“Wow, so it is like this here every day, it’s magical,” said the lady opposite me as we sat on the Stradun sipping espresso. It was busy. Carnival season was in full swing. And it was the turn of the local school children to dress up in weird and wonderful costumes. They paraded through a sun-kissed Stradun full of laughter and joy. “Well, not exactly every day, but pretty close,” I smiled.
There is a rather nice saying in English “You can’t see the wood for the trees.” We are all often guilty of this. And it sometimes need fresh eyes to really appreciate where we live. And that is what I had in front of me. 14 fresh eyes to be precise. An international group of seven digital nomads all soaking up Dubrovnik. Their reaction was priceless.
I had just met this group as the tourist board had launched a new initiative Digital Nomad Ambassadors. Basically remote workers from around the world will be staying in Dubrovnik throughout the whole year. Along with working they will also be spreading news and views from the city to their considerable online following. Seems like a win/win situation.
Firstly, the word ambassador stuck in my mind. I can vividly remember my parents drilling into me not to forget that wherever I go in the world I am an ambassador for England. Meaning that my behaviour would be a direct reflection on the English. I have followed this rule complicity. So rather fitting that I ended up working in diplomacy as the Honorary Consul.
Secondly, the whole concept of digital nomads. There has been lots of noise around it, some positive and some negative. It is really a fluid concept that got a huge boost during the pandemic. As one of the nomads said to me “I am not sure where home is anymore, I’ve been working and living around the world for three years without putting roots down anywhere.” Just a few generations ago this sentence would have seemed impossible. People tended to gravitate around their place of birth. Those days are gone.
The relative ease that people have to travel and work in a foreign country has opened up new lifestyles, far from the traditional ones. They are all very much citizens of the world. Not restricted by borders. And the bonus that Dubrovnik is on their radar is immense.
Far too often we look at things through finance.
The investment in attracting nomads goes beyond finance. They are our promoters. They are opening a new generation to the city. Just as Game of Thrones did. We shouldn’t be looking at how much we can earn from them directly, for that is almost irrelevant, but how much their reach and engagement online will help us. Like it or hate it we live in a world where social media is important.
Nomads getting into the carnival spirit - Photo - TZ Dubrovnik
It is hard to gauge how many nomads come to Dubrovnik every year. For the vast majority will be travelling with an EU passport and therefore have the right to travel and work inside the union wherever they like.
Two of the coffee group in front of me were from the UK and I could see their faces drop when I mentioned visas and rights to work and travel. “Yes, Brexit makes us really feel like second class citizens. If only the younger generation had taken it more seriously and voted we wouldn’t have been in this absolute mess,” said one. I felt a bit sorry for them, knowing that their journey to be with the group was considerably longer, harder and more expensive.
With the carnival continuing in the background they busily snapped and filmed clips before sending them all out to the world. Right in front of me this promotion was happening. “When my friends see this they’ll be blown away,” said one nomad. They were certainly seeing the wood and not the trees.
And this will be happening all year round. And more importantly out of the main season.
“What’s your favourite months to be here?” one asked. “Any months apart from July and August,” I smiled. And added “But don’t let we cloud your judgement. Soak up the city, immerse yourselves and you’ll have memories to last a lifetime.”
I will leave the last word to J.R.R. Tolkien, “Not all those who wander are lost.”
Read more Englishman in Dubrovnik…well, if you really want to