Saturday, 27 November 2021
Gillie Sutherland Gillie Sutherland

Time is a precious commodity – and Croatia has given me the time to think

Written by  Gillie Sutherland Oct 17, 2021

One of the first words I learned in Croatia (aside from the basic everyday greetings), was “Polako”.

Little did I know back then that it was the word that has come to shape my whole existence here.

I had come to live in the magical coastal paradise that is Molunat, and I was learning all about the local lifestyle and just why I felt so healthy living there.

My inspiration was a woman called Marija, who was the eldest in a four generation household. I never asked her age, but she was the fittest Great Grandmother I had ever seen.

The first time I met her, she’d carried my rucksack up three flights of stairs as if it was light as a feather (it was probably 30kg!).

I’d often see her early in the mornings pulling the fishing nets in, lifting the heavy buckets, climbing out of the boat to tie it up. She was as fit and active as any average person in their 20s I knew from back home.

Watching her handle a huge tuna they had caught one day, cleaning and gutting it, and then cutting it up into pieces with a knife I would have struggled to lift with one hand, I was inspired. This is who I want to be when (if) I grow up.

Marija made her own wine, olive oil, she always had oranges or apples, or whatever fruit was in season.



And there was the Rakija, which was prescribed for any days I was feeling even slightly under the weather. I found myself drinking it one morning on her terrace at around 9am, before my class, and it felt completely normal by then. Whatever she was doing, I was thinking “I’m in”.

It is Marija’s voice I have in my head when I think of “Polako”.

In the early days in Molunat, when I was still on U.K. pace of life, I would often take the stairs three at a time. The quicker I got there the better, no wasting time, things to do, life is short, blah blah blah.

“Polako”, she would say to me, sound advice given it was often slippery from the rain (or from me traipsing in with wet feet straight out of the sea).

But it wasn’t just about safety, it’s their way of life. Everything gets done, but nothing is rushed. There’s no stress about doing the work, they just get on with it. They take time for their meals, whether it’s in the catching, the preparation or the eating.

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I don’t think I ever saw anyone in Molunat eat on-the-hoof, or wolf down a ready meal in front of the television. I love this about how they live.

Then a few nights ago, enjoying a dinner with friends at Ludo More, I realised maybe it’s not just Molunat, or Croatia even, maybe it’s just age-old wisdom.

We were talking about making big life decisions, and one of my friends Mel tells me about his Uncle Jim, who lived well into his 90s.

Jim’s advice was very simple - “Bowl a steady ball”, he would say.

Don’t rush it, take it easy, consider your options, and then commit having weighed it all up.

I’m not a fan of either cricket or bowling, but this made absolute sense to me.

Whether in sport or in life, composure is everything.

I wonder if Uncle Jim had anything to do with Andy Murray’s turnaround, before he won his first Wimbledon. He’d always struggled with composure, but over time he learned how to handle his emotions, and his Wimbledon win was like a Masterclass in emotional management.

Now I’m thinking actually “Polako” is not just a more enjoyable way to live, but it’s also smarter.

When we make decisions that are rushed, that’s when we make mistakes. Because if we are hurrying, we are stressed. Our nervous system isn’t in balance, and we are likely operating from a state of fear and urgency. This rarely leads to successful outcomes.

But when we sit back, pause, weight things up, calculate our next move, from a place of calm, that’s when we tend to make good decisions.

I realise I’ve changed a lot since I first arrived to live in Croatia. I’ve slowed down for sure, and I tend to take a pause before committing to action.

There’s no rush, and sometimes we just don’t know which path we want to take, and that’s ok.

I’ve done a lot of this recently.

“I don’t know”, I’d say.

“And I’m going to sit with “I don’t know” until I do know.

I’ve made mistakes when I have rushed decisions and ended up in situations that weren’t right for me, but I’m looking back at what I learned in Molunat from Marija and Mother Earth, and I’m remembering it’s ok to take your time.

“Adopt the pace of nature where nothing is rushed”.

It seems there are wise souls on all corners of the planet, and although I never met Uncle Jim, his words have left a mark, and brought new meaning to “Polako” for me.

“Roll A Steady Ball”.

Yes. Yes. Yes.

Read more Gillie here...  


Gillie Sutherland grew up in the north of England, before settling in Devon, but has now swapped her UK address for one on the Adriatic in the very south of Croatia, in Cavtat. A professional Wellness Consultant she now runs retreats and online courses from her Konavle base. She also writes a weekly column for the Devon newspaper, The Express and Echo.

To find out more about Gillie go to

The Voice of Dubrovnik


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