Thinking outside of the box, making the most of joint abilities and rolling with the punches, all of these could well describe this duo. This week we caught up with the co-founders of Adriatic SeaChange, Barbara Loncaric Lucic and Suzana Livaja. Croatia has recently taken great steps to attract digital nomads and was one of the first countries in the world to offer special visas for digital nomads.
And this digital duo, Barbara based in Dubrovnik and Suzana based in London, have the best of both worlds for solving the challenges for potential digital nomads. And interestingly they are concentrating on a “local experience” an experience that few of the travellers who visit Croatia actually get.
Croatia has certainly opened to digital nomads, what gave you the idea to start the website?
The idea came about very spontaneously. We met in Dubrovnik during the first Covid-19 lockdown. Suzana arrived in Croatia from London to visit family and then got “stuck” here for four months and worked the entire time while enjoying the clearer skies in Croatia. She travelled around quite a bit between Zagreb and the south and while she was in Dubrovnik for a month we met completely by chance. Despite being of Croatian heritage, it was still quite strange being in a new city and so thanks to Barbara being a true local, Suzana got to experience Dubrovnik in a way she hadn't before despite coming here on holidays many times. While Suzana was working here as a digital nomad, we got to talking about how great it would be to be able to do this for longer periods of time, and that anyone who has the opportunity to do so should get a really authentic experience and feel like a true local and discover hidden gems, get to know the culture and be part of the town.
A couple of months later, we tuned in to the digital nomad conference which took place in October in Dubrovnik and we learnt more about the “digital nomad visa” and became inspired to begin our own story with Adriatic SeaChange. We want to help others who are looking for a way to take advantage of one of the few benefits of Covid-19 to have an adventure in discovering Croatia. We have a vision for Adriatic SeaChange to be the one-stop shop for digital nomads for visa application, relocation and local experience services and our combination of Suzana's legal expertise and Barbara's many years as a tourism specialist in Croatia put us in a unique place to be able to do this.
Although Croatia now offers nomads a special visa, just how complicated is the paperwork?
The process for applying for a visa is expected to be smoother with time as the government irons out some parts of the process which currently are quite demanding and also unclear as this is still very new. We see that in typical Croatian style, there are a lot of bureaucratic processes to go through to apply for a digital nomad visa, including translation and certification of documents, completing forms, finding accommodation and showing proof of your status as a digital nomad, which could vary greatly depending on a person's individual circumstances!
What feedback have you received from digital nomads looking to come to Croatia?
We have been pleasantly surprised and very pleased with the response we have received so far from digital nomads from a range of places globally. They seem to be quite nervous and uncertain about the process, but this is why they contact us in the first place. There has also been enthusiasm for services such as those that we provide at Adriatic SeaChange, and in particular the desire to come to Croatia to experience .
Living like a local and learning the secrets of the Mediterranean lifestyle
You have entered into a competitive market, what makes you stand out from the crowd?
While there are service providers in other countries such as Portugal, for example, that are creating “digital nomad villages” where nomads from different parts of the world can live together in a community, we think that a richer experience is one where the digital nomads are integrated into local life. That is why we offer “Local Nomad” packages which are bespoke and designed with a person's preferences for culture and activities in mind, but also contain some must-do activities like learning about wine culture on Peljesac peninsula and learning about cultivation of olive oil, fishing with a local and learning about Croatian marine biology and of course, understanding the beauty of sitting and sipping coffee for hours with regular coffee catch-ups with their local host.
What makes Dubrovnik a good location for digital nomads to locate in?
Dubrovnik is a fantastic place to live outside the hectic period of high-season. The perfect climate, galleries scattered around the town and cultural events that take place year-long provide just enough excitement for such a small place. The closeness of Montenegro, Bosnia and other Croatian islands such as Peljesac and Korcula make it an ideal place for a base to explore beyond Dubrovnik.
Has the current pandemic changed people’s opinions to travel and work?
While the jury is still out on whether Covid means the death of the office, we think that either way, we are never going back to a five day 9-5 working week. In this day and age, it just doesn't make much sense and Covid has shown even those who were sceptical about working remotely that it does work and that people are more productive when they are able to have flexibility. So we think that conversations are going to keep happening, and probably at an increasing rate, when we are able to have more certainty about travel once the vaccines are rolled out.
Although Dubrovnik is a well-known travel destination throughout the warmer summer months, how can you attract digital nomads to come here throughout the off-season?
Many people are very surprised to hear about all the activities in Croatia during the winter. The Winter Festival that we have in Dubrovnik for a few years now is very popular, and Zagreb has now for a few years created stunning Advent Christmas Markets which have been voted as the best in Europe many times. It is important to know that Dubrovnik in the winter is not closed, and we think it is actually important for Dubrovnik to work on promoting itself as a destination outside the summer season. We actually think the tranquillity of the winter months, which are fairly mild here, lend themselves for a great experience for tourists who can enjoy venturing through the pebble-stoned streets and alley ways, enjoy their morning coffee and watch the sunset over the open sea in peace.
What, in your opinion, are the top three conditions that digital nomads are looking for when moving abroad?
It is silly to say “internet” as that is assumed, but the top three would be: affordance accommodation, safety and security (we spoke to a Canadian couple who felt safer here than in their own suburb back home) and local infiltration into culture.