Well, everyone, I’m going out of 2017 with a bang. No literally – this week the heater bursted and caught on fire in our apartment, nearly killing me. The joys of life in Croatia!
I haven’t been able to give a full update on the blog over the past few months, since I’ve focused my energy on building my new website from scratch (let me know what you think)! However, it’s time for my annual tradition of recapping the past year and let you know what’s happening in my next chapter.
Last year, I discussed how 2016 was a bit of a whirlwind for me. I struggled a lot with post-graduate life and trying to navigate what I want for myself. I felt like the kid at the beach who kept trying to get up, each time getting smacked in the face by a wave and an 8-year-old on a boogie board. Welcome to, adulthood, kid. INTERNATIONAL addition.
During this time my sister reminded me, “It doesn’t get easier. You just get better.” And that’s exactly how 2017 went for me. Navigating challenges with life abroad and my international relationship became easier. I learned to let go and just have fun a bit more. I found myself again in the process.
So after working two jobs, living in two and visiting eight countries, I’m finally ready to “settle down” in 2018.
January- started in Minnesota and ended with Domeniko and i eating pizza in a sketchy motel in Cork, Ireland.
I started off 2017 back home Minnesota spending time with friends and family.
I threw my mom a bachelorette party the night before I had to leave for Ireland. I flew from Chicago to Dublin by myself with a stomach full of butterflies. All I had was my working visa, my suitcase, and my confirmation of two weeks booked in a motel.
I remember the sigh of relief I felt when I saw Domeniko waiting for me in Dublin and I knew I wasn’t alone. We took a bus down to Cork, and after a rough first night, we actually ended up finding an apartment in the first three days.
We spent the rest of the month getting settled and registering with all the necessary police and tax offices.
February– started with me working out of a garage and ended with taking a 9-5 job.
In February, both of us must have applied to about 100 jobs. I think we heard back from maybe one or two…that we were overqualified to be baristas.
I finally went in for an interview for a digital marketing position, unknowing it was in the worst neighborhood in Cork. Google Maps took me to an industrial garage park, and the cab driver himself refused to let me go in alone for fear I might get murdered.
I decided to take the part-time position as I needed the money. I lasted three weeks before I decided that I needed more stable work that wasn’t located in a garage in a terrible part of town.
I finally got a call back from a local recruitment company about a position that opened up at University Cork College in the international office. At first I was a bit torn because I actually really wanted to do something more marketing related, instead of administration. But I needed the money and went with my gut, which was the best decision I made in Ireland. My new job is what made me stay in Ireland.
Domeniko also got a job working in sales for a telecommunication company. By the end of February we were finally “set” in Ireland.
March–started with adventures around Cork and Kerry county, and ended with us walking to work every day in the rain.
I started my new job March 1st, and immediately fell in love with my work environment and loved being back in a solid routine.
Domeniko and I would work all day, go out to the pubs at night, and take day trips around Ireland during the weekends. This was probably the “peak” of our honeymoon phase with Ireland.
This seemed to fizzle once the buses all went on strike for over a month, just in time for the high rain season. We had no way into work other than walking over 3 kilometers there and back. “Fer feck sake!”
April- started with Domeniko quitting his job, and ended with us watching the cherry blossoms bloom in London.
My dad always says there are good sales jobs and then there are terrible sales jobs. There’s no in between. Domeniko’s job was definitely the latter, so I’m honestly surprised he lasted as long as he did.
Meanwhile, I began to take on more responsibility at my own job as I was put in charge of organizing our international summer study abroad program.
But as I started to fall in love with my life in Ireland, Domeniko had the opposite experience.
We decided to take a trip to London for Easter to visit our friends and have an escape, just in time for the cherry blossoms to bloom.
May– started with us deciding to spend the summer apart and ended with us together for my mom’s wedding.
In the beginning of May, we took a long weekend to visit Galway and the Cliffs of Moher. We stayed in a little countryside cottage on Ireland’s western coast. During this time we had to come to the decision of Domeniko leaving Ireland, since he was offered a better position back in Croatia. I decided that it would be best for me to stay in Ireland for the summer.
The rest of the month we spent trying to find an apartment for me. With little availabilities, I only was able to find a room in a house with three men and one woman. Luckily, it was right next to my work. We moved myself in and hopped on a flight back to Dubrovnik for my mom’s wedding.
Though it was my mom’s celebration, it was also a very special experience for me to have my family in Dubrovnik experiencing my second home and meeting my partner for the first time. It was this experience that really solidified my yearning to get back to Croatia eventually.
June-started with me returning to Ireland alone, and ended with me making a new group of friends.
I said goodbye to my boyfriend, family, and second home flew back to Ireland by myself. I remember walking into my new room, surrounded by my boxes of stuff, and curling up in the fetal position and crying. I never felt more alone.
I decided I needed to make more of an effort to make friends, and forced myself to go to networking events and hang out with co-workers as much as possible. By the end of the month, I’d made at least 10 new friends, and began to form more of a friend group with some Americans, Brazilians, and Irish people I met.
July started with me celebrating the fourth of July from inside the U.S Ambassador’s residence and ended with me in Ireland’s national newspaper.
A co-worker decided to take me as her plus one to a fourth of July party up in Dublin at the U.S ambassador’s residence. The party was 1950’s themed and looked like something out of madmen. It was one of the highlights of my time in Ireland. It was one of those moments that made me really look back and appreciate I wasn’t working in a garage anymore. HA!
Months of preparation and the U.S study abroad summer school finally came, and I was left in charge of 50 college students. It was a rewarding and exhausting experience of showing the students around Ireland and getting drunk calls at 3 a.m. on a Tuesday. I also was somehow put in charge of organizing a baseball tournament (my least favorite sport) but managed to make it into the newspaper!
August started with me realizing how much I loved my life in Ireland and ended with me realizing I belong in Croatia
By the time August came, my solo life in Ireland had really come together. I had a solid group of friends, a great job, nice roommates from all over the world, and a gym membership. I mastered the work hard play (party) hard mentality, thanks to Ireland. I also went and visited my friend in London again.
However, I did have a lot of down time during the summer. I started to ask myself where I really saw myself long-term. Deep down I knew Ireland was a stepping-stone and not a final destination.
My brain started to feel fried from so much administration work, and I was desperately using every opportunity to do something more creative at work, even if it meant designing a small flyer.
During this time I realized I had completely let my blog go, which was my biggest passion. I also had no time to do any of the digital marketing and freelance writing projects I also was passionate about.
I needed to get back to where I could chase my passions on my own terms and on my own time. I needed to go back and finish what I started, in Croatia.
At the end of the month, I told my co-workers, roommates, and friends I was officially leaving.
September-started with me leaving Ireland and ended with me visiting the UN in Switzerland
During September, I soaked up as much as I could in Cork while also saving up all paid vacation days and pennies for my upcoming travels.
My co-workers and friends made it extra hard to say goodbye with some nice going away parties. However, when it came time to actually leave, I didn’t even cry or feel all that sad. In contrast, whenever I leave Croatia, I usually start balling as the plane takes off.
On route to touch down in Croatia, I stopped to visit my friend in Geneva, Switzerland. I somehow managed to only spend $500 a week in one of the world’s most expensive cities. Since she worked at the Panamanian mission to the U.N, I actually got my own private tour inside. I even sat in on a human rights council meeting.
October-started with being reunited with Domeniko and ended with us in an old fisherman’s boat in the South of Portugal
After nearly four months, Domeniko and I were finally reunited. Both of us had been so busy with work and our own lives we had so much to catch up on when we finally saw each other. We decided to take a short trip to the island of Mljet, where we first fell in love.
I also helped out with covering Dubrovnik’s Good Food Festival in the middle of the month.
At the end of the month, we took a trip to Portugal. We rode around in a vintage convertible through Sintra’s palaces, went to a famous fado show in Lisbon, and toured sea caves (“grottos”) around Lagos and the Algarve. We also made friends with a locals and a retired Irish man named Raymond (thanks for all the cocktails on Halloween if you’re reading this!)
November-started with lots of work and ended with questions about the future
After doing a lot of traveling over the fall, in November I hit the ground running with a lot of work. I caught up on blog posts, redid my website, and began taking on some freelance digital marketing projects on the side. I also started to realize I was ready to settle down and be based in one place for the next year.
December-started with advent in Zagreb and ended with me realizing I have a new family here in Dubrovnik.
The beginning of the month, we decided to take our annual trip to Croatia’s inland capital of Zagreb for its award winning Christmas festival. Zagreb is truly one of my favorite cities in the world.
After coming back I started to realize that I need to either commit to staying in Croatia for the long haul once and for all. During this time I began visiting the local offices about applying for temporary residency, which will allow me to stay in Croatia for up to one year.
After feeling pretty homesick for a few days, I rallied and got ready for my second Christmas in Dubrovnik. The legendary Badnjak celebration of drinking, singing, and dressing in fine winter attire lasted from 7 a.m. on Christmas eve to nearly 7 a.m. on Christmas day.
I can’t keep up with these people. SOS.
Always show up, make the effort, and wear something sparkly✨❄️✨ – What's been the highlight of your holidays so far? – For me, the highlight has been becoming immersed in Dubrovnik's culture probably more than ever before. – I've been here on and off for almost three years now, and this is my second Christmas. Of course since it's a small town, most people know I'm the American dating that goofy former basketball player from Zupa. 🤣 – But I've really been trying to make an effort to not only get to know more locals, but practice my Croatian (pomalo). Even though mostly everyone speaks English, I've found that it makes a WORLD of a difference just to say a few things in Croatian. – I can tell it makes people really happy (including my partner) to make the effort with their culture and learn their traditions… Even if I can't quite keep up with the non-stop drinking and singing. Working on that one too. 🤣😂🤣 – It all goes to show that making even a small effort and changing small habits can really go a long way. 🎄
And as of today, December 30th, I feel like I have stronger roots in Dubrovnik than ever before. After leaving, and coming back, I’m finally ready to stay.
Where I’m going in 2018…
I’m a bit hesitant to share this as the process is not yet complete. However, with a lot of questions about my whereabouts and what’s happening next, I figured I’ll let you in on what’s HOPEFULLY happening next.
I’m in the process of applying for temporary residency to stay in Croatia, and if granted, I will be able to stay here for the next year. During this time, I will be working on my blog and building my digital marketing portfolio remotely. I will also be giving life in Dubrovnik a trial to see if this could really work for me long-term.
Simultaneously, Domeniko is building his own apartment, which means we’ll finally have our own place to consider home. I’m already getting way too ahead of myself on decorating ideas for a 40 square meter apartment, which I think is a sign I’m really excited to have more of a home-base.
I don’t have immediate travel plans other than meeting my mom in Switzerland to go skiing in March. I’m hoping to get home to the U.S during the summer of 2018.
I started 2017 in Ireland, and will end 2017 in Croatia.
I started 2017 not sure what career path I should take and am starting 2018 with commitment to building my own.
I hope you’ll follow along with my adventure and Dubrovnik Diaries series again in 2018. Show your support by subscribing below!