“What’s is like to live in paradise?”
The question had be posed to me by someone I’d recently friended aboard a boat. We were island hopping among Croatia’s south Dalmatian regions, eating lavender and honey ice cream in Jelsa, Hvar, drinking grk wine in the old town of Korčula, on the island of the same name, and then doing both (though not simultaneously) in the tiny UNESCO World Heritage-designated town of Trogir. The latter is where is where I was apartment hunting (spoiler: I’m now an apartment owner there).
"Paradise" has as many different definitions as there are people on the planet. For some, it’s a bamboo hut on a Southeast Asian beach with a hammock as the most significant piece of furniture. For others, it's a camper van with no fixed address. For me, it’s a tiny, medieval-walled town on an island that’s been around for centuries — its slippery cobblestoned streets proof that people have been pounding the pavement there for hundreds upon hundreds of years. That town is Trogir, on the shores of the Adriatic sea, just north of Split, Croatia’s second biggest city.
I’d first experienced Trogir two years before deciding to invest in it (both financially and, you know, life-wise). Despite being small — you can walk the circumference of the town in 20 minutes — its labyrinthine, pedestrian-only streets and alleys make it feel much larger than it is. And you can get to pretty much anything you need on foot within those streets — an ATM, a Kinkos-like print shop, an aesthetician, a wine bar, a gourmet burger place, a grocery store. And whatever can’t be found at the latter, can usually be sourced at the daily farmers’ market just outside the old walls.
Every time I’d go back, between my first visit and buying the apartment, I’d discover something new — a laneway that ends at an artist’s atelier; crests and markings above doorways left hundreds of years ago by the Venetians when they ruled this part of the country; a more direct route to the sea than the circuitous one I’d previously imprinted on my memory (when you come from Toronto, a city built on a grid system, these little victories hold big meaning). Now, as a part-time resident (I spend some of the year here, and rent it out when I’m not in town), I continue to enjoy all of these things, plus seeing familiar faces in town, getting to know the locals and their stories, and learning the ebbs and flows of the seasons, when the bounty of figs turns into pomegranates turns into olives.
Generally, as with much of southern Europe when compared to North America, the pace of life is slower here. A coffee isn’t something to grab and go, it’s something to be savoured as the sun hits the top of the palm trees on the waterfront promenade. People often ask what I do there: “Do you stroll to the farmers’ market, pick up some food, then head to the beach?” Well, yes actually. Not every day, but I could if I wanted to. This is not to say paradise doesn’t come with obligations. There are bills to pay, leaky air conditioners to figure out, and general work to be done. There are new customs to learn, a challenging language to wrap my head around, and a heavy reliance on the kindness of acquaintances and strangers to help me navigate government administration, figure out efficient transit routes — and decipher the instructions on the packaging of frozen pizza dough.
It still doesn’t quite feel real, that I’m a homeowner in Croatia — that I came here, to my paradise, on holiday, and liked what I saw and how I felt so much that I knew I wanted to return again and again. Many Croatians think I’m crazy — but then they welcome me into their homes for a tea and treat me as if I’d already been their neighbour for years.
Want to see Croatia for yourself? G Adventures can get you there. Check out our small group tours to Croatia here.