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A life full of wanderlust, adventure, and no return tickets!

Nikolina Kukoč

Nikolina Kukoč

04.02.2022.

Anna Maria is a traveler who originates from Poland. She visited Split in October 2016, and then again in September 2020 while on her journey: “At the moment I’m at 40+ countries and counting. I’m particularly familiar with Southern Europe due to my fondness for coastal destinations and islands.”

She is a true digital nomad and remote worker as she has been living this particular lifestyle for quite some time: “Well, I was always an adventurer and a non-conformist. When I was 22, I went for a holiday to Spain and I never came back home. It was my first ever trip abroad, I did not speak any Spanish, did not know anybody there, and did not have any savings.

Since then, I learned five foreign languages by myself, studied abroad, launched a digital marketing startup in Portugal, learned digital skills, and started consulting, as well as public speaking.

I was an early adopter of the remote work concept before it was a thing!”

At the moment, Anna works in IT, aiding pharmaceutical companies with digital transformation projects and offering consulting services on business communication and cross-cultural skills. Her work is also deeply related to her personal interests: “I love having diverse experiences, getting to know other languages, and exploring other cultures and lifestyles. Travel also boosts personal growth and character development.

If we compare an expat life with a nomadic one, I think becoming an expat for the first time is in my opinion more difficult than becoming a nomad.

As an expat, you have to fully integrate into society and by moving abroad you take all the risks. On the other side, digital nomads have their jobs, health insurance, networks, etc. If you don’t like it somewhere, you just buy a ticket and go to another country, so the overall risk is much smaller. I have already been a seasoned traveler before starting a nomadic life, so for me living as a digital nomad was not challenging.

It just meant I stopped buying return tickets!”

We were still curious how she transitioned from ‘a traveler’ to someone who stopped buying return tickets. Anna was quick to tell us what facilitated that change: “Before I started my digital nomad journey, I was an expat, studied and worked in Barcelona for several years.

Then in 2017, I moved to Portugal where I initiated a digital marketing startup. There I got to know more about the Lisbon Nomads Community – the largest nomadic community in Europe as of now – and instantly knew this was the lifestyle for me.

A few months later I was already on the road and working fully remotely.

I have joined nomads groups and communities around the world, sold and gifted my things, and became a minimalist living from a single suitcase. The point is – you don’t have to know all the steps before starting, it is enough to find out your ‘why’. Once you start living according to your values, eventually everything will fall into the right place!”

Anna Maria’s current home is in Zagreb. She is also one of the city’s Digital Nomad Ambassadors, so we wanted to know about her experiences: “I was invited to Zagreb in December 2021 to be the city’s Digital Nomad Ambassador. I worked with the Zagreb Tourist Board, Total Croatia News, and Saltwater Nomads to help establish Zagreb as a renowned digital nomad destination.

To be honest, this pilot program exceeded my expectations and I can certainly see that other destinations aspiring to be ‘nomadic destinations’ would benefit from having a similar initiative. All the people involved are great professionals, very motivated, and open-minded. As an Ambassador, I’ve helped spread the news and experiences about life here through various media portals, as well as hosted and participated in community-building events.”

Considering she is an Ambassador on a mission to put Croatia on the world’s digital nomad map, we were interested to hear Anna Maria’s feedback on living the digital nomad lifestyle in Croatia:

“In my honest opinion, Croatia is the next Portugal!

I see a huge potential for the country as a nomadic destination! Several cities work on becoming nomadic hotspots – Zagreb, Split, Dubrovnik, Zadar. All do it through public-private partnerships and community initiatives. Furthermore, the advantages of living here are numerous!

Croatia is a truly beautiful country with diverse scenery!

It has an amazing coastline, as well as maritime life; many national parks; multiple charming islands close by; good infrastructure; it’s a safe place to live and easy to get around. The locals speak English well and are welcoming to foreigners. Overall, here nomads can find a good cost of living, a relaxed lifestyle, and a fast-growing nomadic community.

The only thing I did not like in Croatia is that people smoke in bars which is very uncomfortable for me. Other than that, I have had no complaints! Oh, and I wanted to share two very important tips: rent a car to do a road trip along the Dalmatian Coast and get on a sailboat to explore beautiful Croatian islands. This is a ‘must do’ in Croatia! Thank me later!”

As you can see, Anna Maria is no stranger to Croatia’s beauty! Aside from Zagreb and Split, as well as the road trip along the Dalmatian Coast and a sailing trip to visit the islands, she spent time in the cities of Dubrovnik, Hvar, Korčula, Šibenik, Trogir, and Zadar, as well as Krka Waterfalls and Plitvice Lakes national parks.

When it comes to her life in Split, she has had positive experiences and remembers her time here fondly: “I loved being in Split! A huge advantage is Split’s placement right on the beautiful Dalmatian Coast which offers easy access to many islands. Other big benefits are the active nomadic and expat communities and a good balance between costs and quality of life.

Split is a safe city with friendly locals that speak English and sometimes even Italian.

During my stay there, I often frequented ‘Teraca Vidilica’ for meals or drinks with a spectacular view from Marjan Hill. In the city center, I liked the ‘Bokeria‘ restaurant because of their seasonal offer, with ingredients supplied from the local produce and fish markets, and it does not hurt that the meals are accompanied by jazz music.

Something else that I enjoyed in Split are the free walking tours that are sometimes organized to explore the old town with a professional guide. I highly recommend them!

The things I really loved about Split are the amazing coastline, Mediterranean style food, relaxed lifestyle, good coffee, and friendly local people who are all easygoing, relaxed, and love to have fun and enjoy life!”

As an adventurer, Anna Maria does not exclude the possibility of coming back to our city sometime in the future. In her own words, nomadic life suits her the best: “Travelling full time is a way to follow and deepen my interests. As I am interested in different languages, cultures, lifestyles, and history, traveling one month per year during holidays never felt enough.

I wanted to see and experience more of the world.

Hiking, sailing, and outdoor sports around the world are also more interesting than in the same country. I am also interested in psychology, personal growth, and entrepreneurship so I regularly attend nomadic conferences around the world where we learn from each other, collaborate, and have fun. And last but not least, I like to dance salsa and swing so I also join dance festivals around the world.

For me, one year as a nomad equals five years of a sedentary lifestyle!

The versatility of experiences lived is what makes life much more interesting and builds a more balanced character. Interestingly, despite the fact I initially started traveling out of curiosity to see the world, the vast international experiences also brought me many professional contacts and opportunities.

Before becoming a nomad I was a planner. A person who would not go on a trip without a detailed plan. Living on the road I learned that everything changes constantly, things happen, new opportunities and possibilities appear, and you have to be more flexible and spontaneous to get the most out of this lifestyle.

An important thing to highlight about the digital nomad lifestyle is that freedom comes together with responsibility. You are now the only one responsible for your work productivity, personal safety, social life, etc.

As long as you manage your freedom well, the world is your oyster, as they say!”

The world is indeed Anna Maria’s oyster! We would like to thank her for these interesting insights into the life of a long-term digital nomad and wish her continued success in her journey through life and the world. And we keep our fingers crossed for her third return to Split someday!

Photos by: Anna Maria Kochanska

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About author:

Nikolina Kukoč

Researching is woven into my DNA, but I am a musician at heart. Interested in too many things and always curious. Forever in love with Split and enchanted by people who teach me new things. When I am not creating content about Split's tech community, you will find me in singing rehearsals, somewhere in nature, in the theater, or with my head stuck in a book. I do my best to live by the verse from the opera "Fedora" by Umberto Giordano: "Love forbids you not to love."

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