Originally from California, lifestyle/travel photographer Mat Rick has always had travel in his genes as he spent the early half of his life growing up in Peru. For him, telling stories and being able to take a situation and distill the essence of what he felt while he was there into still and moving images is an incredibly powerful medium. It has the power to connect people from all over the world in a shared experience. Being a travel photographer has give him the ability to meet people and share experiences from all around the world which has ultimately changed who he is and how he views the world. We recently caught up with him after he returned from a trip to the beautiful country of Croatia.
What was your main reason for going to Croatia and how long were you there for?
First and most importantly, I’ve never been, and I love visiting new places. Also, I was given an amazing opportunity to be part of an emissary program from Slingshot to travel and inspire others through my images. Since I was in Croatia for only 8 days, I knew I wanted to make the most of my time and focus on a small part of the country – in this case, the Dalmatian Coast. Starting in Dubrovnik, I took a series of jumps using ferry boats, staying on the islands of Korcula, Hvar, Vis, and ending in Split.
I think my favorite aspect was how surprised I was by Croatia. I had no idea how beautiful it is, how friendly and welcoming everyone is, and how delicious the food is as well.
What were some of your favorite locations you got to travel to while you were there?
All of the islands I visited held such amazing locations, but the best part was how different each island was from the next. Each town I visited had it’s own culture and feel, making it hard to choose a favorite. Before I left, I didn’t realize that my first stop, Dubrovnik, was the setting of many scenes from the HBO series, Game of Thrones.
It was fun to be surprised by that when I arrived! Later, when I was on the island of Hvar, I’d heard that one of the best sites to see on the island was the Stari Grad plain, an UNESCO World Heritage site.
Even though it was a fair distance away, I opted to rent a bicycle and attempt the mountain passes in between. What I didn’t expect when I got to the top of the range was the hillsides completely covered in blooming lavender.
I made several stops to walk amongst the endless fields of lavender, breathing in the heavenly scent with the incredibly loud buzz of all the bees in my ears. When I was on the island of Vis, I drove a scooter across the island to jump on a boat to connect to a smaller boat all so I could see the famous “Blue Cave”.
It’s definitely worth it, especially if you can go a little earlier in the day before the crowds descend.
What was it like interacting with locals while you were there?
Amazingly, virtually everyone in Croatia speaks english fluently. As one friend told me when he asked whether he should learn Croatian, and a Croatian laughingly responded: “who would bother to learn Croatian?”.
On my first day in Croatia, my house’s hostess, Marija took the time to give me endless advice on where to go, what to eat and even asked for me to please let her know when I published images of my travels as she was a big photography fan. Similarly, on my last night in Croatia I visited a small family run restaurant and stayed almost till closing chatting with the owner, describing the adventures I had during my trip, and stuffing my face with her delicious family recipes.
What was the food/wine like there?
With such a huge coastline, seafood takes the spotlight in Croatia. One of their famous dishes is Octopus Salad – a delicious mix of fresh vegetables, Octopus and capers in a zesty vinaigrette. I definitely ate it on more than once occasion. Vegetarians need not be scared though as pizza & pasta is plentiful, drawing influence from their neighbor to the west, Italy.
Croatia also produces quite a bit of wine themselves, including varietals found nowhere else in the world – you really can’t go wrong with a glass of the house white, red, or rose.
What makes Croatia a special place and why should people go visit?
I was really amazed at the wide variety of experiences that Croatia could provide.
Some towns I visited seemed the perfect locations for a quiet, peaceful getaway, dining by the sea, surrounded by castle fortifications and pine trees. There were a number of towns with vibrant nightlife, attracting young europeans that could drink and dance into the night. Overall, it felt like a still undiscovered paradise, comparing to the beauty of the French and Italian rivieras at a fraction of the price and much less crowded.