This week we caught with Yvonne Worden from the US as we continued to interview the Digital Nomads that are coming to Dubrovnik as part of the project Digital Nomad Ambassadors. The far south of Croatia is certainly high up on Yvonne’s favourite destination list and she seems to have settled down into the flow of the city. The summer is approaching at full speed and as we chatted over a coffee in the very heart of the Old City of Dubrovnik there was a steady stream of tourists. "What a difference a weekend makes,” smiled Yvonne, who is a freelance digital marketer and communications specialist. Just last weekend she had pretty much had the Stradun to herself. The Digital Nomad Ambassador project is jointly organised by the Dubrovnik Tourist Board and the Saltwater Nomads agency from Split.
What’s it like being a digital nomad in Dubrovnik! What are your general impressions?
Firstly, I have to say that this city is just visually stunning. Of course, I am working most of the day, but if and when I can, I sneak away and I take in the beautiful sea, the maze of city streets and the glorious nature. Just wow! It is like I have jumped out of my life and into a movie! I guess it kind of creates an excitement to get through your work for that day so that you can get out and explore more. I am from Seattle and there the weather can be really difficult in Spring, with plenty of rain, but I kind of got used to it. But I have found that when I am working here I need to close my windows and blinds to shut out the sunshine and blue skies so that I don’t get tempted to go outside. It makes me laugh when locals in Dubrovnik complain about the weather in Spring being cold, rainy or windy. It’s really nothing compared to the dreariness of Seattle at this time of year.
Probably that is one of the hardest things about being a Digital Nomad here, there is so much on offer that it is hard not to get distracted.
So you mentioned that it is easy to get distracted, what does your average working day look like in Dubrovnik?
Well, firstly I have to say that the companies and clients that I work for in the U.S., mainly on the Pacific Coast of the U.S. Of course, this means that there is time difference that I have to work with. As I have never really been a morning person then I guess whilst I am here it works in my favour. So I have been hiking, getting coffee, doing my yoga and enjoying the city here in the morning before my work time starts. My working day then starts at around midday until the evening. I sometimes work until quite late. Yes, I do miss the sunsets here but at least I have free mornings.
So you are disciplined. You are doing a "normal” working day five days a week?
That’s right. I certainly put in the hours. Yes, there are times when I can be more flexible. I try to top load the Monday through Friday section more so that I am free at the weekends.
And how difficult or easy is to be a Digital Nomad in Dubrovnik? I am thinking on a practical level, finding Wi-Fi, transport, somewhere to work the cost of living, etc.
Well Dubrovnik will always be close to my heart because as it is the first place that I came as a Digital Nomad in 2021. I had been tracking the news about different destinations that I could go to and work from and Croatia was on my radar as the Digital Nomad Visa was in place. I really had no expectations, I didn’t know what was waiting for me. I was more than pleasantly surprised. Dubrovnik is highly walkable, which is a big bonus. There is an inexpensive and reliable public transport system but I just love being able to cover most of the city on foot. It's easy to find places to work in Dubrovnik with fast internet. Also, cafe owners and servers don't seem to mind if I ask them for the Wifi login and sit there with my laptop. It feels more relaxed to do this here than in coffee shops in Germany, for example, where I found that WiFi use was more restrictive and less accommodating for remote workers. And everywhere the Wi-Fi has been solid. There doesn’t seem to be any rush here, which took a bit of getting used to. I'm generally an anxious person so at first it was a culture shock. But I have learned to slow down and to be honest it has been very good for my mental health.
My work/life balance in Dubrovnik is perfect. This is my third time here, so as you can see I like it.
Zagreb and Split are magnets for Digital Nomads in Croatia. Why do you think that Dubrovnik doesn’t attract so many? Do we have a lack of community here?
I would say it is a combination of things. Probably the impression that people have is that Dubrovnik is a tourist city and that it is expensive. So maybe they gravitate to Split or Zagreb because it's relatively less expensive there. The first time I was in Dubrovnik a friend told me, "I have been around the world but I just love it here.” There are lots of stunning places but nothing like this. Now the city needs to find a way to attract the "slow travellers” to the city. Every Digital Nomad goes at different speeds, but they all travel much slower than tourists. The community is small but over time it will grow. Dubrovnik is much more chilled than Split. Sometimes the community is so huge and active that I find it overwhelming, so for someone looking for a smaller, more manageable community then this is the place. I see that nomads who have already been here have put it in the rotation to come back, and word of mouth is important in our community. I do find Croatians to be a little reserved, compared to Americans, until you get to know them. It pays to listen and tap into the energy. I have found them so kind and generous and willing to show the city and indeed the region to me.
As you work in an American environment and live in a more laid back Dubrovnik lifestyle do you have a problem with switching your mind from one style to the other?
I think that there is some degree of controlling the environment. If I need to have an important meeting online or finish a large project, then I will block out the rest of the world and concentrate on the job at hand. On the other hand, if it is more of a creative or conception day then going into town is fine and not a distraction, in fact it can be more inspirational. It is just about finding the right mind-set and using your time the best that you can. I am not going to say it is easy, but it takes experience.
Is it possible to plan your life as a Digital Nomad? Do you take things one day at a time or have you a longer term plan?
It is nice to have a 90-day plan. It nice to travel slow, and the slower you travel the more money you save and you get to experience more from each destination. For example, If you stay for a month rather than a week, you save money on accommodation and transportation. You also save on food, because you won't be eating out as frequently as you would on just a short visit. You can do big grocery shops and prepare some meals from your accommodation, which ideally has a kitchen or kitchenette. I have never been someone who does things at breakneck speed, I prefer to do one cool activity and then chill. I guess I am more laid back. As a Digital Nomad you have to pay attention to lots of things, your health, what you eat and make sure you get enough exercise. These things require a routine. Plans are a good thing to have only if you can stick to them. Again Dubrovnik is the perfect travel location for me, it is slow and has all the things to make life enjoyable. I am a little introverted I guess, yes, introverted Digital Nomads do exist.
I love my solo time and if you are going to solo travel then you need to love your own company.
What do you think Dubrovnik could do to improve the situation for Digital Nomads? Where are we behind the curve?
I think it all starts with the position that Digital Nomads aren’t just here for the weekend. This means that they are usually looking to connect at a different level. Nomads aren’t here to take selfies and look for photo opportunities and then get out. Dubrovnik is a little bit more expensive than other Croatian cities, which is why the Dubrovnik Pass for nomads is a great idea. Basically, it comes down to be wanted to be treated like more of a local than a standard tourist. There are other things that are moving in the right direction for me personally. The Milk Bar in Dubrovnik opened for the first time in 2022 and have just reopened for this season. For me it is wonderful that Dubrovnik has a LGBTQ+ friendly space. Digital Nomads are always searching for that third space, there’s work, home and then the community hub. It seems that Dubrovnik is still figuring out that third space. But if you are someone who identifies as LGBTQ+, like myself, then the Milk Bar is an amazing addition.
Do you have any idea on how long you will be a Digital Nomad?
It is totally open-ended at the moment. It would be cool to have a base in the world. But I guess at the same time it would be hard to be tied down, once you have tasted freedom and travel then it is hard to turn back. And once you have that level of freedom and flexibility you are going to fight to keep it. Yes, people can run out of steam, I guess burn out from the Digital Nomad lifestyle, but it all depends on the person and how fast you are travelling. I have travelled a lot, and worked and lived in many different cultures and countries. I do feel privileged. I couldn’t have pictured this lifestyle before and now I don’t know how I would live without it. The Digital Nomad lifestyle isn’t for everyone, but it could be for anyone who gives it a shot.
This interview was orginally punlished on the Long Stay Dubrovnik website – a website aimed at Digital Nomads coming to the south of Croatia
You can follow Yvonne via her website - yvonneandbeyond.com
Or via social media (Instagram, Tiktok and YouTube) - @yvonneandbeyond