It wasn’t long after the crumbling of my marriage when Rachel, who’s been my bestie since 7th grade, asked if I wanted to go to Croatia with her and a group of friends she travels with. You need to know what state of mind I was in, tired of my life and ready for something new, when I said, “hell yes” to spending a week in a Croatian villa with 23 strangers.

The trip wouldn’t be for 2 years, but because it was such a large group, the planning began early. I was delighted when I saw the house that we would rent in Podstrana, Croatia: 3 stories. 3 kitchens. A pool. Sea views. All for less than $400 for the entire week.

This is the True Story of 24 Strangers…

real world croatia

If you’ve watched the Real World series, you know they throw a handful of complete strangers into a house together and see “what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real.”

Someone had made the analogy in our email chain prior to the trip, and it fit, though few of the group were strangers to the rest besides me and Rose, my travel buddy. Everyone was from Wisconsin and were friends, partners, or family to one another. Rachel, of course, I knew, and I’d met her boyfriend, Toby, on my trip to Wisconsin a couple of years ago. I also knew her friend Jami (not to be confused with BoyJamie) because we’d both been in Rachel’s wedding 20 years ago. But the rest were strangers to me.

The interesting thing about such a large group of people in a Croatian villa is that you’re never all hanging out together. You gravitate toward smaller groups of people, and you might flit from one group to another. I got to know Tom and Kim, a couple who had a room on my floor, and who didn’t participate in all the group activities (like me). Sometimes we’d go out en masse to dinner or hang out in large groups by the pool. Mostly we just looked out at the sunset over the Adriatic Sea together and sighed at how lucky we were to be there.

kim and susan krka waterfalls

Each morning, Lee, father of GirlJami, would cook a big batch of scrambled eggs for whoever wanted them, and we’d share our plans for the day. One day, Rose and I visited Split to explore Diocletian’s Palace and the shops nestled inside of it. On one of my “stay home by the pool” days, nearly everyone went to Omiš, the town in the opposite direction.

Perfect Podstrana

podstrana croatia

I absolutely recommend renting a Croatian villa, specifically in Podstrana. It was perfectly positioned between Omiš and Split, and we could walk to the rocky beach in 5 minutes. There were two small grocery stores within walking distance, as well as plenty of affordable, delicious restaurants right on the beach.

Podstrana isn’t a touristy town. It’s a strip of a village along a highway, but its position makes it great, and there are tons of vacation rentals and hotels.

One Final Boat Joyride Together

croatian islands

The week flew by unbelievably fast. On the last day, we took a boat tour to Hvar and Brač, or rather, we took three boats since there were so many of us. We stopped for swimming and snorkeling in the crystal blue water, some of the group jumping off the boat like kids, and everyone relaxed and happy. We had an incredible meal of local meats and fish at a waterside restaurant. On the way home, I felt such peace and contentment. The week in Croatia had been incredible.