Dubrovnik Diaries: Planting Roots and Branching Out

If my life were a novel, right now would be the point where the plot picks up and gets interesting. So, make sure you read this chapter.

I am on week seven living as an expat in Dubrovnik, and it has been almost four weeks since I last updated my Dubrovnik Diaries series. We have a lot to catch up on, and I’m happy to share some progress to my developing story.

Previously in this series, I’ve discussed the challenges with transitioning from living in Chicago to a village outside Dubrovnik, and my experience being in-between a tourist and a local. I’ve now found it to my advantage to embrace my identity as an outsider on the inside. I’m planting my roots in both my professional and personal life. Now is where I begin to blaze my own trail.

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Planting Myself

Let’s start where things left off. Three weeks ago I finished writing my piece on my first Croatian wedding experience, which took me more than three whole days to perfect. I had a strange feeling that I needed to put my all into this.

After hitting publish late that evening, I woke up to an e-mail that made my heart skip. Croatia Week, a digital Croatian magazine, wanted to publish my Croatian wedding piece. I was beyond flattered to find that people besides my immediate friends and family read my blog, so of course I said yes. Within hours, Flags, Fire and Accordions: Inside the Croatian Wedding Experience had thousands of likes and hundreds of shares on Croatia Week’s Facebook. However, it wasn’t about the numbers; it was the fact that my writing actually touched other people. It’s always heartwarming to read comments like “yep, that’s exactly how we do it” and  “this makes me miss my country”.

This was a huge win for me, which gave me the confidence to go after a few more wins. I figured I had nothing to lose by asking Croatia Week if they would be interested in having me write for them as a freelancer, and so I threw out a few content ideas. They accepted! I’m happy to say I’ve now published three pieces with Croatia Week, including my most recent piece: 5 Dubrovnik Restaurants with an Epic View.

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Above 5, Dubrovnik

Officially starting freelancing truly gave me a motivational boost. Sure, I’m nowhere near the popular travel and lifestyle bloggers and writers out there, but I realized my writing is valued and my content ideas are legitimate. I’ve now taken other steps to further my freelancing and travel writing, and would like to pursue this as a side business.

Simultaneously, I began to use my personal brand to market myself: a recent American graduate in Dubrovnik with a mindful platform. I’ve connected with local businesses, which specifically focus on producing domestic foods and products. Listening to their stories and ambitions has been incredibly inspiring. My mission is to use my voice to share these stories, which may have otherwise gone unheard.

Branching Out

Going from living on my own in a big city to now living with my boyfriend and family in a small village still comes with challenges. There’s never a day I don’t feel thankful for everything around me, but there’s never a day I don’t feel somewhat isolated and alone. It’s really not as easy as just living on the beach every day. I’ve had to completely rewire the way that I think, and ditch America’s mentality of status.

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In many ways it’s like starting all over again as the new kid in town. I decided that I needed to form an identity of my own, otherwise I’ll inevitable be solely known as “Domeniko’s girlfriend.” That’s why I’ve put 110 percent into branching out, forming friendships of my own, and exploring solo. That’s part of the reason why I decided to take my first solo travel trip, which you’ll hear about next week. 🙂

“What’s your long-term plan?”

Isn’t that the elephant in the room? From my parents to friends to random people I meet that feel the need to give me life advice, that’s the big question. Right now I am traveling around throughout Croatia, and the solitude has given me a lot of time to reflect.

I often feel as if I’m being pulled in two directions. I see my Facebook friends with shiny corporate jobs, and then I suddenly panic wondering if I’m throwing my whole life away. Then here in Croatia, life moves at a slower pace. Everyone just wants you to relax, have a cup of coffee, and sit for three hours. It’s difficult feeling two mentalities moving at completely different frequencies. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I simply need to move at the pace that’s right for me.

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Realistically, being in Dubrovnik is more of a short-term plan. Neither Domeniko nor myself can build our careers here, and I think he needs to get out even more than I do. Previously we both applied to several EU internships in Brussels (both of us studied political science/diplomacy) but didn’t get any. Now that summer is coming to an end, we really need to crack down and come up with a long-term plan. We narrowed our locations down to where getting a work VISA is probable. We may not get the job of our dreams, and we may both not get jobs at the same time. All we can do is try. I do have hope we will figure it out, especially meeting several people here that have done so too.

The summer nights get shorter, my to-do list gets longer. But before I make the next step into my adult-life, I think I’ll enjoy being a full-time mermaid a little longer.

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To be continued….

Questions for the reader:

  1. Can you relate to any of my experiences or insights?
  2. What’s your advice for my next step?

Thank you for stopping by, and please share and subscribe to help my network grow. Tune in this Sunday as I share what I learned from very first solo travel trip.

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