“They should call it Banski, not Bansko,” my mom said randomly, as we were walking the 3.8 miles back from the only Lidl around, in the next town over.
“Huh?” I replied, half listening, half tuned out.
“It should be called Banski,” she repeated, thinking me quite daft at this point.
“Oh. Ha, yeah. At first I was thinking you were trying to make a Polish joke…,” I replied, as I finally caught on.
Bansko is a ski town in the Pirin Mountains of eastern Bulgaria. It had been on my radar for quite a few years, as it was a growing hotspot for coliving, coworking, and digital nomads. I’d most likely heard about this town from my fellow long-term digital nomad friend, Will, who I met some 4-5 years ago in Lviv, Ukraine.
Will had been living the nomadic lifestyle for years longer than we had, and was full of tips and info to share about it. I ended up bumping into him again at a hostel when I was solo tripping in Warsaw, Poland. And as us weird bunch of nomads tend to do, we continued staying in touch, every now and then catching up on each other’s location and asking for the odd travel tip/advice/info.
Toward the end of August, my family and I suddenly had just a few days to decide on the next place to go. One of those afternoons, my mom spontaneously uttered a string of shocking words: “I wonder if we should see new places in Bulgaria.”
What? *cleans out an ear with the pinkie finger*
I never, never, would have guessed that my mom would consider returning to Bulgaria.
Bulgaria as a country wasn’t especially horrible or anything. It was just that so many unfriendly and rude people, as the culture tended to be, well, quite brusque, made daily interactions with locals pretty unpleasant.
As we often say, it’s the people that make or break a country.
But here she was, considering a return tour.
I had just withdrawn from RIT, the university I’d been planning on attending in Zagreb, Croatia for a year or two. It was a US university from New York that had a few global campuses.
However, after arriving in Croatia, I soon found that the staff at the school were beyond incompetent. To keep a long story short, we had a fantastic time exploring the nearby town of Zapresic, where we stayed, but the university was a complete disaster. I was not looking to be in an unprofessional atmosphere, especially as I have never been a proponent of university anyway.
After a long while of praying about it, and every door for housing being closed, we all made the decision to continue with the vagabond lifestyle.
It was a relief really.
We had only a few days left of our airbnb stay in Croatia. After Bulgaria was mentioned, I proposed we go check out Bansko. I then immediately sent a message to nomad friend Will, who happened to be online and had arrived in Bansko just two weeks earlier. He sent gorgeous pictures of the town and confirmed that real estate and rental prices were some of the most affordable, about 200 euros for a one bedroom per month.
Just before leaving for Sofia, Bulgaria by overnight bus from Zagreb, Will sent me on a scavenger hunt for Asian ingredients to buy in Croatia and bring to Bulgaria. I ended up getting to use my (horrible, but slightly usable) Chinese to talk with the Asian shop owner, who was from Shanghai. 🙂
We spent our first couple days in Bansko in a hostel, meeting all kinds of the coolest people and travelers. It was truly a complete blessing to be back on the road.
We had Shabbat dinner with our new, wonderful Israeli friend and hostel peeps, had a fun dinner connecting with an American and a Brit/Frenchie, went to thermal pools with Will and his girlfriend and a group of nomads, got some work done at coworking centers and met other nomads, and for the first time since traveling, I actually got to play tennis! with Will and his girlfriend, etc.
So far, Bansko has been a wonderful spot for meeting fun folks. There are especially *tons* of Israelis here, and lots of Brits, and an unusually large amount of Americans. (haha, used the word “large” in the same sentence as “Americans.”)
We’ve secured ourselves a great spot here for the next two months, where I’ll be able to focus on working, hiking, and actually studying the new Chinese words I’m supposed to learn from my class each week. (I’m afraid I’ve been quite the disappointing student to my 12-year-old Chinese teacher. xD)
And thankfully my mom and Grace are fans of it here as well. The mountains are simply stunning and the old town is as cute as a button.
Come visit us!
What do you think? Would you be interested in visiting this fast-growing nomad hotspot?