More and more digital nomads have been discovering Croatia in recent months and certainly one of the first in Dubrovnik is our guest this week, Rebecca Sylvester. She changed her UK address for a Croatian one at the end of last year and hasn’t looked back. And whereas many digital nomads are involved in the tech industry in some form or another Rebecca is in a quintessentially English market, tea! Of course, she quickly found out that the Brazilian bean and their morning cup of expresso is more appealing than a cup of tea. However, she has managed to navigate this bump in the road and in spite of the pandemic and all the challenges is loving life in Dubrovnik. “Dubrovnik was my very first stop and it instantly felt like home,” commented Rebecca as we caught up with her.
How long have you spent in Dubrovnik so far and what are your first impressions?
A random chain of events led me to Dubrovnik in September 2020. Although I was previously a flight attendant for 12 years, Croatia was not on my radar, until I met a lovely couple in Italy who shared stunning pictures from their travels throughout Istria and the Dalmatian coast. Instead of returning home I was inspired to start a new adventure in Dubrovnik. The moment I stepped off the ferry, I was met by such friendly, warm people – Ivan, the kind taxi driver who helped with my cases, Maria, the lady who welcomed me into her rental home and a travel agent who invited me along with friends to the local beach bar. On the second day I began wandering around the cobbled streets of the old town, feeling the buzz of people lunching in the sunshine, watching the boats pulling into the old port and walking around the magical city walls - I fell absolutely in love and knew there and then that I was going to stay.
You are one of the first digital Nomads in Dubrovnik, how are you finding your work experience here?
Travel is in my blood and it’s always been my dream to escape the grey cold, wet weather of the UK. Live in a hot, sunny country, work on the beach, meet new people and explore during my free time. I’m so grateful Croatia has provide the perfect backdrop and given me the motivation and inspiration to realise my dream. Before lockdown I was embracing the sunshine with my laptop in a beach bar, restaurant or café and immersing myself in a different culture.
Everyone in Dubrovnik has been so welcoming and speaks English so settling in and arranging meetings for work has been surprisingly effortless. I’ve made the best friends, discovered great locations with a view to work in during the day and my favourite hangouts to wind down in the evening – I’ve been able to integrate networking with my passion for travel and not once have I had a problem with WIFI which is every digital nomad’s dream.
Why did you decide to come and work in Dubrovnik and what are you doing here?
My move to Croatia was unexpected but the opportunity fell into place so I grabbed it. Dubrovnik was my very first stop and it instantly felt like home. I stayed for two weeks then travelled to a number of islands (Hvar & Korcula being a few of my favourites) and made my way north, passed Split then onto Zagreb. Every place I’ve explored has been fascinating and unique but my heart is in Dubrovnik. I made friends fast and loved the vibe and it inspired me to start my own company - A lifestyle community platform to help others discover, explore, experience and build a life here in Croatia – VIBE CROATIA https://www.vibecroatia.com
It’s a little lonely sometimes being a digital nomad, adjusting your life, integrating into a new culture, balancing work with travel and essentials, like opening a bank account, can be stressful and complicated. My mission is connecting people, sharing knowledge and collaborating with local businesses to enhance their adventure.
I’m also the regional manager for The Tea Group bringing luxury, great quality, fair trade and sustainable tea into Croatia and working with amazing venues to create world class tea experiences. In my short time here, I’ve learned now much Croatians love their coffee but I’m excited and determined to change that or at least get everyone to try a cuppa or two!
What challenges have you found due to the covid-19 pandemic and do you feel safe here? Are you satisfied with the information on the pandemic that is available here?
I’ve felt very safe here throughout the pandemic. I believe a lot of care, time and dedication has gone into ensuring public spaces are sanitized and safe to enter and there are many channels to find information regarding covid-19. Face masks are always being worn indoors and outdoor seating is adequately spaced to avoid any risk to others. The ministry of tourism and sport has created a national label of safety and a ‘Stay Safe in Croatia sticker’ can be found on all facilities where epidemiological measures and health & safety recommendations have taken place, there is also the 113 call centre which is there to answer any covid-19 questions.
Until December life was pretty normal so it’s only been a little challenging working from home since lockdown was implemented - especially since the weather is cooler so sitting on the beach with a laptop at present isn’t an option! We’re so lucky to have no curfews or ‘bubbles’ however I miss trying out new restaurants with friends, finding hidden local bars, meeting new contacts and building connections in person – I’ve never had so many zoom calls – but it’s been a learning experience and I’ll appreciate all the little things much more once everything is open. Life has been crazy for everyone this past year so I count myself very lucky to have made it here and still able to explore the stunning Balkan coast once my work is done.
What recommendations would you offer to potential digital nomads thinking of coming here?
Don’t even think about it, just do it! Its seriously been one of the best decisions of my life!
Croatia is consistently growing and key organisations are using this time to innovate, expand and develop, so I’d recommend joining Facebook groups, adding potential connections on Linkedin and looking out for ways to grow, collaborate and integrate your business with your new surroundings.
One of the key things I learnt quickly was to plan my workspaces ahead. The main hot spots get extremely busy during the tourist season and there’s nothing worse than arriving at your favourite hangout with nowhere to sit.
Get involved with local groups, find out what’s going on and meet people. You’ve moved to a fabulous country, why experience it alone? There are some things I would have found 10 times more difficult to deal with without help from my local friends so put yourself out there and make an effort.
Slow down and enjoy the ride. Steer away from the usual tourist traps and attractions, find the best local spots off the beaten track and take the time to really learn about Croatian culture and all it has to offer.
Outside of your work here how are you spending your time?
Exploring and loving life! I’m working six days a week at the moment as VIBE will be launching soon but I have most evenings free. I live close to Mount Srd so when the weather is nice, I hike to the top, take in the sights, treat myself to a picnic and read a book.
Running, hanging out at the beach and cooking with friends at least once a week has become a thing. I’m so lucky to have met such good people during this time so I love chilling out with them. We motivate, support and help each other and I’m learning quite a few Croatian words – although most I can’t repeat on here!
Road trips are my favourite way to explore. There are so many amazing vineyards scattered throughout the country, I didn’t realise Croatian wine was so good! So I’ve been combining island hopping with overnight stays while tickling my taste buds with a glass of wine or two - I’m becoming quite the sommelier!
Have you managed to learn any Croatian?
I’m currently taking lessons online twice a week. It’s a pretty tough language but I’m determined to stick at it. I know the basics to be polite and everyone here appreciates that I’m trying, the challenge is most people just reply in English! I’ve never been the best at languages so it may take some time but I’m determined to integrate as a permanent resident and fulfil my new found destiny.