Before Covid hit last March, I was making a decent income of around $ 4,000 a month as a freelance video producer. But as the pandemic deepened, that gig revenue quickly shrunk to $ 700.

With all the uncertainty about the future, I found myself on a futon in my sister’s house in New Jersey. I felt restless and missed all the trips I used to make for work.

But a few months later, my prayers were answered: Croatia announced that it would offer a one-year residence permit to digital nomads (anyone outside the European Union who works remotely) from January 2021.

I had visited Croatia before and was totally fascinated by the country, so I decided to apply.

Getting Croatia’s digital nomad residence permit

I did a lot of groundwork between April and December before I got the permit.

The application processing fee was $ 100, and to qualify, I had to have a monthly income of at least $ 2,750. So in the months that followed, I aggressively built a recurring income stream from freelance gigs (video production and copywriting) through Upwork.

In December, I was making around $ 4,000 a month again. I was also an obsessive saver and rarely spent my income. So with the $ 76,000 in my savings account, I felt financially secure enough to live abroad.

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A nice street in the heart of downtown Split

Photo: Steve Tsentserensky

In addition to income requirements, I was required to provide proof of international health insurance (obtained through a U.S. travel insurance company called Seven Corners), an FBI background check, and an address where I would live.

I spend a lot less in Croatia than in the US

I currently live in Split, the second largest city in Croatia, which is located on the east coast of the Adriatic.

The views are beautiful and the cost of living is much cheaper compared to most major US cities. For example, the average rent for a one-bedroom in Jersey City is $ 2,779 (excluding utilities), according to the RentCafe website.

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Steve Tsentserensky’s average monthly spend

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I live alone in a 650 square meter apartment that I found through a Facebook group for expats in Croatia. I rent direct from owner for $ 540 per month (including utilities).

Marmontova Ulica, a busy Split street with several shops and restaurants. The island of Brač is shown in the distance.

Photo: Steve Tsentserensky

I spend an average of $ 47 a day. Here is a breakdown (as of June 2021):

  • Rent and utilities: $ 540
  • Health insurance: $ 65
  • eat (Groceries, food and drink): $ 608
  • Subscriptions: $ 14
  • phone: $ 12
  • Leisure travel: $ 185

total: $ 1,424

How do I spend my days

As soon as my alarm clock rings at 6:30 a.m., I make myself Turkish coffee and just have breakfast – mostly eggs, vegetables, cheese and toasted bread.

Then I dive straight into my freelance projects. I try to work around eight hours on weekdays. Since most of my customers are based in the United States, I plan to work for Eastern or Pacific Standard Time.

If I want to have lunch ($ 10-14, tip included), there are several places within walking distance. I love trips to the bakery for a tasty burek, a hearty pastry that is usually filled with meat or cheese ($ 2-3).

A cheese burek and double espresso in a Split coffee shop are around $ 5.

Photo: Steve Tsentserensky

A nice dinner on the coast includes many seafood dishes like tuna, squid, and squid risotto ($ 18-30, including drinks and tip).

Squid risotto and a beer from Dujkin Dvorlocal, a local Split restaurant, for just under $ 18.

Photo: Steve Tsentserensky

I’m a pretty social person and met a lot of great people in Split – both locals and other expats. On weekends, I could spend hours having meaningful conversations with friends about 2 espressos.

From my apartment I am a three-minute walk to the famous ruins of Diocletian’s Palace. Built around the turn of the fourth century and considered the heart of the city, the streets of this UNESCO World Heritage Site have been smoothed by pedestrians.

The famous ruins of Diocletian’s Palace

Photo: Steve Tsentserensky

I’m also six minutes from the Riva, a waterfront promenade full of 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 endlessly beautiful country.

A couple of places I’ve been: 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.

A view of Zagreb Cathedral, a Roman Catholic cathedral church and the second tallest building in Croatia.

Photo: Steve Tsentserensky

The pace of life in Croatia is dramatically different – and much more my pace – than in New Jersey. When you combine that with affordability, friendly people, fun activities, and low crime rates, there isn’t much to fault.

Continuation of nomadic life

One of the disadvantages of working and living abroad is absent and far from my family and friends, so I hope to travel home at some point.

One of Split’s most famous landmarks is the Cathedral of St. Domnius – filled with wall paintings, carved altars, and a steep bell tower.

Photo: Steve Tsentserensky

While Croatia will forever hold a place in my heart, several other countries, including Georgia and Portugal, also offer nomad digital visas. As soon as my permit here expires in March 2022, I plan to take advantage of these opportunities and continue nomadic life for as long as possible.

The freedom to work from anywhere and set your own course is a bit addicting and the spontaneity is a big part of what I enjoy.

Steve Tsentserensky is a video producer, photographer and author. He currently lives in Croatia on a digital nomad residence permit. Follow him on Instagram.

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