We Are Relocating To Croatia!
On August 15th, Rose, Goldie, and I are relocating to Croatia! We are applying for the Digital Nomad Visa so that we can stay longer than the normal 90-day tourist visa allows. The plan is to be out of the States for anywhere from three months to several years.
In rest of this post, I will explain: what we are doing, the motivation behind the move, and some details about how we plan to move around. I’ll touch a bit on some of the finances, and will focus on what (we hope) life will look like for the three of us during this next trip in Europe.
But first, some background…
Our first time living in Europe
In July 2014, two years after we married, Rose and I took a government post in Wiesbaden, Germany.
During our more than three years in Germany, we had countless adventures. We:
- Learned to Alpine Climb in the climbing capital of Europe, Chamonix;
- Bike-packed through Belgium, Luxembourg, and France on the GR5;
- Ran Ultracks, an ultra-marathon under the Matterhorn in Switzerland;
- Visited countless cities such as Paris, Rome, London, and Berlin.
These adventures among many others. We visited every country in western and central Europe (excluding some of the micro-states). We took dozens of trips to the Alps. I rode my motorcycle from our house in central Germany to Slovenia and back in four days. I completed several multi-day bike touring and bike packing adventures covering eight countries. And we gained a basic proficiency in German!
Community, Purpose, Adventure
We identified the three pillars of a fulfilling life for us: Community, Purpose, and Adventure.
Community is defined as having friends and family that we spend time hiking, climbing, and eating with; have meaningful conversations with; and just enjoy spending time together.
We define purpose as doing work that pays back into the world somehow. Examples include: working a meaningful job, sharing our experiences on a blog, starting a business, or volunteering.
Adventure is a bit more self-explanatory. For us it means: spending time in the mountains, experiencing new cultures, and pushing our comfort-zones by learning new skills like sailing or mountain biking.
Health and Personal Finance
We spent lots of time learning how to optimize our health and personal finance. Mr. Money Mustache and JL Collins’ The Simple Path To Wealth showed us a fairly simple plan to achieve Financial Independence (FI). FI gives the ability to quit your job and live off interest and dividends from investments.
Primal Endurance by Mark Sisson and Brad Kearns gave me the blueprint for longevity in cycling, running, and climbing. My carbohydrate dependence had led me to have many emotional highs and lows throughout the day as my blood sugar fluctuated. I also needed to eat a ton during my workouts to prevent bonking.
Primal Endurance gave me the tools to stabilize my blood sugar, eliminating emotional fluctuations, and prevent bonking during long endurance efforts. A few weeks ago, Rose and I hiked out of the Grand Canyon from the Colorado River fasted (no food) and felt as strong as ever at the top!
Our first time living in Europe gave us the opportunity to experience so much in the mountains and in many different cultures. We established many foundations of our personal growth both as athletes and as professionals. Most importantly, we developed a deep friendship together that is centered around having fun together, personal development, and travel!
Why We Are Relocating to Croatia
Continue Learning and Traveling
At the heart of it, we want to iterate on the deep experiences we had living in Germany the first time. Relocating to Croatia is not born from a since of nostalgia from our time in Germany. Rather, we want to continue learning and growing and experiencing new cultures, cities, and nature!
We’ve been to Croatia twice before and loved everything about it! The people were wonderful; there’s sea and mountains right next to each other; and, being in Eastern Europe, it’s incredibly affordable.
Being based in Germany gave us loads of opportunity to visit the nearby Swiss and French Alps and explore cities in Central and Western Europe. Croatia gives us easy access to a new language (we’re learning Croatian!) and countries in the Balkans. We already have a trip booked to Sofia and Bansko in Bulgaria!
Set Up a Home Base in Europe
We love Boulder, CO! Since moving to Boulder, we’ve made friends, set up a home, had fantastic access to rock climbing and hiking, and shared all this with family who live nearby. Boulder is our long-term US home base.
We’d like to do something similar somewhere in Europe. This is for a few reasons:
- Escape the long, snowy winters;
- Escape smoke season which seems to be getting longer each year;
- Have closer proximity to a greater diversity of geography, language, and culture;
- Enjoy a more pedestrian- and bike-friendly city.
We anticipate this search will take some time as we explore different places in Europe. We’re starting in Croatia because of it’s affordability, mild climate, proximity to both the sea and mountains and other Balkan countries. For example, from Split, we’re just an hour from Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The plan is to explore and evaluate several places in the Balkans. From there, we are curious about Austria and France as well. Those will be the subject of later posts.
We are in no rush as the priority is traveling and adventure!
How We Are Relocating to Croatia
You get 90 days in Croatia as a tourist. Rose and I typically enjoy setting up a home-base in a place and traveling from there. Since there’s so much to experience in the Balkans and because we’re traveling with Goldie, we want longer than just three-months in a single country. Croatia has a new Digital Nomad Visa that allows you to stay up to 12 months in Croatia. If you combine this with your normal tourist stay, you can be in the country for up to 15 months.
There are a few additional items you need when applying for this visa:
- A government issued background check. The FBI performs this for approximately $60 per person and total processing time takes less than a week,
- Proof of purpose (in Croatia). “We want to experience the sea and mountains” is said to be sufficient,
- Proof of Health Insurance,
- Proof of sufficient funds. This can be a bank statement showing that you have at least $30,720 or that you earn $2,560 per month,
- Proof of Accommodation. A print out of AirBnB plans will work or a month-to-month lease.
This visa does not allow you to work for a Croatian company nor is it a path to permanent residency. However, you do NOT pay taxes to the Croatian government under this visa.
Additionally, if we do decide to continue traveling outside the US for at least a year, we may qualify for the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion. This would save us thousands of dollars on taxes.
What the First Few Months Will Look Like
When we land in Split in mid-August, we have an AirBnB booked for the first two weeks. This will allow us time to look for houses while we gain local knowledge of areas we’d want to live in. A wise man once said:
Never sign a lease for longer than a month on a place that you’ve not spent at least one night in.
While it’s not always practical to test-drive apartments like this, we at least want to get the feel for a neighborhood we’d want to live in before leasing a place there.
Our priority in the first few weeks is finding a furnished one- or two- bedroom apartment near trails and close to downtown Split to live in.
To help us better form relationships when we relocate to Croatia, we’ve started learning the language! Croatian is a slavic language that is the same as the primary language spoken in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro. It also has a lot of overlap with Russian!
Rose spends several hours each day pouring herself into learning Croatian. I lag behind a bit at just about an hour most days. We’ve learned a ton.
Upon arriving in Croatia, we plan to take an immersive language class to further our language learning.
Complete Croatian by David Norris has been our primary tool for learning Croatian!
Travel and Adventure
In addition to traveling to major Balkan cities like Sarajevo, Sofia, and Athens, we aim to hike the tallest peak in each country:
- Musala, Bulgaria
- Olympus, Greece
- Mount Korab, Albania and North Macedonia (two-fer!)
- Midžor, Serbia
- Đeravica, Kosovo
- Maglić, Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Bobotov Kuk, Montenegro (not technically, the tallest, but within one meter of being the tallest!)
- Dinara, Croatia
- Moldoveanu, Romania
Shew! That’s a list that will keep us busy for a while! Last summer we hiked Triglav in Slovenia. That’s: one down, nine to go!
We also signed up for two trail races in the first few months we’re in Croatia:
- Dalmatia Ultra Trail – 18 KM right near Split, Croatia, and
- Pirin Extreme 38K in Bansko, Bulgaria where we get to do this:
We have lots of exciting stuff coming up! We have lots to do before we go.
Our Boulder House
Our house is already rented out on AirBnB and we have the cleaning, turn-over, and day-to-day maintenance of the process automated. This is thanks to our wonderful co-host Aubrey!
If we decide to stay abroad for a longer period of time, we may need to convert our house to a long term rental. This would involve setting up the house with a property management company and briefly returning to do some cleanup around the house.
In general, traveling with a small pet to Europe is not prohibitively difficult. She needs a USDA certification stating she’s clear of infectious diseases and is up to date on her rabies vaccine. We have that appointment for that a week before we head out.
If all goes well there, we put her in a small pet carrier and she travels under the seat in front of me to Croatia!
It’s no secret that healthcare is absurdly expensive in the US. For $42 per person per month from SafetyWing, we can get both travel and medical insurance with a $250 deductible! That’s about 10% of what we pay for $1,000 deductible here in the States.
According to Expat In Croatia, a doctor’s visit in Croatia will run you between $30 and $70 per visit out of pocket – depending on what you’re being seen for. The price of same visit in the states will vary widely depending on what the doctor you see, what your doctor bills you for, and other obscure factors like your insurance company’s pre-negotiated prices for different procedures. You likely won’t even know how much you owe until months later when you get the bill in the mail!
Anecdotally, I went to a sports-medicine doctor in one of the most expensive cities in Germany (Wiesbaden) for an MRI in 2015. The MRI cost me 251 Euro and the consult with the physician cost me 17 Euro (for a combined total of about $283 USD total). I’ve heard stories about MRI’s and the resulting consults in the US costing well into the thousands of dollars.
We’re excited to join the rest of the first world in having more moderate healthcare costs!
Before we go, we need to determine which international healthcare plan we will go with.
The US Postal Service can hold your mail for 90 days and/or take pictures of the front of envelopes/packages that are being delivered. This works when you’re only planning on being away for a few weeks.
When you’re planning to be away for a few months or longer, you need a virtual mailbox service. You set up mail-forwarding and fill out a form and the service will open your mail for you, scan it, and optionally forward you mail and packages you receive.
Right now, we’re looking at Anytime Mailbox and will report back with the company/option we’ve selected.
We are super excited to be relocating to Croatia! We’re also looking forward to the rest of the summer here in Boulder and being with family and friends before we leave.
We’ve intentionally left our return date open-ended. If we feel we are thriving in Europe, we could stay for many months or many years. If we are home sick after just a few months, we can return then as well. We consider either outcome a success and plan to enjoy the adventure, culture, and people we meet along the way!