Dubrovnik Diaries: Not a Tourist, Not a Local

The developing story of an American turned Mermaid.

Somehow almost a month has passed since I left the life I used to know behind. Within that short period of time, I’ve had some ups and downs and now seem to have reached an equilibrium. I’ve felt a sense of liberation adjusting to a simpler lifestyle. But one thing is for sure: I’m not a tourist, and I’m not a local.

The in-betweener

View of Old Town

Behind the booming Old Town, quaint coffee and gift shops, Game of Thrones tours, boat excursions, and the wide variety of hotels and restaurants, are the locals of the Dubrovnik area, who fully exert themselves to keep the tourism industry afloat.

I watch as tourists flock from cruise ships and high-end resorts to sit on the beach, while locals often work 12-hour days in the beating sun, all with a smile on their face because Dubrovnik depends on tourism.

Domeniko and his family are no exception to this trend. Both him and his mom work for a tourism and boat excursion company, connecting Dubrovnik to the Zupa area, Cavtat, and neighboring islands. Domeniko specifically went to Ireland this past winter to help pay for his college, so he wouldn’t have to work long hours this summer. Yet, he still works every day, usually in the sun, and has to deal with people who complain about boats being literally one minute late.

Meanwhile, there’s me. I’m not quite a tourist because I’ve seen most of the sites, and I actively avoid the Old Town and crowded beaches as much as possible. I’m on a tight budget, so most of the things I do are free.

Yet, I’m also privileged because I am removed from the locals’ struggles. I get up, work out, work on my computer, and help a little around the house. I have the luxury of taking a summer to work on my own time and relax.  I am not experiencing the stress and chaos, merely observing it.

My camera has become my favorite accessory, and I use my lens a tool to document my observations. I’ve been captivated by the beauty in often the most mundane details – details that are otherwise ordinary to the local’s eye, but perhaps overlooked by a tourist.

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Day-to-day living

The moments I’ve treasured the most are the little adventures with Domeniko. Though we don’t have much money, each day is rich with exploring a new beach, a cafe overlooking a waterfall, or simply just a new spot to watch the sunset. The great part about Dubrovnik is that there are unique and genuine people visiting from around the world. We’ve made friends with a few travelers this summer from Germany, Czech Republic, and the U.S. Otherwise, we hangout with our local crowd.

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Although I’ve loved swimming laps and climbing the uphill landscape for my morning workouts, Domeniko and I wanted to get back to the gym. I opted not to use a hotel’s gym and told him to take me where the locals go. I fell in love with the place. From the blasting “Ice, Ice Baby” to the slightly outdated equipment and wall decor, I felt like I stepped back into 1995. You’d only see something like this in the U.S run by hipsters.

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The occasional feeling of homesickness has been completely replaced by the warmness of Domeniko’s family. His mom is always offering me food, and if I don’t eat she shakes her head and says I will die of hunger. His dad is always shrugging his shoulders with indifference while working on some sort of project around the house.

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This section of Domeniko’s house is over 300 years old. CD in trees to stop the birds (somehow).
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Birds found a little home.

My life here is simple, but my next move is simply uncertain. I landed my first freelance writing gig, and have been researching how to make this into a side career. I’m still waiting for a few things to unfold for the fall, and have no idea where in the world I’ll be. Sometimes it’s hard to think towards the future, when most people here live for the present.

Someone asked me last night, “so are you living here or just visiting?” I’ve never been so puzzled by such a simple question. “Well both. I’m not really a tourist or a permanent local for now, haha” I replied. “Instead you could say that I’m a traveler.

Questions for the reader:

  1. Can you relate to the feeling of being somewhere in-between a local and a tourist?
  2. What would you like to hear more about next?

As always, I appreciate you stopping by! Follow along with this developing story by subscribing at the top of the page (bottom for mobile or tablets!) Sending you good vibes for the duration of the week.

12 thoughts on “Dubrovnik Diaries: Not a Tourist, Not a Local

    • Thank you so much Carla! I appreciate you reading and I’m glad you enjoy my writing style. If you confirm your subscription in the e-mail you can keep up with everything I’m posting! Looking forward to reading somethings of yours as well 🙂

      -Alex

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  • I can relate to the feeling of being somewhere between a tourist and a local. I love how you describe observing the stress and chaos, but not experiencing it. I am excited to follow your adventures – wherever they take you!

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    • Thank you Nancy! I appreciate your feedback and following me along on my journey. I love watching your family travels as well! Have a great weekend. Alex

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  • Ha, I had a very similar feeling the other day, when I returned to San Diego, where I lived for a while in College and met my husband. I’m originally from Germany and San Diego is the place in the US that feels most like home, so when people asked me whether I am from San Diego, I said yes, only to have to correct myself and tell them that I now live in San Antonio lol.

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    • Haha I can relate to that feeling too, Maria! I am from Minnesota originally but went to college in Chicago and sometimes that felt like home to me, too! It’s good to have many places that feel like home! 🙂

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  • Your photos are stunning! I like how this article conveys the atmosphere of a laid back beach town. You were able to transport me to Dubrovnik. Very easy to read too. Great work.

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  • Nice blog! I felt like you when I moved to the US 4 years ago. And the uncertainty hasn’t left me since. I’d like to go back to Europe, work, keep traveling but I never know when or where.
    Good luck! 😁

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  • Amazing! I would love to see more of the local food, recipes & culture. Are there certain cultural foods specific to Dubrovnik? Do you have family dinners?

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