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Digital nomads who fell in love in Croatia and (will) keep coming back!

Nikolina Kukoč

Nikolina Kukoč

23.12.2021.

Wanda and Brad came to Split in October this year as part of their RemoteYear experience. During one sunny day we managed to catch them for a chat about their experiences in Split and the rest of their RemoteYear journey and along the way learned an interesting story about how exactly they met each other.

Digital nomad lifestyle (and RemoteYear)

Our digital nomad duo comes from Oregon, USA, and they have been enjoying Split for a month as part of their 4-month long RemoteYear journey, so we were naturally curious about their experience: “First we found the company, RemoteYear, that supports our wish to work and live abroad.

They had an itinerary that fit our desires, as Croatia was a must for us.

RemoteYear helps with all aspects of getting ready and supports travelers along the way. They arrange the workspace, living space, and also offer cultural events in the country we are in.

We also have 23 other people that are traveling with us, so we never feel truly alone. To prepare for our digital nomad journey, before we left we had to get permission from Brad’s employer to work abroad. He was already working remotely, but additional permission was required.

After that, we moved from a house to a condo to have less to worry about when we weren’t there, and we found someone to check on it regularly. Those were the only preparations we did before we set out on our digital nomad journey with RemoteYear.”

The reason why Wanda and Brad chose to live the digital nomad lifestyle is very simple – both of them have always wanted to travel the world and live abroad.

Wanda is retired and has some personal projects she’s working on, however, Brad is still working as a software engineer for a large company based in the United States, so having the possibility of this lifestyle meant that both of them could make their wish a reality by living abroad together and exploring the cultures, while Brad could still do his job remotely.

Needless to say, RemoteYear and the various journeys they offer came as a great opportunity to experience this lifestyle: “RemoteYear has been great for us. They take care of a lot of the details for us – a place to live, workspace, activities, etc. We loved everything so far! The apartments and workspaces have been much better than we expected.

We love the local city managers and can ask any questions or get the help we need.

We signed up to create new experiences for us as a couple – which we totally are doing – but the benefits of traveling in a bigger group are a huge plus. Although we are much older than most of them, we are like a family, and we are always helping each other.”

One thing Wanda and Brad wanted to highlight is the fact that RemoteYear journeys can be very beneficial to those who are at the beginning of their digital nomad travels or those who are still unsure if this particular lifestyle is for them:

“RemoteYear is a great way to have a safe and fun experience and see if this lifestyle is for you.

Because RemoteYear takes care of the living and working space details, and supports you in finding insurance, doctors, good places to eat, how to get around, etc., it lifts a huge burden from your shoulders.

RemoteYear also arranges local cultural experiences and optional side trips that extend into and around the city and country. By staying in a location for a month at a time, we get the time and opportunity to have deeper connections with the community well beyond the standard tourist events.”

Journey through Split (and other places)

In their 4-month long RemoteYear journey, Wanda and Brad have quite a list of places they had a chance to experience: “We started in Lisbon, Portugal, then went to Valencia, Spain, then Split, Croatia and last was Cape Town, South Africa. We also did many side-trips: Porto and Sintra in Portugal, the Azores, Mallorca, Venice, Barcelona, Dubrovnik, Vis, and Zagreb in Croatia. In South Africa, we did a Safari in Kruger National Park, and in the end, we visited Istanbul on our way home.”

That is quite a voyage! Of course, being from Split, we wanted to know their point of view on the benefits of living in our city. Wanda and Brad had a lot to share about this particular topic:

“Split is easy to live in, very walkable, and tailored to its citizens.

The shopping spots and restaurants are close. English is spoken most of the time, which helps us get around. Transportation is easy and dependable. And many islands are close and easily visited along with other attractions. Also – the sea is stunning!

When it comes to the everyday things a digital nomad might need, TheWorks was a great coworking space that met all our needs. The restaurants we liked best were Green House, Bistro Ćiba, Dvor, together with other restaurants and coffee shops along the waterfront because we loved having drinks or a cup of coffee and looking at the sea.

We also loved having coffee and drinks in the Peristyle, at the heart of the Diocletian’s Palace. And a very American tip for the end: Fabrique Pub was absolutely great for watching football!”

Wanda and Brad (and Croatia)

Now that we have discussed all the curiosities about their lifestyle, as well as tips for other digital nomads, we wanted to know more about Wanda and Brad in terms of their overall life experiences, their passions, and why it was so important for them that Croatia is included in their RemoteYear journey.

Wanda: “I am a mother of 36-year-old twins and a grandmother of 6 grandchildren, family is very important to me. I love to garden, be in nature, hike, boat, and experience new cultures. During my career, I was a counselor, teacher, and school principal. I love to observe and learn about people.”
Brad: “I am strongly drawn to the sea. Dalmatia’s lifeblood is the sea and the islands and coasts. I feel at peace near the ocean. When Wanda and I met, we sailed on a small boat up the coast and I felt great peace on the Adriatic. Travel is a great passion in my life. Seeing new, beautiful places and meeting the people is an insatiable drive. Already we are talking about the next adventure!”

Since we kept circling back to their initial meeting, we wanted to know that particular story of the two of them meeting for the first time right here in Croatia of all places!

Wanda was happy to share it with us: “Brad and I met while traveling on a Road Scholar trip in Croatia. We were on a small yacht that traveled from Dubrovnik to Split, with a group of 15 other travelers, all over 55 years old.

Brad and Wanda during their first visit to Croatia (photo from a personal album)

We jokingly call it our 14-day first date. We got to know each other in one of the most beautiful places in the world! He was from Tennessee and I was from Oregon – opposite sides of the US continent. I thought I was too old for him, I was 67 at the time and he was 59.

He convinced me that age didn’t matter and we should just enjoy this adventure together.

After we got home, we had some long visits with each other, traveled to Mexico together, and then we discovered RemoteYear and decided to sign up. We had a plan to sell both our houses and just go! Then came the pandemic, so I went to Tennessee to wait it out with him. We ended up selling his house in May of 2020, packing his car, and moving to Oregon together.

Along the way, we stopped in the Grand Teton National Park and got married!!”

It makes us happy that Croatia played such an important role in the lives of Wanda and Brad and that this will always be a place they want to come back to!

With love for travel (and Croatia)

Since they are such avid travelers, we wanted to know what aspects of this life on the road they like the most and got some insightful, as well as sweet answers from our two nomads.

Wanda: “I love the history, the ability to see the lifestyles of the people of the places I visit, and probably most of all, the stunning scenery that surrounds the beautiful places we get to visit.”
Brad: “I love the incredibly varied scenery in the cities and countryside. I’m constantly filled with wonder at the amazing beauty of this world. And I love sharing it with Wanda. A huge bonus is the other members of our Remote Year group who are traveling with us. They are amazing, adventurous, engaged people.”

Aside from meeting new people and experiencing new places and cultures, along their journey, Wanda and Brad learned some lessons that they would like to share.

Wanda: “You are a visitor – you should embrace the culture and people for what they are and where they are from and learn from them.”
Brad: “It’s been said that the familiar will become strange and the strange will become familiar. Since we spend some extended time in a location, I’ve been shocked how normal a place becomes very quickly.”

Because they openly embraced our culture and it has become so familiar to them, we asked them to share what they love about Croatia’s people: “They are full of life and living and proud of their heritage and history. They are also very friendly and willing to help. They are interested in us as people – our stories and where we are from. And they are so hospitable!!

For example, we were able to have a very long lunch with the local guide for the trip when we first met. He brought his wife and we had a wonderful time with them! Then he invited us to come for the family picking of olives for the shared olive oil. We were unfortunately not able to do it, but it was such a kind gesture and we actually would have loved to have joined them.

But we absolutely love the way he just opened his home to us!”

After such high praise, we were almost too shy to ask what they love about Croatia as a country, but Wanda and Brad did not spare us the compliments there, either: “You have the most amazing sea! We could sit and stare at it for hours. All the enchanting islands that are so full of history, and natural beauty that simply has no end. The Plitvice Lakes National Park is just amazing! All the history and the architecture of the old cities. The amazing food and drinks!

There are so many hidden gems here, we plan to come back again and do some real island hopping, staying for a longer time on each island to really explore and learn.

Split is a great jumping-off location to other locations in Croatia as well as Europe!

We love the sea and the islands, Dubrovnik was where we met for the first time and we absolutely were enchanted by it, and of course the National Parks. Each of the ancient walled cities and islands holds its own fascination – Hvar, Trogir, Korčula, Vis, and many others!”

We loved to learn about the interesting story behind the reason why Wanda and Brad were in Split when we met and cannot wait to welcome them back someday!

Photos by: Ivan Gracin

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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 writing about Split's tech community, you will find me 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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