Why I chose Bansko, Bulgaria as my first Digital Nomad base
When I told people in July I was going abroad to make websites the universal reaction was “when do you move to Thailand?”
So I had to explain that I wasn’t going to Asia and I was going to start off in Eastern Europe. I had a rocky start in Romania , mainly because I didn’t plan things well and because I hadn’t done enough research. I am now settled in Bansko, Bulgaria and happy here making Nomad Flights so I’m going to list some of the reasons why I came here and why I enjoy it:
- Community. The Co-working Bansko space is awesome for getting stuff done and meeting cool people. Outside of winter there isn’t a tonne of stuff to do ( well you can go on hikes but there’s no big nightlife or anything) so it’s a bit like being at university for the first time. Everyone makes an effort to be sociable because everyone is in the same situation and doesn’t know anyone. I’ve met a lot of great people here who have been a lot of fun to hang out with. Unfortunately the flip side is people are ways leaving so you can be good friends with someone for 2 weeks and then they are gone. But I think that’s the nature of the Digital Nomad life. I was a bit concerned before I would be bored in Bansko but someone always has an idea for something fun to do. My first week there was something on every night and this is still usually the case: Monday: present your startup ideas, Tuesday: Poker night, Wednesday: Board games, Thursday: Hot springs, Friday: football and then BBQ, Saturday: meal and drinks somewhere, Sunday: movie night
- Great work space — you have the choice to work from either the quiet space (think library level of quiet) or the social space (chatting is normal). My first couple of weeks here I was firmly in the social space but I’ve moving more towards the Quiet space niw I know more people and so I can get a bit more down. But it’s great that there is the choice between the two. There is also the basement in the social space which is sort of a midway point between being quiet and social.
- Learning new skills - the first Friday I was here Matthias, one of the owners, grabbed me and told me I was in charge of the BBQ. I was nervous as I hadn’t done it before and there were 30 hungry people. But it was fine and now I actually volunteer to do the BBQ! I’ve also got better at taking the lead in other situations and whereas before I might be passive and say “oh there’s nothing happening here” now I will organise a meal out instead and take the initiative. I’ve also started organising meditation sessions every day with a couple of other Banskonites here and again, I’m glad I can contribute something to the group.
- I’ve also got better at presenting ideas and taking constructive feedback. It’s easy to have lots of ideas for websites in your head and maybe a few close friends like them but if you share them with a stranger you will get a totally different perspective maybe and have to justify your idea properly. They might have a totally different view of it. I was initially going to do a paid trial of Nomad Flights but the resounding feedback from people here was to not do this right away as it would put people off.
- Low cost of living — ok, so I’m not saying it’s as cheap as Chiang Mai for everything although I think my $175 a month apartment runs close to this. Also, a friend here has got a 2 bedroom apartment here for €200 on a 12 month lease which is a bargain! I don’t bother making my own lunch here as sandwiches or even pizza from cafés cost $1.50 or $2. If I want to go out and eat I can have an amazing meal for $10. A two course lunch costs 7 Lev (about $4). So maybe not Chiang Mai cheap but still pretty amazing for Europe.
- Not on the other side of the world. I figured if I was going to be working for myself and developing websites, being somewhat close to home would be a good plan. If I need to I can go back to the UK in a few hours by plane. I think there is something good about not being complete far away from everything that’s familiar as I’m starting out. Also, some of my Scottish friends are visiting Bulgaria in a few weeks so I can hopefully visit them in Plovdiv, a nearby town which will get the European City of Culture in 2019.
- It’s somewhere new. Although I haven’t been to Chiang Mai , I have been to Thailand already. I had never been to Eastern Europe so although it’s not as exotic it is nice going somewhere totally new. Also I feel like there are already a tonne of nomads in Thailand. It’s almost like Thailand has replaced Silicon Valley as somewhere you are more or less expected to live (despite the nature of Digital Nomadism meaning you can live anywhere with good internet)
- Mountains - the views here are incredible. Every day I walk to the co-working space and see incredible mountains covered with forests. I took a day trip last week up to a mountain hut at 2,000m and just sat by a stream and enjoyed the tranquility. The fresh mountain air is also great!
- No bromads. Given the fact there isn’t nightlife here and that’s it’s a small place, Bansko tends to attract a more relaxed crowd in their 30s which is perfect for me. I’ve not met any loud or obnoxious people here.
Now of course it’s not all perfect here. Bulgarian customer service doesn’t really exist and you will get your meal when they feel like it. Also, apart from the Lidl one town over, the supermarkets aren’t great here. But I feel like these are just things you accept if you want to live in one of the cheapest places in Europe. Overall, it is an excellent place to bootstrap a business.