A Boomer’s Remote Work Coliving Experience in Central Istria

Paul Bradbury

November 14, 2023 – You are never too old to try something new – a Boomer’s Remote Work Coliving Experience in Central Istria. 


Another WhatsApp notification. Did I have any whites that needed washing, as someone was putting on a load of laundry in an hour?

Man, these guys just covered EVERYTHING

Apart from being with family, the last times I co-lived were in Somaliland with 8 amazing Africans back in 2002, and before that with a lovely American-Rwandese couple in Kigali just after the genocide back in 1994. On both occasions, we had a cook and a cleaner. This next month was going to be new and unchartered water for this 54-year-old Boomer.

The Central Istria Gourmet Getaway seemed like a project with my name written on it, and with perfect timing – an idyllic month in a 9-bedroom villa in rural Istria working on a passion project with input from mentors and peers, alongside 6 other international digital nomads who were working on their projects while discovering and promoting Central Istria and the off-season remote work opportunity.

And I definitely needed help. While my amazing face for radio has been quite popular on my new YouTube and TikTok channels, I would have to learn to film and edit my own material for my new project if I wanted to provide the level of content necessary to achieve success. The legendary Igor Vuk has done an amazing job with our YouTube videos so far, but he has a life and not enough time to do my next project full-time – One Minute Croatia (see trailer below).

With the help of friends, YouTube tutorials and a gradual conquering of my fear of technology (Boomerville is a scary place to be in the online media these days), I decided to dedicate an entire month to focusing solely on improving my skills, preparing the project, and then launching before the new year – 60 seconds of quality content at the same time every day of the year for 365 days, on 7 platforms – TikTok, YouTube Shorts, Twitter, Instagram reels, LinkedIn, Facebook, and TCN/Google News. In three languages.

A tall order, but one which I am determined to achieve. I just needed somewhere quiet where I could focus without distraction, while tapping into the experience of others and having some social life to unwind.

Much, much more on the programme to come, but this article is focused on the Boomer remote work coliving experience, as far out of this Boomer’s comfort zone since I started my own TikTok channel a few months ago, to the horror of my kids. at the tender age of 54.

How would co-living for up to 12 people actually work, from cooking and cleaning, to shopping and social life? I was looking forward to sharing my month with colleagues from Holland, Finland, Denmark, Peru, Portugal, Israel, Australia, Canada, USA and Croatia, but was acutely conscious that my lifestyle was the least nomadic of all, and I was by far the most ancient. From a different generation.

But if I could become a successful TikToker, then nomad coliving should be a breeze, right?

My journey began in Zagreb, where I picked up three soon-to-be friends from the airport. Team UK, Israel, Holland and Canada was on the way. Immediately I felt a little inadequate as they had such interesting lives – this was the fourth country in a month for one; having worked on the Uber and Tinder apps, another had jetted in from Canada to build an AI travel app, while the third had come in from Amsterdam to work on a cookbook for van life.

I hadn’t done much in the last month apart from a few blogs and below-average videos on life in Croatia, as I tried to improve my video skills at home in Zagreb.

I took part in the conversation, but often got lost. So many references to the digital nomad lifestyle that passed me by. Conversations that would only happen between travelling nomads – which spices they travel with, which application is best for a particular situation, coliving habits and pet peeves, etc.

I was a little lost and kept driving. But I liked these guys, so warm, engaging and inclusive.

Things got better when we reached our destination, the excellent Konoba Danijeli in Kringa, where the whole crew was assembled for the first welcome dinner.

Community is a key (possibly the key) element of the digital nomad lifestyle, and there was just time for one welcome rakija before we were thrown into our first task – small groups who had just met were given 15 minutes to design a new gourmet product with marketing plan for the ingredients each group found in the envelope on their table. It was perhaps a sign of how well we had bonded in the car in Zagreb, that our plans with honey and truffles won the coveted Golden Sausage Award.

This was a VERY fun and cohesive group, and I fell in love with them all on day one. The bonding was further enhanced on the second evening with a rakija masterclass (the King of Bonding) and pasta and truffle dinner by Geoff Bratton of Fig restaurant in Split, where we all got to learn how to make pasta. I might even come back with some above-average cooking abilities.

But while the social side of things were easy enough to blend into, how would the practicals of daily life in the villa look like? I need not have worried, for there were some very experienced coliving nomads in the group, as well as an excellent community manager. Almost before I could ask the questions, the answers appeared in the most important communications point this month – the WhatsApp group for the project.

How are they going to know how many people are coming for dinner each night?

More importantly, who is going to cook?

This was a cool thing for me. There were some very accomplished chefs in the villa, and some complete losers in the kitchen (ok, probably only me), but those less talented were encouraged to sous chef.

And while I take little credit for Dutch Lizzy’s excellent lentil and spinach curry as the first home-cooked meal, I was assured that my washing of the spinach, then marinating in lemon, stirring the rice, and flipping the naan bread before adding the garlic butter, had played a key role.

Above all, I felt included. Lots of respect for others, lots of help and advice from all sides. It was a nice touch to see one of our Israelis give a demonstration of the Shabbat ceremony at our Friday meal in a local konoba.

And after the meal, drinks, music and games on the sofa, all optional of course. It seems there is always a nomad in each group with his/her own speaker for the music, as well as a variety of games. The first card game on the first night kept us up until 2am – cards asking often quite personal questions which not only broke the ice, but helped strengthen that feeling of inclusion and community.

But how to keep track of costs, so that some don’t overpay? Yes, there is an app for that…

While most food is communal, there are certain dietary requirements, as well as people wanting to store their own things. This is done with communal shelves above, and a personal one above. Name labels on items in the fridge achieve the same effect.

Should alcohol be communal or people buy separate? Given that there are a couple of non-drinkers, we are all buying our own. But every decision is taken by the group. Food is ordered online and delivered by the excellent Valfresco Direct.

And last night, the first community meeting, to get feedback and suggestions from all. And the result – in addition to the cooking rota, a cleaning rota as well, which has just gone live in the group.

Being a rural location, logistics is a challenge, and we are grateful to Hertz Croatia for providing cars for the month. But arranging so many people takes organisation – head to the WhatsApp group for more.

What I love most about the experience so far is the flexibility and respect of others’ time and space. There is a daily workout in the WhatsApp group for those who want, suggestions for a hike or bike ride, or someone is in town and offers to pick something up from the shops.

And – apart from the official programme – you can engage as much or as little as you want. We are all here for different reasons, and we all have our own en-suite rooms with view out to the lovely Istrian sunshine and nature.

And as for the work, some prefer coworking, some (like me) are happy in their rooms. So much talent, so many conversations going on around the world at this table right now. And when the working day is over, a ready-made community of friends and all the magical nature that rural Central Istria has to offer.

I am grateful to each and everyone involved in this wonderful project, the best month of an excellent year so far, and with so much learning and adventure. I don’t think I could do the digital nomad lifestyle full-time, and I am sure I will be longing for my own bed after a month, but what an incredible experience for a month, especially in this delightful rural setting out of season.

And if this Boomer can do it, why can’t you?


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