From Mexico City to the Dalmatian coastline, now that’s quite a journey and quite a culture shock. Alejandra Gotóo, who studied English Literature and recently graduated with a Masters of Social Anthropology, has been spending the cooler winter months in Zadar at the recently opened Digital Nomad Valley and we caught up with her to discover how she changed tacos for Adriatic seafood. She just oozes positivity and the seemingly ever cheerful Mexican is diving into Croatian culture, and even the sea.
“The weather! I am used to warmer weather, we arrived in January, and it was freezing for me,” laughs Alejandra. She usually writes in Spanish and has been published in Spain, Mexico, Colombia and Peru. Her topics of interest include nature, adventure, language, books, food, culture, animals, conservation, and women's rights. And with her America born husband the couple are certainly living the Croatian dream.
Why did you decide to come to Croatia as part of your digital nomad adventure?
My husband had visited before, and he loved it. So he told me about coming here; I didn’t think twice since I had always wanted to visit.
Croatia is dream-like - Photo - Alejandra Gotóo
How has your experience in Croatia been so far? What have you seen and where have you been?
I have been enjoying it a lot. We arrived in Zagreb and then came directly to Zadar. We have not explored more cities, but we have done some hiking trips with Hiking & Adventure Croatia, and most of them have been so lovely. I have to admit there was one where the guide mostly gave explanations in Croatian that I did not love because I felt I was missing info on the sights. He talked for like 10 min in Croatian and 2 min in English. There must have been something else there. Who knows…
Zadar is amazing, and I was amazed the first time I went to the Old Town. It seemed so dream-like. The sea is so pretty that I want to swim all the time, but right now it is still too cold for me to spend a lot of time in. My record is 25 minutes, and swimming only 15, my body got colder while swimming than while just being in the water.
Have you managed to learn some of the language? Just how difficult has it been?
I love Croatian! The sound is super nice, and I am trying to learn. I am not taking classes because I want to experience the language as an immersion in the culture and daily life. Charlemagne is reputed to have said, “to speak another language is to possess another soul.” Thus, I have been trying to get it by myself, catch phrases, get meaning from context, checking YouTube for pronunciation and common words. I know how to say hello, bye, thanks, cheers!, count to ten, lots of food, etc. Some of the essentials. I have had help from local friends, and that has been so useful. I want to find this second soul in an empirical way. Wish me luck!
I want to find this second soul in an empirical way - Photo - Alejandra Gotóo
How much of a culture shock was it to come from Mexico to Croatia? What things has it been hard to get used to and what do you miss from Mexico?
When I read this question, the first thought that came to my mind was: tacos. That is the thing I miss most about Mexico, the spicy food and especially the tacos. Don’t get me wrong; I love Croatian cuisine. It is just that I have been used to Mexican food since I was born… so it’s hard to change habits. One of the things that caught my attention here is the diversity of trash bins. This might sound funny, but I was used to organic vs. inorganic. And here, there are so many colours and divisions. I need to know how to do it properly. I really enjoyed walking in Zadar. I feel so safe all the time. This is not how I felt in Mexico.
That is the thing I miss most about Mexico, the spicy food and especially the tacos - Photo - Alejandra Gotóo
I have noticed I am just saying good things, so let me think, something complicated or challenging here… I know! The weather! I am used to warmer weather, we arrived in January, and it was freezing for me. Now it is not that cold anymore, but I have also been swimming in the sea to help my body cope with cold temperatures. Sea dips have helped me be comfier during the days. Also, they are great for my health, both physical and mental.
What advice would you give to future digital nomads thinking of coming and working and living in Croatia?
You definitely should! Croatia is safe, pretty, and its people have made hubby, and I feel welcome. We have been here for about two months, and we have made great friendships. Plus, the sea is so clear that you could stare at it for hours and enjoy the sea life, perhaps tiny, such as some worms and sea cucumbers, and big mammals, such as dolphins. We saw some on one boat trip with other nomads and locals.
Croatia is one of the best places I have ever been; I totally love it!
You’ve been staying in the digital nomad valley in Zadar. How has that experience been? How satisfied are you with the setup there for nomads?
I have mixed feelings. Overall I love the setup, activities, and the community. Gillie, the community manager, has done so much to make nomads live the life. She is a fantastic, warm, energetic person. I took yoga classes with her at the beach all morning; you can imagine how great my days started. There were at least three activities to choose from every week, from sunset admiration to parties. An activity that I enjoyed a lot was the community kitchen; as the Valley has a wide variety of nationalities, it was enriching to get together and share a little bit of our own cultures. My favourites were Polish night, with dumplings, Croatian nights, where we made gnocchi from scratch, and Taco lunch, where I prepared tacos and was kind of the host. Nevertheless, I think some areas of improvement should be addressed before next season. I felt like the last weeks were weird, partly because the Valley got a big group of nomads that were not interested in spending time with the other nomads and a little bit because of the communication. For a while, there was a web page stating the program was going to last until April 21st; in the end, the program lasted what initially it would last, but we learned that by rumours, not an official source.
Where do you plan to go after Croatia? And would you come back here?
We wish to stay the whole year, we are applying for the DN visa. If we are not granted to stay for some reason, we would probably go to Estonia, Barbados, or we might go back for a while to Mexico. Not really sure. We just know we need to be in the Czech Republic in September for the wedding of our favourite Czech couple! And we will totally come back to Croatia; we love the country, its people, the sea, the food!
And you can follow the Croatian adventures of Alejandra Gotóo as we are pleased to announce that she will be writing a twice-monthly column for us! Keep spreading that positivity Alejandra – coming soon!
And you can also follow her via her blog - https://cardinal-humours.ghost.io/