One day it happened that there were no more excuses. Our kids were grown, my husband, 57, had retired early, there were no grandkids on the horizon, our house was paid off and we had something that had been missing for a long time in our rushed and hectic lives — free time.
We had always wanted to live abroad and travel throughout Europe, but there had always been so much standing in the way of that dream. Now it felt strange to acknowledge that nothing really was. Surely somebody would come along and tell us that we have to plan “this” or attend “that” or watch their dog or something. Nope. Crickets.
A friend of ours told us he and his wife had just gone to Croatia and were thinking of moving there when he retired. My husband Mike was already retired, so I thought, what are we waiting for?
“Are we really going to do this?” my somewhat skeptical husband Mike asked. I translated that from husband-speak to, “Can we really afford this?” “Yes,” I said. “And we can afford it, too.”
Packing up and moving to Croatia was not an easy decision, and it has taken almost a year to get to the point where we are almost ready to leave. We’ve budgeted and planned with our financial advisor, sold many of our extraneous possessions, researched locations and expenses, and fixed up our home to lease. We even had gutters installed. Why gutters? Not sure, that was Mike’s idea.
We decided on Croatia for several reasons; it has a relatively low cost of living by European standards, and it’s very accessible by bus and train to many places throughout the EU. The third reason and probably the most important to my seafaring husband (aka Captain Mike) is the country borders the beautiful clear Adriatic Sea and is prime sailing territory.
Our goal for our year abroad is to stay in Croatia for three weeks out of every month and spend one week in Europe traveling to places we’ve always wanted to see. Low cost airlines, buses and trains will be our primary means of transportation.
An important benefit from living in Croatia is that it allows U.S. citizens to obtain a year long resident permit if: they have a valid passport, can prove they have income to support themselves, have medical insurance, and can pass a criminal background check. Having this residency permit is important since many countries in Europe only allow US citizens to visit the EU for 90 days and then they must return back to the US for 90 days. Airfare back and forth from the US to Europe could bust many budgets, so it is an important consideration.
After the decision to live in Croatia was made, we realized we needed to find an apartment. Many of the beautiful coastal towns in Croatia have become prime summer vacation territory for Europeans, so trying to find apartments there at a price that fit into our budget proved to be a little daunting via internet. If we wanted to be able to travel for one week of every month, affordable rent was a must.
We decided to take a scouting trip to find an apartment thinking the rental managers might take us more seriously if we were there in person. We could check out a few cities along the coast and go from there. And although we had been to Europe before, we had never been to Croatia, so yes, I guess we needed to make sure we even liked the place.
After finding a low airfare to Rome and Venice, we jumped at the opportunity to scout out our new home. It helps that Venice is just a short ferry ride across the Adriatic Sea to the ancient cities of Pula and Rovinj in Croatia, our two top choices to make our home base. Both place are easily accessible by train, boat and bus from Venice. Pula has the additional benefit of having its own airport, but it is a larger city and not as quaint as Rovinj.
So Captain Mike and I took off in October of 2017 on a scouting mission to find our new home in Croatia.