I am really looking forward to speaking at Digital Nomad Week which starts on December 6. It is a great chance to share all the exciting progress taking place in the DN scene in Croatia. Of course, I am a complete unknown on the global nomad scene, so it helps when one of the most recognisble DN personalities happens to be speaking at the same conference.
And happened to think that Croatia is also pretty cool, even more so after a recent visit.
Nomadic Matt has been a nomad for some time and built a very successful business helping others travel more for less. A New York Times best-selling author of How to Travel the World on $50 a Day, as well as Ten Years a Nomad, it is safe to say that Nomadic Matt knows a thing or two about the remote work lifestyle. He kindly agreed to an email interview to share his thoughts predominantly about Croatia.
1. Digital nomad is a fairly recent buzzword that is catching on globally. You have been at this some time, and have written a book about your first nomadic decade, Ten Years a Nomad. How was being a nomad back then compared to today?
Being a nomad when I started traveling was much, much different than being a nomad today — for better and for worse. When I started, we could only communicate via Internat cafes so you had to rely on guidebooks and actually talk to people to learn new information.
Today, it’s much easier thanks to the internet, apps like Google Maps and Google Translate, and sharing economy apps that can connect you to locals. There are significantly more cheap flights these days too. Those all open up so many new opportunities and make travel much more accessible (which is a big plus).
However, there are also lots of pitfalls. Travelers are all too often just sitting on their phones, ignoring the local culture around them in favor of connecting with people back home. People plan whirlwind trips to snap photos for the ‘gram instead of actually soaking in each destination.
So things are better in many ways, but there are also a few pitfalls where we could improve as a community.
2. You recently visited Croatia and wrote an excellent article called Croatia is Underappreciated. Tell us in a couple of sentences why you think that?
Croatia is one of those destinations that sees a HUGE amount of tourists…but only to a few spots. So, while areas around Dubrovnik and Split might be super busy in the summer, once you get away from the coast, the country is virtually untouched.
We see this happen in lots of countries, as tourists tend to stick to the main highlights and rarely venture off the beaten path. Iceland and Thailand are two popular countries that also struggle with this same phenomenon. Which is all the more reason to get off the beaten path and explore away from the crowds!
(Photo credit Zagreb Tourist Board)
3. You are an experienced traveller with great insights into the global DN scene. When did Croatia first come on your radar as a nomad destination, and how do you assess Croatia’s progress in becoming more attractive to nomads over the last 12 months?
Croatia has actually been on my radar for a while. It’s a hub for cheap flights, wild parties, and gorgeous weather — all of which are huge magnets to long-term travelers and digital nomads! But it wasn’t until I recently re-visited the country that it really sank in just how great it is for digital nomads. Once I got back on the ground and got away from the coast, I was much more able to appreciate the pros of being a digital nomad here. I think it’s only going to continue to grow and attract digital nomads.
4. A lot of nomads who came to Zagreb Digital Nomad Week were surprised at how much they liked the city and just how digital nomad-friendly it was. Indeed, keynote speaker Dean Kuchel said the only thing missing was more digital nomads. What was your impression of Zagreb from a DN perspective?
I loved Zagreb. It’s an underrated city overshadowed by places like Dubrovnik and Split. While it may not have those stunning Dalmatian Coast views, the city has a lot to offer. It’s fun, has excellent museums, it’s way more affordable than Dubrovnik, and it’s right next door to the most unexplored parts of the country. I think it makes for an excellent base for Digital Nomads (and it’s also just a great destination to visit for regular travelers).
5. What are Croatia’s comparative advantages in attracting digital nomads, and what are its weaknesses?
I think the main advantage in Croatia is the cost of living. Once you get away from the expensive coast, prices drop drastically. That’s a huge advantage when competing for digital nomads. The country is also easy to navigate and has a reliable network of buses and ferries to get you anywhere you need to go on a budget, and there is an abundance of nature to see and explore whenever you need to get away from the computer.
You’re also just a quick bus, train, or flight to elsewhere in Europe (and flights to/from here can be super cheap).
The downside is that prices are high (and rising) in the main tourist areas, and they get swamped by crowds so you can’t really settle into nomad life there as you’d be shoulder to shoulder with visitors all summer. Fortunately, those tourist crowds are easy to escape!
6. You are temporarily installed as the Croatian Minister of Tourism with a brief to develop Croatia’s DN strategy. What are the key next steps?
I would try to pivot tourism on the Dalmatian Coast to be more sustainable. I think limiting the number of cruises would be a huge start on that front. Cracking down on Airbnb would also help.
I’d also try to market other national parks/nature reserves to ease the number of visitors who crowd places like Krka and Plitvice Parks. Tons of tourists visit those places but skip much of the other nature. I think spreading those crowds out would improve the experience at those parks and also ensure they are around for future generations.
(Photo credit J. Duval/Zagreb Tourist Board)
7. And finally, what and where next for Nomadic Matt?
I’m actually in Oaxaca, Mexico right now, and I’ll be heading to Brazil at the end of the year for New Year’s. After that, who knows where I’ll end up. That’s the joy of being a digital nomad!
For more details about Digital Nomad Week, which kicks off on December 6, visit the official website.
For more news and features about digital nomads in Croatia, follow the dedicated TCN section.