In Croatia, a lot of people know who is beautiful Californian girl Ashley Colburn. But, what we Croatians love about Ashley is that she made that a lot, I mean a lot, of people know about Croatia. In case that you do not know Ashley, let me help you with the topic information;
In case that you do not know Ashley, let me help you with the topic information; Ashley Colburn is a two-time Emmy award-winning television producer and host specializes in producing and hosting travel documentaries highlighting the wonder in the world. Whether she is bungee jumping in New Zealand or climbing the Matterhorn in Switzerland, there isn’t much she won’t do! She has filmed in more than 40 countries over the past 9 years for her TV shows, Takeoff with Ashley Colburn and WONDERS, however, jet-setting even when she is not filming she is still traveling and has been to 60 countries!
In a jet-setting worldwide, Ashley and her team develop innovative ways of promoting countries through tours, congresses, and provide consulting services to those developing in the tourism industry
Ashley, although you come from a family of travelers, do you ever find yourself surprised that of all countries in the world you have found yourself somehow attached to a small and still not so recognizable country such as Croatia?
There are days definitely that I pinch myself and I think how did this ever happened? I mean if you think about it, it happened to me sending one email to the tourism director of Croatia in NY city saying; „Can you give me a chance?“ I never did a TV show before. I wanted to do a travel TV show. I want to do this-this and ..and it will air on this network, this many homes and look what that did… I mean, I fell in love with the country, I decided to live here of all the places in the world and even learn the language and to me it’s hard to believe because it’s Europe but then again, since I’m so well traveled, I know that everything is just a quick plane flight close. Every time I get on a plane I always think about that and when I’m going home I always think it’s so amazing that in 15 hours, which is nothing in a year, I’m home. So, it’s not like I feel I’m so far away or that I can never go back to where my family is. I feel at home here, I have more friends here than I have in the US now because people just go on with their lives and I’ve always been traveling and I feel like I’m well connected here in Croatia and I’m proud to call it my home.
You have won an Emmy for your „Wow Croatia“ show but also you won the Golden Pen (Zlatna Penkala) award for promoting Croatian tourism. How did those awards affect your future work?
I think winning the Emmy kind of jump-started my career and the fact that you have credibility. I mean, you do have a certain status of credibility even just having a TV show in the US because that is not something that just anybody can have… but then having that award really opened a lot of doors and when I came to receive the „Zlatna penkala“ that really introduced me more to the Croatian community and when I came back and decided to film „Wonders of Croatia“ I got more and more connections every time I came back and those were from the times of coming back to receive the „Zlatna penkala“ and then being recognized even then for the Emmy because that was the next time I was back. I hope that through all the promotion I’ve done to Croatia I’m able to really show how much I do love the country and I’m giving back what they gave me.
Tell us something about your project incroatia.org.You teach young people about travel journalism…
Last time I started ashleycolburncroatia.com.. The point of that website was that I was for so many years just spending hours writing e-mails and telling people where to go in Croatia and I decided I needed to put it all in one portal…the simple questions that they were always asking…and then I decided that if I’m a video production because the TV shows for copyrights can not be on YouTube and there was no way for people to really watch my videos if they wanted to on demand so I decided to create video guides three minutes in different cities or National Parks or counties around Croatia. You are able to watch a video which people don’t have the attention span for very long and learn what to see and do in just three minutes.
You’ve recently bought a house in Istria. What attracted you most to this region? Mostly like to spend your day while being there?
The first time I ever went to Istria….I went to Rovinj and I think anybody that’s ever been to Rovinj or have seen pictures of Rovinj knows what I’m talking about. What is so special about Croatia, every place is so different from the architecture to the food…even sometimes the people…so when I got to Rovinj and I saw that city sitting there out in the water I thought „Oh my gosh I’m in love“ and then I was exploring Istria more… continental Istria and these hilltop towns. It might sound cheezy but my heart was flattering and I felt like I could take a deep breath whenever I got to Istria. I come from a family of farmers and I kind of felt a little bit at home there. Istria was always my favorite so that is what I decided. I mean.. we have amazing food, we have the sea as well and we are so well connected with the rest of Europe and that is important as a traveler.
You also speak Croatian! Many foreigners said that the Croatian language is hard to learn. How was your experience regarding that?
Learning Croatian, I can admit, is very difficult. I learned Spanish and you take everything you thought you knew about learning a language. Not that I ever thought they would ever be similar but for years I came to Croatia and I learned words…but that does never mean you speak it so I have a teacher and we have Skype lessons two hours every week and we work on a Google document together, we have a book and we see each other. We talk for about twenty minutes and then I write for about twenty minutes while talking and then we work through the book. I feel you really need a professional instruction in order to learn the language. For instance, I (dated a guy) and I asked him to teach me the language but it was impossible. There was no chance for someone to explain it because I feel sometimes Croatians don’t even know how to explain it. You have to have a professional help in learning it and I’m happy to say I don’t cry when I go to Post office or the Police station anymore or when using my body language. I feel quite productive when I do things because I can get out of these places with no tears.
You come from San Diego, California. Besides similar climate, are there some other similarities between the American West Coast and Adriatic coast?
In San Diego, we have a very laid back atmosphere so I would say part of that Croatians definitely have…especially in Dalmatia. San Diego is quite active as well so it is like Dalmatia and the islands because when it is a sunny day everybody is out and it is the same thing with San Diego. I mean, it is almost sunny every day in San Diego but being out in the sun and being at the sea and having the mountains so close.. it is similar in Croatia.
Although you’ve obviously found your new home here and we can surely tell Croatia impressed you a lot, are there still some things that bother you when it comes to Croatian society?
Definitely. In Croatia, there are things I wouldn’t say that necessarily bother me because it is just kind of the culture and if I’m not from here so you just kind of have to accept it but maybe some of these things also bother Croatians. I’m one of those people who like to know the exact time and I like to be on time and I suppose it is different throughout Croatia but in America. Like if we say we are going to have a meeting at 5 you don’t show up at 6… and I had many situations like that. It is not like my time is more valuable than someone else but that is something American in me that I get irritated about because I usually am quite busy all the time, but it is more like a respect between both sides. That’s a culture thing so that is maybe something I have to adjust to more. Otherwise, in America we are very used to Amazon prime…two days and everything is at our door and here I just have to realize that it is what it is and let it go and things are gonna take longer but I’m pretty easy going and I let it go. Obviously, I dealt with the good, the bad and the ugly as well to the point where some people might be surprised I’ve experienced all situations and I still want to be here. How can I truly say that I know the place if I haven’t experienced it all? Traffic would bother people in America, the types of food we eat would bother Croatians, so everyone has their little things… Overall again, quality of life is good here and that is the reason to be here.
You’ll be one of the participants in the 4th Branding of Croatia conference. How important is the branding of a country in general and what can branding specifically do for Croatia?
I think that branding of a country is very important especially when you are trying to include the rest of the country and I mean, the rest of the country that people don’t know about. Especially in America, we know that Croatia is sun and the sea destination. People mostly know about Dubrovnik and Hvar but really they don’t know anything else. I think that Croatia should totally rebrand everything and the fact that they focus it all on a food destination…because with food comes tradition, with food comes to the year-long destination to visit. Right now, we are in Ozalj and I’m totally blown away. I had a tour all around and I know that if I had a tour with me right now they would just be like me „Wow, look at this castle!“ These are all things that might not be interesting to Croatians because you are kind of used to it but when you come from a place where everything is concrete buildings, then you are fascinated by the greenery here in Croatia, the beautiful vineyards, the taste of all the food…It is not that everyone is looking for a popular destination so I think that if you brand Croatia as a food destination, it is something that could go global and it could change the country for the better… especially in the fact of making it a year-round destination because right now I don’t want to go to the sea even if it is perfect weather. It is prime time to go to Continental Croatia or Istria or some place which is not crowded. I think this needs to be pushed a lot more!
Is there a rise of interest to visit Croatia among American citizens, and if so, what, in your opinion, attracts them the most?
Croatia is becoming a hot destination in the US especially with features in many popular magazines…still being considered a little bit off the beaten track because it is not on the every first itinerary to Europe. People are finding out that you have a good food or that here are amazing islands or that you have cruises that go around the islands. I think more and more Americans are finding out about Croatia which is great because American tourists are good tourists to have here especially people from 40 to 70. When they come to Croatia, they want nice hotels, they want private drivers, they want to have an amazing food culinary experience, drink the wine and most of all they want to have a cultural experience. They don’t want to be in a restaurant where they are the only one eating there. I’ve sent groups before to the best restaurants and although the food is good, their complaint was that there were no locals in the restaurant. These are the things we have to think about which you learn by doing obviously. Americans are coming to get an experience and they are paying for an experience and Croatia has everything right there so visiting villages and visiting some of the smaller places where they don’t have to deal with the crowd are going to be the experiences they remember the most!
And for the end, what are some Croatian dishes you like the most?
It is hard to pick, but I love octopus salad! I eat everything but I definitely prefer the seafood only because that is not something that I make and they always will do it better… so if I eat out, I’m always ordering the seafood and in Istria, everything is good – especially the truffles!