Digital Nomad Life in Croatia: Julie Odler, from Denver to Osijek

Total Croatia News

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July 8, 2019 – As the number of digital nomads rises globally, some are choosing to spend some of their time in Croatia. A new TCN series meeting international digital nomads calling Croatia their temporary home. Meet Julie Odler from Denver.

As recently featured on TCN, the world is projected to have a billion digital nomads by 2035, people from all over the world doing all manner of jobs and business with one thing in common – a flexible, mobile workplace connected to the Internet. If even a fracture of that number becomes a reality, the economic opportunity for countries which can attract these wealth-generating individuals has the potential to dwarf Croatia’s current tourism revenues. And there are few countries better placed than Croatia to take advantage. Safe, beautiful, great gourmet scene, top tourist destination, English widely spoken, well connected to other destinations, and a superb lifestyle. 

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In order to look at the issue in more detail, we have decided to look at some of the digital nomads who have Croatia in their lifestyle plan, and to find out why Croatia, what Croatia offers, and what are the things that countries should be looking out for to take advantage of this economic opportunity. I am very grateful to Tanja Polegubic from Split’s waterfront co-working space, Saltwater in Split (see location below) for her help in connecting me to various digital nomads using her space. 

Our next digital nomad in Croatia is Julie Odler, who is currently loving life in Osijek, a far cry from her native Denver.

You are one of a growing number of digital nomads. Tell us briefly who you are and what you do.

What brought me here to Croatia wasn’t tourism, but the language itself. I just decided to learn it one day, and began studying it and speaking it whenever I could. I joke that some kind of “magical vortex” or “past life” drew me in long before my first visit here in Zagreb three and a half years ago.

This led to meeting contacts online so that I could practice the language. Some have become good friends.

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Moving also made practical sense. There is a persistent myth that you have to have a lot of money to “travel,” but I made a decision that made sense for me, as a woman over 50 in the digital marketing industry. It simply made more sense for me to start my own business, (Tech and Wine Digital Marketing) and reduce my overhead and living expenses by moving out of the U.S.The timing was in fact perfect for me. 2 years ago, I sold everything I had within 3 months and found a cheap one-way flight on July 4 to Amsterdam to start my nomad journey in Europe. I’ve lived in or spent time in Nijmegen, NL, Buzet Istria, Trogir, Split, Hvar, Zagreb, Belgrade, Sarajevo, Mostar, Kotor, and now Osijek.

I started out with almost nothing. The process has been a challenge, and honestly, moving abroad, being a nomad, and building a business on the road has not been easy, but it has been very much worth it. 

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Working from your laptop rather than in an office seems like the dream lifestyle. What are the main pros and cons?


Not having to get dressed up and go to an office every day. I can instead spend that time working! I actually love what I do and have no problem jumping right out of bed first thing in the morning to make coffee and work on my laptop.

Living in Croatia has probably resulted in creating more balance in my life. Because I love what I do, I tend to work so much I burn myself out. Now I’m more likely to take a break in the middle of the day to have coffee, go on a bike ride, go for a swim, or take a nap. The result is that I’m actually MORE productive, but at the same time I’m not living SOLELY for the sake of productivity, which is strongly ingrained in the North American culture. I feel very, very fortunate to be able to do what I’m doing,


1. I had to learn to manage my energy and work smarter, not harder, so that I wouldn’t sacrifice my health. I had to find my own rhythm. On the road this can be a challenge.

2. Not every place in Croatia is open to DN’s. I tend to gravitate not only to larger cities,. but also smaller towns and villages that may not quite be aware of the concept of remote work. I’ve been turned down a few times when seeking apartment rentals because the landlady assumed that I didn’t have a “real job.”Sometimes it seems like I still have to answer a lot of repetitious questions like “Where do you work?” Who do you work for? Why Croatia, and not the U.S.?” from strangers to explain my living and working arrangements, although most of the inquiries arise from simple curiosity. My standard reply is now “I build websites” and that seems to work when I’m not in the mood to go into it. There are some I’ve met who can’t quite wrap their head around entrepreneurism, let alone digital nomadism, but there are also many who not only get it, but are progressive, have great ideas, or are either are entrepreneurs or think like one.

I’ve also had a few people ask why I’m not able to just drop everything and go out for coffee on a Thursday evening (when I may have an online meeting with a U.S. client at 7 pm CET) or just take off the entire month of August, but most people I’ve talked to understand. Also, sometimes you do
have to work when others are winding down for the day, but it has not been a huge issue for me.

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3. In some places, the weather keeps me “trapped” indoors, since I don’t have a car. I’m talking the coast, where the Bura can be brutal. So I really have to be mindful and find creative ways to stay active, especially in the winter.The PRO that trumps them all: All these cons and sacrifices are ok with me. I can walk to a beautiful old city, (Tvrđa) right now. As in walk away from my laptop for an hour to take a break at a cafe there. I can easily ride a bike to Kopački Rit, which is a beautiful wildlife preserve not far from Osijek.

Life for a DN is not about being on an endless vacation. It can get stressful at times. There are sacrifices. However, actually LIVING in a place that many people only dream about visiting is priceless and wonderful. The friends and the people I’ve met, and the adventures I’ve had and the stories I have to tell.. I can’t put a price on those either!

It goes beyond being a tourist, though. This is also now my home, and that also has a lot of meaning to me that is hard to put in words at the moment.

Laptop living gives you the freedom to travel and choose your place to live. Where are the global hot spots currently for digital nomads?

The only other place that really spoke to me was Arnhem, NL, which has a few workspaces that also offered healthy food and plenty of coffee. Maybe I have a thing for bike culture, rivers, bridges, and towns with a cool vibe. Except that I never could grasp Dutch, and I don’t do well with short, dark, winter days.

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You chose Croatia and specifically Osijek – why?

Again, it could be a long story, but here I am.As a digital nomad, I’ve found it to be the most “livable” place in Croatia, based on my own “livability” index of course.

It has a bike-friendly infrastructure. It’s easy to get around and has an excellent public transportation system which is a breeze to navigate. It lacks big crowds but is still vibrant, with an abundance of culture and beauty, nature, healthy food, gyms, a low cost of living, and just an overall good “vibe.”The wifi here is probably the best I’ve experienced anywhere, including the US and NL, for real. However, to be honest, if you are an Apple user and need tech support, your best bet is still going to be Zagreb, which is still less than a few hours away.

It is centrally located, with easy and quick access to Zagreb, Belgrade, Sarajevo, and Budapest.

To me, it’s still a bit of a “well-kept secret.” It’s unpretentious and reasonably priced for what you get, in my opinion. I prefer a place where you can easily find interesting things to experience that aren’t about “being entertained” by tourist traps or cafes and bars that try too hard to be cool. It’s easy to just relax here, live more like a local, and never get bored.

Being a nomad and building a business on the road can be exhausting, and sometimes I just crave peace and quiet. I have to admit that came here expecting it to be “pleasantly boring” and a place to get a lot of work done till I made my way back to Sarajevo.

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But it surprised me in many ways. For one, it is NOT boring at all. There are often live bands playing in or near my neighborhood, including well-known bands like Hladno Pivo. There was a huge BMX and skateboard competition I could walk to in 15 minutes. It seems like there is always SOMETHING interesting happening and indeed there is a lot of history and culture here.

Still, peace and quiet is not hard to find. There are no crowds, with plenty of greenery all around.We even have a “Riva!” It’s not Split, but I like it. It’s along one of the major bike paths. After a long ride, just hop off the bike, park it next to a table, and order a drink and watch the sunset on the Drava or gaze at the beautiful pedestrian bridge, which is lit up with vibrant color at night. (Tip: bring mosquito repellant in the height of summer)I was also surprised by the beauty of the farmland, which is a short bike ride west, and often take evening rides to the neighboring village of Višnjevac along a gorgeous and peaceful bike path.

I also prefer snow, rather than cold rain and high winds in the winter, as it is less likely to keep me inside. This is another reason I chose Osijek over the coast, although I still adore Dalmatia.

If you like bird watching, craft beer, or wine, you will be in heaven here. Kopački Rit is easy to get to via bicycle, although it helps to have a guide (friend) to get you there the first time. Wine is also a big deal here, and I can’t wait to experience more of it.

I think Osijek has been very good for me. It also helps to have friends that get me out of the apartment for coffee or lunch, and I’ve been fortunate to have made friends here rather effortlessly.

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What are the most important things a destination should offer to be most compatible for the digital nomad lifestyle, apart from that all-important good WiFi?

The most valuable resource I’ve had is friends and contacts who really seem to understand my lifestyle rather quickly, which I appreciate profoundly.

If you have a Croatian friend, this can be very, very helpful. (make sure to do something nice for them too!)

One way to attract more DN’s is to make it easy for us to find affordable housing year round.

Many of us don’t need or want anything fancy, and we don’t have the same needs as a tourist. I personally avoid Airbnb, 3rd party booking services and agencies because I don’t want to pay fees every 3 months or inflated tourist prices. I use local listings in Njuškalo, or my growing network of personal contacts.I prefer to use Viber and Whatsapp because I like to make arrangements before I move.

For me, the basics for setting up a home “office” include a spacious table or desk, a comfortable chair, (not the couch and the coffee table, those may never even get used) space to do yoga, an outlet with a surge protector near the table, a modem that can easily be reset if need be, and some lighting sources besides the harsh overhead light, such as a table lamp.

Everyday eateries that offer options that are healthy, affordable, diverse, and accessible can make or break a decision to stay in a particular destination, at least for me.

Overall, we as digital nomads are guests in a particular country or destination and don’t demand special treatment, but I for one am thrilled when people “get” us, meaning MUP/police station employees, landlords, mobile service providers, laptop service and repair shops, banks, and people in general. I hope that we can also give back, and it’s something I enjoy doing in whatever way I can.

What are the competitive advantages that Croatia has to attract more digital nomads?

It still blows my mind how diverse Croatia really is, within such a small geographical area. I don’t think I could ever get bored here. I’m sure many articles have covered the low cost of living, the diversity of nature, the culture, the beautiful sea, and the opportunities to be active. I could blog for a whole year about that.

I also think that Croatia is just RIPE for digital nomads and slow-travellers. The timing is good.

Another advantage: It’s easier to position yourself in a non-Schengen area, at least part time, when you aspire to be a digital nomad in Europe. For some that could be the main motivation for coming here.

On more of a romantic level, I think the vibe here just suits many people. Sure, there are plenty of places all over Europe with beautiful old city streets and beaches and food and such. But many people that come here fall in love with it, or are drawn to it, like I was, for no particular reason, or for a thousand little reasons. It’s just a cool place. To je to.

If you would like to follow my journey, I’m about to (finally!) launch my new blog, The Balkan Nomad. My digital marketing company, Tech and Wine, has also done websites and content marketing for the tourism industry. 

To learn more about Croatia for the digital nomad, check out the Total Croatia Digital Nomad guide

Are you a digital nomad in Croatia who would like to be featured in this series? Please contact us on [email protected]

Want to learn more about Osijek? Check out the Total Croatia Osijek in a Page guide. 


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