Živa – a Nomad who Seeks Warmth in the Countryside Drejc Kokošar January 25, 2023

Živa – a Nomad who Seeks Warmth in the Countryside

Živa Kovačević (Gia) is a storyteller. Not just in her professional life but also in the interviews. She sees herself like a creative wave, constantly changing direction – moving up and down from one journey to another. She started to live as a digital nomad because of her love for nature and warmth. In the interview, she talks about the community, her internal transformation, and her dream (countryside) destination. Her story might also be your story, as it’s full of inner fire and yearning for new experiences. 

Author: Drejc Kokošar
Cover photo: Matic Klešnik

Živa, it’s very nice that you were ready to participate in our interview. Did we catch you in your first home or any other “home”? 

You caught me in my first home, if I can even call it “a home.” I define myself as a person who doesn’t have just one home, one place where I belong. Even thinking long term, I want to have two or three places I would call “homes” in different parts of the world. Right now, I’m here in Ljubljana. I’m in a season, a part of my life when I need to be super focused and grounded and finish some things, so I can go traveling again.  

Why did you choose to live as a digital nomad? What’s your story?

I define myself as a wave. I’m constantly waving in all parts of my life, from introverted to extroverted, from working to resting, and from creating to doing something else. And it’s the same with traveling and returning to the cocoon. This is how my life goes. I like to experience life to the fullest and use those experiences to create something new. 

So, what about my story? Whoa. It sounds like a cliche, but I know I am not a person who could be happy and satisfied living in one place. The world has always been calling me; I have always been a creative dreamer. Even when I was little, I traveled, saw new places, explored new things, and met new people. As a student, I was traveling bit by bit when it’s normal to be broke and not travel that much as a result. Later, when I was financially stable, a fire started to burn inside me, and it was getting louder and stronger with every short trip. I realized that moving around the globe was crucial for me. I knew I couldn’t fit into any system to work every day from 9 to 5. My goal was to be independent, although this meant no safe, regular job. I realized that it’s possible to work and travel at the same time. And this is how I started to work as a digital nomad.

How did the fire develop? Where have you been by now?

The first solo travel was supposed to happen right when the first wave of COVID kicked in, so it was very much delayed. 2 years ago, I went to the Canary Islands for four months. I decided to buy only a one-way ticket and see how it went. In the end, I was there for four months, and my best friend had to fly herself there to get me back and told me that I needed to come home. The second destination was Madeira. I also wanted to extend it to the Azores, but sadly, I got severely injured. So, I had to return home to recover.

Recently, I made a month-long journey to Guatemala. And I still have a lot of plans. If a person has this fire inside, it doesn’t matter how big a challenge or fear is. Fear is my old companion when I travel alone – he is welcome on board yet forbidden to make decisions. You can still follow your dream or impulse, no matter the external circumstances. I believe that solo travel is the most prominent school of life, at least from my experience. Nothing changes you so much and gives you many opportunities to truly meet and transform yourself. 

How do you choose the places? Do you take into account your personal philosophy or lifestyle?

I always follow some basic principles. The first rule is that it must be warm as I don’t like cold weather. The second one is that there must be nature around. If I don’t have easy access to nature, then the place will probably not be on my bucket list. I might also go to some bigger cities in the future, not because I would like to live there, but because of career opportunities. I tend to gravitate towards places where people are open and friendly, and there’s an option to build some kind of community. 

Photo: Gabriel Schüers

You originally come from Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. How hard was it for you to adapt to a different style, to live nearer to nature? 

Long ago, I already felt that not just Ljubljana but Slovenia had become too small for me and that everything was too familiar. I’ve always spent some time in nature, so I don’t have problems being in smaller places. I would probably have some issues being in really big cities because I’ve been to Los Angeles, and I know how I felt there. 

But to be honest, I had the most complete contact with nature in Tenerife and La Palma in the Canary Islands. I hiked all the time, alone on trails almost every day. I loved it. Islands, especially, offered a world on their own and an excellent connection between city life and nature. Usually, I live close to the city because I need food supplies and crave vibrant city life. In Tenerife, I spent a week in and a week out of the city. I could go to one spot and hike for one day without seeing anyone or go to a small local restaurant and talk to the owners. I could drive to the beach, swim, and have a coffee in a bar. It was a mixture of everything. I think Slovenia is quite similar looking from this perspective because I can sit in my car, drive for an hour, and am already in the mountains. 

You’ve already mentioned the community. What does a good community mean for you in those places?

That is an interesting question. Let me give you some background so it’s gonna be easier to understand what I’m about to say. Some people might pretty much relate to it. I’m definitely an introvert and an artist who needs plenty of space and time for herself. On the other hand, there are always 2 sides to the coin, right? Of course, I need company, but I don’t need company just to drink coffee with. I need to do something meaningful with people. We need to have a common goal, do a project, create something or have a similar hobby. I must admit that most of the time in Ljubljana, in my hometown, I feel way lonelier than when I’m traveling alone. Everybody has their own life. They have jobs or kids, and you just hang around with them. 

While I travel, I usually look for two types of communities. The first is a local community. As a tourist and visitor, I try to blend in with the place. I try to learn something about their culture, their way of living, and even their politics. But in reality, those connections are primarily superficial. They accept you, but they still have their own separate lives. Living in the international community is much more different, as we have a similar story. Everything is new when you arrive in the unknown land; we search for community, new connections, and experiences. Connecting, building projects together, and having fun with like-minded travelers is much easier. But in the long term, my heart longs for a real community. Of course, we always try to seek like-minded people. To me, a creative community is essential.

If I understand you, your perfect place would be near nature and have a community of inspiring and creative people. What would you still expect from that kind of place?

So, what would be the La La Land of my dreams (laugh)? Let’s start with people. I like open-minded people who are a little bit of an entrepreneur type, outdoor people, or spiritual junkies. If I’m talking about locations, nature is the number one thing. I like hiking, climbing, swimming, and doing acro yoga if there are parks or outdoor gyms. Instead of working on a computer, I sometimes grab my notes, sit by the river, and create. I would also need a perfect mix of Western and Eastern societies. I like some Western things, like the availability of medical treatments. But I also like a more open mindset and less strict rules, which is more typical for Eastern or Third World Countries. 

If a person has this fire inside, it doesn't matter how big a challenge or fear is. Fear is my old companion when I travel alone - he is welcome on board yet forbidden to make decisions. You can still follow your dream or impulse, no matter the external circumstances.
Photo: Yana Shpitsberg

Are you aware of the coliving culture? Have you ever thought of visiting a coliving space?

I also considered joining a coliving, but haven’t done it yet. I would have tried it if I could find an exciting community. I observed local or international communities like that in Guatemala. It felt nice. But on the other hand, there are so many different dynamics between people living together, and it might be pretty challenging for me. I would join if I could find a community that offers enough space for moments of solitude and peace.  

Last summer, I was at 3 acro yoga events. Two were 1-week retreats, and one was a 2-week festival. I was camping there all the time, so I had my tent, my little bubble. These events work like communities. Even if you’re coming for a retreat or festival, everything is shared – food, cleaning, etc. You’re with other people a lot. The thing that connects us all is the love for acro yoga. If I compare Slovenians to the rest of the world, at least what I know of the world so far is that we have high hygiene standards, and we don’t want to enter into other personal spaces so much. Living in a very open-minded community might be slightly different for me than for someone who is used to all of this. 

 If someone offers you a short-term masterclass as a digital nomad in the area where you live, would you accept it?

Yeah, of course. Why not? I don’t have any second thoughts about it. If I had stayed longer in Madeira, I would have done it. I was going to work in one beautiful coworking space where you could host workshops. But I wasn’t there long enough to do business with locals. But if someone asked me if I could do a workshop, I would be up for it. It’s a nice way to connect to locals and other nomads. 

 Would you live for a more extended period in the countryside?

Depends on how you define the countryside (laugh). I am going to give you a bit of a complex answer here. As already mentioned, I cannot commit to just one place. I can see myself in 5-10 years having 2 or 3 »go-to spots,« and at least one of them is out of the city. But it all depends on the activities and people around me. There’s no simple answer. We don’t always need cities. We think everything is in the town, but it’s not true. 

Do you have any bad experiences being in the countryside?

Well, poor connection (laugh). That might be a bit of a tricky one. It wasn’t awful for me, but it could get messy. On the Canary Islands, there was almost no signal in the mountains. Most of the time, I was hiking alone or only with one person. I could be on a trail nearly the whole day, alone with no signal, and nobody knew where I was. If something had happened, It could get tricky, but luckily it didn’t. If you’re traveling alone, like I was, especially in La Palma, where I didn’t know anybody, you could feel lonely in the countryside. You need to have a very good reason to go into solitude.

And what about the Slovenian countryside? 

Well, it depends on which part of the country. I love the Gorenjska region because there are mountains. Years ago, I spent quite some time alone on the Karst Plateau in a tiny village with few people around. I loved it. But I wouldn’t live for a more extended period in the Slovenian countryside. 

Would you live in any coliving or anything similar that would be established in Slovenia? Would you recommend someone to develop something like this?

Yes, for sure. When I meet new people from around the world, either in Slovenia or abroad, I realize they’re always amazed by Slovenia, especially if they’ve already been here. They love it, and they always want to return. They love the countryside, mountains, and Ljubljana. Usually, these people are very much in contact with nature and would like to live in similar communities. 

It would be interesting to live in the coliving for a month or two if there would be an attractive theme for the activities, where I could find myself in. 

What are your plans? Would you like to go to some new place?

I don’t call them plans. I call them general ideas. Let’s be soft here (laugh). Actually, I wanted to start traveling again in February, but because of some personal stuff, it’s all a little bit delayed. I’d like to go first to Koh Phangan in Thailand and then to Bali. I have plenty of ideas about where to go, but I started noticing that what I wish now is not just to go places, travel, and work. I want to find or create the right creative community for long-term projects with whom I can go around the globe. So yeah, let’s see where I feel at home or where I’ll find the right people. And definitely, Latin America is still calling. It has a vibe. Something unique. 

Photo: Rubén Plasencia

Learn More about Živa!

Instagram (Slovenian): www.instagram.com/giaziva

Instagram (International): www.instagram.com/viviswildstories