Remote Year Ohana Month 5 – Croatia
I loved the month in Croatia so unexpectedly. Our base was Split, a town on Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast. I always thought of myself as a big-city-person, thought that I liked the hustle and bustle and that I need a lot of stimulation around me. Living in Split for a month, however, and establishing a routine of swimming in the sea and going to the WIP co-working space everyday made me realize how much I love living somewhere with nature, especially a natural body of water. It also made me realize how much I like a routine and that once I establish one I feel much more attached to a place. As much as I liked the first 4 cities I didn’t really feel very sad when I left, probably because I merely viewed them as places I traveled to and in the back of my head I always knew I was going to leave. Whereas in Split I felt that I actually lived there. It was so hard to say goodbye. The last morning I went to the work space after my morning swim, which I do most mornings and it became my favorite part of the day. Sipping on that last cup of coffee sitting on the cushiony bench looking out into the sea, I felt such mix of emotions - joy and gratitude for having been able to experience this the last month and sadness and a sense of loss for having to leave it.
The first time I was in Croatia was 4 years ago and I loved its natural beauty. Out of the three places Marija and I went to – Dubrovnik, Hvar, and Split – I liked Split the most. I felt it was a city I could see myself living in. Four years later, I'm so amazed and grateful that I actually get to do it! Now that I’m writing this half way into Remote Year, Split is indeed one of the top cities I want to live in. In a way I’m surprised by that because I didn’t think I could live in a small beach-side town. But after a month of living there and seeing how much I missed it when I went to the next big city, I realized that being around nature and water is more important to me than I realized. The sense of peace and tranquility of looking out into the water and going into it everyday is indescribable and it may sound melodramatic, but it was so good for my soul and I think more of it would do me a lot of good.
When I was there, there were things that I didn't love that I thought was a big deal like the food in restaurants were not as good and more expensive than many other countries and sometimes service staff are not not so friendly, but after a month of living there and feeling so relaxed from the ocean breeze everyday, these seeming downsides don’t matter so much. Even though at the time I thought the food wasn’t so special, I still ate really well. There was a Tommy supermarket just next to the work space and I could always get my staple of fresh vegetables, cheese, and nuts, not to mention the $5 champagne that we used to make Aperol Spritz. And the pizza in Croatia... always so reliably good!
Side-trip one: Warsaw 5-8th July 2018
The first side-trip was to Warsaw, Poland. I decided to go there based on which country I haven't been and want to go and that also has reasonably priced tickets. I ended up loving it so much and quite unexpectedly. It was my first solo side trip on Remote Year and it was so timely. After 4 months of being around so many people all the time I think I really needed that alone time. I booked myself into a nice hotel completely free using my credit card miles. That was my first time using my miles and not paying anything and I was super thrilled (previously I always had to at least pay for taxes). Little things like that always make me really happy.
Walking into The Westin Warsaw brought back so many memories of my previous work life. These were often the kind of hotels I stayed in when I went on work trips and it made me realize that there is a part of me that misses it. The nice hotel lobby, the immaculately clean room, the nicely-made bed, the soft bedroom slippers, and a big bathtub, all aspects I hadn’t experienced for the last 4 months. I never cared much about material things and can always rough it, but I must admit that every once in a while I do like the nice things. Like in Singapore, one of my favorite things to do is champagne brunch. Aside from the unlimited champagne, the all-you-can-eat amazing food, and a fun and often turned silly afternoon with good friends, there is something I love about simply walking into the nice hotel lobby.
Warsaw is a city that completely exceeded my expectations. From the super clean streets, the organized pedestrian walk and bike paths, to the beautiful and charming old town.
With street performers everywhere
and beautiful Chopin music playing all over
The absolutely delicious food and the wonderful people.I could even see myself living there. On some levels the business district where I stayed reminded me of China because of the wide streets and modern buildings, except a cleaner and more organized version.
Traveling on my own I was expecting a weekend of solitude; but I met 3 groups of really interesting and fun people and ended up spending only one morning walking in town by myself. We walked around the old town together
had some fantastic Polish food at Zapiecek outside old town
went out to a nice wine bar and late night bar with 1 EUR shots and steak tartars at Pijalnia wódki i piwa
followed by silly late night Zapiekanka (a typical Polish late night street food)
and cheered on Croatia during the Croatia and Russia playoff match of the World Cup while beer tasting at Maryensztadt Craft Beer & Food
Side-trip 2: Korcula 13-15th July 2018
My second side trip was a weekend in Korcula, an island 2-hour ferry ride away from Split. Korcula is the cutest little town and Susanna and I had a fabulous time walking around town
having meals in the old town and doing wine tasting,
and going on a boat tour to a few surrounding beaches and unexpectedly finding deer at one of the stops!
The water and beaches in Croatia are out of this world. The only other place I have experienced something similar was in Greece.
The sunset in Korcula outside where we stayed, just like many places in Croatia, was so gorgeous.
The best part of the weekend for me was the location of our Airbnb. It was across a small street from the sea so I was able to get out of the house, go across the street, and swim in the most beautiful water everyday.
Being in the water, I couldn't help but be amazed at how good life is. I have always dreamed of living a life of freedom, enjoying life, and continuous travel, and now I'm actually living it. I also keep being amazed at the truth of the power of imagination and law of attraction. Whatever you want in life, dare to imagine it. When you put the intention out to the universe, the universe will show you a way to make it happen, when you are ready for it. It reminds me of a Picasso quote on a hanging plaque in Manila that I bought for a friend:
So keep imagining!
Side-trip 3: Vis 22-23rd July 2018
My third side trip was a day in Vis, another island away from Split, this one 3 hours away. It was one of the most perfect places I have ever been, with beautiful landscape, water, mountain, and even vineyards.
Driving around the island on a scooter reminded me of islands in Thailand, like Koh Samui, one of my favorite places ever. When I saw vineyards everywhere, Vis instantly became my perfect place.
We stumbled upon a vineyard on the side of the road and walked through vines to go up to the tasting, it was literally like living in a dream.
We had lunch at one of the most beautiful beaches on Vis, Komiza, what amazing beauty.
We also went to Tito's cave, which was an interesting experience. The whole time we weren't sure if we were actually there because it seemed like it should be more than what we saw :) Finally we found the other cave a bit further up and it was similar to the first one and it was fun.
After Teto's cave and wine tasting, we drove to Stiniva beach. While it's a public beach, when we went close to sunset we were the only ones left except for one boat, so it almost felt like a private beach and it reminded me of the James Bond island off of Phuket. Swimming in the crystal clear water with the most gorgeous surroundings at Stiniva beach was absolutely magical.
Other great memories in Croatia
The World Cup
Something else that was extra special about being in Croatia in July was the World Cup. You might remember that Croatia ended up in the World Cup Final, which had never happened before. The celebration that happened after each win was phenomenal. I felt so lucky to be part of this whole month of fun and celebration. What was most special for me personally was ducking out for a swim in the sea right outside the bar where we were watching the semi-finals against England before the game started. That feeling of freedom and exhilaration was absolutely incredible.
The World Cup Final happened right after I came back from Korcula. I went straight from the ferry to old town, bought some Croatia gear and went to the fan zone to watch the game. Even though Croatia lost it was still an amazing experience, and if you just saw the celebration that happened afterwards I'm sure you would have guessed it actually won.
A day of rafting
Another memorable event in Split was the full-day track event of rafting. It wasn't quite white water rafting but definitely had some rough parts. We got stuck on rocks a few times and our boat flipped over once, which added more to the fun.
The event ended with a delicious home cooked meal at a local's house with two huge dishes of Peka, a traditional food of Croatia's Dalmatia region, which is a blend of vegetables and meat drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with herbs, and then cooked under a bell-like dome or in our case over a huge open fire.
Two huge dishes of Peka. So delicious.
We also saw some of the most gorgeous views on the way back.
The birthday month
July was also my birthday month. I share the same birthday with the Remote Year city manager and another Remote. We had the traditional Remote Year surprise birthday in the work space with cakes and candles.
All the July birthdays in the group :)
Split farewell party
Walking to the hotel we took in one of the last sunsets in Split, which in my opinion has some of the most beautiful sunsets in the world.
Being surrounded by so much beauty and being with some of my favorite people from Ohana, I was happy.
The whole group of Ohanas and citizens (those who have finished Remote Year at one point and joined us for the month in Split) at the farewell party.
Month 5 in Split was very special for me. I was missing it for a good two weeks after I got to the next city, Lisbon, which is almost every Remote’s favorite city. That says a lot about how much I liked Split, so I know I will certainly be back!