I'm an American who left hustle culture and moved to Croatia. Now I could never go back to a 9-to-5 life.

Niav Konno in Croatia
Niav Konno left American hustle culture behind and is now a digital nomad in Croatia, giving up the classic 9-to-5 life.Courtesy of Niav Konno
  • Niav Konno, who was born and raised in California, moved to a small coastal town in Croatia.

  • She realized working a regular 9-to-5 job was affecting her health, and wasn't a good fit for her.

  • Now she embraces Croatia's "pomalo" lifestyle, which means "take it slowly."

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Niav Konno, a social-media strategist and content creator for small businesses, who lives in Makarska and runs the popular TikTok account @mylifeincroatia. It has been edited for length and clarity.

I never wanted a 9-to-5 job. I worked a 9-to-5 during the pandemic and I just realized I couldn't do it. I was working from home, doing less than 2,000 steps a day, my mental health was at an all-time low, I didn't have motivation to see friends, I wasn't able to travel.

Then I moved here, to Makarska, a region along the coastline between Split and Dubrovnik. Now I work with small businesses all over the world, with clients in three continents, doing Instagram and TikTok strategy and content. The ultimate goal is to help showcase and promote small business owners; I love collaborating with them and them getting into the online space.

Now I couldn't imagine living one day doing a 9-to-5. I could not go back to that life now.

I said goodbye to America, where it's 'work to live'

Niav Konno in Croatia
Konno in Makarska, Croatia.Courtesy of Niav Konno

I grew up in the Bay Area in California. A lot of my friends went to universities and got jobs in tech companies. I think you're almost ingrained to work harder and be busy and not have fun. If you run into someone and you ask them how they're doing, they'll say "Oh, I've been so busy," and the other person will say "Yeah me too," and it's a competition of who's been busier. They're waiting all week for Friday and there's no life.

I was raised by an American father and an Irish mother, so I have two passports. Growing up, we traveled a lot as a family and I've always had itchy feet to go see the world. By 13, I had already fantasized about finishing school and moving to Europe.

I moved to London first, back in 2015, which was a good stepping stone. I really loved challenging myself in a new environment and meeting so many people that opened my mind. We were all curious about the world. I traveled quite a bit of Europe that summer, including Croatia, and knew I wanted to come back. The following summer I got a job in the Makarska Riviera, and worked in a little family-run hostel. I lived in Croatia for three-and-a-half months and fell in love with the people, the culture, the nature, and the food. I felt pretty at home here.

But then I met an Australian, fell in love, and ended up moving to Perth to be with him. I lived there happily for six years.

My vacation turned into a major life decision

I was working a 9-to-5 in Australia during the pandemic and I felt like I didn't have a life. I was working from home most of the time. My health wasn't at its peak physically or mentally. I don't think I was truly happy or satisfied with my life.

As soon as the borders opened in early 2022 in Western Australia, I booked a trip to Croatia. I I flew into Split and came straight to Makarska.

Three weeks later, my relationship ended. I was single for the first time in seven years. I was alone in a foreign country. When things get taken away from your life for a certain reason, you can think, "Why is this happening to me?" But every day I told myself, "Life is happening for me, not to me," and that helped me get through a lot.

The atmosphere and energy of Makarska is very healing, and it was the perfect place for me to go through these pivotal changes. A couple months later, I decided to stay. It wasn't an intentional move; it was, "I guess I won't leave."

Now I'm embracing 'pomalo'

Niav Konno working as a digital nomad
Konno loves being able to work from anywhere in the world.Courtesy of Niav Konno

I needed to reevaluate what it was going to look like to run my own business remotely and abroad. I never want to go back to working 40 hours a week, so I don't. I like to work from cafés and with friends. I just went on a trip to Spain and Portugal and was able to work from there. I can manage my time better in less hours than with commuting to the office or having useless meetings.

I was walking a lot, I was no longer working from home and not leaving the desk. I lost 15 kilos (33 pounds), my hormones were balanced. I was prioritizing getting out and living life more than just focusing on work. That's when life started getting really good.

Digital-nomad life or entrepreneurship is not for everyone. If you have your own business, you have to be extremely disciplined. But it has given me so much more freedom, and it's just a reminder that you can choose your own work-life balance when you're your own boss.

Where I live, we have the saying "pomalo," which means "take it slowly." That's the beauty of living here: We have a slow-paced life where we can actually appreciate the little things. In California, my friends are trying to get that promotion to buy the nice car, get the new apartment — it's this chase for more, more, more.

Here, I'm just happy having a friend over for coffee, and that could be the highlight of my day.

Read the original article on Insider