Born in the rain in Manchester, Paul moved to the sunniest island in Croatia back in 2003 – via Somaliland. A former male chambermaid, wine merchant, aid worker, laser crystals researcher, and English, French, German and Russian teacher in Japan, Paul tried many things in Croatia before starting the Total Hvar portal back in 2011 which expanded to Total Croatia News in 2015.
- Where did idea of starting TCN come from?
It all started at Caffe Splendid on the main square in Jelsa in 2011. A tourist at the next table told me that the island was so beautiful but the tourism information was terrible. I had heard the same line hundreds of times. Perhaps I had had one beer too many, but I asked the waiter for a pen and paper, decided to write the first modern guidebook for Hvar, and started to write down the chapter titles.
The self-published guide of 500 copies 3 months later was full of typos but content-wise a big success. My wife was working at the Vrboska Tourist Board at the time, one of 5 tourist boards on the island, and they didn't really cooperate. She suggested I build on the guidebook by doing a website for the whole island. And so Total Hvar was born.
I wrote 6 stories a day about Hvar, every day, all through the winter. There was SO much to write that nobody had done before. All in all, I wrote more than 9,000 articles about Hvar, the most of anyone in history, haha. We even brought the New York Times and Sunday Times to the island.
Total Hvar became Total Split became Total Inland Dalmatia, Total Zagreb, Total Korcula, Total Medjugorje, Total Croatia Cycling, Total Croatia Sailing, Total Croatia Wine. If it existed, I 'Totalled' it. And then in July 2015, we launched Total Croatia News. I had no idea what I was doing.
- How many people are dedicated to work on TCN content? What are you focusing on? Do you do it for the love or for the money?
It really varies. We have had as many as 12 and as few as 3. We publish about 20 articles a day on Google News, covering news, politics, sport, lifestyle, business, travel, digital nomads, and diaspora. We are currently in the middle of a major change, as I have decided to move TCN away from being a news portal into an online magazine with news. More a focus on quality than quantity (50 articles a week rather than 150 at present). There will be four of us going forward, all of us part-time, as well as occasional contributors.
- You have received many awards for Total Croatia News and your work. What is your recipe for success?
Define success! Financially, it has not been great, especially as a lot of State funding corridors were closed to me after the Croatian National Tourist Board sued me twice in 2020. But I can't deny I love what I do, and the inbox is one of the highlights of my pathetic life. So much abuse that I have started to enjoy it, but an increasing number of people thanking me and TCN for the info, but also for pushing them to return to the Homeland, buy a house on Hvar etc. It is very satisfying to get those messages, and they are getting more frequent.
I am not sure I have a recipe for success, apart from loving what you do, working insane hours and living by two slogans – Give People What They Want (in terms of info, so they will come back for more), and Celebrate the Little Guy (it is very rewarding showcasing young entrepreneurs for the first time).
- What is the hardest/toughest thing in your business?
- You mentioned that you got back to writing which gives you so much joy. What is your favourite article you wrote?
There have been a few. The 3 Stages of Learning for Foreigners in Croatia: Love, Hate & Nirvana
was great as I finally made peace with Croatia, and I could explain it to everyone.
Time to Tell the Truth about Slavonia Full of Life was a real eye-opener for so many locals – eastern Croatia is AMAZING, and this was the best trip of my 20 years. In Slavonia. In November.
Vukovar is not an easy topic to write about but I am very satisfied with the reaction to 20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years: 14. Vukovar
And writing about your crazy language of course. I had SO many comments from locals and diaspora on this one - 20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years: 12. Croatian Language & J*beni Dialects
And, although it was not 'fun' to write, my tribute to my late father-in-law – to whom my new book is dedicated – was something I am proud of. He was a great man, and I hope the words did him justice.
- Running TCN gave you the opportunity to meet many different people. Who inspired you the most? Who inspires you every day?
It has been a real privilege, for sure, and I do feel out of my depth most days. There are so many inspirational people here, working wonders in their fields. Ognjen Bagatin is a legend, and has really supported me – what he has done for the medical tourism industry is phenomenal. Jan de Jong and Tanja Polegubic have been pioneers in the world of remote work, and it has been a great experience working with them on things like the digital nomad visa and Zagreb Digital Nomad Week. I have huge respect for Matija Babic, even though that makes me unpopular in some quarters. Kreso Macan is a constant source of inspiration as well as pushing me all the way constantly. And Marko Rakar is my all-time hero (but don't tell him) – I love his subversive approach (and results), and if I was exiled to the moon and could only take 3 things with me, one would be Marko's Facebook status updates. Jasminka from Hotel Maksimilian in Tvrdja in Osijek, with my home from home (Room 5 has been changed to Paul's Room) – LOVE what they are doing. Mario Romulic and his incredible Magical Forest in Baranja. But there are SO many inspirational people here, and it is a joy to work and hang out with them. And from the public sector, special mention to Dubrovnik Deputy Mayor, Jelka Tepsic – she has been, and continues to be, phenomenal.
- What are you most proud of?
My family, followed by the TCN team – both have been incredibly supportive, and it certainly has not been easy. Oh, and becoming an international male model at the age of 50, the first in the 100-year history of Varteks, as one of the Imperfect Model in a Perfect Suit series.
- You were one of the initiators for digital nomads in Croatia. What is Croatia's unique selling point for potential digital nomads to come to Croatia?
Three things, which are all highlighted in my alternative tourism slogan – Croatia, Your Safe, Authentic Lifestyle Destination.
- What is the most refreshing thing in Croatia that you haven't experienced elsewhere?
The olive and lavender harvests. And Grk.
- You have many different nicknames. Which one is your favourite and why?
Haha, but not so many you can print. LUDI ENGLEZ, which is what they call me on Hvar. I think it started as I am always wearing short sleeves, even in the bura. And I like my hashtag #ForeverKratke. Getting a nickname is a sign of acceptance of sorts, a little like the invitation to set on the bench in Jelsa.
- What is your secret in managing your time with so many different activities going on?
I am terrible at it! With age, I am learning to delegate, and letting the team run TCN has been very liberating (and much more efficient).
12. What are your top 5 pieces of advice to expats wanting to move to Croatia?
- Do not expect it to happen immediately.
- Learn the language.
- What works back home (and anywhere else in the world) won't necessarily in Croatia.
- Complaining is a national sport, so if you are going to whinge, be creative to get noticed.
- Do not try and change Dalmatia, but expect Dalmatia to change you.
- Oh, and very important, avoid Zuja.
13. What are your plans for the future?
Lots of things! I am currently finalising my next book, Croatia, a Survival Kit for Foreigners, which we will be published in English and Croatian. It is based on my experiences of the last 20 years here, and the recent series I did called 20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years. Nik Titanik is doing the cover, and I am very excited by it. Pre-sales have been incredible, and it is a great gift for any foreigner interested in Croatia, as well as Croatians. I think it will be a fun read. We are also talking to some companies here about bespoke editions of the book, with their branding and a chapter about the company. This will be a good onboarding gift for new employees. TCN Editor Lauren Simmonds will be doing a second half of the book on practical information such as residency, OIBs, opening a bank account etc. So a fun and practical read. If anyone wants to pre-order a copy, please email [email protected], 'Subject 20 Years Posao'. It will be published in October, so in plenty of time for Christmas.
I am also getting much more active on LinkedIn, which is an incredible platform for networking. Next month, I am launching my YouTube channel, 20 Years an Expat in Croatia, which will be a mixture of my journey, my destination guides, some opinions, some more clickbaity topics such as Is Croatia in the Balkans, was Tesla a Serb or a Croat etc, with the view to make Croatia and the realities of living here more accessible to people.
And TCN will be evolving away from tourism and being a news portal and towards being an online magazine with news, focusing on business, entrepreneurship, medical tourism, remote work, and social enterprise. I will also be launching my own personal website www.paul-bradbury.com which will showcase what I do – there are more opportunities outside Croatia these days as well. So while I am being sued by the Croatian National Tourist Board, I am about to start a consulancy for another national tourist board on the other side of Europe.
It is a lot, but I love what I do and I have a great team and am surrounded by lots of bubbles of Croatian positive energy.
Follow Paul Bradbury on LinkedIn