San Francisco to Dubrovnik: A Digital Nomad’s Journey and Regrets


In 2016, Gigi Chow, a former government agency manager from San Francisco, boldly decided to embrace a digital nomadic lifestyle, surprising her loved ones. She planned an 18-month adventure across Europe, Asia, and Latin America with her partner, intending to return to San Francisco afterward.

Experiencing Benefits and Challenges life on the go

The story, published by Insider, noted that the couple soon became enamored with the wanderlust-driven lifestyle. To sustain their journey, Chow utilized her skills in content marketing, copywriting, ghostwriting, and recruiting, becoming a freelance consultant. Meanwhile, her partner leveraged his background in financial management to work remotely.

The Covid-19 pandemic found them in Barcelona, Spain, where they remained until travel restrictions eased. Although they returned to the U.S. in 2021 to tie the knot, they had yet to make plans to settle down permanently.

Despite the slightly lower rents in pandemic-hit San Francisco, the escalating problems of homelessness and crime made the city less attractive. The sight of tents and distressing windshield notes became alarmingly common. Visiting San Francisco to see Chow’s parents after their wedding and a South American excursion, the couple found little improvement and contemplated settling elsewhere.

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Why Dubrovnik?

Dubrovnik, Croatia, emerged as a promising option, a city they had visited in 2016 and 2019. Drawn to its English-speaking locals, the availability of a digital-nomad visa, and the picturesque scenery of the coastal town, they decided to take the plunge.

They arrived in March 2023 on a three-month tourist visa and secured a short-term rental. The living costs proved cheaper than in San Francisco, with the monthly food budget dropping from $2,200 to around $1,500.

The Reality of Living in Dubrovnik

Despite the affordable living and relaxed pace, Dubrovnik posed new challenges. The close-knit community and the prominent tourist culture made Chow stand out as an Asian-American woman. Instances of unintentional racism became a recurring experience, much different from the multicultural ambiance of San Francisco.

The limited amenities in the small city also posed problems. Restaurants catered mainly to tourists, making eating out exorbitant, and pet care options were severely restricted.

Chow urges prospective expats to connect with existing expat communities and seek first-hand advice to set realistic expectations. As for her and her husband, they plan to continue their nomadic journey, possibly moving to East Asia after their three-month stay in Dubrovnik.

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