I just got off of a carousel full of 550 people and can’t wait to tell you what Bansko Nomad Fest is all about. The festival brings together more than 500 digital nomads, location-independent people, travelers, freelancers, business owners, remote workers, and anyone interested in the location-independent lifestyle and digital nomadism. It puts them on a carousel of keynotes, presentations, unconference sessions, exploration, and fun activities and spins the carousel until everyone has the chance to meet as many people and as many ways to celebrate this lifestyle as they can. And by the way, the carousel is in Bansko and the ones responsible for spinning it are our friends from Coworking Bansko.
While this is my first time attending a nomad fest, I have some expectations but am mostly open to anything and anyone that might happen. Since we’re about to move our Sofia base to Bansko, it will be great to check out the community there, once again. It was lovely last time when we had to chance to meet some nomads in late 2019, and now it’s time to get some reassurance, I guess. That everything can be all right and Bansko can be the place where you’ll find your people (as opposed to focusing on more secluded activities like skiing and hiking). By the way, Bansko has grown from a small ski resort town that used to get lively only in winter. It’s now home to an international and multicultural community welcomed by locals. English is widely spoken and you can even find vegan food.
Apart from the inner work that I need to do to deal with my doubts and anxiety, I truly believe that location independent lifestyle should be celebrated at any time. Plus I’m always happy to explore new ways to shine when I appear in different places and environments, or as grandma says, to sprout where I’m not sown. To get inspiration and to inspire while the energies of hundreds of people are swirling and mixing around.
Digital nomad – location independent – what?
There’s one very important disclaimer to add. We’re talking about digital nomads who (mostly) don’t have their hеrds of sheep, cows, or other stock. So don’t expect to see shepherds if you go to a digital nomad fest. We do have a lot in common, though, but I’ll talk about that later. You might think that this is common sense and why does she need to even talk about this? Well, this kind of clarity was much needed by some of the journalists who came to report on the event. So I thought it might be helpful to set the expectations right.
I decided to volunteer at the festival as a travel blogger. Here comes the second disclaimer – part of our partnership with Bansko Nomad Fest is to write this article about the experience. But to be honest, I would write an article anyways – I really so much believe this should be shared with the world. Now that the fest is just over, I’m excited not to miss anything that might convert you, dear readers, into potential digital nomads and location-independent lifestylers (wow that’s a word). Or at least plant the seed of the opportunity to live your life a little different, maybe even better, who knows.
Handling my first digital nomad festival
I knew that a wave of overwhelm will come as soon as I set foot at Bansko Town Square for the opening party. But it actually came much earlier, when I realized that the schedule is so packed with activities and sessions that I’ll be missing at least half of everything even if I do try to be at the festival from early morning to late evening. Maximizing the FOMO, as Matthias, the founder of Coworking Bansko, said. However, if Bansko can handle 550 digital nomads for a week, who am I not to be able to deal with Bansko Nomad Fest? I got my act together, and promised myself to strengthen my daily mindfulness routine (the busier you are, the more you need to meditate), and set my mind to try as many uncomfortable and awkward things as I can bear. Now that the festival is over, I think I made it – I went to a meetup for people who seek nomadic soulmates (while I have already found mine), I went to pitch myself for a job, and I introduced myself to more people than I can count, I dined out with communities I never thought I can be part of, I got to know people without living in the shadow of judgment, and I learned from people coming from 7-figure businesses to being homeless.
How does a typical day at Bansko Nomad Fest 2022 go? In the morning, you can start your day early with yoga in the park, a community breakfast, and fun warm-up games at the locations for the two stages (the theater and the cinema stages). Then we would start with 5-6 keynote sessions happening simultaneously at the two venues. Every session provides some space at the end for burning questions. For lunch, we would head to the park location to grab a bite and chat. After that, the unconference starts. Everyone finds their topic of interest and joins the conversation at the respective tent, where the casual sessions are facilitated by the person who pitched that topic. A great way to dive deep into a subject, or to learn about something totally new. The afternoon also holds space for fun trips and tours in the area, more yoga and sports, and of course, we get to dinner. You can join the community dinner location or just find your crew and have dinner together, or as it happened pretty much every evening to me – meet new friends and dine with them. After dinner, there are more fun activities like quiz night, karaoke, scavenger hunt, bonfire in the mountains, hot springs, pool party, and checking out the Bansko night scene.
Isn’t it overwhelming you might ask? It can be. But it also presents a unique opportunity to learn and grow at such a fast pace, to meet potential new friends, business partners, clients, and even your soulmate. So after I realized that it’s up to me to own this and make the best out of this week in Bansko, I arranged my schedule around the event so that I can be there for everything that seemed fascinating, have some time to be with myself, and also leave space for unexpected encounters.
About Bansko Nomad Fest schedule
So what was the content that I found so valuable? Get ready for a long list of great topics, and all the keynotes and presentations I attended and enjoyed so much!
- buying cash-flowing properties in US markets
- EFT investing
- finances and work-life balance
- impactful communication
- investing in properties in Bansko
- travel hacks for digital nomads
- publishing a book to support your brand
- lessons from building a 7-figure business
- buying and selling online businesses
- power of community
- We Nomads movie
- digital nomad life at war
- how to follow your intuition
- getting a remote job with no applications
- nomadic parenting
- how to optimize your sales pitch
- mission-driven work
- growing your business using Filipino VAs
- publishing bestsellers on Amazon
- fundraising for startups
- how to define your pricing
- coliving Frilingue
- retreats for mindful nomads
- conscious relationships
- growing communities with Facebook
- finding your purpose
- the 7-figure business panel
- the crypto panel
- the ‘living in Bulgaria’ panel
The unconference sessions brought even more color and practical hands-on experience. The list here is long as well, so here we go:
- intro to crypto investing
- WorkNomads coliving and coworking in Sofia
- how to organize group travel
- leveraging SEO
- honoring your cycle when you travel
- intuitive exploration
- remote job search
- fucked up dates
- how to achieve F.I.R.E.
- free tools to earn crypto
- wholistic lifestyle
- the Dolphin Club
I probably missed some but as you can see from all the diverse content, it’s hard to stay on top of everything even though I tried to take notes. My notebook was with me pretty much everywhere and now I’m reading it, trying to decipher this ugly script and first-graders sketches I put to “help” myself later.
Challenges and learnings
But having to deal with FOMO and being overwhelmed by a lot of inspiring content and amazing people were not the only challenges. There was this bonfire night planned at Coworking Bansko Playground up in the mountain. Of course, I booked the “get there by the big truck” option to spice up my adrenaline self and get to the location. But it turned out many people wanted to skip the hike and get on the truck so there wouldn’t be enough truck rides to get there. So I almost gave up and headed to the other party, in town, when I heard the question “Does anyone speak Bulgarian”? And as a decent Bulgarian who wanted to support guests of the country to enjoy it more, I answered the call.
So, there I was, trying to help in the communication between the truck driver and the volunteers, trying to arrange the next ride up in the mountain. I hopped on the gigantic truck and sat next to the driver, trying to convince him to come back to take even more people up to join the bonfire party. I must say that I am so not fluent in the Bansko dialect so I had to ask 4 times if I got the message right. At the end of the evening, we took and brought some people back from the bonfire, but couldn’t meet the rest of the group to pick them up as they were already partying hard downtown. I did learn some Bansko language slang (or was it cursing) to spice up my already far-from-boring week at Bansko Nomad Fest and was blessed to be accompanied by amazing people who waited for me to walk together from the suburbs to town. Digital nomads are the best!
Why go to Bansko Nomad Fest?
What was the biggest benefit of the experience called Bansko Nomad Fest? I saw how I can be part of the community or the sub-communities, by just showing up and being open to what and who I might meet. I think that’s the biggest strength of the digital nomad community. It enables you to meet people, find your tribe, learn and grow, feel a full-fledged part of society, and be happy. Plus you can never have too many crypto breakfasts, vegan community lunches, female entrepreneurs dinners, Nomad Soulmates meetups, travel bloggers coffees, and mostly random people magical get-togethers – over food, mineral water, or inside the hot springs!
So you might be wondering if such an event like Bansko Nomad Fest will be a great option for you, let me tell you what kinds of people I had the amazing chance to meet at the festival. Digital nomads, semi-digital nomads, digital semi-nomads (which btw is me right now), remote employees, employees who want to convince management to become remote, location-independent professionals from different industries, freelancers, people on sabbatical, entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs (we’re always a special category), and many who plan or want to become any of the above one day, sooner or later. So if your rational mind says you might fit in any of those categories, or your gut is telling you to go there and experience what’s going to happen, then I recommend you to sign up for Bansko Nomad Fest 2023.
I want to thank Matthias and Coworking Bansko for the opportunity to become part of the amazing volunteer team! Everyone put such a tremendous amount of effort and energy to create such a grand event! I’ve never seen so huge a team of volunteers (70+ people) working like a perfectly oiled machine. Hope next year the event is a blast again!