Home » News » Moving to Croatia from New Zealand: ‘The aligned move that just made sense’

Moving to Croatia from New Zealand: ‘The aligned move that just made sense’

The aligned move that just made sense – moving to Croatia from New Zealand

Simone made the move from New Zealand to Croatia (Photo: Private album)

Lately, a growing population of people with Croatian roots residing abroad has been considering the prospect of moving to Croatia for a new life.

Many have taken the plunge, and we caught up with one of them, Simone Antunovic (de Cunha), who made the almost 20,000-kilometre move. As a Croatian growing up in Auckland, New Zealand, Simone’s rich culture and heritage were pivotal in shaping who she was in the world.

“I believe this to be true for many of us who hail from the brave migrants who made the passage to what was then, greener pastures,” Simone starts off telling us.

From a young age, travel was always something she aspired to. Moving through the world and having enriching experiences as she worked along the way was the goal. 

“My earliest experience of travel was when I was eight years old and we lived in Croatia for a short time. My parents saw it as a way to connect us with our roots and family here, and it did that and so much more. We bonded with cousins, spoke the language, and lived the simple village life. It was truly so sad to leave, but it was inevitable and the day eventually arrived. We took the long journey back down under and slipped right back into life there,” she explains.  

The aligned move that just made sense – moving to Croatia from New Zealand

Simone with her cousin Diana at her Koru Wellness studio (Photo: Private album)

Fast forward 11 years, and it was time for her first big move from New Zealand. 

“At 19, myself and a couple friends moved to London via fun European explorations, and there my love affair with Croatia continued. I returned in 1995, 96 and 98. Then again a few times in the 2000’s. I returned to NZ pregnant with my daughter some 17+ years ago and our family based there until this move,” she says, before adding. 

“The final visit before we moved was in the summer of 2019 when we ventured off on our Croatian summer holiday. I recall the feeling as myself, sister and daughter sat on the plane about to depart Split to head back to NZ. As soon as the plane took off, we all felt the same feeling; like a gut wrenching pull from something we didn’t want to be pulled from. 

The aligned move that just made sense – moving to Croatia from New Zealand

Beautiful Pelješac (Photo: Private album)

It felt like this was home, in a deep DNA link kind of way, and it raised unsettled feelings within us all. I think that really got me thinking about life, what I wanted, what made me happy, where and how I wanted to live for the foreseeable future.”

Enter March 2020 and the pandemic. 

“What can I say other than for me, Freedom is my number one value, and down-under, the big C came with some pretty severe restrictions. Somewhere around the time of our sixth lockdown (who’s counting), my family and I made the decision to move permanently to Croatia. Within six months we had sold land, businesses, my sister sold a tiny house she’d just had built, and everything else that goes with a big international relocation. 

Not to mention, we weren’t even sure we would get out of the country due to border closures. Emotions were definitely running high. It was a stressful, yet exciting time. My daughter was unhappy at school and with the circles she was mixing in in NZ, and the rest of us were hugely open to change, moving on, and making use of our dual citizenship.” 

Eventually the day of departure came, and Simone says the experience at the Auckland airport simply amplified their decision to leave. 

“I’ve always been a traveller, but this was different. In some ways we felt like we were escaping the country of our birth. A strange and surreal feeling, but also excitement for what the future held,” Simone tells us.

What have they found on the other side

More love, more freedom, more spontaneity, more whole-hearted joy. You either align or you don’t. Don’t get me wrong, there will always be the discomfort of moving somewhere new, particularly when you’ve been used to a certain way of doing things. Tears were shed and early starts had as we lined up for the illusive “broj” at the Makarska MUP – little raffle tickets that indicated your place in the processing que for any government admin – and if you were too late to get one, you simply had to come back again the next day, if you had the stamina.” 

The aligned move that just made sense – moving to Croatia from New Zealand

In Makarska (Photo: Private album)

Simone says that coming from somewhere where you can order your passport online, one could easily be more than just a little annoyed. In those moments, she says she would just drop into the gratitude, the over-whelming gratitude for being able to life here, freely. Gratitude, and a nip of whiskey when called for. 

“We moved around Croatia for the first six months of traveling; from Zagreb to Istria, Plitvice to most of Dalmacija, Hvar to Korcula, it was food for the soul. We found ourselves in September 2022 on the outskirts of Split, and that’s the area we’ve been based ever since. It made sense. I have family up and down the coast of Dalmacija and after feeling into Istria and other regions, it was decided that for what we were after (not too large a city, the sea and a sense of familiarity) it ticked all the boxes,” Simone recalls. 

The aligned move that just made sense – moving to Croatia from New Zealand

Simone at Plitvice (Photo: Private album)

Her then 16 year old was almost at the end of her schooling so she says  they decided to keep her going on an English curriculum, and chose Cambridge online with a school based out of the UK. 

“She thrived. She’s happier, her grades were incredible, and she also came out with a refined art portfolio. Since she finished school in July this year, she has enjoyed a fun summer with her dad in Portugal and her family and friends here in Croatia. She is currently studying the Croatian language and looking for some interim work.” 

The aligned move that just made sense – moving to Croatia from New Zealand

Stunning Croatian coast (Photo: Private album)

Thinking about how you can work and what you will do is integral because the business / job / earning landscape is really different to the west.  

“If you are someone who values security, flexibility is something you’ll want to nurture. Down on the coast a lot of the business is tourism-based, but things are slowly changing, and if you are able to think outside of the box or work internationally and remotely, then it’s fantastic! Since we went to the Euro, prices have definitely increased, but with the globe being the way it is, it seems to be across the board and something you have to deal with wherever you go. Another thing to not just acquire, but revel in, is patience. “Pomalo” is a very real way of being here. 

Personally, I am able to draw from a few career paths, and I’m exploring most of them at the moment with a “little bit of this and a little bit of that” attitude. I’m a rehab trained Pilates & Somatic movement practitioner and a marketing communications consultant – both these lines of work I’m exploring here and in an online remote capacity. 

My business baby at the moment is my awakening life coaching and energy healing work. I’m hugely passionate about helping people through life’s struggles, integrating radical change in their own lives, and breaking cycles of any sort of behaviour they want to stop repeating, whether it be choosing the same relationship and not learning through it or find it challenging to find a healthy way to communicate with a parent – all sorts of things. 

The aligned move that just made sense – moving to Croatia from New Zealand

Speaking at an event in Split (Photo: Private album)

Through guidance, healing of the heart, and working with the subconscious mind, and a desire to change, we really can achieve a lot. It is really interesting stuff and the results speak for themselves,” Simone concludes. 

You can find Simone at @awaken_with_simone on Instagram, @simone antunovic on Facebook and www.awakenwithsimone.com

Sign up to receive the Croatia Week Newsletter

Related Posts