The Possibilities Of An Island
Travel+Leisure|March 2017

Obonjan, a summer resort on a tiny speck off the coast of Croatia, is part of a wave of seasonal retreats that mix rowdy good times with fervent self-improvement. Irina Aleksander tries her hand at both.

Irina Aleksander

As the ferryboat chugged west from the Croatian port of Šibenik, a narrow stretch of land came into view. Rising from the Adriatic Sea, it looked like the proverbial desert island that city people have in mind when they talk about running away to one, with lush, overgrown greenery framed by undisturbed pebble beaches. Docking at Obonjan, however, was a bit like discovering a busy ant colony in what looked like virgin field grass—if that ant colony were made up of millennials in bathing suits working on laptops, all swaying to the faint but steady thump of electronic music. Upon arrival, I was handed a cocktail and an hour-by hour itinerary of “fun” science talks and a yoga class named after a Nirvana song (“Come as You Are”). A twenty something redhead named Lorna was excited about a training session with a man named Chakabars Clarke. “Chakabars is, like, super famous for his philosophy on veganism,” she said. “And he’s really big on social media.”

Until very recently, Obonjan truly was uninhabited. Developed in the 1970s as a camp for Croatian boy scouts, it had been sitting abandoned until 2015, when Sound Channel, a British music-festival organizer, began turning it into a summer resort. Swimming and sunbathing are part of the draw, but Obonjan also offers talks about technology and philanthropy, Reiki, hypnosis, meditation, tarot readings, and stargazing. The goal is to attract a certain multitasking young professional who, having tired of debauched weekends, prefers to let loose with green juice, yoga, and a healthy dose of self-improvement.

Obonjan belongs to a new breed of seasonal resorts that are to “vacation” what co-working spaces are to “job.” In Ibiza, hotelier Claus Sendlinger opened La Granja, a members-only farmhouse with Slow Food workshops, full-moon rituals, and artist roundtables. Utah’s Summit Powder Mountain, a “next-generation alpine town,” hosts lectures, cooking classes, and fly-fishing excursions. You could think of these gatherings as part summer camp, part networking event.

Co-founder Dan Black ledge talks about Obonjan with the earnestness of a start-up CEO. “You can come and just swing in a hammock,” he said. “Or you can use the platform to try to better yourself.”

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