2023 was a year of ups and downs for me. I learned some valuable life lessons (more about them later in this article), and I drifted apart from some people in my life. However, it was also a year in which I learned to appreciate my true friends and family much more. It started as a challenging year in my professional life. But it ended with opening some fantastic opportunities I could only dream about before (more about them also later in this article). It was also a year filled with awesome trips, concerts, exhibitions and many wonderful experiences. However, I’m more than ready to leave 2023 behind and welcome 2024!

2023 was filled with travel

In 2023, I finally felt travel was indeed back. And since travel is my job and a huge passion, I felt like life is returning back to normal. Only when I started writing this article and looked at my Instagram to see where I’d been this year did I realise I had done many press and business trips. But also took many personal weekends and longer trips.

New York, USA

January, 2023

My favourite personal trip was a visit to New York at the beginning of the year. It was my first time in the US, and it was all and more that I expected from it. I loved strolling around the city and feeling mesmerised by its architecture. NYC museums were some of the best I have ever visited, and I especially liked MoMA. It quickly became one of my all-time favourite cities, and I’m sure I’ll be back soon.

Ljubljana, Slovenia

February, 2023

Since moving to Croatia, I’ve become quite a regular in the Slovenian capital. Ljubljana is such a cute town and one of the greenest European capitals. I visited it during a press trip last year to explore its LUV Festival. My highlights were Jože Plečnik’s architecture, Ljubljana’s food scene and independent art shops.

Rembrandt in Amsterdam

March, 2023

Although I don’t live in it anymore, with some of my closest friends and family living there, the Netherlands is my second home. So, I’m there quite often. In March, I joined a trip about Rembrandt in Amsterdam, one of my favourite press trips in 2023. It was great to follow in that artist’s footsteps in Amsterdam and learn more about him.

Berlin, Germany

April, 2023

Each year, I take one or two weekend trips with my brother, mostly filled with chilling, talking, and having too much coffee and good food together. Our three days in Berlin were perfect for that! I loved exploring the Museum Island in Berlin and riding a bicycle around that beautiful German town. I’m off on a business trip there in March next year and have already decided to prolong my trip to enjoy that great city more.

Vienna, Austria

May, October & December, 2023

I visited Vienna three times in 2023, and it’s quickly becoming one of my favourite European cities. It’s filled with history, beautiful architecture and fantastic museums. Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna is home to a lovely collection and one of Europe’s most beautiful museum cafes. I loved wandering around its street, exploring its Art Nouveau architecture, immersing in its coffee culture and visiting its unique Christmas markets this December.

Medieval monasteries in Serbia

July, 2023

I did another press trip in July with the Cultural Route of the Council of Europe, TRANSROMANICA. We’ve worked together several times, and I feel we’re such a great match. I love exploring their medieval sites, so when I was asked if I’d like to visit their medieval monasteries in Serbia, I got overly excited. Built during the Middle Ages in beautiful scenery, the places I visited there looked like they were out of this world.

Paris, France

August, 2023

If you’ve been following Culture Tourist for some time, you know Paris is my favourite city worldwide. I visited it multiple times already and could never get bored of it. That’s why, when my husband had to attend a company meetup in Paris, I joined him for a weekend trip there. And it was extra special because it was my birthday weekend, so we spent a few days there meeting with some friends, walking by the Seine, visiting Paris museums and having a great time together.

The return home was scary when we flew through the storm and had to make an emergency landing. But, I feel like a nervous flyer in me lost a bit of fear of flying that day.

Vorarlberg region, Austria

August, 2023

This summer was quite busy, so my second press trip was to the westernmost part of Austria, the Vorarlberg region. This place is home to a fantastic combination of beautiful nature and amazing art and culture. I was based in Bregenz, from where I explored the region. I liked it so much that I already started planning to return there next summer with my family.

Leipzig, Germany

September, 2023

Another quick press trip I did last year was to the German town of Leipzig. It’s a liveable town, home to so much musical history and a vibrant art scene. My favourite part was attending some classical concerts, which are a great way to immerse in the musical heritage of that lovely town.

London, UK

November, 2023

I spent almost ten days in London in November. It was mostly for work because I attended my favourite travel conference, World Travel Market. However, after the conference, my husband and son joined me, and we spent a few more days together in London. The last time we were all together in London was when my son was a few months old, so it was great exploring London through the eyes of a nine-year-old. We saw a musical, went to the Harry Potter store, and explored the Natural History Museum together. I keep my family life separate from Culture Tourist. But these two are my favourite travel buddies and an important part of my travels.

Amsterdam & Utrecht, the Netherlands

November, 2023

I travelled from London to Amsterdam to spend a week with my family and friends there. I felt so home-sick for the Netherlands (I’m not sure you can use that term if that’s not your home country, but for lack of a better term, let’s keep it here) during the second half of 2023 that I decided to just go to the Netherlands and spent some time there. I feel so lucky to have a location-independent job, so I can do that. It was nice to spend some quiet time there with people dear to me and reconnect with my adopted country again.

The Hague, The Netherlands

December, 2023

During my time there, I got an invitation to the press trip to The Hague, so three weeks later, I was in the Netherlands again. My trip was cut short because my flight to Amsterdam was cancelled because of the freezing fog (it was the first time I heard about it, but apparently, it’s a dangerous weather condition). Despite that, I still had a chance to enjoy my winter trip to The Hague and its wonderful Royal Christmas Fair.

Belgrade, Serbia

December, 2023

I’m finishing my year in Belgrade, Serbia, where I’m spending a few days between Christmas and New Year. During my trip to Serbia last summer, I visited it for a few hours. I liked the city so much that I decided to revisit it with my family. Check out my Instagram for more photos from it.

Exploring Croatia

Since I moved back to Croatia in the summer of 2020, I explored that beautiful country a lot. And this year was no exception.

I spent a few days in Dubrovnik around Easter weekend, and it’s, in my opinion, the best time to visit it. The weather is already great with many sunny days. However, the city is more relaxed than in summer. I also went to the beautiful Plitvice Lakes a few times with friends visiting from abroad.

During the summer, I explored more of Dalmatia, which is the southern region of the Croatian coast. It’s home to beautiful cities like Trogir, Zadar, and Split. One of my goals for 2023 was to visit more Croatian islands. Well, I did, and I discovered my new favourite place in Croatia, the small town of Bol on Brač Island. I liked it so much that I visited it twice this year! I also went on a day trip to the Kornati Islands. It’s a Croatian national park and a beautiful archipelago, a place you should visit in Croatia.

Best exhibitions I’ve seen in 2023

In 2023, European museums organised some fantastic exhibitions. Here are some of my favourites from the ones I got a chance to visit.

Vermeer at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Vermeer at the Rijksmuseum was one of the worldwide highlights of the art events in 2023. The tickets were sold out within a few days after being released. So, I felt so fortunate when I managed to secure mine. Most of Vermeer‘s paintings were displayed at the exhibition, providing a fantastic opportunity to get an insight into his artwork.

Temporary permanent display at Picasso Museum, Paris

This year was the 50th anniversary of Pablo Picasso’s death. To mark that occasion, the Picasso Museum in Paris invited the British designer Sir Paul Smith to curate an exhibition showing the museum highlights. I read very divided opinions about it, but I loved it! He brought such a fresh approach to the exhibition design. By using the elements from paintings and multiplying them on the walls, he stressed even more details from Picasso’s artworks.

Michelangelo and Beyond, Albertina, Vienna

Michelangelo and Beyond is a great temporary exhibition I saw at the Albertina Museum in October. It was dedicated to how Michelangelo influenced the art of the nude. It was so interesting to see how he inspired generations of artists coming after him, from P. P. Rubens to Rembrandt. I loved both the exhibition and the museum.

Frans Hals, The National Gallery, London

In November, I saw a fantastic exhibition dedicated to one of my favourite Dutch Golden Age painters, Frans Hals. The National Gallery organised this expo in collaboration with the Rijksmuseum (where it will be displayed in spring 2024). It was great seeing many of his paintings next to each other and recognising some of the same models on them.

Lessons I learned in 2023

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, 2023 was a year of ups and downs for me. I had a big existential crisis and missed my life and friends from the Netherlands a lot. I even started questioning whether moving to Croatia was a good decision. I’m still not entirely over that feeling and have had the urge to move to a new place lately. But, at the same time, I feel good being in Croatia. I was very upset about this situation. But then I realised it’s one of those things in life where you need more time to understand what you want. I decided to let it go for some time, live in the moment and enjoy the time I have now.

Enjoy in the moment

So, I’m doing exactly that. Taking things easy and enjoying each day. I’m taking every second Friday afternoon off from work and spending it with my son exploring Zagreb. We do touristic stuff like riding a funicular or visiting some historical sites. We’re also exploring its restaurants and spending lots of time with each other.

Whatever changes life may bring in the future, I want to be able to look back and see I lived my life to the fullest. This brings me to the next lesson I learned this year…

When you’re open to new experiences, wonderful things come your way.

It’s easy to stay within your comfort zone, being afraid of changes in your life. However, I realised the best things happened when I said yes to things that seemed scary and crazy. And no to things that weren’t right for me.

People are saying bad things about you only to hurt you. Don’t let them!

This year was the first time (I guess I’m lucky with that) that I encountered people who wanted to hurt me. Being a highly sensitive person, it affected me quite a lot. I had to work a lot on my mental health to understand and deal with these situations. And finally, I understood that people’s actions tell much about them and nothing about you. So, even more than ever, I removed toxic people from my life and surrounded myself with loving friends who support me and who are there for me with their whole hearts.

New things I tried in 2023

2023 was a year when I tried some new things, as well.

During my summer holidays in Croatia, I learned how to paddle board. And I loved it! Whenever I could rent a SUP after that, I did! I liked it so much that I’m considering buying a SUP board and regularly paddle board on a lake in Zagreb.

Another new thing I did this year was travelling in a couchette in a shared cabin with a bunch of strangers. It was on a night train from Zagreb to Zurich this summer. Although I was nervous about sleeping among strangers, it ended up being a great experience. Not only did I have a good night’s sleep, but I also met some fun travel companions.

One of the things I’m incredibly proud of was driving a rented car around Serbia for a few days this summer. It had been a long time since I had driven, so I took a few lessons when I moved back to Croatia. So, I was still catching up with my driving skills. But, after this trip, I feel confident to drive wherever I want.

What am I up to in 2024

Although 2023 was filled with challenges, it also gave me more clarity. I focused on things and projects I believed in. And which I enjoy working on. I’m currently negotiating a project which is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I’ll share more about it once it’s 100% confirmed.

Another really exciting thing I’ll work on next year is…

I’m writing a book!

So, the most exciting thing for me in 2024 is that I’m writing a book. I had an idea for it for a few years already. It was on my to-do list for so long, but I wasn’t ready to start working on it. It was finally time to make it happen in 2024. So, while I was in Amsterdam in November, I met with wonderful Hannah from Amsterdam Academy Press, who agreed to help me publish my book.

The story will follow an art historian who embarks on a journey from Amsterdam to France, visiting locations linked to Van Gogh. Along the way, she discovers a criminal group stealing artworks from museums, galleries, and private collections across Europe.

I’m devoting January and February only to writing it. Our plan is to publish it in Autumn 2024. I’ll share updates about my writing process each Thursday on Culture Tourist Facebook and Instagram, so follow along to stay updated.

I’m moving houses

On a more personal note, I’m moving houses again. With my living situation, only the change is constant. After living for the last three years in the suburbs of Zagreb, we bought an apartment closer to the city centre and will move within the next few months. Since so much is happening lately, we are taking things slowly and will move in spring or closer to summer.

Lots of trips already planned in 2024

I did lots of planning already, and I have some exciting trips planned in 2024. I’m excited to show you some beautiful but lesser-known European destinations in the following months.

We are also planning a family trip outside Europe in 2024, and so far, we may visit Canada next summer. Since it’s a country I almost moved to in 2020, I’m excited to finally get there. Nothing is certain yet, but I hope we’ll make it happen.

This article was much longer than I planned. I wanted to share so much behind the scenes with you, from what’s happening within Culture Tourist and my private life. If you want to get behind-the-scenes updates from me each month, subscribe to my monthly newsletter or follow my social media channels. And again, thanks for being here, following and supporting Culture Tourist. I greatly appreciate that.

Love, Tea