The project Digital Nomad Ambassadors in Dubrovnik is in full swing and this week we caught up with a well-travelled digital nomad, Helen Bradbury born and raised in the UK but very much a citizen of the world. The Ambassador program sees a year-round rotation of digital nomads in the city. This isn’t Helena’s first time in the far south of Croatia, as she admits she likes it here so much that every opportunity she gets to come she grabs with both hands.
And as she has travelled extensively her insight into Dubrovnik and Croatia are extremely relevant. Croatia was one of the first countries in the world to introduce the special Digital Nomad visa and Helena applied for and obtained this very visa. The Digital Nomad Ambassador project is jointly organised by the Dubrovnik Tourist Board and the Saltwater Nomads agency from Split.
How easy is it to be a digital nomad in Dubrovnik?
I have honestly found it very, very easy. The facilities that nomads are looking for are all here. Obviously it is a very different experience between the summer and the winter. I think if you come to Dubrovnik and expect a lot of things to be open in the winter then you are going to be disappointed, but that’s really my experience of Croatia in general in the winter.
So does that mean you prefer Dubrovnik in the summer?
No, I hundred percent prefer Dubrovnik in the winter. I prefer all of Croatia in the winter. Between October and April is the ideal time to be a nomad in Dubrovnik in my opinion. Maybe this is my perspective coming from the UK, but I don’t think that the weather is bad here during the winter. Clearly, if you are a local you would think that the winter weather is bad because you’ll be used to those guaranteed long, hot summers. That’s what kind of baffles me about Dubrovnik and the coastline in general, that there is not more winter tourism, especially with people coming from northern European countries.
The weather here for me in November, December and January is brilliant, and I would take being here rather in the UK every time.
It is challenging to work as a nomad in Dubrovnik, apart from being distracted by the views, how have you found the conditions you require to actually work?
It hasn’t been difficult at all, far from it. I do think that if you a digital nomad long-term, at least this is my perspective, that you’re not going to buy one coffee in a café whilst you work and stay there for eight hours. I haven’t had a problem at all with internet connection here, both at the apartment where I am staying and at cafés and other places. People have been so welcoming. There are plenty of places to work.
When did your digital nomad lifestyle start, or when did you realise that you are in fact a digital nomad?
I always loved the idea of it and always thought that one day I could actually do it. Yes, I had “normal” jobs before. I worked for a London publishing house, the regular 9 to 5 job in an office. I worked hen for several years before moving to Melbourne, Australia where I worked in the financial industry. And then the Covid-19 pandemic hit. My partner lost his job and then I lost my job. I had always had this idea in the back of my mind to create some kind of passive income that involved travelling. So after we lost our jobs and our visas were expiring we went back to the UK. The job market was almost non-existent in the UK so I thought now is the time to live my dream. I started working as a virtual assistant for companies who needed help with their online presence. That was where it all started and it just kind of bloomed from there.
So you have had the experience of working in an office, the 9 to 5 job, and working remotely as a digital nomad. How would you compare the two? Some people maybe get the wrong idea about travelling and working, or rather a romanticized idea. I am sure it isn’t all beds of flowers and Instagram selfies.
Yes, I absolutely agree that being a digital nomad isn’t for everybody. It is not easy. If you are someone who isn’t disciplined to work without a structure around you then you might struggle. Fortunately, I have always been someone who didn’t need that office structure. I can work without the whole process of the office, but as I said not everyone can. In terms of how I work, I have set hours from Monday to Wednesday, then on Thursday I will finish all the admin work I need to do. I like to work early in the morning, so I get up at 6:00 am and then I will work through to 11:00 am, then I’ll go to the gym, come back and another window of work in the afternoon. I aim to not work on Friday, but that doesn’t always come true.
That three-day weekend then gives me the opportunity to travel somewhere if I want to.
You are a well-travelled digital nomad, so how does Croatia compare with the other experiences that you have had?
I feel like it is a lot easier here, in terms of the pace of life. And that is exactly what I was looking for when I became a digital nomad. Other countries that I have lived and worked in tended to have a less developed work/life balance. The quality of life here is certainly extremely high. That’s the balance of quality of life and standard of life.
What about the cost of being a digital nomad in Dubrovnik? Have you found the city expensive?
Again, this is another reason why Dubrovnik has a massive opportunity to promote itself as a digital nomad destination in the low-season, because prices are reasonable. I have seen the difference between the high season and low season, and it is huge. Nomads will be pleasantly surprised when they see the cost of accommodation in Dubrovnik in the so called off-season. And it isn’t just accommodation, food, coffee and transport, everything seems cheaper in the winter months. Of course prices also vary depending where you go. We had a coffee with some friends the other day on the main street and it was around 9 euros for three coffees. And then the next day we went again to the Old City, but in a side street, and it was 4.5 euro for the same three coffees.
Dubrovnik is still beautiful in the winter, there are still so many things to do, so I would absolutely recommend coming as a nomad in the off-season and I can’t wait to come back.
What are your three main highlights of being a digital nomad in Dubrovnik?
That’s a tough one. We’ve really enjoyed working in the day and then in the late afternoon walking around the less explored areas. In a few minutes’ walk you can really get back to nature. Exploring the Old City has been a highlight. One of the reasons I love Dubrovnik is that it is small, I am not a big city person. There is a lot to see in walking distance. It’s compact. For example, I went to a museum for my lunch break the other day. No need to drive, just walked there. Another one that just popped into my head is the public transport, which is excellent. I’ve probably given you more than three, and I could probably go on and on.
What do you think Dubrovnik misses as a digital nomad destination? What could we do better?
I really see that all of the pieces of the puzzle are there, they’ve just not been put together. It will take time. Dubrovnik is primarily seen as a tourist destination. However, all of that infrastructure that is set up to handle the tourists could also be put to use for nomads and longer stays. It is going to take a shift in mind-set and putting money behind certain aspects to build Dubrovnik as a nomad destination. To put all of the pieces of the puzzle together will take time, but long term that is the way ahead. Sustainable tourism is the future. There are a lot of positive things that Croatia and Dubrovnik has, for example the recent entry into the border-free Schengen area makes it considerably easier for European nomads to travel here. Nomads are slow travellers are looking to really explore the local experiences.
You can follow Helena and here digital nomad adventure here –
Website - https://www.helenabradbury.com
Instagram - https://instagram.com/helenabradbury