Travel is in her blood. Take Ashley Colburn away from her life on the road with a rucksack on her back and she’s like a fish out of water. Television show host and producer Ashley Colburn won an Emmy in 2010 for her “WOW Croatia” show and far from resting on her laurels she’s moving onwards and upwards. The list of countries that Ashley has visited sounds like a roll call at the United Nations, but Croatia has a special place in her heart. “Croatia really started my international career and since Croatia I have filmed in more than 20 other countries” commented Ashley. She was also awarded the prestigious Croatia Golden Pen for foreign journalists and has gone on to make another series about her beloved Croatia entitled “Wonders of Croatia.” I caught up with Ashley Colburn to see what it is that keeps bringing her back to Croatia and especially Dubrovnik.
You started your career as a news reporter then moved into travel reporting. How did Croatia end up being your first foreign assignment?
I first heard about Croatia from my brother who had backpacked through all of Europe and told me it was his favourite country. I also was intrigued by seeing photos of Plitvice Lakes as well- something truly spectacular. When I was working at a Lifestyle cable network, I had the idea to start a travel show. I secretly planned how I would feature Croatia and developed an itinerary. My boss at the time loved the idea and also had a love for Croatia (which I didn’t know when I pitched the show) and that is when I came to film the Emmy award winning show, “WOW Croatia.” Croatia really started my international career and since Croatia I have filmed in more than 20 other countries, I have also returned to Croatia many times. In 2011 I filmed “Wonders of Croatia” seven, one hour programs on the various regions of Croatia and was able to see the entire country during this three month visit. Travelling for me is much better than reporting the news!
Was this your first visit in Croatia and what was your first impression of the country?
The first time I visited Croatia was in 2009 filming “WOW Croatia” and since then I have been back to Croatia four other times. My first impression of Dubrovnik was complete fascination. Walking down the Stradun at night when there are only locals and the lights shine off the marble is one of my favourite things to do. I also love having a drink and watching the sunset at Buza Café or looking at the city at a distance from the island of Lokrum. I feel Dubrovnik is a city everyone must see during a lifetime. Dubrovnik is truly magical and I think the drive to get to Dubrovnik is also extremely beautiful, allowing you to stop in nearby towns or wineries along the way!
Your shows have been seen by millions of people around the world and you’ve also greatly helped to promote Croatia as a holiday destination. What memories will you take with you from Croatia?
I have so many memories from Croatia! I actually often refer to your country as my second home because I really feel like I could live there and enjoy every second I am there visiting- from the food to the people and of course the scenery. That being said, I have spent a lot of time in Croatia allowing me to make some truly spectacular friends. These friends mean the world to me and even though I am half a world away, we still often talk nearly every day- this is the best thing a traveller can take away from a country. Some highlights from my adventures in the country are the VIP tour I had on the Brijuni Islands with my parents, learning to make olive oil, wine, prosciutto and brandy from locals, and my premiere party last year at Sveti Martin na Muri for “Wonders of Croatia.” I love being in Croatia when big events are happening like ATP Tennis Tournament in Umag, film festivals, etc.
Is your job also your hobby? How many countries have you visited and what are still on your list?
My job is definitely my hobby- I think about travelling every day and everyone that has travelled also knows that each destination changes you in some way. I have been to more than 30 countries and my list of destinations continues to grow each year! I would really like to visit Australia, Bali, Ireland, Iceland and Japan. There are so many places to see in the world and while some are not even on my list as top choices, I feel they are still important to see and to learn from. I think the journalist is always still in me even though I am not reporting news because I love learning and travelling allows me to learn each day!
Why would you recommend Croatia, and especially Dubrovnik, as a tourist destination?
I recommend Croatia as a tourist destination because it has so much to offer for being such a small country. From the food to the wines, to the sea and continental Croatia- I am impressed every visit by how much more I can discover when I think I’ve seen it all. I think people are so blown away by the flavours of the cuisine and how much love goes into every local product and I also love how “unspoiled” it is. Croatia is still a destination where if you know the right time to come and the right places you can sometimes still have a cove to yourself or a private island or even be the only person at a restaurant.
Dubrovnik is a must for all who visit Croatia, but I think it has much more to see then a day trip on a cruise ship so I always encourage people to come back that may have spent a day in the old city.
There are some off the beaten path ways to see the city as well like hike up Srđ one morning to have a view of the city, find a private rock on Lokrum to sunbathe and go see a musical performance in the old city at dusk. I also love day trips around Dubrovnik, horseback riding along the cliffs, seeing a water polo match, a day trip to Ston or spend a weekend along the Neretva in Metković.
What were your impressions of Croatian cuisine and wine?
I rant and rave about how good Croatia food and wine is to someone almost every day. However, this is also quite dangerous because I feel all I do when I am in Croatia is eat and drink! From the beginning I was blown away with the variety of food and how fresh it is all made! People always tell me they want to go to Italy to eat and I say forget it…go to Croatia! The wines of Croatia are also very special; in fact it is really hard to pick a favourite as they are also so very different! From Slavonia to Istria, to the islands and of course Pelješac- you could go wine tasting in every region! I’m a California girl and our wines are pretty good, but I’ll take a glass of Zlatina over any other wine any day!
Are there any plans in the future to return to Croatia?
I always have plans to return to Croatia. In fact, I know I will be there this summer for sure! One thing I have not done is seen Croatia from the sea by sailboat, so that is what I would like to do, go island hopping around and take a real vacation! I will be doing lots of filming in Europe this summer so I hope Croatia will be my “home base” verses going back and forth to the U.S. I can’t wait to be back!