A graduate of the School of Fine Arts in Belgrade, Irena Petković (26), together with her partner Bojan Ralić, created the alter ego, brand and business called Queen of Compass in Vietnam two years ago. Through that, they made their travels their life.
A Business Team
Irena and Bojan travel and create marketing content for clients in the tourism and hospitality industry. As a business team they have the same goal—to create the best and most creative brand presentation. At the same time, both of them have their own preferences. Bojan enjoys portrait photography and capturing spontaneous moments, while Irena enjoys the food, everyday life and culture of a nation. After Vietnam, their goal is to do the same all over the world.
“For years I’ve been swimming upstream in the rivers of art, photography, painting, graphic design and creation. After graduating from university, I realised that it wasn’t enough. Even though art is what I always thought I was, it turned out that I was so much more than that. I’ve enjoyed working in the marketing, organisation, and tourism industry. I’ve learned that I feel equally passionate about all these industries, and I’m always looking for something that could unite all my passions. My greatest passion—the need to explore and travel—had to encompass it all. Queen of Compass shows it all under a magnifying glass,” says Irena.
Living Next to a Beach
It all started with an online post, a note about everyday life in Vietnam and as a wish to present the country. Then, it turned into a need to show to those who are curious to know more what it is like to be an immigrant in Vietnam, and through their own experience, help them organise their trips in the future more easily.
“Before long we knew that this was slowly becoming our main preoccupation, and soon it became our business,” explains Irena, who set off on a trip through Southeast Asia with Bojan in early 2020 thinking that the situation with the pandemic would end in a little while.
“Without much worry, our plan was to stay in a few countries for a month and finish the trip with a visit to Indonesia, where we planned to stay a little longer. We were travelling through Vietnam when Indonesia closed the borders, and shortly afterwards Serbia followed. We ended up being stuck in Vietnam not knowing that Vietnam would turn from a dream into reality. Life in Vietnam is fateful, unplanned, but highly desirable. As the pandemic struck, we found ourselves in the city of Da Nang where we had been based for two years. Da Nang became our home, more than Serbia, which is where we’re from. Living in Da Nang, next to the beach, comes with all the benefits of a comfortable and peaceful life. Travelling around Vietnam for several years allowed us to gain a real insight into how we wanted our everyday life to look like, and we were guided by that vision. We’ve built a business we love, the food is an everyday blessing for us—it is fresh, available, and of premium quality. Tropical life, freedom and perpetual exploration of something new and inspiring—that’s our life.”
There are a few more things that swept them off their feet.
Vietnam is blessed with astonishingly gorgeous natural beauty—despite having seen a lot in two years, they feel like they have only just scratched the surface and seen the important sites. People captivate you with their inner peace and positive outlook on life. Family is sacred to them and their friends are part of the family.
Since they are avid foodies, their palates are satisfied on a daily basis thanks to the availability of fruit, seafood specialties, light vegetarian food, traditional Vietnamese cuisine, and Korean barbecue specialties. On top of that, eating out is incredibly cheap.
Faith in Humankind
Irena and Bojan have visited many countries, but Mallorca is their first home outside their home country, Serbia, and a place they are always happy to return to. Morocco is their first real adventure, and a place they always wish to go back to. They believe that Thailand and Sri Lanka are the jewels of Asia, and the next time they revisit these two countries they plan to stay longer. Italy, and the Italian Alps, is a place where they would build a home.
“It often seems to me that I could write books about our adventures and the anecdotes that happened to us along the way. Travelling for us has always been like life in miniature: obstacles, quick problem solving, important acquaintances, unreal landscapes, excitement, research, and lessons. There’s one common feature in all the challenges we’ve faced and that’s the people. The way they’ve helped us in distress and made us feel at home has restored our faith in the human race time and again. All these people will always have a special place in our minds and hearts, and they’ll always be the stars of the stories that we’ll be telling at the table.”
Travelling has defined who Irena and Bojan are and changed them for the better. They viewed each culture they got to know, each acquaintance they made or problem they faced along the way as a reflection of themselves. Perpetual curiosity and research has led them on a journey of seeking knowledge and of self-discovery and continuous introspection.
“Travelling helps us become more open to change, differences become the norm, not fear. We become a lot more patient than we used to be and we pay more attention to the memories we look back on later on in order to validate the fullness of our lives. All this helps us gain a greater understanding of others and therefore of ourselves. When we understand ourselves, we’re at peace with ourselves and we live in harmony with our needs, and we’re happier,” says Irena in the end, revealing that they want their future home to be in Spain. In their dreams, they see a house not far from nature and the beach, with neighbours they are close to, the warmth of Spanish humor and the sophistication of Spanish cuisine… but all this will only be possible after they find success and fulfilment as digital nomads, young entrepreneurs travelling the world, creating content and exploring new places.