Rachael & John Flynn from Korcula Explorer, experts on wine cycling tours in Croatia - Episode 3

On our third episode we speak with John & Rachael, who left their 9-to-5 jobs in the UK to start a new life and their company Korcula Explorer in Croatia. They help travelers plan their trips in Korcula by focusing on giving them the local experience, which include wine tasting, culinary, and boat tours.

In this episode we talk about:

  • What brought Rachael and John to Croatia and why they decided to live in Korcula
  • How they started Korcula Explorer, the wine and cycling tours they offer, and the challenges they face
  • What it is like to raise a child in Croatia
  • Their personal recommendations of where to go in one week in Croatia
  • Why travel is important to them and their most memorable travel experience

Links mentioned in this podcast:


Transcript

Michelle Maurer:

Hi, everyone. Welcome to the third episode of the kimkim podcast. My name is Michelle and I am a travel expert for kimkim, specializing in trips in Croatia, Hawaii, and Japan. Kimkim is a new travel company, which connects travelers to local travel experts that can help plan your perfect trip. On today's podcast, we're chatting with a couple, Rachael and John, who left their 9-to-5 jobs in England to start a new life in Croatia, and their company, Korcula Explorer, which helps travelers plan their perfect time in Korcula. John and Rachael, it's nice to have you on the podcast today. Thank you again for joining us here.

 

John Flynn:

It's nice to be here.

 

Rachael Flynn:

Thank you for inviting us.

 

Michelle Maurer:

Of course. I found out about you guys on your blog, KorculaExplorer.com, while researching things to do in Croatia, things to do in Korcula, and found your story very intriguing and interesting. I'm sure a lot of people have also been very intrigued in your story, so I wanted to first ask, when and why did you decide to make the move to Croatia from the UK?

 

Rachael Flynn:

Okay. I won't make it too long, because I can chat about it forever, we’ve been in Korcula for around 5 and a half years. We always planned to leave the UK. Originally, we were living just outside of London. We got the opportunity to travel around Europe by Interrail. We must have been in our early 20s, so after I graduated from university. We went away for a couple of months with half an eye open, if we came across a new place that we considered to be our home, and had never thought about Croatia. Hadn't even heard of Korcula as a place to visit, let alone live. Came to Croatia, loved it. Came to Korcula Island, absolutely adored it. It was like love at first sight.

 

 

We spent a few days here and we went back to the UK. We just made up our mind then that we were definitely going to move here. We saw opportunity here. People were so friendly. The weather was brilliant, and we actually came outside of the summer season, as well. The weather was still perfect. The sea was wonderful to swim in. Then from that point on, we decided that we definitely wanted to come here. It took us about 5 years to then pluck up the courage, save some money, and come. Although we always planned to come here, we didn't really actually literally plan what we were going to do when we came here. We packed a couple of big suitcases with various bits and pieces that we probably didn't need to bring with us. From there, we just went out and sourced what we needed to do to stay here, and that was it. We just from then on, met people, came up with ideas, set up our website and we've just been doing our stuff since then.

 

Michelle Maurer:

Wow. Amazing. How long did it take you when you had the thought in your mind to move to Croatia, and for it to actually happen?

 

John Flynn:

Well probably best at least 5 years. Between 5 and 7 years, when we first saw Croatia and realized that, "Wow, this is pretty much an ideal country to go and live in," and Korcula an ideal place for us to actually live and essentially start a completely new life, business, etc. We had to think and then save up and just get ourselves in a situation where it was like ... We had to draw a line. Our lives were moving on, so I was pushing heights of 30. I thought I needed to draw a line somewhere. That was pretty much it, actually. I wanted to stop working at the age of 30. When it really came around to it, it was about 6 months before my 30th birthday, so this was 2010. I said to Rachael, "Okay, I can't do this anymore. We've got to go. We have got to go start a new life."

 

John Flynn:

We made that decision. Quit the jobs that summer and away we came.

 

Michelle Maurer:

Wow. Amazing. Most people would love to do that. Just quit their jobs and decide to move to beautiful Korcula Island and start up their new life. If you don't mind me asking, what were you both doing before in the UK?

 

John Flynn:

I was a currency broker, which I was working in the city and commuting in and working all sorts of crazy hours. I did a completely different life change

 

Rachael Flynn:

I was working as part of IT support group for a food manufacturing company. Really different to what we do now.

 

Michelle Maurer:

Of course. How did you decide to start Korcula Explorer? If you don't mind explaining a little bit about what you offer and the tours that you do.

 

John Flynn:

When we came out, we knew we wanted to work in tourism because it was a passion. We're passionate travelers. It was what we knew we'd be involved in, coming out here. We didn't know exactly what we were going to be doing. When we came out, we did the easiest thing we could do and a safe idea, which was actually just to build a website. We were just renting private accommodation. Then it developed from there. Where we've now doing a lot more of the things that we really wanted to do, but it just took the time to really develop the ideas and to develop the possibilities to essentially, for instance, take people on tours, that we now people wine tasting, walking, cycling, and boats, that sort of thing, which is fantastic.

 

 

We get to meet people every day we do our work. That's the area really we wanted to be doing, as opposed to just responding to emails, booking accommodations, that sort of thing. Then there's the long-term goal, which we've always thought about, would be to actually end up having our own little guest house, where we're really looking after our own guests. Potentially little restaurant on the side, where I'm potentially cooking and that sort of thing. We're really looking after people and giving a very big personal service to people who are actually staying effectively with us in what would be like our home.

 

Michelle Maurer:

Okay, great. Where do most of your travelers come from?

 

Rachael Flynn:

Pretty much English-speaking destinations. We get a lot of people from the UK, also a lot of people from the states, and then a handful of people come from Scandinavian countries. We also get a few people from South Africa and then the odd different countries. We've had some guests from Japan. We've had some guests from Germany and some guests from Spain.

 

John Flynn:

We thought we'd have dozens of countries all together, but like she said, the most is English-speaking countries and on top of that, mainly Scandinavian countries, I'm guessing because they speak such good English and they look into our literature,and find out about us more easily.

 

Michelle Maurer:

I see. Then how do they find you?

 

John Flynn:

Mainly through either website and now through Trip Advisor, some through social media, and where we've got a few things going on. Say for instance, Twitter, Facebook, blogs.

 

Rachael Flynn:

Then more local, if people are actually already here. We find particularly with the tours, that people have already turned up to the island and then they're just trying to look for things to do. We equally do leaflet jobs that some of the apartments that we work closely with. Then word of mouth, as well.

 

Michelle Maurer:

Okay. Then how do you market yourselves and how do you find your clients?

 

Rachael Flynn:

Well as a new company, starting out, we're not marketers at all. I think it's probably one of the toughest challenges but definitely sometimes you think, "There's so many things." Social media is really important I think for us. People love to see photos of the islands. People love to see photos of people actually taking part in our tours. We try to post pictures to Instagram or to Facebook or Twitter, and then we just try very hard with our website to make sure we rank highly. We reach out to people or people reach out to us, like yourselves. If we can guest blog, as well. We've done a few guest blogs for other mainly specific Croatian blog websites. Yeah, a little bit of everything, really, we try to do.

 

John Flynn:

Being just a small company, we have a limited budget to really do too much. We do quite a lot, really. As much as we can do, but it's quite hard to find what we could potentially spend money on, for instance, that can actually bring us anything and compete against certain things. One of the most important things we've done is provided an excellent experience for people, an excellent service. We've really gone straight on that. It's not marketing, but it comes around to word of mouth and people actually recommending us and loving what we do. Then other people finding out about that. That's actually the biggest strength and way that we have actually gained people.

 

 

We get a lot of our business through people who have read about us somehow or found out about us. Read some nice reviews or whatever, and want to do what we offer.

 

Rachael Flynn:

I think very important as well is following up with people when they've come. Either if they've booked an apartment through us or maybe they've come on one of our tours, just reaching back out to people and asking people for feedback. For sure then people keep us in mind. It's fantastic when someone emails you and says, "Oh, a friend came with you last year. They really had a great time. What can you help us with?" I think that's pretty important, as well.

 

John Flynn:

Yeah. Word of mouth is the best

 

Michelle Maurer:

Exactly. The power of reviews and the feedback.

 

John Flynn:

It's huge.

 

Michelle Maurer:

All right. How do you make your tour special?

 

John Flynn:

Well in creating our tours, it's always been a case of us enjoying it, a particular experience, living here, and necessarily when we've been tourists here ourselves like travelers, looking around and doing certain things. Then deciding, "Wow, this is pretty cool. I doubt anyone gets to do this sort of thing." It's really living here and exploring it a little bit, and then thinking, "Okay, no one probably gets to do this." Then you brainstorm. How can we make this like a half day or a day for people to actually enjoy it themselves and do what we're doing now? Because it's such good fun.

 

 

For instance, we work with wineries. We work on little trails and things, nice little walks or rides, and decide to approach the wineries and say, "Could you do this for us? By being a small group here, could you look after us?" When we first put something together, the wineries weren't necessarily doing what we asked them to do. People have been very receptive and helped us out, helped us to create certain things. The package is more of creating what we know. It's not only a unique experience, but something that people are going to love and remember for the rest of their lives. It's going to be a highlight of their trip, because we've done it and we absolutely loved it.

 

 

It's as if we're taking friends out. Then when you start, you take a few people out, trials. You tweak things a little bit. You get their feedback. People love it or you get them to tell you exactly what potentially you would change, and then change it, tweak it, and you settle on, "Wow, this is a great experience. Let's stick to that." Then potentially next year, you're always brainstorming and thinking about what you can do to do something a little bit different or another tour. It's when you are exploring and enjoying stuff yourself, that we've done.

 

Michelle Maurer:

Exactly. I think there's something really special that a lot of people now want, is the local experience. Basically, like having a friend to show you around, instead of just sitting on a tour bus and having a headphone set with a recording of where you're visiting. I think to be able to offer that is really special.

 

John Flynn:

Yeah.

 

Michelle Maurer:

I guess you were saying you both have done quite a bit of travel before. What was your most memorable travel experience? This could be together or separate.

 

John Flynn:

Rachael?

 

Rachael Flynn:

There's probably so many, but my memory is really bad and John is pointing to me. I'm thinking, "Oh, no. I'm sure there's lots," and now I can't think. For us, I think even just like you were saying before, about trying to get the local experience. I think traveling is all about having a little bit of a loose plan and then just going with the flow. For sure, some of the best experiences that we've had, when things haven't quite gone according to plan. I always remember we went to the Tatra Mountains in Slovakia. We turned up and everything was closed. We basically had just come too early in the season.

 

 

We turned up in this tiny little train. We were like, "Oh no, we can't find anywhere to stay." We just started walking around the town. We looked up and the train was just going this really slow speed, just along side of us. They didn't want to zoom up in case they were to abandon us. Then the train conductor shouted down and said, "Do you need some help?" We were like, "We haven't got anywhere to stay." She was like, "No problem." We were in the middle of nowhere sort of thing, scrambled back onto this train. Then she said, "I'll call friends and I'll find you somewhere to stay." We ended up in this really remote place. I think we were pretty much just staying in this house all on our own, and surrounded by a little bit of snow, just peace and quiet.

 

 

From something that you think, "Oh, no. What are you going to do?" Just the amazement of the hospitality of the people that you meet on your travels. Yeah, it's mind-blowing. I love it.

 

Michelle Maurer:

That’s so funny.

 

John Flynn:

It was hilarious.

 

Michelle Maurer:

The things that you don't plan out always end up working out the best for some reason.

 

 

 

Michelle Maurer:

I know you have a little baby. How old is your baby?

 

Rachael Flynn:

Cortes, our son, is 17 months.

 

Michelle Maurer:

17 months. What is it like raising a family on Korcula?

 

Rachael Flynn:

An experience, as I think all new moms and dads will tell you, having a baby. One of the reasons I think we set ourselves on moving to somewhere like Korcula, we had always planned to have a family. It's such a safe environment here with lots of emphasis on being outside. We wanted an environment for our children to grow up in. People are very warm towards families, especially young children. If you go somewhere with your kid and babies and toddlers, they cry, you're not looked at like, "Oh, gosh. I wish those parents would take that crying child away." People will come over and try and entertain the kid with you. That's such a lovely thing to have someone do for you.

 

 

I guess the hardest part about us living here on Korcula, we have friends here, but I think having the support of your family, as well, when you have a baby. Especially your first baby. It's difficult not having that. Just when you have a few sleepless nights, and all you want is a little bit of a break to have a nan or a granddad or an aunt to come over, and just to give you a little bit of help. It was always the decision we had made. I always think when you move abroad somewhere, there's positives and there's negatives or things that aren't perhaps so easy, but you have to look at it as a balance. The love of people here towards family and the life our son will have growing up here is fantastic. We're just lucky that out family's are coming out. Lots of family coming out to visit this year. We've got a lot of babysitting lined up for them, whether they want to do it or not.

 

Michelle Maurer:

That's great.Im sure you've always thought that you would have a family where you grew up. Have the same upbringing that you did. To be able to raise a child in Croatia in a completely different country on this island is so great. It's a beautiful thing. Maybe just a few last questions. If you were to recommend a one-week trip to Croatia, in order to get a good sense of the country, where would you recommend going for that week?

 

John Flynn:

Well we, as we live on Korcula, would say come to Korcula the whole week.

 

 

 

John Flynn:

That's not always what people want to do. They want to see a little bit more. We absolutely love Korcula. We think it's the most beautiful, best place to go, to visit. We always loved it. The surroundings, so Dalmatia. It's in the region of Southern Dalmatia in Croatia. It's absolutely stunning. In and around, say between split Dubrovnik, the islands in between and around this area really are ... It's a stunning coastline and you've got lots of variation and various places to go. If you only had a week, it's very tempting to try and see a lot of these places, but I think the common mistake people do make and not realize is the time it takes to get amongst these places and the transfers and the times of potential boats and buses, that sort of thing.

 

 

I'd always recommend not spreading yourself too thin. If you only had a week, it's got to be two or three destinations at most. Don't overdo it, because you're going to spend good half day to days just getting from one place to the other. Although yes, you will see more places, it can take out of the actual enjoyment of seeing places truly when you get to them as opposed to just turning up somewhere and just seeing the main town. You can see a lot more if you give it a couple of days. We always say that, for instance, with Korcula, there's so much more. We can give people two weeks of great days out on Korcula, whereas those people could potentially turn up here for a day and move onto the next place on the next early morning boat, that sort of thing. They haven't really scratched the surface or really enjoyed what Korcula itself has to offer.

 

 

I could say that about lots of the islands and lots of the towns around here. There's so many fantastic places to go to.

 

Michelle Maurer:

I only spent a little bit of time there, so I'd love to go back and do a lot longer trip and go down the Dalmatian Coast and do some sailing, also. All right, one last question. Individually, just because this is a travel podcast and both of you love to travel, why is travel important to you?

 

Rachael Flynn:

I think the experiences you get from travel ... I think even if you only manage to go somewhere short, you don't even need to go so far from home, but I think it just opens your mind to a different culture or a different group of people. You get to experience many different foods, different lifestyle, different weather. It's just so rewarding. For me, it's always about meeting different types of people and then I think if you can travel, do it. I just think the experiences are just so permanent in your mind. If I could, it's always hard. I love being here on Korcula, but there's always that part. We meet so many people who are traveling, that it makes your feet constantly itchy. I know you can't always do it. There's times in your life that you can and I think always make time to travel.

 

 

 

John Flynn:

Well for me, I can't really add that much to what Raech said.

 

 

She's outlined most of the reasons, but I think very importantly, I'd say the world is a very big, amazing place. You only live once. Life is very short. The enjoyment you get from going out and seeing as much of the world as you can is colossal and life-changing.

 

Michelle Maurer:

Completely agreed. Well thank you so much for joining us on our podcast. It was such a pleasure to speak to you both and to learn more about your life and what you're doing in Korcula. I hope to one day make it out there and can meet you both in person.

 

John Flynn:

That would be great.

 

Rachael Flynn:

Would be very good. Thank you for taking the time to interview us. As you can see, we love talking about Korcula. We hope to see lots of people via kimkim who will get the opportunity to hear this podcast to come and look us up and come and have a glass of wine with us.

 

Michelle Maurer:

Of course. Great. Just a reminder to everyone to check out kimkim.com when you plan your next trip or korculaexplorer.com, and that we are recording a podcast once a week, covering everything on travel and interviewing people in the travel industry. Come back soon and check out our podcast. Thanks again, Rachael and John. Talk to you soon.

 

John Flynn:

Thanks a lot. Bye.