I’ve had a blast attending Bansko Nomad Fest 2021 in Bulgaria. It was a fantastic event specifically designed to get together digital nomads from all around the world.
Honestly, community matters no matter where you go. And the community I’ve met in Bansko felt like home. And not just for me, but for a lot of them. Some of the nomads decided to buy an apartment in Bansko to stay longer. Crazy, right?!
But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let’s start with the basics to help you understand what Bansko Nomad Fest 2021 was like. And to expect in the future, if you decide to attend.
What is a Digital Nomad?
Like a traditional nomad, a digital nomad works remotely and lives a nomadic lifestyle, moving from place to place.
If you are a freelancer, business owner, remote worker and you only need a laptop and WiFi to work, you can be a digital nomad.
A particular characteristic is the extreme desire to travel and see the world.
Most stories of digital nomads start with an office job they hated, then had a quarter-life crisis (but it can also happen later than that), and then decided to travel the world with their savings.
Shortly after, that person discover the wonderful benefits of travelling (I write about them all the time on this blog) and decide to work online to earn a living and to be able to continue travelling.
If you are curious about the specifics of the term, then learn that the term digital nomad was actually used for the first time not too long ago. In 1997, Tsugio Makimoto and David Manners wrote a book called The Digital Nomad, in which the communication devices we have today were predicted. So far, it got it right.
As for the average age of a digital nomad, that is 35 years old.
What kind of online work do digital nomads do?
- Writing (That’s what I do. Check out my Work with me page.),
- Tutoring, and
Now that we’re done with the basics let’s talk about where these nomads go and how they like to spend their time.
What is Bansko Nomad Fest?
Bansko Nomad Fest is “a celebration of the location independent lifestyle and nomad mindset”.
That was the first thing I read on their website before learning anything else about the annual event.
I thought to myself, how do you celebrate the nomad mindset? I’ve never heard of such a thing before.
But then I learned that hundreds of nomads from all over the world would attend Bansko Nomad Fest 2021, which would be a week-long event. I saw a draft of the schedule, and it was full of TED-like presentations, outdoor activities and networking events.
The event is organised by Coworking Bansko, the first coworking space in Bansko. Matthias, the owner of Coworking Bansko, is always hands-on, and he is always working harder than anyone in the community, trying to ensure that everything works as planned. His dedication and hard work pay off with each successful event organised in Bansko.
After attending Bansko Nomad Fest 2021, I have to say that I now understand it.
Above all the activities (and there are more than you can attend), if I were to put my finger down on the one thing that makes Bansko stand out, it’s the community’s mindset.
Although lots of online communities claim to have the “We can do it together” attitude, in reality, it’s quite a challenge to find a real-world community that lives up to that attitude.
I believe that the many self-organised activities help tremendously in creating a bond between the members of the coworking place. And that just wouldn’t be possible without Matthias’ vision and dedication to the community. I have yet to find another coworking space owner so dedicated to his cause.
Why does this matter to you as a digital nomad? It matters a great deal since travelling is all about community and about sharing experiences with like-minded people. And that’s precisely what Bansko brings together.
Ah, I almost forgot. The event even had a TV special. You can watch it here (it’s in Bulgarian, but use the subtitles):
Why do digital nomads love Bansko, Bulgaria?
Bansko is an excellent choice for a short or even long term stay, from a few essential perspectives.
Bansko has a great location, lovely community, incredible outdoors, and it’s affordable from a financial perspective. Isn’t this the perfect combo for a digital nomad?
Bansko is located in the southwestern part of Bulgaria.
- It’s only 2 hours away (150km), by car, from Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. Transfers can be easily arranged, or you can take the bus ($10).
- Skopje, the capital of North Macedonia, is only 240 km away (3.5h by car).
- Thessaloniki, Greece, is only 217 km away and you can reach it by car in under 3 hours.
As part of the EU, Sofia offers frequent, low-cost flights all around Europe, and this turns it into a beautiful base if you want to see more of Europe.
Although Bansko is a small mountain town, its location makes it easy to go on road trips around the Balkans, and it offers excellent options for weekend trips and other daily outdoor activities.
There’s no time to get bored in Bansko.
Bansko is a renowned ski resort for a reason. But it’s more than just a great place for snowboarding.
Pirin National Park offers a great diversity of outdoor activities all year long. The wonderful nature blessed Bankso with fascinating hiking trails, hot springs, and more. Here’re some thoughts I wrote in 2017, after visiting Bansko for the first time: What’s it like visiting Bansko during summer?.
During the Bansko Nomad Fest 2021, the daily outdoor activities included quad bike tours, mountain biking, rafting, horse riding, trips to the hot springs, fire camps, outdoor camping and much more.
While nature’s gifts are a huge blessing for Bansko, the digital nomads that join the coworking place are the soul of the place.
Without it, it would only be just another pretty nature place.
But the community sparkles everything and brings the experience to a whole new level. For this, I have to give credit to Coworking Bansko for building a community since 2016 and never giving up.
Their hard work paid off and set Bansko as one of the best nomad places in Europe.
The financial aspect also plays a part in this thriving digital nomad destination. It would be hypocritical to ignore the welcoming aspect of the Bulgarian economy.
This makes it easier for anyone aspiring to be a digital nomad to start working remotely while worrying more less about the financial aspects of travelling.
The cost of a studio in Bansko starts from 150 Euro per month, which is one of the best you’ll find in Europe. The WIFI is excellent, the services are outstanding, and the food is good.
Pair all of these benefits in one place, and you’ll find yourself wandering around the streets of Bansko.
Bansko Nomad Fest 2021
Having been to Bansko before, I know that even if the event wouldn’t be of much interest to me, the place is lovely and is worth the trip, if only for a few hikes in the beautiful Pirin Mountains.
But I was overwhelmed by Bansko Nomad Fest 2021, and I enjoyed it much more than I was hoping to.
Bansko Nomad Fest 2021 Schedule
The schedule was designed to please all digital nomads attending, and I think it worked.
The morning presentations were scheduled to deliver key aspects of an online business. From a digital nomad to another, it felt reassuring to know that building a successful business online is possible.
As all of the attendees were in some shape or form digital nomads, there was plenty of insights I found particularly useful and eye-opening. I admit I’m a huge fan of TEDx Talks, and these sessions felt a lot like that.
Just to give some examples, here are a sneak peek of the topics discussed during the Bansko Nomad Fest 2021 talks:
- Prospering During a Global Crisis: How I Built a 7-figure business during a Pandemic
- Business & Travel Lessons learned in 10 years as a digital nomad
- Passive income: the ultimate way to enjoy your freedom
- How to make an online course from your expert knowledge for passive income
- How to Increase Your Online Marketing Income – by 10x
- Building a successful business and supportive culture in a virtual environment
- Security of your digital assets while you travel
- How to Stay Profitable While Being a Digital Nomad
- What I learnt travelling to 100 countries as a digital nomad
The main advantage was that all these wonderful speakers were right there, in front of us, talking questions. They even invited us to reach out to them after the talk, in case there were more questions or just to connect and network.
During the afternoon, there were multiple activities schedules, ranging from mountain adventures to unconference sessions in the park.
Basically, it was a safe space for anyone to organise a small group to discuss any topic of interest. I particularly enjoyed the workshop about women in the cryptocurrency space and the negotiation workshop.
The only regret I have is that I couldn’t participate in all the talks, since some of them took place at the same time.
Evenings were designed for relaxing and having a good time.
All evening events were a massive success, and it seemed like people want to keep on networking and having fun.
The evenings’ events included:
- Speed dating
- Jam night
- Hot springs pool party
- Scavenger hunt
- Karaoke (This was a HUGE success; Who knew EVERYBODY loves singing Baby one more time after they get tipsy?!)
- Campfire and outdoor camping
- DJ Pool party
- BBQ and cocktails
In lack of a better word, I’ll just say it was fun. But it was a lot of fun.
I already mentioned, there was no time to get bored during the Bansko Nomad Fest 2021.
Aside from all the morning talks and evening events, the daily adventurous activities included:
- Airsoft Tournament,
- Mountain biking
- Horse riding
- Quad ride
- Day trip to Rila Monastery and Rila Adventure Park
- And more. I can’t seem to remember all of it because so many of them happened at the same time, and I had to choose what to attend and what to skip.
Each morning started with a free1-hour long yoga session in the park and a short morning energiser before the morning talks.
I believe that the schedule needs to be handed out a few days prior to the event so that you can carefully plan out your days. That’s the only way to do it if you want to make sure you participate in all of the desired activities.
It’s really that crazy. But have I told you how much FUN it was?!
Combine all of the above with the networking opportunity, and you get a priceless week in Bansko.
There wasn’t a single hour of the Bansko Nomad Fest 2021 in which I didn’t network with someone completely new.
The event was set to have a maximum of 350 people, and it got sold out.
Because there were always so many different things going on, it didn’t felt that crowded. But it was amazing how even after a few days, I still had new people to meet.
The numerous group activities were a great environment to cultivate new relationships, and it all felt so natural, without any awkward moments, like other networking events have.
I think that there’s no other place to get to know digital nomads than Bansko. I mean it. Some of the nomads loved the community so much, and they decided to buy a place in Bansko, even though they only spend a few months a year in Bulgaria. That’s how great it is.
Who should attend Bansko Nomad Fest?
Bansko Nomad Fest 2021 was a lovely event, packed with everything you’d expect and more. Much more.
But I might be biased in my conclusion.
I am a freelancer myself and can work remotely from anywhere in this world, as long as there is a good WIFI connection. Give me that and a community who understand the need for travelling as much as I do, and you can call us friends.
That’s why I want to make sure you understand exactly what the Bansko community of digital nomads is all about and who is it for.
You should attend Bansko Nomad Fest if …
- You are a digital nomad.
- You can work remotely from anywhere in the world.
- You love meeting like-minded people.
- You love travelling.
- You have an online business, or you want to start one.
- You enjoy working from a coworking space.
- You love mountain towns.
- You are a nature lover.
- You do yoga.
- You are looking for an affordable place to travel in Europe.
- You are looking for a community of digital nomads.
If you tick at least one of these boxes, then Bansko Nomad Fest is for you, and you will have a great time in Bansko.
I don’t normally praise places so much. As a traveller, I don’t get attached to destinations because travelling to a new place is only a means for a new experience, which ultimately supports personal growth.
Bansko, however, is a place that will soon be on the map of many travellers and digital nomads.
Even as someone who travels a lot, I feel the need to be part of a community that offers support and which shares the need to travel mentality. And I found it, in Bansko.
Don’t get me wrong. Travelling is a great personal development tool. But so is the community around you. Travelling the world and meeting people from your travels in new places can only enrich the entire experience, and that’s something I hope all of us can experience at some point.
Here’s a not-so-short vlog from this epic edition of Bansko Nomad Fest 2021. Enjoy!
The question is, will I see you next year at Bansko Nomad Fest?