in it when we visited. As for the valley itself, it is a little hard to comment on it, as we didn't actually see anybody as we walked around. 

But the community is building slowly, and Zadar Valley has signed up a few local partner service providers, who are offering special DN programmes and discounts. This is something that will presumably grow in time. 

Is Zadar Valley for me? Personally I would prefer a little more life and community, but it is hard to judge on a visit in December. There certainly needs to be more information and social media posting about, and the arrival of the Dean Kuchels will certainly help in that regard.  

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Having spent a pleasant hour with Forrest, culminating in a (with a discount) coffee in a local cafe, I headed back to Zagreb, with one small detour. Mario and Vedran had invited a few nomads to road test a new nomad-friendly villa they had taken on. I agreed to check it out, as well as saying hi to one of the temporary residents - Zagreb Digital Nomad Ambassador for November, Rax Suen from Singapore. 

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The villa - actually two - is magnificent. 

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The views pretty special.  

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And the location a real disappointment. These are the instructions of how to reach it by car. Once in the villa, life is beautiful indeed. But it is far away from anything else, especially if you do not have a car. 

it felt somehow a little like Zadar Valley itself - a great concept, but very much a work in progress. 

Having visited, would I classify as a digital nomad village? No, it has some way to go. There are other more developed events, such as Nomad Table in Split, which are bringing communities together. 

But the project definitely has potential, and Mario and Vedran should be congratulated on the initiative. Whether or not Zadar Valley will establish itself as a key destination in the DN story remains to be seen, but its very existence is one more stepping stone to putting Croatia on the global digital nomad map. 

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

Tuesday, 28 December 2021

Building Community: Dean Kuchel's 3rd Zagreb Visit in 2022 on Christmas Day

December 28, 2021 - Zagreb is a 365-day nomad city, as the Croatian capital's favourite Israeli nomad Dean Kuchel found out on his latest building community mission.

The thing about digital nomads, I am learning, is that they seem to think the whole world exists on their schedules, and that we can all adapt.

"Paul, I am coming back to Zagreb for the third time. I love that city. So let's meet."

"Fantastic. It will be great to see you, but I also want to talk to you more about CROMADS and how we get some of your community of 25,000 nomads coming to Croatia to check out its authentic experiences.  When are you coming, and how long for?"

"December 25th, for just 18 hours. But really looking forward to seeing you. Let's go out and have some fun."

"I know you are Jewish, but December 25 is kinda a big deal here - a family day called Christmas. And nothing will be open."

Of course, Dean had no problem finding the party, enjoying a great Christmas lunch with about 15 nomads - the Zagreb community is really starting to gel. 

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And apart from Santa Claus and Johnny Rotten, probably the only other chap who could tempt me off the gin-sodden sofa on Christmas Day is this man. One of our favourite haunts, Canopy by Hilton Zagreb was open throughout the holiday period, and it was good to catch up and discuss CROMADS and other plans. 

Dean was a keynote speaker at Zagreb Digital Nomad Week, as well as returning in September as the official Zagreb Digital Nomad Ambassador for the month. A rising star on the nomad scene, his boundless enthusiasm for all things Zagreb (as well as his increasingly frequent visits) are one more sign that the Croatian capital is establishing itself as a serious new kid on the digital nomad block.  

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But Dean has bigger plans for Croatia's digital nomad story and building community than just Zagreb.  After a relaxing night, he was on the plane to Dubrovnik, where he will be working with the Dubrovnik Tourist Board building community until early in the New Year. Here he is above, with legendica Ana Hrnic, Director of the Dubrovnik Tourist Board, and a firm supporter and participant in the Dubrovnik Digital Nomads-in-Residence Program. Stay tuned for some exciting Dubrovnik nomad news in 2022, to be announced shortly on TCN. 

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Meanwhile, back in Zagreb, the community continues to grow. December Zagreb Digital Nomad Ambassador, Anna Maria Kochanska, was very taken by Canopy when we met there for a drink the other night to do an invitation. So much so that she organised a co-working day at the hotel today. 

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

Tuesday, 28 December 2021

7 Ambassadors, 6 Months, 1 Great Digital Nomad Destination: Zagreb

December 30, 2021 - As Zagreb continues its journey to become a great digital nomad destination, a collection of thoughts from its 7 digital nomad ambassadors.

They say that all good things come to an end, but I have a feeling that things are only just beginning as we close the Zagreb Digital Nomad Week & Ambassador program, which has been an unqualified success. 

Just a few months ago, Zagreb was not really on the nomad radar at all, but that has changed considerably, with the Croatian capital even making the top 5 most-liked cities in the world in the recent Nomad List 2021 survey.  

And while the award-winning Zagreb Digital Nomad Week was over in the 7 days it took to host it, the subsequent Zagreb Digital Nomad Ambassador program - a collaboration between Saltwater Nomads, Zagreb Tourist Board, Doma Zagreb Aparthotel, and TCN - has kept the city's nomad profile running all through the second half of 2021. 

Six monthly ambassadors and their partners, from USA, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Israel, Singapore and Poland, in addition to Special Guest Ambassador 2021, Steve Tsenterensky, have given Zagreb so many different angles and points of view to take the story to the next level. And that story will continue next year, with more details of Zagreb Digital Nomad Week 2022 coming shortly. 

Each ambassador kindly agreed to speak to TCN (some on several occasions) during their stay, and I thought it would be a nice way to finish the programme by placing them all side by side to show the depth and diversity that is interested in Zagreb, the digital nomad destination. Heroes all, and many thanks for all your immense contributions.

Veronica Mulhall from New York - July Ambassador.

Julian from Zimbabwe and Manchester - July Ambassador's Partner Extraordinaire.

Rudi Witkowsky from South Africa - August Ambassador.

Dean Kuchel from Israel - September Ambassador. 

Andrae Smith from South Africa - October Ambassador.

Rax Suen from Singapore - November Ambassador.

Anna Maria Kochanska from Poland - December Ambassador. 

Steve Tsentserensky from USA, Special Guest Ambassador 2021. 

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

Tuesday, 28 December 2021

Anna Maria Kochanska on Zagreb Digital Nomad Ambassador Life in December

December 28, 2021 - Zagreb Digital Nomad Ambassador for December Anna Maria Kochanska on life in the Croatian capital in its most festive month. 

Six months, six different monthly ambassadors (as well as Special Guest Ambassador Steve Tsentserensky), and a very active ambassador to finish the very successful Zagreb Digital Nomad Week & Ambassador program, which runs from June 21 to December. 

After ambassadors and partners from USA, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Israel and Singapore, Anna Maria Kochanska from Poland arrived to take up ambassadorial duties for the month of December. 

And she has been everywhere, enjoying Advent in Zagreb to the full, as well as organising several meetups in between her public speaking and media appearances. 

Each month has been very different, but I think it is fair to say that December has been by far the most active month in terms of ambassadorial activity, as Steve and Anna Maria have explored more of the city in a month than I manage in a year.

I caught up with Anna Maria just before Christmas at Canopy by Hilton, which hosted the press conference and opening day of Zagreb Digital Nomad Week back in June. I was initially a little worried at how our December ambassador would spend the last week of the year, as it is very much a family time of year.  

But I need not have worried, for I think Anna Maria had a lot more company and fun over the festive period than most of us.

Here she is interviewed at Canopy a few days ago, reflecting on her month in Zagreb so far and her plans for the festive period. 

Stay tuned for more information about Zagreb Digital Nomad Week 2022 - more details will be announced shortly. 

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

 

Tuesday, 28 December 2021

Steve Tsentserensky on Zagreb Ambassador Digital Nomad Life in December

December 28, 2021 - Zagreb Digital Nomad Special Guest Ambassador Steve Tsentserensky reflects on life in the Croatian capital in December.

If there is a bigger fan of Zagreb, I have yet to meet that person. 

Of all the digital nomads who have spent time in the Croatian capital this year (and there have been many), few have been as visible as Steve Tsentserensky from Cleveland, Ohio. One of the first recipients of the Croatian digital nomad permit back in March, Steve has been very active travelling around the country, but all roads ultimately lead back to his true Croatian love, Zagreb. 

One of the most effective and active ambassadors of Croatia to the global digital nomad community, I was delighted for Steve when he was named Zagreb Digital Nomad Special Guest Ambassador 2021 in recognition of his efforts so far. 

And the new title had a very positive effect, as Steve had arguably his most active month so far, both in the media and public speaking, as well as covering as much of the city and many events as was humanly possible. 

TCN caught up with Steve just before Christmas at the location where Zagreb's digital nomad journey began - Canopy by Hilton - to reflect on life in Zagreb in December, and to learn how nomads spend this traditional family time. I was not surprised to learn that Steve's Christmas was a lot more active than mine. 

The Zagreb Digital Nomad Week and Ambassador Project is a collaboration between Saltwater Nomads,,Total Croatia News, and Zagreb Tourist Board, and it will run until December 31. Six ambassadors plus Steve each spent a calendar month in the city starting on July 1. 

Stay tuned for more information about Zagreb Digital Nomad Week 2022 - more details will be announced shortly. 

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

Thursday, 23 December 2021

Improving Croatian Tourism: 8 Key TCN Areas of Focus for 2022

December 23, 2021 - 2022 will be a year of change for tourism in Croatia. An overview of 8 key areas TCN will be focusing its efforts on improving Croatian tourism in 2022.

2021 has been a great year at TCN, as we diversified from a news portal into some other projects. There is such potential in so many areas in this country that I am constantly surprised at how few people I see exploring the opportunities. I know a few people who laughed when a certain Dutch expat announced he was going to grow tomatoes in northern Croatia, but having seen the project develop at first hand, it is heartening to see that such ideal dreams of Jan de Jong, Jerko Trogrlic and the team at CROP Hrvatska will become a reality. 

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(The Slavonian Wannabe Tomato Growers Convention with CROP Hrvatksa, Osijek, December 2021)

And once it starts, the floodgates could open. Contrary to the general media portrayal, I genuinely think that this is an incredibly exciting time to be alive in Croatia. And I leave 2021 and enter 2022 with perhaps more energy, optimism and determination than ever before since I moved here permanently back in 2003. 

Of course, Jan is a much more successful businessman than I could ever hope to be, and so my main focus in 2022 will be to develop the eco-system of sustainable tourism all over the country, 12 months a year, rather than watch the current lazy status quo which is slowly destroying Croatia's Adriatic jewels. 

It has been another completely random 12 months at TCN. Just as I never expected to be named International Medical Travel Journalist of the Year in Malaysia a year ago, so too I did not expect to be giving a keynote speech at Digital Nomad Week based out of Bali on VIP Day almost exactly a year later - you can see the first presentation of our new CROMADS platform during my online presentation above.

2021 was a year of awards and lawsuits for TCN. A total of 11 international awards for projects that we were partners in, and an impressive 3 lawsuits, the first in my life (I don't count the one publicly announced in 2018 by Mayor of Jelsa, Niksa Peronja, as it never arrived). Seven awards for the Total Croatia Travel INFO Viber community, delivered in partnership with Manjgura and Mediacor (including 3 at the Polaris Awards in London), 2 for Zagreb Digital Nomad Week with Saltwater Nomads and Zagreb Tourist Board, and 2 for Dubrovnik Digital Nomads-in-Residence program with Saltwater Nomads, City of Dubrovnik and Dubrovnik Tourist Board. 

But as nice as it was to win the awards, it was actually the lawsuits which gave me the inspiration for a new direction for TCN. If our constructive criticism was not only read by the Kings of Accidental Tourism, but bothered them so much that they were prepared to sue me for 100,000 kuna, perhaps I had a voice that was being heard further than I had imagined.  

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I am certainly very grateful to the Kings for the lawsuits. Apart from being described by one journalist as the biggest PR own goal in the history of the Croatian National Tourist Board, it was also the best free promotion TCN has ever had (thank you!), as a staggering 16,000 people took part in an online poll by Index.hr after the story hit all the major news networks. 

If the Kings were that sensitive to a few words, what might happen if we publicly started pushing a few initiatives via TCN to see what stuck, and what progress we could make? The lawsuits will be entering their third calendar year next month, and you can follow progress every step of the way in our Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit feature, which will probably go on for years until we win in the European courts in Strasbourg. TCN promo budget 2022 - 2026 - tick.  

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But it seems more and more people are recognising TCN and the various initiatives we are pushing to celebrate the little guy and connect the eco-system outside the crumbling walls of the Mighty State of Uhljebistan. It was an honour earlier this week, for example, to receive an invitation from His Excellency Raj Srivastava, Indian Ambassador to Croatia to the launch of the India-Croatia Startup Bridge. Even more so when the Ambassador told me he was a TCN reader and that some of our articles celebrating Croatian startups influenced his thinking on this initiative. It is a great initiative, and I look forward to TCN reporting on various successes.

Rather than just reporting on the news and blogging about the latest lawsuit postponement by the Kings (Read more in Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit: 50 Lawyers, No Secretary, No Hearing), I started to think about ways that TCN could advocate for positive change in some targeted niches. Although I am not a tourism expert, I am getting to know Croatian tourism very well and travel extensively. Meeting so many people from all walks of life has helped me form a few conclusions on how we could improve a few things. 

As we take a break for Christmas (TCN will be offline from midnight tonight until December 28), here are 8 key areas we will be focusing on in 2022, in addition to delivering you your daily Croatian news in English. 

Split Winter Tourism Roundtable

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After posting a few TCN articles on the potential of Split winter tourism and questions why we no longer have much, some of the private Split tourism operators came up with a suggestion that TCN host a winter tourism roundtable, inviting all key stakeholders (including the Mayor of Split, Split Dalmatia County, regional and city tourist board director, Split Airport, State Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, GMs of Split's 5-star hotels, representatives from the restaurant, hotel, hostel and MICE sectors, and tourism consultants) to have an open exchange of ideas in search of a way forward. 

Not only did everyone invited come, but they all engaged and left an excellent lunch at CHOPS Grill with the desire to try. We meet again in January. Special thanks to Jasmina Kruscic, Jelena Tabak, Mare Mustapic, Daniela Rogulj, Mario Seric and MIchael Freer for pushing this initiative. Let's see 2022 deliver the first results.  You can read more in Reflections on the First TCN Split Winter Tourism Roundtable

Vukovar Card and Vukovar 365, Full of Life

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How many of you have been to Vukovar on any other date than November 18?

Having been to Vukovar Remembrance Day in 2019 and 2021, as well as several other visits, I came up with a suggestion called the Vukovar Card, a chance for people who change their Facebook status every November 18 for a day to do something more concrete (Vukovar Card: Support Local Economy Rather than Temporary Facebook Status). I was very grateful for the positive reaction and support of regional tourist board directors Ivana Juric and Rujana Busic Srpak, who devised a Vukovar Card 7-day itinerary through the magic of Vukovar Srijem and Osijek Baranja Counties. I sent this to Minister of Tourism Nikolina Brnjac and State Secretary Tonci Glavina with a request for a meeting to develop the concept. 

That meeting will take place on January 10 at the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, and I was encouraged by Tonci's positive initial feedback at the Split winter tourism roundtable.  

If you are interested to know more about the new Vukovar and the people and businesses framing a brighter future, follow the TCN series, Vukovar 365, Full of Life, with new TCN writer Katarina Andjelkovic from Vukovar.

Digital Nomads

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The growth of the Croatian digital nomad story has been one of the highlights of my year. So much positive energy, innovative ideas, fabulous people and unforgettable experiences - it has been a privilege to be part of the journey. Working with Jan de Jong, Saltwater Nomads, the Digital Nomad Association, the Digital Nomads Croatia Facebook group,  Swanky Travel, Zagreb Tourist Board, the City of Dubrovnik, Dubrovnik Tourist Board, Doma Zagreb Aparthotel, and others has been one of the undoubted highlights of 2021. Zagreb Digital Nomad Week & Ambassador Program and Dubrovnik Digital Nomads-in-Residence program complemented Jan's visa initiative and has helped put Croatia well and truly on the digital nomad map.

2022 will be more of the same... and more. Exciting initiatives in both Zagreb and Dubrovnik will be announced in early 2022, and if we can dot the Is and cross the Ts on a couple of other projects, things could get very interesting. It seems that next year will have me travelling internationally to promote the Croatian digital nomad story, with Digital Nomad Festival in Turkey in May, and Digital Nomad Summit in Bali in September already in the diary.  

Medical tourism and digital nomads

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2022 will see the 10th anniversary of my favourite conference in Croatia, the annual Crikvenica International Health Tourism conference in Crikvenica. CIHT has been good to me over the years, giving me my first exposure to the global medical tourism community (and leading to those awards in Malaysia). The pioneering work of Ognjen Bagatin and the Kvarner Health Tourism Cluster have placed Croatia firmly on the medical tourism map, and after the major blip that is the pandemic, it is time to renew efforts. You can read a report on CIHT 2021 in Kvarner Full of Health Tourism Opportunity, as CIHT 2021 Shines.

A major new medical tourism opportunity has presented itself since 2019, one which I will be pushing hard - digital nomads. Rather than having to work hard to attract foreign patients to come to Croatia for treatment, why not instead spend less energy informing all the nomads who are already here how Croatian medical tourism can fix their medical issues at a fraction of the price back home. No need to travel, for they are already here. 

The potential of the Kvarner region for health tourism is huge, and there is a much underutilised airport on Krk, Rijeka Airport. An issue I will also discuss with Minister Brnjac on January 10, as she is a transport expert.  

Spreading the Truth about Slavonia, Full of Life

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The biggest surprise of 2021 for me was not only how full of life Slavonia is, but how ignorant the rest of Croatia is about what is really out east in their own country. I was shocked at how few of my Zagreb friends who are among the 200,000 Croats who go skiing abroad each year had ever been to Slavonia and the East. With such little local knowledge, how can we expect tourists to know?

Lots of activity coming next year on this, including a fun survey on the streets of Zagreb to highlight the gap in knowledge. Here are two questions from the survey to get you in the mood. How many of you can answer both:

1. What is the main town in Baranja?

2. Can you name three famous buildings in eastern Croatia, not including the Vukovar Water Tower? 

Want a taster of what you are missing? Read more in Time to Tell the Truth about Slavonia Full of Life

Danube Drone Days

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What happens when you meet an English businessman over breakfast at your hotel in Osijek in November?

Sometimes it leads to a night of sushi and gin in the company of the CEO or Orqa, three drone geeks, and a plan to promote Slavonia and the Danube with some of the best drone pilots in the world. 

 I love the concept of Danube Drone Days, and I am looking forward to working with these two geeks above to make it a reality.  

CROMADS

Our new baby. What more can I say, but watch the official promo vid above, and check out www.cromads.com after Christmas for more. This is going to be fun.  

Total Croatia Travel Portal

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2021 also saw TCN launch its sister site, Total Croatia, a multi-lingual tourism information platform answering the questions people are asking. Launching in May, I was perhaps a little ambitious wanting to be the leading portal by the summer, but we are working hard behind the scenes to make sure Total Croatia's first full year in 2022 will be a big one. You can check it out here

And that - more or less - is that. If you are interested in getting involved to build the eco-system outside the crumbling walls of the Mighty State of Uhljebistan, drop me a line at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Subject TCN 2022, explaining how you can help and what you can offer. 

Enough from my side, except to thank you all for your company, interest and support in 2021. We have a great readership, and I even enjoy the contributions of the trolls these days. 

Things are starting to move slowly but surely. The default negative mindset is being challenged by new ideas and shoots of positivity. Croatia is a great country with a really bright future once we overhaul the current system. 

And you will be able to read all about it on TCN in 2022. 

Cheers!

TCN will be offline from midnight tonight until December 28. Merry Christmas to All. 

 

Tuesday, 21 December 2021

Zagreb Digital Nomad December Ambassadors Interviewed by Index.hr (VIDEO)

December 21, 2021 - Zagreb Digital Nomad December Ambassadors Anna Maria Kochanska from Poland and Steve Tsentserensky from USA interviewed in the Index.hr studio. 

It has been quite a year for Zagreb and its digital nomad journey. 

It is 18 months since Dutch entrepreneur Jan de Jong wrote an open letter to Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic asking him to implement a digital nomad visa. 

Things moved very quickly after that. Plenkovic announced his intention to introduce the visa some 44 days later, and it came into effect on January 1 this year. A variety of high-profile events, including the Dubrovnik Digital Nomad in Residence Program, and Zagreb Digital Nomad Week & Ambassador project, have helped to raise Croatia's profile in the global digital nomad community. So much so in fact, that Croatia was named the second most-liked country in the world, and Zagreb in the top 5 cities in the recent Nomad List 2021 survey

One of the big successes of the digital nomad movement has been how integrated and accepted the concept has become in the Croatian media in a relatively short space of time. The term 'digitalni nomadi' is now a widely understood term in the Croatian language. 

Zagreb Tourist Board, together with Saltwater Nomads and TCN has been implementing the Zagreb Digital Nomad Ambassador project from July 1. Six different ambassadors - from New York, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Israel, Singapore and Poland - have been staying for a month each as guests of the city. Their insights and experiences have helped shape Zagreb's future nomad strategy. 

Anna Maria Kochanska from Poland has been a very active ambassador in December, and she has been joined by Zagreb Special Guest Ambassador, Steve Tsentserensky. Both appeared last week in the studio of Index.hr to talk a little about the digital nomad lifestyle and their impressions of life in Zagreb.  

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

Monday, 20 December 2021

How Will Digital Nomads Spend Christmas Holidays in Croatia?

December 20, 2021 - As the festive family holidays approach, will it be a lonely one for digital nomads? Not in Croatia - a look at how nomads spend Christmas holidays in Croatia. 

When I did my last major trip back in 2001, I hardly met anyone on the road in 9 months, apart from the many people who hosted me on the road. I spent a lot of time alone, which is fine as I really like my own company. 

Often I would arrive at a destination, spend 2-3 days there, look around and not speak to anyone apart from the hotel reception and restaurant waiter. 

I had no phone and no camera, and this was an era before Wordpress, Facebook and Instagram. Google was just 3 years old.

I kinda liked it that way.

I have spent a lot of time with digital nomads in the last 12 months, and I have thoroughly enjoyed every minute. But I don't think I could be a digital nomad myself these days, I just find the whole thing too exhausting. 

What fascinates me the most, especially compared to my travel 20 years ago, is the sense of community and the need to connect on a daily basis. Each to his/her own, and this is obviously the new reality. 

But what happens when it comes to family times like Christmas? How do nomads spend Christmas and the holiday season when the rest of us gather in families? I was a little concerned for our December Zagreb Digital Nomad Ambassador, Anna Maria from Poland, and how she would spend the last week in December.

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I need not have worried, for she has a far better social life than I have ever had in Zagreb. Here she is, with a group of nomads yesterday having drinks after they visited the Museum of Broken Relationships yesterday. 

Zagreb Special Guest Ambassador Steve Tsentserensky would have joined too, but he was halfway up a mountain with another group of nomads.

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According to the Nomad List 2021 survey, which placed Zagreb 5th in the most liked cities in the world, hiking is the number one activity for nomads.

And there are not many international cities which offer such hikeable views from the city centre as Zagreb does.

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The community is growing nicely in Zagreb, Split and other cities in Croatia, and one of the best community builders of all, Zagreb's September Ambassador, Dean Kuchel, is coming back to Croatia to spend Christmas and New Year, mostly in Dubrovnik. 

"I will be in Zagreb for 18 hours on the 25th, Paul, so let's meet and have an event."

"Everything will be closed Dean, nothing will be open."

It made me wonder what nomads will be doing. And I realise that I do not need to worry about Anna Maria being lonely. 

Or any other nomad in Croatia. For it seems that there is a lot happening in the major nomad hubs. Without scanning too hard, here are a few options to meet locals, expats and fellow nomads over the festive season.

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The Daltonist in Split is offering an authentic Irish Christmas tale this evening, one of a number of events over the festive period, including Christmas Day - more of their Facebook page.

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Sunset Beach in Dubrovnik is the place to be on Christmas Eve for a festive nomad catchup. Check more on the Facebook event page.

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But make sure you get in shape first, with the 10k run starting from Gruz, Dubrovnik on December 24. 

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The Expats and Digital Nomad Christmas Eve party is already proving popular. Sign up here.

I was curious if Dean would find something to eat in Zagreb, but that man knows how to fill his stomach. A Nomad Pot Luck Christmas Dinner on December 25 in the Croatian capital is already oversubscribed, so I will not post details. 

Advent in Zagreb, Split, Dubrovnik continues throughout the month of course, as well as the Dubrovnik Winter Festival, so plenty of options to catch up with other nomads.  

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See in 2022 in Zagreb with a Nomadic News Year's Party organised by December Zagreb Digital Nomad Ambassador, Anna Kochanska. More here

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As for nomadic New Year's Eve fun, you could do worse than join this man. You can join Dean's party here.

There will likely be several other options that I have not featured, and the best place to follow the latest is the Digital Nomads Croatia Facebook page, which is growing nicely - now at 8,300 members. 

The community is growing, and 2022 will be an epic year for the digital nomad community in Croatia. You can follow the latest news and features on the dedicated TCN section

Saturday, 18 December 2021

Global Nomad Guide: Croatia has Best Digital Nomad 'Visa'

December 18, 2021 - More good PR for Croatia's digital nomad story, as the Global Nomad Guide ranks the Croatian digital nomad permit as the best 'visa' currently on offer for nomads. 

It is far from perfect, and there have been many suggestions on how to improve it, but it seems that Croatia is doing something right with its recently introduced digital nomad permit, according to a recent analysis on available visas by Global Nomad Guide. 

With an expert score of 7.4, Croatia's 'visa' was judged to currently be the best on offer. Also encouraging with the pros and cons, for all the cons can be easily improved (although I would argue that none are actually cons). 

Here is how Croatia scored.

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PROS

Lower entry requirements than other visas (min income level, visa fees).

Zero Income Tax for up to a year in a spectacular European destination!

Better defined info & law on tax implications than for other visas.

On average, the cost of living is lower than in other countries around Europe.

Easy to get by as most people speak English!

CONS

Possible issues with WiFi, especially on islands.

Plenty of delicious local food not that much choice in terms of other cuisine.

Not enough co-living/working spaces and nomad communities.

For me personally, if these are the major cons, I am even more encouraged. Yes, some islands have less stable WiFi, but nomads visiting Zagreb and other cities comment on how good the WiFi is. This is something that will only improve in town. 

Ditto the food, which our Zagreb Digital Nomad Ambassadors have all raved about, without exception. The community is growing, with the largest Facebook group now 8,200 members, and as for not enough coworking spaces, again this is something that will only grow. This was Zagreb three months ago - Zagreb Coworking Spaces: a City Guide for Digital Nomads.

Digital Nomad Association Croatia, the first of its kind in the world, posted the news, while also encouraging feedback on how to improve the existing permit:

The Global Nomad Guide recently starting comparing the Digital Nomad Visas (permits) out there, and Croatia is currently the best!

We know it can still be better though, and will be working closely with all those involved over the coming months to improve it for Digital Nomads and Croatia.

Key elements we are looking to change:
- Ability to stay out of Croatia for more than 30 days, so you can spend a month at home during the holidays.
- Ability to extend, given that there's so much to see, do and taste in Croatia
- Improvements to the application process, the speed and ease of doing things
and a few more...

What would you like to see changed?

For more on the methodology on how the scores were calculated, click here

To see all the ratings of visas analysed

The Global Nomad Guide conclusion on the Croatian digital nomad permit comes shortly after another encouraging survey in 2021 by Nomad List - Major Nomad List 2021 Survey: Croatia 2nd Most Liked, Zagreb in Top 5 Cities.

It is a view shared by nomad legend Nimrod Dean Kuchel, see above. 

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

Check out the promo video for CROMADS, a new platform connecting Croatia's authentic experiences to digital nomads and tourists all over Croatia, 365 days a year. You can see the CROMADS project presented for the first time at Digital Nomad Week VIP Day below.

Friday, 17 December 2021

Zagreb Digital Nomad Jolly Wrap Up: an Advent Hit

December 17, 2021 - A Zagreb Jolly Wrap Up indeed, as the Croatian capital's successful digital nomad story is rounded off in style. 

Advent in Zagreb 2021 is a little different to previous years, but I am beginning to like it. While we all want to get back to the frivolity of 2019, the pandemic has different ideas. I can't imagine what it must be like organising huge events at the moment, wondering if another wave will kill all the plans. And while this year's Advent is much less ostentatious than the glory years of 2016-2019, walking around the city last night was a joy. There was life on the streets, but it was the music and the liveliness in many of the city's wonderful courtyards which caught my attention as I went for a walk and a break from the laptop.  

There are, from memory, 129 concerts in the programme, and lots of smaller events. And one of those events was a real highlight of the last few months - the Zagreb Jolly Wrap Up programme for Digital Nomads, which ran from December 9 to 12. 

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As with many good things in life, it all began with welcome drinks at Swanky Winter Garden.  

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A nice gathering of nomads, expats and locals enjoy some festive cheer in one of Zagreb's most chilled locations.  

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Zagreb's two digital nomad ambassadors for December also joined, but not until their media duties were complete - Anna Maria Kochanska and Steve Tsentserensky were in the Index studio reflecting on Zagreb's digital nomad path so far, as well as its future direction.  

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Day Two was the main event to wrap up what has been a phenomenally successful year for Zagreb's digital nomad story. When I first approached Zagreb Tourist Board 18 months ago, suggesting a collaboration between TCN and Saltwater Nomads to help put Zagreb on the digital nomad map, little did I expect what happened next. Outstanding support and collaboration from the outset resulted in the award-winning Zagreb Digital Nomad Week & Ambassador program, a surge in nomads discovering (and falling in love with) the city, and crowned by Zagreb being named at in the top 5 most-liked cities in the world in the Nomad List 2021 survey. 

We gathered at Hotel Amadria to celebrate and recap an amazing 12 months.  

The press conference and jolly wrap up was expertly handled by the Queen of Facilitation, Iva Perokovic of Swanky Travel. In all my time in Croatia, I don't think I have been in a room with such positive energy. You can see the whole event (a little over an hour) in the video above.  

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The extended team who delivered an amazing programme. 

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But special tribute to this quartet - Nikola, Petra, Jelena and Tomislav from the Zagreb Tourist Board who showed just how effective a public-private partnership can be with the right partners.  

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And it was fantastic to have all 7 Zagreb Digital Nomad Ambassadors join us - Steve and Anna Maria in-house, Veronica from Bogota, Rudi and Andrae from South Africa, Rax from Singapore, and Dean from - well who knows where Dean is/was/will be?

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Day Three was the chance to explore one of the city's best-kept secrets - magical Zagreb County, as Iva from Swanky Travel led a group of about 40 nomads on a day of culture, food and wine, which has already been well documented on TCN by Nikolina Demark in A Jolly Good Trip: Digital Nomads Discover Zagreb County. A visit to majestic Medvedgrad... 

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... Samobor kremsnita... 

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... and a visit to arguably Croatia's most interesting wine region - Plesivica. 

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There was no chance of going thirsty at Vinaria Jagunic - nomading in Zagreb County in December. 

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Or thirsty, and a glass or three of the famous Plesivica bubbly seemed to be a fitting way to end the day.  

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Not too much though, for Day 4 was the Zagreb Advent Run, with more than 2,100 runners taking to the streets of Zagreb, most of them in their festive outfits.  

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Including Ambassador Steve, leading from the front with his love of Zagreb as usual.  

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And where else to finish, but where it all began - at Swanky, as young Iva led the troops in an evening of festivity. 

A great Zagreb Jolly Wrap Up to what has been an outstanding year. It has been a pleasure to be part of it, and I can't wait to get started on Zagreb, the Digital Nomad Destination, edition 2022.

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

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