June 28, 2018 – TCN is delighted to welcome Carmen Tomasic to the team. Half-Australian, half-Korculan, Carmen begins with a three-part tale on the winter realities of following her summer fling to his place of work and the promise of unlimited lobster – lighthouse keeping on the remote island of Palagruza.
My life has always been coloured with splashes of contrasts and contradictions.
My Mum was from a country town in Australia, my Dad from a small island village in Croatia, yet I grew up in the big city of Sydney.
I had two older brothers, but went to an all-girls school. A tomboy at heart, but a girl who still loves getting her nails done & dressing up.
An adventurer who craves excitement, yet longs for security. A girl who is just as comfortable hanging out on a dusty farm, as she is drinking champagne in a luxurious bar. The list goes on.
So, it kind of makes sense (I guess?), that I went from working in Sydney’s most exclusive bars and restaurants; enjoying the finer things in life, rubbing shoulders with celebrities and socialites- to living on a LIGHTHOUSE, in the middle of nowhere, in Croatia.
Early signs of confusing contradictions…. Wearing brother’s hand me down Tonka Truck jumper, with barbie accessories and a straw hat on a cloudy day. ***Special shout out to my super fashion-forward mum for the great styling!***
Yep, you heard me. A lighthouse. And not just any old lighthouse, but the lighthouse on Croatia’s most remote and southern island- Palagruža.
Population: Zero. (Unless you count the resident donkey and cats- in which case maybe a thousand… ok ok more like 10.)
Doctors, salons, shops, bars, amenities: Zero. (You don’t want to get sick here… believe me.)
Distance to nearest civilisation: Hours… By boat…. which can only come when the weather allows (we’ll get to this later). OR, if you happen to encounter a life and death situation, half an hour by helicopter.
Water supply: Rain tanks
Power supply: Solar generators
Internet and TV connections: Weak (at best… depending on how the wind blows).
Oh and did i mention it was the dead of winter? Freezing…cold… windy, winter.
This was far from the blue lagoon style hot, romantic tropical paradise that the words ‘remote island’ usually evoke.
And above all, it was a most unplanned and unexpected adventure.
Left: Remote island in dreamland. Right: Remote island in reality.
I’d left Sydney in July, to spend that summer in Croatia (as with every year). I planned to chase the sun year round, with tickets booked to France afterwards in September, where I’d find work on a superyacht, then sail off into the next summer.
Croatian summer came and went, bringing with it a brief summer fling with a local boy. But I was a 24 year old on a mission, France was calling and off I went.
I quickly found a job as a stewardess and we were tasked with sailing the yacht back to its owner’s home base in Egypt.
It felt like the world was at my feet! Living on a boat, surrounded by sea every day and waking up in beautiful new locations every other day.
**Queen. Queen of the world
But as we arrived in Egypt, the tone changed a little. Sailing down the red sea, there were army jeeps speeding up and down the banks, the silhouettes of soldiers in them, with rifles sticking up.
We were forced to pull into a small marina for a couple of days, in order to allow the convoy of huge army ships to pass through.
Hmm… not quite the image of magical Egypt I had in mind… but anyway.
We eventually continued on and arrived in our tourist resort town of El Gouna, which we would now call home.
Egyptian law meant we weren’t allowed to live on the boat there, so we each had our own apartment. We felt a world away from the hints of chaos we’d witnessed unfolding when we first entered Egypt. Here, it was all just sun, kite surfers and looooots of Polish people.
But then reality set into this sandy paradise.
The first problem was that my apartment was most definitely haunted.
The second was that I was too scared to swim in the beautiful azure water- (thanks to my crewmates sharing statistics about some crazy sharks coming into shore and chomping on tourists).
The third- was that the clothesline on my terrace was just a tease. I couldn’t use it unless I wanted to come home to find all my clean clothes now covered in thick red dust.
Oh and then the ever so tiny issue, that none of the banks in Egypt was working properly, due to the political coup taking place. This meant we couldn’t even get paid.
Rrrright. And with that, I packed my bags and decided to return. But not to Sydney, I wasn’t ready for that normality yet.
So Croatia it was- I’d work out my next move from the safety of my island home.
I get back to Korcula, my summer fling was still there, but he was setting off in a week for work. The village was cold, grey, and lifeless compared to the long summer days I’d last seen it in.
Aghhhhh what was I going to do here!? Everyone was hibernating!! I had no job or purpose, and was living in a house that was actually colder inside than out, (thanks to mum and dad’s awesome renovation job in the 1980’s, which left us with 10metre tall ceilings… ok 4 metres tall… and wooden shutters that now failed to shut at all).
Then the answer came. My fling (let’s call him Ivo for the sake of this), then suggests that I come with him… on his job…. for a month…. to Palagruza…. where he worked…. as a lighthouse keeper.
‘It’ll be fun!’ he said ‘There’s fresh fish every day!’ he said, ’There are animals for you to play with!’ and ‘We’ll catch lobster’ he said. Yes ‘fun fun funnnnnnnnnnnn’ he said.
24 year old me didn’t need much convincing… so I agreed. After all, if I’m going to be cold, I may as well be cold and eating lobster.
And with this the story begins of a life going from something like this……. (except that these photos were only from a few months ago)
To this…… the real deal, Palagruza, 2011 (**insert crazy cat lady jokes and queue song:)
Read more from Carmen about the joys of an unplanned Christmas on Palagruza.