Bengaluru ● Thursday ● 16 June 2011
This is a dream come true for one backpacker who wandered around the world and finally found the ideal place to call home and run a business as well. From the hectic, hedonistic world of Wall Street to therelaxed environs of the beautiful Dalmatian coast, Mike Kustra's journey has been an absorbing one.
Raised in New York and after having backpacked around the world, Kustra found that his father's originsin Dalmatia were worth exploring. "I went to Dharamsala, Thailand, Giza and at the end of my last trip, I ended up in Dubrovnik, Croatia. That was when I knew I wanted to be a part of this special town. The qualities of Dubrovnik are unique. From the ancient stone wall fortifications, to the clear blue Adriatic sea and the hearty resilience of the locals, Dubrovnik was a great place to live."
Within days he was looking for property to 'work' with. "After the war in Croatia, everything was cheap. Having worked on Wall Street for eight years, I knew the number one rule of thumb was to buy low, sell high. And to be net positive every day. I realized that Dubrovnik is a beautiful city that was grossly undervalued. So there was a chance to buy something low (ie. property) and develop it and make a business out of it. So I bought this property, renovated it and now I have a job!"
Old Town Hostel in the heart of the Unesco-protected old Dubrovnik is where Kustra's beautifully-renovated 'cheap accomodation' is located. The 500-year-old, four-storey building is only 15 meters from the Stradun (main street), and seconds from all the restaurants, bars, and beautiful beaches. It not only provides breakfast on the house but also free wi-fi and loads of travelling advice from the master traveller himself. "One thing that's important in this business is location. It's hard to find a location in Croatia, alongthe water, in a Unesco protected area. But it's like a piece of art. You can't touch it!"
So what attracted him to the hostel concept?
"When I was backpacking through beautiful cities like Kyoto, I would go through the centre of the old towns. And it was always an old lady who opened the door. I thought to myself, this old lady has a job till she's dead, not because she's smarter than everybody else, but because she's been there first. And that was what inspired me. This venture is to ensure myself a job and people will come knocking at my door instead of the other way around!"
"All my customers make the job worthwhile," he says and adds that youngsters should "have fun, find bargains and not overpay."