Sunday March, 5
I woke up London, took the tube to Heathrow checked in and headed to the club room (I have access to about 1,000 world-wide through my credit card). I walk in and the first person I see is Yun, who is on my trip and I met at dinner in London. We are also allowed to have up to 9 guests each so we invited everyone from our dinner on Friday to pass a couple hours before our flight from London to Zagreb, Croatia. Our flight to Zagreb went off without a hitch and after a quick layover we headed to Split.
When we got to Split, we were greeted by our wonderful Remote Year team. We have 2 program leaders, Sarah and Stasia, that will be with us for the entire year. In addition to them, we have a local team in each city to help us with logistics, side-trips/attractions and getting involved in the local community. They had buses ready for us and we hoped in headed 30 min south to our apartments. My apartment is amazing! Right above the workspace with a view of the ocean from my porch. My roommate is Puneet, a developer from India. We have a 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom apartment with a full kitchen, washing machine, living room and porch. I loved my apartment in Charleston, but I have to say this one might be better.
Once everyone arrived, we all headed to a local beach bar, Plan B to get some drinks. It was a bit overwhelming at first seeing 50-ish people packed into this bar, most of whom I hadn’t met before, none I knew more than 48 hours. They had a local craft beer for $3.50 and as a group we cleared them out of that pretty quickly. It was also a Remotes birthday so a few of us got to know each other over a couple local shots of Travarica (plum brandy). It was great to meet everyone and chat a little the first night. It made us all feel a bit closer and the realization that we were going to spend the next 12 months together was starting to set in. After a few hours at the bar, I headed back to get some rest after a long travel day.
The first week was a whirlwind and I cannot remember what we did each day so I might need to start taking notes as the days blend together a bit. Maybe next week I will get better.
We had a welcome breakfast at the workspace at 10am Monday morning and then were free to do whatever until our City Preview meeting at 6pm. After breakfast we decided to walk around the beach a bit and grab some coffee and gelato. The views are amazing. Behind us our mountains in the distance, in front is crystal clear blue water, and in the distance are some of the surrounding islands. After the city preview meeting a big group us went into Old Town for dinner. Old Town is about a 30 min walk (10 min Uber) from our workspace and apartment and is where a lot of the restaurants and shops are. The city was built by the Romans and the architecture is old and stunning – like nothing I have really seen in the States. A group of 13 of us sat down to a delicious dinner. I had a beer and truffle pasta which was amazing. The total for that and a shot was around $15. The exchange rate is $1 to 7 Croatian Kuna and things are 30-50% cheaper than back home which is nice. They don’t necessarily split checks so figuring out what all 13 of us owed in the local currency was a bit of a challenge but we managed to figure it out.
After dinner, we went to a private cigar club to smoke a cigar and relax. Yun, who will hear about him a lot in this blog as he is the master planner, communicator, fun-generator of the group. He is big into cigars, asked our city team if they knew where to buy some and got directed to a friend of Katja (part of the city team) who owns a cigar club. Marko, the cigar club owner, welcomed us with open arms and showed us some of the best hospitality I have every seen. 3 local Croatian guys where there and they couldn’t have been any nicer either. We chatted about the States, Split and things to do and got invited to a cigar event Friday, a club Saturday and a big traditional dinner on Sunday. It seemed like our week was set and it was all thanks to Yun!
The next few days were spent catching up on work, sitting at cafes on the water, going to get dinner and drinks, biking to explore Old Town and everything in between. We went to a local soccer game which was my first taste of European football. The stadium was packed and we were right in the midst of all the locals. The fans were chanting nonstop and it was an experience unlike any I have every experienced. I now want to see a football match in every country I live in.
I have gotten to know all 60 of the fellow remotes and they are awesome! There are many really interesting and smart people on this trip and I am happy to call them my family for the next year. After the first few days, the weather has been amazing, the local people are friendly and welcoming and the city team and program leaders have made us feel comfortable, safe and welcome as we’ve started this crazy journey.
I couldn’t be happier about how the first week went as I met some new best friends, tried the local food/drinks, got some work done, watched the sun set and rise, got some exercise in and explored a 1,000+ year old town.