Culinary & Cultural Immersion Travel in Croatia with Srdana Pokrajac
September 17, 2020
Srdana grew up in a small coastal town in Croatia called Rovinj, on the Istrian Peninsula. As a teenager she experienced the effects of the war in Yugoslavia. However, tourism began to take off by the time she left to pursue her studies in the United States. Having grown up in an area that had visitors during both good and bad times, this was an industry that she was already very familiar with, even before embarking on her entrepreneurial journey as a travel agency owner. Read on to learn more!
What are you currently working on?
I am writing this in the times of COVID-19. Many things have happened in the past two months, for the world, for me, and the travel industry as a whole. I am the owner of Adria Trips, a boutique travel agency based in New York, and focusing on Croatia and the Adriatic Region. I am quite heavily focused on selling airfare, as well as curated itineraries that focus on culture and gastronomy. I am also a tutor in finance, accounting and economics, which is what keeps me busy while I am waiting for the interest in tourism to pick up again. Some travelers haven’t lost hope for visiting Croatia this summer, so we are all waiting to see when travel restrictions will be lifted. The whole industry has been hit hard, and when travel resumes it will have to happen at a cautious pace. Yet, it is hopeful to hear that people are starting to itch to travel.
How was the idea for your business born?
When I moved to the USA in 2010, I was quite surprised to hear people talking about Croatia and what an amazing holiday destination it was. Even only a couple of years before that, when I would travel and mention Croatia, I would usually encounter blank stares. I have always been eager to share my knowledge of Croatia and Istria with enthusiastic travelers, and I have always deeply cared about them having a great experience when visiting my home country. So, one day I thought, “Why don’t I start a business in tourism?”, and a little after that, Adria Trips was born. Perhaps, I should say, it was reborn, since by a series of coincidences the previous owner of Adria Trips was looking for a career change, and I jumped right in. Whilst the agency had been mainly focused on airfare, I added the focus on personalized itineraries, and more recently, culinary and cultural immersion travel.
How do you balance the demands of a job and daily life with nurturing this dream?
When you are an entrepreneur, you wake up and go to bed working. You can’t let your business sit because there is always a new idea to explore or some paperwork to take care of. Staying motivated and keeping a schedule is essential, otherwise it is very easy to lose sight of why you are doing what you’re doing. As I mentioned, I am also a tutor, so I technically do two different types of work. In ordinary circumstances, from January to June the demands from the travel business are very high, and I have to take less tutoring hours. Towards the end of the year, September to December, the travel season slows down and there are less trips being planned, so I have more time to teach.
What has been your boldest career or life change?
Starting a business. I am not a sensational company or startup that has invented something new, but being your own boss and taking that first step towards it is very scary - or at least it was for me. I never thought I could do it, and it definitely has its pros and cons. The cons are that it’s very easy to slip into procrastination or self doubt. The pros are that you don’t have to ask permission when making a decision.
What has been the biggest obstacle during your journey?
Myself. I think we are often our biggest obstacle. As I said, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be working on my own, and never in a million years would I have thought that I would have the courage to start a business. Sometimes, you just have to push the limits of your comfort zone.
Taken in Lisbon with Patrica M, another Travelista!
We all know travel can bring us to unexpectedly * magical * moments. Tell us about one you’ve experienced.
Many years ago, I was on a two-week trip through Japan. On my stop in Kyoto, I remember visiting this park in the old town. It was like out of a fairy tale, and quite magical - if you’re into zen gardens, and little bridges and lakes. Suddenly a blonde American woman on a bike stopped and started talking to me. At the time I wasn’t so accustomed to strangers striking up conversation, but she seemed very friendly, and we ended up having dinner together in this nice traditional Japanese sushi bar. It was eye opening for me because I was fairly young, and I was just starting to expand my horizons, so I was very grateful to have been introduced to yet another culture (American) in a foreign country that I was visiting and was so fascinated with. We are still in touch after almost 15 years, and it’s great to recall how we met. Sometimes when you are traveling you meet people that you somehow feel very connected with right from the start, and the friendships you form are very real, sometimes deeper and more meaningful than with people you see everyday.
Can you share your favorite “undiscovered” destination?
I don’t think I have really been to a place that is “undiscovered”. My suggestion is that if you have been hesitating to visit Japan, don’t wait any longer. The best time to visit is probably April. Enjoy!