Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Croatian Digital Nomad Visa Closer as Parliament Changes Aliens Act

November 25, 2020 - Croatian bureaucracy 2.0, as changes to the Aliens Act to accommodate the Croatian digital nomad visa sail through Parliament. We are close, but not there yet.

Split-based Dutch entrepreneur Jan de Jong was back doing what he did so effectively back in July this afternoon, as he penned one more open letter to Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic via his LinkedIn profile, this time a note of thanks. 

Back in July, de Jong sent Plenkovic an open letter asking him to introduce a Croatian digital nomad visa. The response - during the summer holidays - was stunning. Just 44 days later, Plenkovic tweeted a photo with de Jong promising to do just that. By chance, changes to the Aliens Act were due to be introduced to Parliament the next day, and the nomad visa was added to those changes. 

Those changes were today ratified by Parliament, leading de Jong to head to his keyboard once more:

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Dear Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic,

On the 11th of July, I kindly asked you to consider introducing a digital nomad visa in Croatia ?? through my open letter here on LinkedIn.

Today, on 25th of November - with acceptance of the new Alien Act - you have truly delivered, making Croatia among the first countries in the world to welcome digital nomads by regulating their temporary stay. 

Thank you Prime Minister for your support from the moment this opportunity was presented to you. 

I would also like to thank Deputy Prime Minister & Minister of Interior - Mr. Božinović and State Secretary of Interior Ms. Terezija Gras for your efforts and support. 

Last but not least, I would like to thank the 5.269 people here on LinkedIn that supported my open letter in July and all the thousands of other people that supported this initiative from the beginning.

Hvala svima! - ❤ -

Jan de Jong

Follow me on #LinkedIn

Ps. Required changes to tax law and health insurance are expected until 31.12.2020.

#wfh

#Croatia

#DigitalNomads

#livingthecroatiandream 

So it would appear that Croatian bureaucracy CAN run rather smoothly. 

My understanding from another source is that the issue of digital nomads and tax will be discussed during a government session tomorrow. The ministries involved are all making good progress, and the final issues are expected to be ironed out by the end of the year. 

My understanding is that the changes approved today come into effect on January 1, 2021, so IN THEORY, the Croatian digital nomad visa could be available then. Experience in The Beautiful Croatia, however, has taught me to believe it when I see it, and I would be more confident in the prediction that sometime in the first quarter of 2021 is likely. 

But if a motivated Prime Minister can move from a LinkedIn post to a change in the law in just over four months, who knows? 

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Not only is de Jong a successful entrepreneur, he is now rivalling his YouTube star wife Slavica as the family's top multitasker. When I called him for a quote and more info, he not only sent me a link to the parliament decision, but also screenshotted the relevant sections, all this without dropping the Baby de Jong he was holding.

Here is the full parliament decision - it is a riveting read. Google Translate is your friend.  The relevant sections are in the screenshots below. 

One more hurdle has been overcome. Congrats to all. 

For the latest news on this and other digital nomad news in Croatia, follow the dedicated TCN section

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Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Parliament Passes Foreign Nationals Act, No More Annual Quotas for Employment

ZAGREB, November 25, 2020 - The Croatian Parliament on Wednesday passed the new Foreign Nationals Act under which there will no longer be an annual quota for the employment of foreign nationals.

None of the 32 amendments put forward by the opposition were accepted.

Under the new law, the government will no longer establish an annual quota for the employment of foreign nationals, but employers will be obliged to submit a request to the Croatian Employment Service (HZZ) to conduct a labour market test.

If there are no unemployed persons in Croatia that meet employers' criteria, employers will then submit an application for residence and work permits to the Interior Ministry, which then requests an opinion from the HZZ regarding hiring a specific foreign national. The procedure, including the labour market test, will last a maximum of 30 days.

The act also stipulates exceptions to the labour market test, which is not conducted for shortage occupations, such as carpenters, masons, waiters, butchers, and for seasonal work up to 90 days in agriculture, forestry, hospitality and tourism.

The new act also introduces long-stay visas (visa D) in the event that a third-country national is granted temporary residence for work, family reunification, university education, research and secondary education.

Another novelty is a more favourable regulation of temporary and permanent residence for Croats with a foreign citizenship or without a citizenship who have a certificate from the Central State Office for Croats Abroad.

In addition, family members of Croatian nationals can acquire permanent residence under more favourable conditions, as can foreign minors who have been granted temporary residence for a period of three years and one of their parents has been granted permanent residence or long-term residence.

The act also gives the possibility of regulating the temporary residence of digital nomads, that is, foreign nationals who work online for foreign employers.

The new Foreign Nationals Act enters into force on 1 January 2021.

Monday, 23 November 2020

3 Female Returnees Bring Digital Nomad Work, Play & Living to Diocletian's Palace

November 23, 2020 - What if remote workers could combine the world of digital nomad work, play and living in one place - a UNESCO World Heritage Site and retirement home of a Roman Emperor, perhaps? Well now you can thanks to three enterprising female entrepreneurs in Split. 

Having been brought up a Brit, it is hard to admit I have a hero who is Australian. Actually, not one, but three - all inspiring ladies from the Croatian diaspora who moved to Croatia to try their luck in the land of their ancestors. 

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And all three have succeeded, despite the many obstacles thrown in their way. It has been a pleasure to cheer from the sidelines as I have charted their path to success. And now a new chapter, as my three heroes have teamed up together for the first time to offer the option of digital nomad work, play and living in one exciting concept - located in the heart of a UNESCO World Heritage Site and former retirement home of a Roman Emperor no less - Diocletian's Palace in Split. 

There is a lot of buzz and talk about digital nomads in Croatia at the moment. A combination of the initiative to make Croatia only the sixth country in the world to offer such a visa, as well as the realisation that Croatia's current accidental tourism 'strategy' needs an urgent reset, has had many tourism providers looking to cater to this new digital nomad tourism opportunity. 

Most are completely missing the point. 

It has been mildly amusing to see the number of businesses in Croatia who are suddenly advertising themselves as digital nomad friendly, as though a bed and reasonable WiFi is all that is required. While both are a prerequisite, there is a little more to it than that. Two of the major planks of a successful digital nomad tourism offer, at least in my humble opinion, are lifestyle and community. Travelling the world is a rewarding experience, but it can also be a lonely one. If you are working remotely and you can find a place to live, work and play all in one, then that is a lot more appealing.

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Enter my three Australian heroes - Tanja, Maria and Korana - all of whom will be familiar to longterm readers of TCN. 

I have been spending quite a bit of time on and offline with Tanja Polegubic from Saltwater Nomads this year. Founder of a co-working space of the same name in Split, Tanja has put a lot more thought than most into the potential (and the pitfalls) of Croatia embarking on the digital nomad route (and for those interested, 10 Ways Croatia Will Be At The Forefront of Countries with a Digital Nomad Visa is a worthy read).  Tanja also organised the first Digital Nomad conference in Croatia last month, is a founder of the Digital Nomad Association, and we will shortly be announcing her latest cool event, a digital nomad boot camp to coincide with Advent in Zagreb. 

Maria and Korana are lifelong friends who came to Split as naive 22-year-olds who thought they spoke fluent Croatian almost 20 years ago. As some of the few foreigners who have been working here as long as I have, it is always fun to catch up with them and have a laugh about the good old days. Having famously flooded the main square of Diocletian's Palace on the first day of opening their first business, a fast food joint, they have gone from strength to strength with a combination of determination, vision, charm, sound decision-making and 10 lifetimes of hard work. The first legally registered hostel started the empire which then blossomed into three hostels, one of the most popular hangouts  in Diocletian's Palace (Charlie's Bar), and two excellent restaurants, Zinfandel and Brasserie on 7. Life was good for the owners of Zeven Gastronomy Group and Split Hostel Group.

And then came corona. 

Not for the first time in their Croatian odyssey, it was time for a rethink, this time over a glass of wine with Tanja. What if all the assets and components of both businesses could be realigned for the greater good? A co-working business, hostels, a bar and two restaurants. What kind of package could that be if it was all made available to customers to work, live and play?

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And that is exactly what these three heroes have done. As Tanja explained:

Around mid-September, I was contacted by nomads looking for co-living options. There weren’t any in Split. We already find long-stay accommodation options, so a hostel - especially as they had been hit so hard by Covid19, was a logical option. I contacted Korana, and it started very quickly.

All this was happening while the preparations for Dubrovnik Digital Nomads was underway. Korana and Amanda - our Saltwater member who ran the bar at our Beach Office Bacvice Bacvice this summer.

In our first week of opening, our two top floor “penthouse” private offices (Bill and Ted) filled up! Couples from US/Canada and UK/USA. Since then, we’ve had quite a few people trial, and some join.

Coworking isn’t an easy business - it’s very transient. It is more about the community activity and events. Plus some good ole fashioned Dalmatian ‘pomalo’... things happen slowly here. Which is fine; we’re in this for the long haul. Especially as it’s very fun to run.

So what does the digital nomad work, play and living combination look like?

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Some of the stone wall hostel rooms have been converted into shared workspaces, private offices, meeting rooms - already fitted out with showers, communal areas and kitchen. And the authentic stone walls as your Zoom background come as standard. 

One of the hostels remains as a coliving option - starting at 250 euro month to stay in the Centre of Old Town Split in Diocletian’s Palace.

And what better location for your new office. Not only in a World Heritage Site, but also above the team's Charlie's Bar, offering a steady supply of coffee, cocktails and beer on tap with a nomad discount.

Feeling peckish or looking for a change of workplace scene? Both Zinfandel and Brasserie on 7 are available with discounted prices for registered Saltwater and Split Hostels customers. And with B7's fabulous waterfront location at the centre of Split's famous riva, there are few better more beautiful locations for a temporary office. 

The sense of community is crucial to a happy experience, and all three of these fabulous ladies have long experience in producing outstanding customer service, and so it is no surprise that this new nomad offer comes with a little fun in addition to the basic services. 

The weekly Nomad Table combines food, wine, entertainment and great company.  Education of Croatian wines are already proving popular, a Zinfandel speciality, and some ice-breaking games at the events so far have helped bring people together. The first, held on the inauspicious date of Friday 13, 2020 (what could possibly go wrong?) included an icebreaker game lining up cards with guest and staff point of origin and distance to Split. The furthest away was Hamilton, NZ - although this was strongly contested by Dunedin and Taupo hometowners!

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Last week, the Crljenak, Plavac Mali and Posip was washed down with COVID bingo - “68 late for your Tinder Date, 83 Gluten Free and 88 Wills and Kate”. It’s very 2020.

The next event is on Friday 27th - a wine flight and group dinner, with another icebreaker game to be decided. And every Friday and Saturday has live music.

Word of mouth seems to be moving quicker than even the most dedicated blogger. Several Zagreb nomads are heading south for a taste of a Mediterranean winter. So far there have been nomads from Paraguay, USA, UK, Canada, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Korea, and a couple from Poland who are sharing their newly adopted home with people back home on Ewa’s Let's Split blog - documenting their journey from Poland to their new home in Croatia. 

Did I mention customer service? New vegan options are being added to the menu, as three of the early members are vegans. 

Fabulous stuff, and I look forward to seeing how this initiative evolves. With the connections and creative minds of the founding mothers, the prospects are enticing indeed. 

The potential of digital nomad tourism in Croatia - with or without the visa - is immense. In order to take advantage properly, it will require a little more than a bed and a good WiFi connection. Good luck to my three heroes - I have been saying for a while that Croatia needs to move from Croatia, Full of Life (whatever that means) to Croatia, Your Safe, Authentic, Lifestyle destination. The Zeven Hospitality Group/Split Hostel Group/Saltwater partnership does exactly that. 

For more information, you can contact the team via the Saltwater website.

For the latest digital nomad news, follow the dedicated TCN section

Friday, 13 November 2020

Arena Hospitality Group Announces Offers for Digital Nomads

November 13, 2020 - Arena Hospitality Group announces offers for digital nomads in a selection of its camps and hotels. 

HRTurizam reports that the current crisis situation caused by the global coronavirus pandemic has shown that, thanks to the application of digital technology, we can do most of our work both in the office and anywhere else. It is enough to have a laptop, a mobile device, and a quality internet connection.

This fact was recognized and quickly adapted by the tourism sector, and many hotel companies, both global and Croatian, offered special offers targeting digital nomads and opened their hotels for business guests who use the hotel as an office.

Thus, Arena Hospitality Group (AGH) announced special offers for digital nomads in its camps Arena Grand Kažela and Arena Stoja, which are open all year round, as well as the hotel Park Plaza Histria in Pula.

“Arena Hospitality Group is always open to new market challenges, ready to provide our guests with the complete service they need not only for vacation but also to do business during their stay in hotels and camps. Staying at camps Arena Grand Kažela and Arena Stoja enables an escape from the hectic, dynamic, and regular rhythm that has become our everyday life. Untouched nature enables you to experience the beauties of autumn and winter, and at the same time perform all business tasks and obligations without hindrance," AHG points out.

In the mentioned open camps, high-quality digital infrastructure is provided throughout the year, which, in addition to the existing quality of mobile home accommodation, satisfies both private and business needs.

AGH has provided the minimum necessary for digital nomads: ​​self-check-in (contactless), contactless payment, super high-speed Internet, Netflix, Ott iPTV service for watching TV channels in every part of the camps via mobile devices, and a mobile application for the best guest experience.

As part of this year's World Tourism Exchange WTM in London, AHG received recognition from the world organization "Responsible Tourism Partnership" for responsible tourism and coping in the covid-19 pandemic.

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Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Croatia is One Step Closer to Introducing Digital Nomad Visa

November 11, 2020 – Last week, the Croatian government took the first step to introducing a digital nomad visa. In his statement, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković pointed out that the Law on Foreigners, under which the digital nomad visa is regulated, is an important law.

As Lider Media / Nikolina Oršulić reports, the first concrete regulatory steps have been taken to legalize the residence and work of digital nomads in Croatia. Namely, on Thursday, November 5, 2020, at the Government session, the final proposal of the Law on Foreigners was adopted, which will be sent to the Croatian Parliament.

"I think this is an important law. We are among the first countries to legally regulate the issue of digital nomads, and this will be accompanied by appropriate changes to the law in the tax domain, as well as in the health insurance domain," said Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, announcing further legislative steps.

The idea of launching digital nomad visas was first presented in Croatia by Dutch entrepreneur Jan de Jong, who has been building new business opportunities in Croatia for more than a decade.

"I can say that I am satisfied with the pace at which we are working to bring the legislative package needed to attract digital nomads to Croatia. We are currently making great steps forward in answering health insurance questions. With the Prime Minister's statement, we have an official obligation from the highest political level to continue to make extraordinary efforts to adapt the laws regarding taxation and health insurance. I am happy that Croatia will become the leading country in the world in attracting digital nomads," said the entrepreneur for Lider Media.

The legislative story has heated up, so the initiator of introducing a digital nomad visa is already working on the next step – the establishment of a kind of central point to support digital nomads.

"Since we are going in the right direction, I am working on establishing the Croatian Association for Digital Nomads (Digital Nomad Association Croatia - DNA Croatia) whose mission will be to connect digital nomads in Croatia and support them. We are currently in the process of founding this association," said de Jong, who is entering the project with Tanja Polegubić, a returnee from Australia who runs Saltwater Nomads - remote work and lifestyle services for digital nomads in Split, and Karmela Tancabel, a member of the Ilok Cellars (Iločki podrumi) Marketing and Export Board.

The plan is to complete the legislative part to introduce a digital nomad visa by the end of the year, and visas should be available in the first quarter of 2021. In addition to the legal regulation of the status of digital nomads, the draft of the Law on Foreigners brings some other changes.

"The most important novelty is prescribing a new model of employment of foreigners, according to which the employer must first request the implementation of the labor market test from the Employment Bureau to find labor on the domestic market. If there are no unemployed in Croatia, then a request is sent to the Ministry of the Interior seeking an opinion from the Croatian Employment Service. Exceptions to this test are for deficit professions that are usually used during the season," said Interior Minister Davor Božinović at the Government session.

In the draft of the Law on Foreigners, a digital nomad is defined as a third-country national who is employed or performs business through communication technology for a company or own company that is not registered in the Republic of Croatia and does not perform work or provide services to employers in the Republic of Croatia.

For the latest about the digital nomad scene in Croatia, follow the dedicated TCN news section.

Wednesday, 28 October 2020

Croatia Through the Eyes of a Digital Nomad: Dubrovnik’s Lazareti Backstory Still Resonates

October 28, 2020 - Freelancers Week may be over, but digital nomads are still making connections with one another and with coworking spaces, including the historic Lazareti in Dubrovnik. 

My first experience with European Freelancers Week (#EFWeek2020), which just wrapped up, was a whirlwind from beginning to end. I worked in three different coworking spaces, learned how to open and operate an obrt, and socialized with a group of fellow “remote” females. From all this networking, a new project landed on my plate and began the same week. Awesome! The most memorable experience though was working on a kick-off event—the Dubrovnik for Digital Nomads conference.

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(When epidemics spread rampantly in the 14th and 15th centuries, the Dubrovnik Republic took strict measures to organize sanitary and public healthcare services throughout the region. It’s no coincidence that epidemics of infectious diseases erupted and the period was characterized by a boom in trade.)

Independent work and workspace

Freelancers Week, the parent of #EFWeek, is a celebration of independent professionals and coworking spaces. The conference delivered on both, as a salute to Croatia’s impending digital nomad visa and with an offer of free coworking for the week. The event and the coworking were located in a place of historic consequence—Dubrovnik’s famed Lazareti. Ths row of buildings on the city’s waterfront is notorious as a former quarantine site. Hello, pandemic?

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(Small windows in each courtyard were once doors where goods were unloaded from ships, directly into the lazaretto for holding.)

Quarantine origins

Poking around the buildings before the conference, I noticed an art exhibit on the walls. It was actually an illustrated account of the city’s quarantine origins. Dubrovnik was the first state in the world to institute an official quarantine system to protect its people against infectious diseases. “Our Lord God sent a terrible, unheard of judgment on the whole world…” The opening sentence of the prologue wasn’t exactly factual, but it got me wondering if the same God is in charge today, 600+ years after this story began. Don’t get me started…

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(People who received a prison sentence for violating quarantine restrictions were held at Lovrjenac Fortress, just outside Dubrovnik’s city walls and the Pile Gate.)

Epidemics across the Mediterranean

Raging plague and cholera epidemics were common from the 14th to 18th centuries across Europe and Asia. During these Middle Ages, Dubrovnik was a thriving maritime Republic that received people and goods from all over the world. In 1348, the Black Death plague decimated the population and killed roughly one-third of its citizens. Although infectious diseases were largely attributed to poor hygiene and poor nutrition, treatments were ineffective. It was thought that isolating people who were infected would stop the spread. Three decades later, in 1377, the Republic announced quarantine measures. They targeted all travelers, merchants, sailors, and goods arriving from "suspicious lands." An isolation period of 40-days was mandated and only when a person was proven healthy would they be allowed into the city.

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(In 1795, drummers in the Dubrovnik republic publicly announced that subjects in exile should return home and report to quarantine. The Republic would pay 4 dinarić (silver coins) for every day of quarantine. Whoever ignored this would be sentenced to death. If he tried to flee, a price would be put on his head of 100 sequins (Venetian gold coins).)

Lazarettos

The first lazarettos—quarantine stations, were built on remote, uninhabited islands just off the coast—Bobara, Cavtat, Mrkan, and Supetar. Over time, as others were constructed on different islands, including Lokrum, they became complex institutions. Scribes, guards, gravediggers, cleaners, priests, barbers, and healthcare officers were employed. The latter implemented quarantine restrictions and supervised compliance. Penalties for rule-breakers ranged from fines (100 ducats), to prison sentences, severe corporal punishment, and the threat of being shot. Seamen and their families received special dispensation. Since sailors typically had to return to sea immediately after their quarantine, wives and families were allowed to join them and quarantine together at the lazarettos.

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(In cooperation with the Health Office, the Republic issued health certificates to confirm that passengers in Dubrovnik had undergone the prescribed quarantine, or to state there was no infection in the area at the time of their travel.)

Safety measures

Reading about various safety measures—from hundreds of years ago mind you, they were surprisingly familiar. There was contact tracing, decontamination of food and animals, disinfection of ships and buildings, self-isolation, lockdown, border closure, contactless payment, distance rules, prohibition of public gatherings, and more. Contact tracing in the 1600s? Yep. People reported who they had contact with and also what they saw and heard about others. They snitched! Supposedly, it worked, and the plague of 1691 was snuffed out in three months. Contactless payment? Yes, again. Place your ducats on the counter and the person on the other side swept them into a drawer with a stick.

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(Buildings along the upper courtyard of the lazaretto were once holding facilities for travelers to quarantine before embarking. Today they house various businesses and artistic ventures.)

Lazareti

The Lazareti, located near the Ploče Gate, was completed in 1647. Its location is significant—situated next to Dubrovnik’s old port and the city’s main entry point. As my feet walked through this multi-story lazaretto, consisting of eight buildings and five interconnecting courtyards, I noticed the architecture that once sheltered people, goods, and caravans from afar. From the shared, upper courtyard at street level, large staircases lead to the individual, lower courtyards at sea level. From the top of each staircase you get an expansive view of the sea, the city walls, and the old town. Peering down, a single, barred window in each courtyard gives you a sweet view of the water. This creates a neat “picture in picture” visual effect yet, standing next to the window there’s an immediate awareness of being behind bars. You’re on the inside looking out.

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(The lazarettos, consisting of eight buildings and five courtyards, were renovated in 1623 from the sea side in order to enable the landing of large boats. The complex included warehouses for goods and livestock and lodgings for the extended stay of merchants and travelers in isolation.)

Creative Quarter

Physically being in a place whose historic narrative of plagues parallels our current situation with covid-19 in many ways, gave me a surreal feeling of connection. It was a sense of “we’ve been here before, things will get better, I’m not alone.” It’s clever marketing to host a public event and a coworking space in a former isolation facility—during a pandemic no less! As a remote worker, I’m isolated every day at my home “office,” aka my kitchen table. This past week was a breath of fresh air, quite literally, at the Lazareti. I’m glad for European Freelancers Week and the opportunity to get new perspective.

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(In the 17th century, Dubrovnik was the largest merchant transit center on the Adriatic and the lazarettos were one of the best organized quarantines in the Mediterranean.)

Story and photographs ©2020, Cyndie Burkhardt. www.photo-diaries.com.

You can follow the latest from Cyndie's column, Croatia Through the Eyes of a Digital Nomad here

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(From the upper courtyard, you get an expansive view of the harbor and the old town.)

For the latest news about digital nomads in Croatia, including that sought-after nomad visa, check out the dedicated TCN digital nomad news section

Learn more about the Dubrovnik for Digital Nomads conference.

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(A large lazaretto on Lokrum, under construction in 1534 was never finished but its remains are still visible. Benedictine monks planted an olive grove in the central courtyard.)

Saturday, 24 October 2020

TravelOffPath's Kashlee Kucheran on Croatia's Digital Nomad Potential (Interview)

October 24, 2020 - As the final details of its digital nomad visa are ironed out, a look at Croatia's digital nomad tourism potential from a global perspective via Kashlee Kucheran of TravelOffPath.  

It has been a challenging year to be a travel blogger. 

Back in March, as Croatia locked down and TCN provided its comprehensive COVID-19 coverage, including daily live updates, life was not much fun. While the information and updates were appreciated by many, writing about death and disease 7 days a week took its toll, quite apart from the challenge of trying to keep on top of the information in a fast-changing situation. And we were only focusing on one country. 

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Meet Kashlee Kucheran, a digital nomad with itchy feet, whose TravelOffPath website is growing rapidly in popularity as she focuses on an opportune niche to provide readers with the very latest updates on travel during the corona era. But not for just one country, as we did, but for the whole world. 

Keeping such a close eye on the latest developments all over the world, as well as moderating a very active online community for digital nomads looking for the best places to travel to in this strangest of years, Kashlee has a very rounded perspective on current digital nomad trends, interests and preferences. As such, she was invited to be a keynote speaker at the recent Dubrovnik for Digital Nomads conference, where her presentation was one of the highlights of a very entertaining opening day. Read more in  "Croatia Has the Potential To Be World's Number 1 Digital Nomad Destination"

I contacted Kashlee after the conference, and she kindly agreed to an email interview about Croatia's digital nomad opportunity. 

1. You have been on the road for more than three years, and your successful Travel Off Path blog has become essential reading for digital nomads in the corona era. Tell us firstly when Croatia first came on the radar for you as a digital nomad destination.

Being a digital nomad, I am always on the lookout for new and trendy options to base myself out of for a while. Most of the places nomads frequent are destinations like Thailand, Bali, Vietnam, etc, and as much as I love them all, they all start to blend together. Personally, I have been yearning for a digital nomad destination that has a different feel and scene to it. When I stumbled upon Croatia as a new potential country, I had that “Aha! This is what I’ve been looking for” sort of moment. A country with totally different vibes, from the architecture, to the culture, to the weather, all of which completely appeal to me.

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2. During the conference, you stated that interest in Croatia was 'absolutely buzzing' right now. When did you notice the rise in interest in Croatia, and what do you think caused it?

If there was a way I could extrapolate the use of the word ‘Croatia’ being mentioned on my website, in my Facebook groups, and in my DM’s, you would see a graph with a sharp and sudden rise. Croatia has been on the tip of everyone’s tongue lately, especially with American digital nomads, who by the way are a group expected to reach 10 million in size by the end of 2020.

I first noticed the extreme bump in popularity when the rest of the European Union, along with all the South East Asian countries that nomads frequent, shut their doors to most foreign tourists. American, or US citizens, make up the largest group of worldwide nomads, and they found themselves locked out of all their normal go-to destinations. However, Croatia made the bold and progressive decision to allow American tourists, along with all other nations, as long as they came with a negative PCR test, showing they were virus-free.

What happened was a massive surge in stranded tourists making Croatia their destination of choice, since the nation was welcoming them with open arms. We saw people from all over the world, but especially the USA, suddenly changing their itineraries and plans and making their way to Croatia.

3. What advantages does Croatia currently offer the remote worker on the road in these crazy times compared to more established nomad destinations.

Well, the first advantage is that Croatia will actually let them in! Like I mentioned before, Asian countries like Thailand, Vietnam and Bali are all still closed for tourism. Colombia, another up and coming nomad hotspot was closed from March, finally reopening just this month. The choices for nomads is slowly starting to rebound, but still a fraction of what it was pre-pandemic.

Another advantage is cost. The Caribbean nations currently offering digital nomad visas, like Barbados, Bermuda and Anguilla, all have an astronomical cost of living. Bermuda is in fact the most expensive country to live in on the planet, and if there is anything a nomad values, it’s a reasonable cost of living.

Croatia, while still being in the EU, thankfully has a very reasonable cost of living coming in lower than Germany, France, Italy, and even Greece. It also has a much lower cost of living than the countries where most nomads are from, including Canada, the US, Australia, and the UK.

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4. Let's imagine life goes back to normal and everything opens, and it is as safe to travel again as before. Would the Croatian nomad beacon still be shining as brightly, or is it largely due to a specific set of circumstances?

If tomorrow the pandemic suddenly ended, and all countries reopened with no restrictions, I still firmly believe that Croatia is still positioned to be one of the top, IF not the top, digital nomad destination.

Some of my reasoning for this include:

Fear of the unknown – Even if the pandemic ended, people are going to be apprehensive about travelling so far from home, to countries that experienced extreme lockdowns. They are going to want to stay a little closer to home, a little closer to first-world health care, and to have easier access to international airports. Heading back down to South East Asia might be overwhelming for many who are concerned about second-waves, re-closures and potentially getting stranded once again.

The romantic European dream – Who doesn’t daydream about sipping wine beside the Adriatic sea, while strolling down cobblestone streets, past ancient ruins, into a cute café to set up their laptop for a few hours work? There is an entire romantic notion about Europe that a lot of nomads, especially ones from the West, fantasize about. Sure, nomads can still land in places like Germany or Italy, but those countries don’t have official/legal nomad programs, limiting the amount of time you can spend there, and technically not permitting you to actually ‘work’ from those locations.

Croatia checks all the boxes – Digital nomads have a mental checklist of what they require in a live/work environment, and Croatia checks all the boxes, including:

  • Access to great health care
  • Favorable weather
  • Good cost of living
  • Fast internet speeds
  • Connections to major airports
  • Accessible entry requirements
  • Emerging nomad infrastructure
  • Safety
  • Trendy culture and community

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5. Croatia has announced that it will introduce its own digital nomad visa, planned for early 2021, making it only the second in Europe after Estonia, and the seventh in the world. What advice do you have for the Croatian government about the conditions of that visa? I understand that they will include proof of no criminal record, health insurance, and a regular income which is planned to be lower than the 3500 euro a month in Estonia and $5000 a month in Dubai.

If I had a direct line to the government of Croatia with advice on how to effectively proceed with the framework of the Digital Nomad Visa, it would include these tips:

Make requirements accessible: Find the sweet spot of making the requirements high enough to attract the target nomad, but not too high to discourage growing entrepreneurs. Since Croatia’s cost of living is lower than many EU nations, the minimum monthly income should reflect that.

Keep entry open: Keep Croatia’s doors open to all nations, with PCR testing of course, to ensure that nomads can continue to have faith in making plans to settle in Croatia.

Make the visa affordable: Estonia’s Visa costs only 100 euros, while Georgia’s is free. Keeping the visa under a few hundred Euros is key to attracting nomads. Some Caribbean nations are charging $2000 for a 1-year visa, completely missing the mark. When nomads come, and their entire budget isn’t eaten up with legal formalities, that is just more cash they will inject into the local economy.

Re-consider taxing nomads: Under all the current digital nomad visas being offered worldwide, only ONE of them (Estonia) taxes nomads, and that is only after 6 months of being in the country continuously. If Croatia is considering taxing nomads under their DN visa, I believe the program will crumble. Nomads will instead choose other countries with less restrictive programs, or continue to live/work in countries, mostly in South East Asia, on (albeit technically illegal) terms.

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6. During your presentation, you said that Croatia has the potential to be the number one digital nomad destination in the world. And you have yet to visit! You clearly have unique insights due to the website that you run. Why do you believe Croatia can be number 1?

I believe Croatia can be number one because of its great placement in Europe, having less repressively year-round hot weather that many nomads are looking to escape, having a unique culture and history, and of course being drop-dead gorgeous.

It sounds funny to make such a claim about a country I have yet to visit, but being a digital nomad myself for years gives me an insight to what nomad ‘wants’ and ‘needs’ are.

For many years, I chose South East Asian countries because quite frankly that is where everyone went, the DN infrastructure was set up incredibly fast, and there were hardly any other options that offered an actual above-board program. Having options beyond the well-beaten nomad path is a breath of fresh air to this lifestyle.

7. You source information about the latest corona travel restrictions all over the world to help travellers, which must be an exhausting job. How do you source this material to stay up-to-date - both globally and specifically from Croatia.

You’re right! It is an exhausting job, but I love it.

Travelers all over the world are beyond frustrated at the ever-changing travel bans and strange new rules, and I love being able to offer some clarity and assistance in these trying times.

Our team at Travel Off Path work tirelessly every day to get the most up to date information about worldwide travel news, entry requirements, and other vital resources for traveling in a Covid-era world.

We get our information direct from government sources, like embassies, consulates, border police, Ministries and other local authorities, in order to be as accurate and helpful as possible. Sometimes we use local press, like Total Croatia News, who are on the ground and have valuable insights that government sites don’t report on. We also have a Facebook Group where world travelers share their personal experiences around the globe right now, offering first-hand insightful perspectives.

With the information we have been able to consistently source from the Government of Croatia, and local Croatian news, we’ve made in-depth guides how to enter Croatia during Covid, especially for travellers who are locked out of most countries

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8. The Dubrovnik for Digital Nomads conference was the first such conference for Croatia. Together with the City of Dubrovnik, Dubrovnik Tourist Board, Tanja Polegubic and her fabulous Saltwater team, and Total Croatia News, we will be organising an international competition for digital nomads to stay for a month in Dubrovnik for free, while helping the city (and wider region) develop a strategy to make it more welcoming and visible to the digital nomad community. During the conference, you said that you would be happy to join us in April. Can we get a confirmation, and how does the prospect of a month in Dubrovnik in April sound right now with you back in British Columbia with the Canadian winter to look forward to?

As you’re interviewing me, I’m looking out the window of my hotel room in Osoyoos, British Colombia Canada, and it’s snowing. As a nomad who hasn’t seen winter in over 5 years, the sound of coming to Croatia in April has me packing my bags with anticipation!

I am overjoyed and delighted to be a part of testing out Croatia’s new digital nomad visa, and I honestly cannot wait to see first-hand what all my readers are raving about.

I have no doubts that Croatia won’t just be a place I visit for 1 month but will most-likely become a part of my future story.

****

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Itchy feet in these uncertain times? Follow the latest on where and how to travel with Kashlee Kucheran's TravelOffPath website, or join the TOP Facebook community.  

More from the Dubrovnik for Digital Nomads conference:

Croatia Through the Eyes of a Digital Nomad: Croatia Courts the Global Workforce.

Reflections on Croatia's First Digital Nomad Conference in Dubrovnik.

After the Visa, Jan de Jong Announces Croatian Digital Nomad Association.

"Croatia Has the Potential To Be World's Number 1 Digital Nomad Destination"

For the latest about the digital nomad scene in Croatia, follow the dedicated TCN news section.   

Friday, 23 October 2020

Valamar Invites All Digital Nomads to Istria and Krk Island

October 23, 2020 - Valamar invites all digital nomads to Istria and Krk Island as part of its 'long stay offer,' valid until March 2021.

Valamar is the latest to include a "long stay offer" or accommodation rental for at least one month, which is valid from September 30, 2020, to March 31, 2021.

HRTurizam reports that the special offer can be used in two Valamar camping resorts that are open all year round - Istra Premium Camping Resort 5 * in Poreč and Ježevac Premium Camping Resort 4 * on the island of Krk.

"The service of renting mobile homes for longer stays in Valamar's camping resorts is ideal for all guests who want to change the current location of their offices and allow themselves or their employees to work in nature with a fast internet connection," says Bruno Radoš, director of camp operations and regional director at Valamar.

In the package of services at the Istra Premium Camping Resort, guests will be able to use the free shuttle service and use the saunas, indoor pool, and gym at the nearby Valamar Diamant Hotel & Residence. The camp also has a Stay Fit program for exercise, fitness, and recreation through which they will be guided by coaches and other types of sports recreation and entertainment.

The offer also includes a modern camping home by the sea, high-speed internet connection (200/200 Mbit / s), premium family facilities, organized entertainment for children within the Maro Club, Multimedia Game Lounge, and Istra Theater.

"A longer stay in Valamar's camping resorts is ideal not only for guests who want to relax but also for companies that want to provide their employees with the opportunity to move their offices and stay in nature by the sea this fall and winter. When, in addition to all the services and benefits we provide to our guests, we add the excellent price of the accommodation package, which starts at 450 euro per month, we believe that guests will recognize a great opportunity for a long-term stay at sea," added Radoš.

Guests who decide to spend a longer period in Ježevac Premium Camping Resort on the island of Krk also expect opportunities for recreation on the multi-purpose sports field and rich facilities in the Multimedia Game Lounge - an entertainment zone with video games.

There is also a great complement to Valamar's online store Valfresco Direkt with free delivery of ready meals and groceries.

Thus, Valamar joined the new "long stay" trend of opening hotels according to the workspace model, following other global hotel chains, such as Hilton, Marriot, InterContinental, and many others. Also, Booking com and Airbnb have recently introduced options for longer stays in accommodation facilities.

"Digital nomads promote a new way of working and living, and we invite all those who simply want to change their place of residence for a while to come to Istria and the island of Krk and make a good and relaxing use of the coming months," concluded Radoš.

Interestingly, when we look at the bigger picture, Valamar is targeting families, digital nomads, and digital companies that can move their office to the modern campsites. 

To read more about digital nomads in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

 

Wednesday, 21 October 2020

"Free 12-Month Dubrovnik Digital Nomad Healthcare" - Glavic Clinic Explains (INTERVIEW)

October 21, 2020 - "Free digital nomad healthcare in Dubrovnik for 12 months." It was certainly the headline of the opening day of Croatia's first digital nomad conference. But what did Glavic Clinic mean exactly? TCN asks the woman who made the commitment, Nikolina Kurtela, Deputy Director of Glavic Clinic.

It was the shortest presentation of the day, one of the funniest, and definitely the one which provoked the most comment as attendees on the first day of the recent Dubrovnik for Digital Nomads conference retired for a well-earned glass of wine after a stimulating opening day. 

The slide said it all, and it was hard to misread - All services in Glavic Clinic Dubrovnik - free services for one year to all digital nomads!

Reaction was immediate, both at the conference (wow!) to more skeptical responses on social media. 

"One can only imagine what Croatia will charge for the visa if there is free healthcare," commented one. To be clear, this is not a general announcement of free healthcare by every provider in Dubrovnik, it is an announcement from one clinic. 

What did it mean exactly, and who can apply for the free services? Rather than try and answer myself, I thought it would make much more sense to ask the lady who made the announcement. I am very grateful to Nikolina Kurtela for finding the time to answer my email questions in search of clarification. 

  1. You gave a presentation on behalf of Glavic Clinic at the recent Dubrovnik for Digital Nomads conference. Tell us firstly why you decided to take part in and be a sponsor in such a conference?

That's right, during the Dubrovnik for Digital Nomads conference, Glavic Clinic participated as a speaker and as a sponsor. Although otherwise as a Polyclinic very much we work in a humanitarian manner and with free work, helping many patients and people in need, event sponsorship is not part of our firm policy. Nevertheless, we recognized the Digital Nomads Conference as a top project connecting proactive and smart people around the world and presenting Croatia, especially Dubrovnik as a city, where one can find a second home and continue to operate a successful business.

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  1. How much do you know about the digital nomad concept, and how do you see the opportunity for Croatia in general and Dubrovnik in particular?

I have to admit that before Digital Nomads conference I had much less knowledge than now. All the information I had was mostly from the media, but working on the project and the idea throughout preparations for the presentation delighted. In this project, we recognized a great opportunity to help the City of Dubrovnik position itself as a nomad-friendly city that is open to all business people who want to move their home office to one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Dubrovnik is still oriented towards seasonal tourism that lasts 4-5 months, I think this is great way to get to Dubrovnik and we are developing year-round tourism and service provision in Croatia, which would certainly help to preserve a larger number of permanent jobs 365 days a year.

  1. And now tell us more about THAT announcement. Free 12-month healthcare for digital nomads coming to Dubrovnik. Are you crazy? Some initial reaction to this is that this is some kind of scam to grab publicity.

Hahaha, I think a little craziness is always good in life, but I would like to mention the „main man role“ for this "crazy idea" is being played by the director of Glavic Clinic dr. Joško Glavić.  During our conversations about the Digital Nomads project, he said he wanted to do something special and help all the nomads who choose Dubrovnik as their base feel welcome and safe in the healthcare segment that we know is often the biggest concern for all travelers and foreign nationals.

No, the idea is not a scam or an attempt to grab publicity because it is commonly known that as a Polyclinic, we normally avoid being in the media. The idea is just a continuation of our humanitarian work and helping people, in this case digital nomads.

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  1. It sounds a great headline. Please clarify EXACTLY what you mean, and what digital nomads have to do to qualify? Is it just for nomads in Dubrovnik or elsewhere?

Therefore, in order to exercise the right to free services at the Glavic Dubrovnik Polyclinic, Digital nomads must have a visa for digital nomads and choose Dubrovnik as their place to live for a year during which they will have all our services available free of charge. (Editor note: the visa is expected to be available in the first quarter of 2021.)

  1. Glavic Clinic has a reputation for humanitarian acts. Tell us a little about that, as well as the services you offer, and your European expansion plans.

Glavić Clinic is the only clinic in this part of Europe that deals with robotic neurorehabilitation patients with neurological impairments and movement and motor difficulties in most commonly diagnosed cases with cerebral palsy, stroke, spinal cord injury, trauma heads and numerous others. Aware that we live in a part of Europe that is not the strongest in terms of income and that we have many economically vulnerable citizens, we want this concept treatment to be available to all.

Precisely because of that, in both centers, and it will be the same in the new centers, 30% of our patients are in a completely free program and they are being rehabilitated without payment, besides that during the year we organize 2-3 major charity actions. Health is wealth and that is why we try to provide it to the most endangered patients and there are our patients in the humanitarian program from Croatia and neighboring countries are often orphans, homeless people, national minorities, etc.

Given the uniqueness of the treatment concept and the successful results, due to which we are known as a reference center for the EMEA region, we want to expand our business beyond Croatia and we are currently in the process of leading the opening project in Madrid and Amsterdam as well as the USA. But unfortunately, as with everyone else, the Covid pandemic has slowed us down and made our travel and operational work more difficult. We are sure that by expanding abroad and in our foreign clinics we will benefit services of Digital Nomads and continue the chain of connecting and networking smart and capable people.

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  1. This was the first-ever digital nomad conference in Croatia. Tell us how it was for you - what struck you the most?

This conference, for me was a wonderful experience where I met a lot of smart and enthusiastic people who are certainly one of the drivers of change in the world. I was most struck/suprised by all the positive energy and preparedness of the system and the Republic of Croatia to really attract digital nomads to our country and show them all the beauties of life in Croatia, which I partly explained to you in the presentation.

You can learn more about the services of Glavić Clinic on the official website. I am sure they would be happy to answer your digital nomad healthcare questions as well. 

More from the conference:

Croatia Through the Eyes of a Digital Nomad: Croatia Courts the Global Workforce.

Reflections on Croatia's First Digital Nomad Conference in Dubrovnik.

After the Visa, Jan de Jong Announces Croatian Digital Nomad Association.

"Croatia Has the Potential To Be World's Number 1 Digital Nomad Destination"

For the latest about the digital nomad scene in Croatia, follow the dedicated TCN news section.  

Wednesday, 21 October 2020

Croatia Through the Eyes of a Digital Nomad: Croatia Courts the Global Workforce

October 21, 2020 - Continuing our series, Croatia Through the Eyes of a Digital Nomad, Cyndie Burkhardt takes a behind the scenes look at the recent Digital Nomads for Dubrovnik conference. 

Hyping its forthcoming new visa, Croatia’s first conference for digital nomads is fittingly brought to life by a truly international team who live and breathe the lifestyle

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(Stradun is the main pedestrian street that runs through Dubrovnik’s Old Town.)

When I left home over a year ago to travel the world and pursue a project covering 12 countries in 12 months, I never considered myself a digital nomad. True, I sold all my things, gave up my apartment, left family and friends, and cut ties to become location independent. The move signified forward momentum, growth, freedom, adventure, and greater connection to people everywhere. World explorer! Cultural experiences! Global friendships! Living my best life! It was well thought out and grand. “Digital nomad” somehow implied restlessness, irresponsibility, immaturity, homelessness, and a certain grunge existence. The label surely didn’t apply to me.

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(Lovrjenac is a limestone fortress that sits just outside Dubrovnik’s city walls and overlooks the sea.)

Working while traveling

Then I started traveling, working abroad, and meeting people doing different versions of my hustle. I love stories about why people travel and what they get from it. Some of the more intriguing ones involve leaving home and never going back, splitting time between locations, or simply continuing to move. These bold moves have as many twists and turns as the sea has waves, and often dreams, hard work, love, and opportunity are the driving factors. I’ve noticed that people who figure out a lifestyle around travel and work have a certain mindset. It’s global, inquisitive, open, resourceful, passionate, and more tolerant.

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(Testing the speaker set up and camera angles before the conference.)

Who are digital nomads?

While the pandemic caused travel shutdowns and forced many workers into remote status, there’s been plenty of time to reevaluate my own life and work here in my (unexpected) new home country. What if all the people I’ve been talking to are in fact digital nomads? What if they work remotely and simply like to travel, experience different cultures and meet local people, are interested in engaging with broader communities, and want to give back? Hang on a minute, they’re just like me. My outdated stereotype was shattered. In fact, the world is embracing the positive concept of digital nomads and it’s great.

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(Preparing for the first day’s agenda and panel discussions.)

Croatia’s first digital nomad conference

A marvelous opportunity is rising from the pandemic. Specifically, a handful of countries instated a digital nomad visa which allows remote workers to apply for a 1-year residency to live and work in the country. Croatia has been at the forefront and its digital nomad visa is expected to be available in early 2021.

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(Reviewing the conference program and final details.)

In anticipation, Croatia’s first digital nomad conference, called “Dubrovnik for Digital Nomads,” kicked off European Freelancers Week (#EFWeek2020, October 16-25) in that beautiful Dalmatian city. I had the good fortune to be on the frontlines and I worked alongside an international event team that was nothing short of rock star. To clarify, the team worked hard but we were non-paid volunteers who put together a robust two-day program that was both live and virtual.

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(The digital nomad conference is held at the Lazareti..)

An international team

Our team hails from Australia, Chile, Croatia, New Zealand, the UK, and the USA. All of us are in Croatia with different circumstances and reasons but we share something in common—our love for the digital nomad lifestyle and everything this beautiful country has to offer. Beyond the professional skills we brought to Dubrovnik, a range of personal pursuits reveals a depth of talent among this team that is only surpassed by unending wit.

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(Attendees practice social distance safety.)

One of the girls wants to start a vineyard in Chile. Another one spent a bunch of years in Cambodia and makes gorgeous wrap dresses, while another develops student education programs at the university and collaborates with international campuses. One of the guys runs a sick sailing business (in a good way) where remote workers can get the job done at sea, on a luxury yacht, with high speed internet. I want that job! Other pursuits include social enterprise work, building audio visual systems, UX coding, running coworking spaces, and operating one of Croatia’s top online news media companies. Wow. If these are the types of people Croatia is courting, I’m in excellent company.

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(Attendees receive a face mask with their program.}

2021’s hottest global travelers

The overriding feeling among the event team, as with the conference organizers, attendees, sponsors, and partners, is optimism for the new visa and the benefits that digital nomads can bring to communities and countries. With good understanding of who they are and reliable structures to support these people’s true needs, the lifestyle will blossom. Look for me out there waving my digital nomad flag!

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(Well-designed co-working spaces keep digital nomads efficient. This one at the Lazareti is free during Freelancer’s Week.)

Learn more about the conference and new visa at TCN’s Digital Nomads channel. 

Story and photographs ©2020, Cyndie Burkhardt. www.photo-diaries.com.

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(A bench outside the co-working space doubles as a WiFi enabled device to ensure fast internet speed around the premises.)

You can read more of Cyndie's nomad journey in her column, Croatia Through the Eyes of a Digital Nomad.

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(Croatia’s natural resources include abundant fresh fruit, which surprise and delight visitors and locals alike.)

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