“I live on $ 47 a day – this is how I spend my time”
Before Covid hit in March of last year, I was making a decent income of around $ 4,000 a month as a freelance video producer. But as the pandemic escalated, that concert income quickly declined to $ 700.
Due to all the uncertainties about the future, I found myself sleeping on a futon at my sister’s house in New Jersey. I felt restless and missed all the trips I used to take for work.
But a few months later, my prayers were answered: Croatia announced that it would start offering a one-year residence permit to digital nomads (anyone outside the European Union working remotely) in January 2021.
I had visited Croatia before and was completely captivated by the country, so I decided to apply.
Obtain the digital nomadic residence permit in Croatia
I did a lot of prep work between April and December before getting approval for the permit.
The application processing fee was $ 100 and to be eligible I had to have a monthly income of at least $ 2,750. So, throughout the following months, I aggressively built a recurring income stream from freelance gigs (video production and writing) through Upwork.
By December, I was back to about $ 4,000 a month. I was also an obsessive saver and rarely spent my earnings. So with the $ 76,000 I had in my savings account, I felt financially secure enough to live abroad.
In addition to the income requirement, I had to show proof of international health insurance (which I got through a US-based travel insurance company called Seven Corners), get verification an FBI background and provide an address I would stay at.
I spend a lot less in Croatia than in the USA
I currently live in Split, the second largest city in Croatia, located on the eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea.
The views are beautiful and the cost of living is much cheaper compared to most major American cities. The average rent for a bedroom in Jersey City, for example, is $ 2,779 (not including utilities), according to the rental listings website RentCafe.
I live alone in a 650 square foot apartment, which I found through a Facebook group for expats in Croatia. I rent directly from the owner for $ 540 (including utilities) per month.
I spend an average of $ 47 one day. Here’s a breakdown (as of June 2021):
- Rent and charges: $ 540
- Health insurance: $ 65
- Food (groceries, restaurant meals and drinks): $ 608
- Subscriptions: $ 14
- Telephone: $ 12
- Recreational travel: $ 185
Total: $ 1,424
How i spend my days
As soon as my alarm goes off at 6.30am, I’ll make Turkish coffee and have a simple breakfast – usually eggs, veg, cheese, and toast.
Then, I immerse myself directly in my freelance projects. I try to work about eight hours on weekdays. Since most of my clients are based in the United States, I will schedule work calls for Eastern Standard Time or Pacific Standard Time.
If I feel like eating out for lunch ($ 10 to $ 14 including tip), there are several places within walking distance. I love trips to the bakery for a tasty burek, a tasty pastry usually filled with meat or cheese ($ 2 to $ 3).
A good dinner on the coast will include plenty of seafood dishes like the tuna, octopus, and squid ink risotto ($ 18 to $ 30 including drinks and tip).
I’m a pretty sociable person and have met a lot of great people in Split, both locals and other expats. On weekends I could spend hours having interesting conversations with friends over $ 2 espressos.
From my apartment, I am a three-minute walk from the famous ruins of Diocletian’s Palace. Built at the turn of the 4th century and considered the heart of the city, the streets of this UNESCO World Heritage Site have been smooth for pedestrians.
I’m also six minutes from the Riva, a waterfront promenade filled with cafes, bars, restaurants and shops.
At 35, traveling has always been an integral part of my life. Since arriving in Croatia, I have made a number of trips to see more of this country of endless beauty.
Some places I’ve been to: Zagreb (where I lived for a few months), Rijeka, Zadar and the islands of Hvar and Brač. Most recently I took a two hour bus ride ($ 28 round trip) to Zaton.
The pace of life in Croatia is radically different – and my speed much more – than in New Jersey. When you combine that with the affordability, friendly people, fun activities, and low crime rates, there isn’t much to complain about.
Continue the nomadic life
One of the downsides of working and living abroad is that I miss and be away from family and friends, so I hope to make a trip home at some point.
While Croatia will forever hold a place in my heart, several other countries including Georgia and Portugal also offer digital nomadic visas. Once my license expires here in March 2022, I plan to take advantage of these opportunities and continue the nomadic life for as long as possible.
The freedom to work from anywhere and chart your own course is a bit addicting, and her spontaneity is a big part of what gives me joy.
Steve tsentserensky is a video producer, photographer and writer. He currently lives in Croatia thanks to a digital nomadic residence permit. Follow him on Instagram.