This month, we decided it would be fun to introduce our readers to one of our retreat hosts, so we interviewed Nika, our host on our retreat location in Croatia.
Croatia has been getting a lot of press lately. It has appeared as an "it destination" to travel to in 2017 in NYTimes, Vogue and National Geographic. People are drawn to its pristine nature, lush vegetation, long coast (with over 1000 islands), clean Adriatic Sea, charming stone Medieval cities and healthy Mediterranean diet. Nika, born and bred in Dubrovnik, talked to us about why everyone is getting excited about Croatia.
Hi, Nika! Can you tell our readers a bit about you and your life in Croatia?
Just got back home to Dubrovnik from a trip to Peru and Bolivia. I have a bad case of wanderlust, but Croatia is my safe place. I was born here and lived for many years inside the city walls, in the very heart of the city; so this is where I find my peace.
Dubrovnik is famous as one of the most beautiful walled cities in the world (founded in the 7th century), but a true om comes from the combination of cultural sights and nature surrounding the city. If you look to the south – endless blue of the clean Adriatic sea; and if you look to the north – steep mountainside is clinging over the city.
I have a BA degree in Media studies and a MA in PR so I started my career in PR and events, worked in movie/tv production for some time (I worked on Game of Thrones, so if you're a fan – I'll make sure to share some insider info) and ended up in adventure travel. Last year I decided to combine my skills, knowledge about this region, and passion for personal development, and I embarked on the adventure of running my own business. I've specialized as a personal travel agent/destination specialist for various lifestyle and well-being retreats. I give logistical support to talented coaches and instructors, so they can share their knowledge and skills with their guests.
How did you end up working in the villa where we have retreats?
The house is our family heritage. It was built in the 15th century and was passed to us. It belonged to my grandmother. As a child, I spent my summers here – running barefoot and salty from the sea (which is literally in front of the house) to the garden. One of my favorite quotes ever is "The cure for everything is saltwater – sweat, tears or the sea". I quite often remember those moments when we have yoga outside – being barefoot is the best!
I am very outdoorsy and try to spend time in nature as much as I can. I offered the villa and my help to Erin as a local destination specialist several years ago. I had a day job (in an adventure travel agency), and this was a side project – pure passion. I started practicing yoga couple years ago and constantly thought how practicing outside, or walking out and soaking the nature after your practice shifts your perspective. Erin liked the idea and voila, here we are – fourth year in a row.
What do you most love about Croatia?
Diversity. It's a small country that has a lot to offer – urban cities like capital Zagreb and the second biggest city Split; exclusive destinations like Dubrovnik and island of Hvar; untouched island paradises like Mljet or Vis. Waterfalls; Plitvice lakes, they are one of the most popular Croatian sites. Nature here really is something special. And add a nice climate plus healthy food to the combination.
And then there is the rest of the region with its wonders – it really pays off to explore a bit more. We have five countries neighboring Croatia by land, and Italy is across the sea. Montenegro is famous for its small charming seaside cities and beautiful green mountains, great for hiking and rafting. Serbia is best known for its vibrant capital Belgrade. Bosnia is very different from everything else – highly influenced by the Ottoman empire, architecture and culture here are different from all other countries. Hungary and Slovenia have their peculiarities.
What do you think is drawing people to travel there now?
Lately, famous productions are finding their way to our paradise. Fantasy series "Game of Thrones" has been coming back to Dubrovnik for couple years now. The new Star Wars movie has been filmed on the main street just last year, and at this very moment, Jamie Foxx and Jamie Dornan, better known as Mr. Grey, are walking around Dubrovnik – they are actors in Leonardo Di Caprio's production of new Robin Hood movie.
In addition to everything said, it's a very safe place and people are very friendly and kind. Dubrovnik is a small town of only 50.000 people (with surrounding) but it had over 1 million visitors in 2016.
People here live in "take your time, enjoy life" pace – we spend time with friends, we celebrate and enjoy the little things. I strongly believe that to feel fulfilled one should enjoy the "little moments" – good food in a good company, gelato overlooking the sea, a glass of good wine and dip in the sea afterward.
What are your favorite spots?
There are so many of them! I've spent some short time living in Italy, Slovenia, and Bosnia; so I really know the region very well. Dubrovnik takes number one place, but some of them are: wine region of Istria (which is only an hour car ride or a short ferry ride from Trieste in Italy) – it's bilingual (Croatian and Italian are spoken); the mountains of Montenegro – I love hiking and rock climbing and Montenegro is like the Switzerland of this area. Then Plitvice lakes and Krka national park are great when I need to get my zen back. Belgrade and Zagreb are perfect when I am in need of a good nightlife and some urban life.
At the urging of former guests, as of this year, I am offering my services of PTA/destination specialist for your pre/after retreat extension trips. I'll recommend the best places according to your wishes, book everything for you and I can even do some guiding if you want (I am a certified guide).
What do you love about working on retreats?
That's easy – our guests! Getting to meet wonderful and interesting people from all around is a magnificent experience. People who come to these retreats are kind and mindful souls. Also, I get to present them my beautiful hometown and my country, and everything I love about living here – I consider it an honor.
Thank you for sharing, Nika! We appreciate your knowledge and passion for the region, and we can't wait to share it with our guests!