Before the Covid-19 lockdown meant that people were unable to leave their homes a few, just a few, tourists found themselves on the wrong side (of maybe the right side) of the border. They spent their 14 days in quarantine and braved it out in the Adriatic sunshine. One such couple are Bryan Tobian and Jennifer Peterson from the USA. We caught up with the pair to see how they were coping with life in Dubrovnik.
So let’s first get to know our stranded Americans -
Jenn and I met last year. We are in our early 30’s, and both raised in the Midwest region of the United States (Kansas City and Indiana respectively). We are pretty adventurous, and each moved to different parts of California in our 20’s. Last year we both ended eight-year relationships around the same time. We met pretty quickly after that and shared lot of chemistry and many interests. About two years ago, I started an IT consulting business that allowed me to work completely remote. After my last relationship ended, I had aspirations to work abroad and started making plans to become a digital nomad of sorts.
I sold my house and my car and made plans to leave before Christmas. Jenn and I had very strong feelings for each other and talked about the different possibilities of what a relationship could look like. In the end, we decided to go on this adventure together. After all, what a great story that would be: falling in love together on a yearlong journey through Europe. We made a plan to live in a new country every month for the year 2020. We left in December and made it through Portugal, Morocco, and Spain (with stops in Iceland and London), before all of the COVID-19 madness began.
Their adventure took an unexpected turn
How long have you been in Dubrovnik? And how did you wind up being “stuck” here?
We arrived in Dubrovnik on March 16th after spending a couple of weeks in London. Our next stop was intended to be Istanbul, but as news of the pandemic started to unfold, we had to decide where to go quickly. Home was not an option. We didn’t have a place to live or even valid health insurance inside the USA. We decided on Dubrovnik for three reasons: the weather was already looking sunny and fairly warm in March, we didn’t need to worry about our Schengen visas, and with the stoppage of airlines and cruise ships, we thought that it would be a safe and quiet place for us to stay since no other tourists would be coming.
Do you feel safe in Dubrovnik? And are you following the news on the COVID-19 pandemic here?
When we arrived in Dubrovnik, we were required to isolate in our apartment for two weeks. It was difficult to be stuck inside for so long, but we believe it is restrictions like this that has kept the number of cases so low in the country. We talk often about how thankful we are to be here instead of in the USA where things are continuing to spiral out of control. After our quarantine, we have been able to explore Dubrovnik a little more. We go to the beach and swim in the sea almost daily. The people of Dubrovnik are very friendly and welcoming. To stay informed and provide a little comfort, we read the Dubrovnik Times and Total Croatia News every day. At first it was to keep up with the pandemic news, but now we are also interested in the goings-on around Dubrovnik and Croatia as a whole.
How do you feel the Croatian authorities have handled the pandemic?
I read a study published last month by Oxford University that said Croatia was the strictest country in the world regarding adherence to the COVID-19 guidelines. I think that, coupled with the success of this strategy says it all.
Digital nomads in Dubrovnik
Are you keeping up with news from back home? And how are you keeping in touch with your family and friends?
We have limited ourselves on the intake of US news. It is mostly depressing, infuriating, and distracting. We worry about our loved ones, but even if we were home, there is nothing we could do to change what’s happening. Instead, we continue to talk to our friends and family often, as we have throughout this journey. We use video chat and send messages through social media. There is a certain feeling of “survivor’s guilt” because we are here where it is safe and beautiful while our friends and family are at home worrying about the rise of COVID cases and food shortages. It is scary that they are starting to “open up” without having a decrease in cases.
Now that the situation seems to be calming down, at least in Croatia, are you planning to leave and go back home?
We have seen so much natural and historical beauty, been treated so kindly, and have really enjoyed the sunshine. We have grown incredibly fond of Dubrovnik, especially the peacefulness of Zaton. With everything opening back up, we are now getting the opportunity to get a better taste of the food and culture. We are hoping to stay through the summer, and are considering applying for a one year visa to make Dubrovnik our home base.
How did you find the accommodation you are staying at? And are you happy with everything there?
We found our accommodation on AirBnB and ended up making a deal with our host personally once we decided to extend our stay. It’s a beautiful and very sunny apartment with a terrace where we eat most of our meals. It’s a lovely place to call home and we feel very happy to be here.
Fun in the Adriatic sun
Is there something that you are missing, apart from your friends and family, whilst being “stuck” in Dubrovnik?
We both enjoy concerts, theatre, and the arts. We also are avid gym-goers. While this is not an issue unique to Dubrovnik, it’s been something we’ve missed. We are very excited to be able to lift weights again.
What life lessons have you learned whilst being in self-isolation in Dubrovnik?
This is my favorite question of all. For the last two months we cooked almost every bite of food that we ate. We did not spend frivolously on junk from Amazon. When we arrived, we had nothing and knew nobody. The Red Cross and brought us food. Once isolation was over, we were able to get our own groceries. We have made whatever we had at the time work for us. Life has been much simpler. We have time to read, think, and enjoy each other’s company. We walk around our neighborhood, lay in the sun, and swim in the sea. Someday, when we go home – wherever that may be – the lesson we will take with us is that we don’t need so many “things” to be happy. We are grateful for our health and each other.