This 35-year-old expat left the U.S. for Croatia: ‘I spend $1,424 per month’ — here’s a look at his typical day

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Before Covid hit in March last year, I was making a decent income of about $4,000 per month as a freelance video producer. But as the pandemic intensified, those gig earnings quickly dwindled to $700.

Due to all the uncertainty about the future, I found myself sleeping on a futon at my sister’s house in New Jersey. I felt restless and missed all the traveling I used to do for work.

But a few months later, my prayers were answered: Croatia announced that it would start offering a one-year residence permit to digital nomads (anyone outside of the European Union working remotely) in January 2021.

I had visited Croatia before and was utterly captivated by the country, so I decided to apply.

Getting Croatia’s digital nomad residence permit

A beautiful street in the heart of downtown Split

Photo: Steve Tsentserensky

In addition to the income requirement, I needed to show proof of international health insurance (which I got through a U.S.-based travel insurance company called Seven Corners), obtain an FBI background check and provide an address I’d be staying at.

I spend much less in Croatia than in the U.S.

Steve Tsentserensky’s average monthly spending

Gene Woo Kim | CNBC Make It

I live by myself in a 650-square-foot apartment, which I found through a Facebook group for expats in Croatia. I’m renting directly from the owner for $540 (including utilities) per month.

Marmontova Ulica, a busy street in Split filled with several shops and restaurants. Pictured in the distance is the island of Brač.

Photo: Steve Tsentserensky

I spend an average of $1,424 per month. Here’s a breakdown (as of June 2021):

  • Rent and utilities: $540
  • Health insurance: $65
  • Food (groceries, eating out and drinks): $608
  • Subscriptions: $14
  • Phone: $12
  • Recreational travel: $185

How I spend my days

As soon as my alarm goes off at 6:30 a.m., I’ll make some Turkish coffee and have a simple breakfast — usually some eggs, vegetables, cheese and toasted bread.

Then I dive straight into my freelance projects. I try to put in about eight hours of work on weekdays. Since most of my clients are based in the U.S., I’ll schedule work calls on Eastern or Pacific Standard Time.

If I feel like eating out for lunch ($10 to $14, including tip), there are several places within walking distance. I love trips to the bakery for a tasty burek, a savory pastry typically filled with meat or cheese ($2 to $3).

A cheese burek and a double espresso at a café in Split costs around $5.

Photo: Steve Tsentserensky

A nice dinner on the coast will include lots of seafood dishes like tuna, octopus and squid ink risotto ($18 to $30, including drinks and tip).

Squid ink risotto and a beer from Dujkin Dvorlocal, a local restaurant in Split, for just under $18.

Photo: Steve Tsentserensky

I’m a pretty social person, and I’ve met a lot of great people in Split — both locals and other expats. On weekends, I could spend hours having meaningful conversations with friends over $2 espressos.

From my apartment, I’m a three-minute walk to the famed ruins of Diocletian’s Palace. Built at the turn of the fourth century and considered the heart of the city, the streets of this UNESCO World Heritage Site have been worn smooth by pedestrians.

The famed ruins of Diocletian’s Palace

Photo: Steve Tsentserensky

I’m also six minutes from the Riva, a waterfront promenade filled with cafés, bars restaurants and shops.

At 35, traveling has always been an essential part of my life. Since arriving in Croatia, I’ve taken a number of trips to see more of this endlessly beautiful country.

A few places I’ve been to: Zagreb (where I lived for a few months), Rijeka, Zadar, and the islands of Hvar and Brač. Most recently, I took a two-hour bus ride ($28 for a round trip) to Zaton.

A view of the Zagreb Cathedral, a Roman Catholic cathedral-church and the second tallest building in Croatia.

Photo: Steve Tsentserensky

Continuing the nomadic life

One of the downsides of working and living abroad is missing and being far from my family and friends, so I’m hoping to take a trip back home at some point.

One of Split’s most iconic attractions is the Cathedral of St. Domnius — filled with murals, carved altars and a steep bell tower.

Photo: Steve Tsentserensky





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