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Meet Steve Tsentserensky, a digital nomad who originally comes from the USA, precisely from Cleveland, Ohio. Interestingly enough, we met Steve in Zagreb at JCI’s Digital Nomad Conference and not in Split. However, that didn’t stop us from meeting up for a few “Split-length” (read: at least 2 hours) coffees at Bačvice beach and right in the middle of the Diocletian’s Palace upon our return from Zagreb.
We talked about many things: from his experiences in Croatia so far, to his journey through bureaucracy while obtaining Croatia’s digital nomad residence permit, and everything in between. Steve was very willing to share his story with us, so sit back and let us take you to the top of that bell tower: there were as many steps as there were questions we had!
Initially, we, the non-nomads, are always curious about what draws people to the digital nomad lifestyle: “Travel has always been a formative part of my life both personally and professionally.
Immersive, slow travel allows me to connect with a place, its people, and the culture in ways a quick trip can’t.
The digital nomad lifestyle allowed me the perfect opportunity to combine travel with work.”
Work, in Steve’s case, is writing, video production, and photography: “My writing work is a mixed bag; copywriting, blogs, articles, newsletters, landing pages, etc. For video, I’m mainly doing work for corporate clients.” If you wish to find out more about Steve’s work, you should check his website, as well.
When he’s not working, he enjoys all things Split and has settled quite well here already. So, we wanted to know his preferred everyday spots to go to and any tips regarding everyday life in Split he had to share: “For coffee, I like Kava2 for getting ground coffee to make at home. In terms of cafes, there are just so many fantastic ones around, and is it even possible to get a bad coffee here? I mostly work from home but Pixels is a nice and somehow quiet (for now!) place tucked away in the city center that I liked. Teak is also grand and, although it may be touristy, Žbirac on Bačvice is a killer spot. For restaurants, I’m a fan of Konoba Fratelli, Sexy Cow, Veg, Pandora GreenBox, Zlatna Ribica, and Fife. Rodrigo was stellar, too. Regarding groceries, I mostly go to the green market just outside the Diocletian’s Palace and to Tommy.”
“To find information about these everyday things, I searched for the information on the internet, asked a local, and joined the expat and digital nomad groups on Facebook.
The Facebook groups are very helpful and I’d recommend those to anyone coming.
English is widely spoken here, it can get tricky only at the green market, but pointing to stuff works fine. Also, ask locals for advice when in doubt, they won’t steer you wrong.”
On his digital nomad journey so far, Steve has been to many places: “I was in Mexico, Ukraine, and also here in Croatia for a month each just before the pandemic and before that, I worked for about 6 years for cruise lines. Before coming here to Split in May, I’ve stayed in Zagreb during the winter and early spring.”
Naturally, we were curious about what attracted Steve to Split as his next long-term destination:
“Well, it’s a stunningly beautiful city with a rich history to be found around every corner and a (dangerously) laid back lifestyle.
So, after spending the winter in Zagreb and hearing everyone rave about the coast, I knew I had to spend the summer close to the sea and the region I wanted to be in was Dalmatia. Split made perfect sense as a place to be because, as the second-largest city in Croatia, it has all the comforts, conveniences, and entertainment you’d expect; similar to Zagreb, it’s extremely easy to work from with great internet; and it’s a great jumping-off point to explore the surrounding cities and the natural beauty of the Adriatic with loads of islands just a short boat ride away.”
“In addition to these things, another big benefit is that there’s a very robust expat and digital nomad community here which is very helpful for both quickly meeting people and learning about the town. Naturally, and as with seemingly everywhere in Croatia, the people that live here in Split are generous, kind, and so helpful that I’d be remiss to not mention it.”
High praise, indeed! What can we say, it’s sort of our thing: you come to our house, or country as the case may be, and we’ll make you feel at home.
When it comes to being at home in any place in the world, residence permits are bureaucracy’s way of making someone feel at home. While we can all agree that it would be the most perfect if we didn’t have to deal with it, it is a necessity of life. We were interested to hear Steve’s experience with applying and obtaining Croatia’s digital nomad residence permit.
Here’s what the “lucky number seven” (the seventh officially approved digital nomad in Croatia) had to say about his digital nomad visa experience: “My experience in getting the digital nomad permit was less stressful than anticipated, mainly because I had a Croatian friend helping me through the process. The big issue I encountered was getting my FBI background check from the United States sorted out, particularly because the embassy here doesn’t do fingerprints. This added a solid 2 months to get my application completed. So, my tip would be to absolutely get that done in advance of leaving the country.”
We’re happy to hear the whole process wasn’t too daunting for Steve and we’re happy he got approved, so we can enjoy our bell tower climb together. And as with everyone else who comes to Split, we also wanted to know Steve’s “quick top-fives”. Therefore, without further ado…
“History and the textures of the old town, with stones turned smooth from the foot traffic of well over a thousand years. Walkability. There’s SO MUCH TO DO! Ease of access to islands, hiking, and other cities. The breeze off the sea (not off of the water).”
This last funny addition proves we’ve taught him well about the key Dalmatian thing: the difference between “water” and “sea”. In addition to being re-named Stipe while he was on the island of Brač, now that he has mastered this ancient Dalmatian knowledge, he can really say he’s a true ‘Dalmatinac’.
“Generosity. Warmth and kindness. Willingness to give advice. Obsession with Hajduk reminds me of the passion of fans of my favorite team back home (Cleveland Browns). Full-on embrace and promotion of that “fjaka” life.”
In addition to these “top-fives”, one thing Steve mentioned multiple times during our chats is how dangerous Croatia is – dangerously beautiful and dangerously easy to fall in love with: “And dangerously distracting for doing any type of work!”
Hence the biggest lesson learned when it comes to life in Split: “It’s easy to get distracted, especially in a place like Split where there’s so much going on and the weather is always begging you to drop whatever you’re doing and get outside. So success as a digital nomad really boils down to discipline. The work you’re doing and delivering has to be as good, if not better, than what you produced before to justify the trust companies are putting in you.
Get your stuff done, then go enjoy, not the other way around.”
A wise piece of advice from someone constantly tempted by Split’s beauty. We locals sometimes tend to forget we are surrounded by dangerously distracting beauty on a daily basis. Luckily, we have people like Steve to remind us to look around and admire where we are.
If you haven’t yet stumbled upon his Instagram profile where he shares all the wonderful “finally made it” spots he’s been to, then you’re missing out on some truly magnificent photos of our lovely country.
Therefore, we are glad to have finally made it to the top of the bell tower with Steve – for the photos’ sake!