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“The sportiest city in the world” can charm digital nomads with – sports!

Nikolina Kukoč

Nikolina Kukoč

30.08.2021.

We often tell ourselves Split is “the sportiest city in the world”. While that would be difficult to confirm for sure, the ever-growing list of Olympic medallists’ names at the West Coast walkway gives us some indication of the way Split and sports are intertwined.

Therefore, it is no wonder that sports, namely tennis, was one of the reasons Rachael, who is a digital nomad from the USA, chose our city as a place to call home for a while. Any tennis fan would want to play tennis at the same courts where some of the greats made their first serve: “I was aware Croatia had a pretty big tennis culture. Having gotten back into the sport during the pandemic, I was very excited to play on some red clay courts! If you are a tennis fan, the sport here is extremely impressive, and kids start training at a young age. There are also many tournaments, both local and international, to watch throughout the summer!”

Catching some shade in one of Split’s gardens

And while tennis played some part in her decision to settle here, that is, of course, not all that made her choose Split as her place to be: “My friend and I had just spent four months working remotely in the Caribbean. We wanted to continue to another location, preferably somewhere in Europe. Some expat friends in the Caribbean recommended Split as a good combination of city life and opportunities to travel to neighboring islands.

Since we had a great experience with the island life in the Caribbean, but, being New Yorkers, also yearned for some more city liveliness, Split seemed like the best location for us!”

In addition to being exactly what they were looking for in terms of location, Croatia had another great benefit in Rachael’s opinion because it was one of the few European countries allowing entry to USA citizens at the time. On top of all the other benefits digital nomads might look for in a country, like the existence of a digital nomad residence permit, overall security, good weather, and basic digital nomad lifestyle necessities, ease of entry into a country is something digital nomads pay additional attention to during this time.

Rachael traveled through various parts of the USA in 2020 and the Caribbean during the first part of 2021, so we were curious what attracted her to this lifestyle in the first place: “Like many other millennials who are also knowledge workers, I have been curious about being able to live and explore other countries while being able to maintain and grow my career.

I was already considering remote work before, but the pandemic really allowed me to experiment with the digital nomad lifestyle, and I have not looked back.

I work as a Machine Learning engineer for a physical product company. My company has recently offered a more formal remote work policy, as many other companies did, so I’m excited to see how this will shift the nature of work in the future. In general, I also think it’s very informative to spend an extended amount of time in other cultures and societies, to be able to understand more about how different people live alongside the awareness of your own culture’s peculiarities. This allows you to have a more open mindset towards others and what you’re capable of.”

We wanted to see Split’s city center from a different point of view

This open mindset, as well as the exploration of what one is capable of, truly came to fruition for Rachael here in Split. She has started to explore some new possibilities for herself and her career: “One big change I made while here in Split is to start moving towards freelancing in my field. This also means leaving my company where I’ve worked for five years. Since the idea of freelancing for me is also about trying out a mixed work schedule: full-time or part-time, with breaks in between projects, etc., I arranged with my employer to work in a part-time capacity until around the end of this year. This gives me some time to set some things in place to fully embrace the digital nomad lifestyle while also seeing if I like the part-time way of working.”

It is great to hear living in Split has had such an impact on someone else’s life. Rachael jokingly complains she will be here for a too short period of time as she came in July and is leaving in September. Nevertheless, we are sure Split will be a place she remembers fondly. She readily listed some interesting benefits of our city when we asked her to give us input on that: “For someone coming from a large city, Split is a really good combination of the benefits of a city – good restaurants, bars, other services – and a more relaxed lifestyle oriented around nature and the beach, if that is what you want. Another benefit is, at least during the summertime I have been here, the ability to meet many expats from around the world doing a range of different things. Having this digital nomad and expat community has been a good differentiator, at least compared to other less professionally-oriented locations around the world.”

We stopped by Gripe Fortress while exploring Split

As someone who is already a pro on all things Split, we asked Rachael to give some tips to her fellow nomads about life in Split to all who are considering coming here: “There’s already a lot out there, but I think the first thing to do, even before you get to Split, is to try to connect with networks and activities you know you’ll already be interested in. For instance, I found my tennis coach via a tennis blog and set up some times with him starting my first week in Split and every week since then.

Similarly, connecting with the tech and digital nomad events is a great way to meet like-minded people and recommendations on any of the above.

I actually didn’t do that for the first couple of weeks I came here, which is a learning experience for the future! If I were to come to Split again, I would consider doing it slightly before or after the peak tourist season – meaning July and August. I could see there could be a different flavor to the city outside of the traditional tourist time, so that would be quite interesting and refreshing to experience. That being said, I generally did not feel crowded or overly touristy during my time here even during the summer! Another great benefit anyone who comes here should make use of is the unusually cheap car hiring price here – a huge plus to get around the more sprawling parts of the city and even to explore other places in Croatia!”

For Rachael, finding the information about everyday things here was not a problem. She used the internet for all her research about Split and life here and was happy enough with the results to move here. The same goes with finding and connecting with the local tech community: “Finding out about the local tech community in Split was very easy. Since I am not on any social media, I just looked up ‘Split tech digital nomad’, and Split Tech City came up immediately. I happened to have looked this up the day before the first “Locals’n’Nomads” meetup in July, so I definitely got lucky being able to attend!”

Rachael attending one of the “Locals’n’Nomads” meetups

We would like to add that we also got lucky to meet her at that first meetup and hang out with her at its second edition, as well as over coffee – a must here in Split – and whenever she visited our offices for some productive co-working. She for sure has an interesting story to tell and we’re happy that an internet search sent her our way.

Our curiosity got the best of us, so we asked just one last question – is there something she really loves about Split: “What I love about Split are its beautiful clay tennis courts, easily accessible rock beaches, and its central location to many other places worth visiting. It’s also great that the strict city center and its surrounding neighborhoods are walkable from end to end. There is also a larger arts scene than you’d expect for a city of its size!

People here are very friendly and welcoming, as well as cosmopolitan in a local way. They’re interested in and accommodating to both short and long-term visitors of their city.”

This praise is proof that Rachael’s time here in Split has been full of positive experiences, and we could not be happier for her because of that. The Split Tech City team wishes all the best in the future to our occasional co-working buddy: lots of success on and off the tennis court, as well as many more (beautiful and interesting) miles of her digital nomad journey ahead!

Photos by: Bruno Dubravec

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About author:

Nikolina Kukoč

Researching is woven into my DNA, but I'm 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'm not writing about Split's tech community, you will find me somewhere in nature, in the theatre, 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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