Remote working is more popular than ever. Digital nomads are doing it, companies are sending their employees to work from various places around the country or even the world, and creatives are starting to believe that their work isn’t limited to one tiny desk in a fixed location. The world has officially shrunk for entrepreneurs, and the creative community clearly couldn’t be happier about the shift. With remote working programs popping up all over the world and making the most of our combined love of networking, business and travel, Desk Life Project chatted to Afrodita Deretic, co-founder of Remote Connections Croatia, to find out why she started her business and how it’s creating meaningful experiences for its participants.
Hi Afrodita! You co-founded Remote Connections Croatia, give us an introduction to this exciting experience!
Remote Connections is a personal and professional growth travel experience in Croatia. We curate trips to various cities in Croatia for our selected participants, who range from working and travelling individuals, to remote workers and community volunteers who want to pursue their love for travel, global community, human connection and meaningful experiences, all while growing their personal development and careers.
Our mission is to transcend borders and create a global nation of outstanding citizens who will become future advocates for a movement to transform work environments, human connections and quality of life, with compassion and freedom.
We bring together global citizens in one stunning place for unforgettable personal and professional growth, and meaningful memories.
Why did you decide to create the program?
We really like to call it an experience, which we created because we identified a unique need among those who are location independent as well as those who want to be. The need is connection. We truly feel that while being location independent is incredible, connection is what makes the experience so much more meaningful. Research has shown that human beings need connection for fulfilment and growth, so we strive to connect our participants with themselves, like-minded individuals and the environment for a full-impact experience.
Research has also shown that by 2020 half of the world’s workforce will be working remotely. As individuals from all over the world move towards a more global lifestyle, we feel it is extremely important to provide a meaningful experience where these individuals can connect and be part of a growing worldwide community.
What inspired you to choose Croatia as the location?
We plan on expanding in the next few years throughout Eastern Europe, and later, the world. However for now we picked Croatia for several reasons:
The first, Croatia is simply stunning. It truly has everything that we have been looking for in a destination. It offers relaxation with its stunning beaches and clear blue waters, it offers adventure with countless fun activities, it offers peace and serenity with its national parks, waterfalls and a stunning ridge of mountains that stretch across the region. Most importantly, Croatia offers a rich history and a deep, meaningful culture. Its castles, fortresses, arenas and architecture from the Roman Empire are almost untouched, and breathtaking.
Secondly, Croatia is fairly undiscovered, unspoiled and underrated, although it has been growing in popularity over the past few years after being featured on the Discovery Channel, National Geographic and various other media outlets.
Lastly, the location is deeply personal for us as we are locals. I am originally from Bosnia where I survived the civil war in the early 90s and landed in Croatia as a refugee. Prior to this, I spent all my summers in Croatia as my father is Croatian. For me, Croatia is truly part of my identity and each year I looked forward to spending time in this magical place. It is a place filled with beauty, magic and healing. This country leaves a life-long impression on everyone who has been here. Over the decades, I have encountered thousands of people who have visited and the one thing I always hear is “I am in love with Croatia, take me back.” There is something about this region that fills you with perspective, life, love and passion.
Do you currently run the business from Croatia too?
I have been a digital nomad since 2013. While I spend a significant amount of time in Croatia each year, I run the business from around the world. Currently I am in Tijuana, Mexico.
What steps did you take setting up the business, and did you have any struggles in the beginning?
The beginning of this business was sudden and spontaneous. After successfully running a remote digital marketing company for 5 years, I found myself in Croatia at the end of that journey. While I loved what I did, I was ready to let go. I sold my previous company to a buyer in the United States, and in that moment, I knew that the time had come. The idea had been brewing for most of my life. I was in Dubrovnik at the time, so I just took the leap and never looked back.
The beginning of the journey was filled with excitement followed by a lot of work. Having built my previous company from scratch, I said to myself “I can’t believe I am doing this again.” The beginning is always filled with sleepless nights, 80-hour work weeks and overthinking, but as most entrepreneurs would agree, it is well worth the journey. Social Scientist, Researcher and Storyteller Brené Brown says that we are wired for struggle, and if that is the case we might as well make it worth it.
For those who have never experienced any form of co-working environment before, what are the benefits of this and why should entrepreneurs and freelancers consider it?
We truly want to encourage those who feel stuck in their lives, jobs and themselves to just take a leap of faith. It changes everything. I strongly believe that most remote workers and people who work from home in general eventually get tired of being alone and go to a coffee shop or a co-working space just to be around others. The reason for this is to simply combat loneliness because as human beings we are inherently wired for connection.
Remote Connections focuses on exactly this, and the benefits are even more evident as we create tight-knit global communities, collaborations and lifelong friendships. All of our efforts are focused on human connection. Research has shown that loneliness can be lethal, and with our remote working experience participants can feel like they are part of a global community of like-minded individuals from all over the world, which inspires their motivation and offers support, networking, compassion, fun, confidence, a new perspective, success, and so much more.
What can people expect if they sign up to a program like this?
In short, a month in Croatia that will change your life! Remote Connections is a unique and meaningful experience that combines life’s most important aspects for deep fulfilment. It is created for remote workers, the location independent, passion project individuals and social impact lovers. It combines the most important aspects of our daily lives that lead to personal and professional growth. Our experience includes a stunning country, human connections, a global community, career development, and an immersive cultural experience. We strongly believe that connection = meaning.
For those who dream of working remotely (so, everyone!) how do people balance the fun part of discovering a new country with actually getting work done?
Great question. We just wrote an article on this showing that for most people this is never a problem. In fact, research indicates that remote workers tend to work more hours than traditional office workers and often experience guilt if they are not connected 24/7. (You can read the article here.)
For those who do struggle with the balance, I would say it is all about doing what you love. When you are passionate about your remote work, you tend to prioritise it and it does not feel like work. If you are not passionate about it, and are in transition, then good work habits are key. Make sure you keep yourself on a schedule and prioritise your tasks so that you can enjoy your travels and the new city as soon as you are finished with your work for the day. Remember, your remote job is enabling you to have this lifestyle, so be sure not to lose it. This alone tends to be a great motivator for a lot of remote workers. It’s all about your mindset.
If one of our readers wanted to set up a remote working program like this, what is the best piece of advice you would give them?
The number one piece of advice I would give to those who are interested in setting up something like this is: be sure that you love people, that you love socialising and that it is your passion. No matter what you do, passion is the number one thing that will fuel your success in all areas of your life.
What is your favourite thing about the program?
One word that means so many things for so many people, but that I strongly believe is the ingredient for an incredible life and journey. CONNECTION!
We’re sold! Where can we learn more and sign up?
For those who wish to read about our mission and vision, please visit our website at remoteconnections.co, where you can learn more and apply for the experience (there is an application and interview process to join). All of the info can be found on our website as well as our social media channels, and we have Brand Ambassadors in nearly every major city in the world, so you can connect with them through our social media channels as well as Remote Connections events in your city.