Luka Tomas is 32 and lives in Zagreb. When he’s not leading trips for Flash Pack, he works as a freelance producer and musician. He has a BA in journalism and an MA in public relations.
Croatia is a small country, but it has many different influences. Those who live in the north in big cities like Zagreb see their southern neighbours as lazy – they spent their whole time on the beach, in the sun. But southerners get their own back; they call us “cold Northerners”.
I’m from Zagreb, so I’m a cold northerner but since my mum is from Dalmatia, I have a little bit of laziness in me, too.
“I’ve had people who’ve never jumped before and then they leap off nine metres and say, “wow, that was great!” It’s a really special experience and the river is wonderful.”
I have a style of guiding that I’ve developed over the years and it’s all about making people feel comfortable and relaxed. Some guides will be on the microphone for three hours on the bus talking about history, but that’s just not the way I do it.
There’s no hierarchy with me, I won’t say, “you have to do this, you have to do that.” Instead, I share my love of Croatia through anecdotes or I might make a special moment out of something.
For example, when we take the local catamaran out to a small beach on Hvar Island. I’ve been vacationing here since I was five years old and I tell everyone, “It’s fjaka time!”
Fjaka is a Croatian thing, it translates as siesta; hanging out on the beach or soaking in the sun with a few beers. I think everyone gets that idea and has fun with it. They follow my lead and develop respect for each other by being mellow.
That said, the Croatia itinerary is also very fast-paced. We see a lot in a short amount of time and people say, “Oh I’ve only been here a few days, but I feel like I’ve been here weeks.”
Croatia is opening up to a new market of visitors right now and with Flash Pack, we see the full scope of the country, from right up North to the South – with waterfalls, rivers and forest along the way.
One moment where people really get to push themselves is when we’re rafting on the Mreznica River. Not everyone is a great kayaker, but we pair people up and there’s fun in not knowing how to row the boats.
We have a jumping-off point which takes quite a bit of courage – you leap into the water from a cliff at three, five or even nine metres. Some Flashpackers are scared but the whole group is hyping them up and cheering them on. I tell people, “Don’t stand there, just go. If you stand there, you’re going to get nervous. It’s one step.”
I’ve had people who’ve never jumped before and then they leap off nine metres and say, “wow, that was great!” It’s a really special experience and the river is wonderful – it’s a beautiful, secret spot and secluded, even by Croatian standards.
“When you spend all day with people, you get to really talk to them and hear their stories.”
To be a good guide, you have to have patience and be open. When you spend all day with people, you get to really talk to them and hear their stories. You make friends, but it’s also about adapting to a spectrum of personalities.
People come in different shades. If you’re too extroverted, you’re not going to be able to connect with, say, a PHD scientist who works in the lab all day and is more self-contained. With Flashpackers, we have people from all kinds of backgrounds, so you need the sensibility to read people and make them feel comfortable in their own skin when we’re all hanging out together.
I’ve worked a lot as guide and I really enjoy leading Flashpackers because they’re a similar age to me; it’s easier to talk and hang out together. And the groups are generally very cohesive: no-one is late or irresponsible.
One thing I’ve noticed about Flashpackers is that they have very demanding jobs; they come from a grinding workplace. Every day is the same and they don’t get a lot of time off. So, the whole idea in Croatia is to wind down and be happy. It’s a completely different mindset.
Normally, you don’t have time to make friends but when you come here, you just relax, and some magic happens. Even after a short time, I see people really hitting it off and making connections.
It’s my job to create this good atmosphere. I’m here to facilitate people having one of the best times of their lives.
Fancy breaking out of your comfort zone and meeting great new people at the same time? Join us on our Croatia adventure right here.