Coworking Bansko – OR How to Build a Digital Nomad Community in Bulgaria

“You come for winter, you stay for summer, and eventually you move here for the community” – they used to say in Aspen, Colorado. The same couldn’t hold more true for Bansko, Bulgaria and the Digital Nomad community Coworking Bansko has built here.

I left the US an year ago to come help my parents in Bulgaria and a big piece of my heart remained in the American West. It wasn’t for the destination, despite nature being incredibly beautiful; it wasn’t for the journey, despite stunning landscapes and my favorite off road travel; it was for the people of the American West that I fell in love with. What was left of my “bleeding heart” Coworking Bansko stole within my first week here. I didn’t think I could be SO exuberantly happy in Bulgaria, the country where I was born and raised and I tried to escape at all costs. I thought my gypsy soul would always seek movement and adventure. That was until I landed at Coworking Bansko.

Come visit and you can get your own Mont Vihren poster – I did 🙂

I arrived in Bansko in the off season, when all the ski tourists had long gone and the summer crowds had not yet arrived. With 2 weeks to spare between jobs, I was looking for a peaceful place to read and write and, if possible, expand my professional skillset. When Coworking Bansko invited me to put together a Digital Nomad Guide to Bansko I saw that as a sign from the Universe to take a break from life (because that’s what living here feels like) and come see what all the hype around Coworking Bansko is about.

A little bit of history…

Bansko is a small mountain village with rich 18th century Bulgarian Revival history in southwest Bulgaria about 2.5 hrs drive from Sofia and Plovdiv and 4 hrs from Thessaloniki (Greece). Matthias and Uwe started Coworking Bansko in December 2016 just as the ski season was about to kick off. They wanted to create a base for themselves in Bulgaria, live in this beautiful mountain paradise and take advantage of the 10% flat tax rate but without other like-minded people it would have been too boring. So they started Coworking Bansko as a community for location-independent remote workers to do their daily jobs and learn from each other while having fun. In just 3 short years Bansko has become a well-known digital nomad destination with 100+ members from all over the world coworking here each month. It is an amazing environment to be productive during the day and socialize in the evenings. In addition to the daily activities organized by the coworking space, the community hosts a wide variety of happenings on an array of interesting topics – from neuroscience to theater and from biohacking to ice cold river baths – there truly is something for everyone! The members explore the outdoors, practice sports and experience the incredible culture, and adventure in the stunning Bulgarian countryside. They share splendid wine, kayak through breathtaking canyons, and swim and relax in the healing waters of Banya’s 27 natural hot springs.

You come for winter…

In winter, Bansko is the most popular ski resort on the Balkans, featuring 75 km of ski slopes and 14 lifts with a season lasting from December to April. Being the highest ski resort on the Balkans, Bansko enjoys the deepest and most reliable snowpack in the region. In addition, the resort has 360 snow guns for early season snow cover and all the slopes have snow making capabilities. The town also hosts FIS World Cup alpine ski races annually which turn the small town into a big international event.

You stay for summer…

In summer Bansko is the starting point for exploring Pirin National Park and the surrounding mountains. The town offers multiple marked trails for hiking, mountain biking, and climbing; an 18-hole golf course; various horseback riding options; many spas with thermal mineral waters and wine tasting in nearby villages. Bansko also hosts a number of music, film, art and culture festivals which turn the small town into a lively scene with performers and guests from all over the world.

And eventually you move here for the community…

What stole my “bleeding heart” you may wonder? In the off season? Without a single tourist in town? And I am an incredibly picky, beyond demanding, extremely hard to please, high-maintenance customer…

  • perhaps it was the warm welcome Matthias and Uwe gave me, as if I were a long lost favorite cousin, that made me feel immediately like part of the family
This is not a pic of Matthias and Uwe but it is the current Welcoming Committee 🙂
  • or maybe the absolutely impeccable organization of my travel and stay
  • then came the welcome package with some unexpected goodies and my name on it
“Sometimes you want to go to a place where everybody knows your name…” – Cheers
  • and the series of on boarding informational emails that took care of all my questions before I had even thought of asking them
  • not to forget the super clean and comfortable accommodations
  • and how can I skip the delicious food at affordable prices at nearby restaurants, everyone leaves Bansko fat and happy!
  • a big but welcome surprise was the code of conduct and anti-harassment policy – I have never felt emotionally safer. No matter what my beliefs and opinions were, I was free to express them as long as they weren’t hurtful to other members.
  • daily activities organized by Coworking Bansko for members – whether it is Monday or Sunday, there is something happening and you can join for free
  • gatherings members organize ad hoc – in 2 weeks I never ate alone or at home 🙂
  • weekend travel and outdoor exploration organized within the group – new friendships are formed, expenses are shared and trust is the building block of it all
  • and that’s not all, inspirational, educational, and professional development events are organized weekly and monthly on a variety of topics

Still don’t believe me – in 2 weeks I met over 50 new people through Coworking Bansko. Those were some of the brightest, kindest, quirkiest, most interesting personalities I have ever met. Some of them will stay lifelong friends no matter where we end up living and not ONE of them was someone I didn’t want to get to know better, couldn’t find something interesting to talk about or learn from them, or generally disliked. Not ONE!

Some of the coworkers even followed me to Plovdiv for Kapana Fest 🙂 (and they lived)

And to prove I am NOT delusional, in the last 3 years more than 30 members have decided to become residents of Bansko, buying apartments here and incorporating companies in Bulgaria. Coworking Bansko is steadily growing, a second Gondola location was opened in 2018 and a third River location is about to become a reality in 2020 to allow expansion of the community to comfortably accommodate 100+ members.

Since I am an adventure blogger, it wouldn’t be quite right if I didn’t mix work and outdoor fun during my travels. Here is a guide to the perfect Workation in Bansko, no matter which activities you choose or which season you come visit (but you may just want to stay year round not to miss a thing as I’m definitely considering it.)

Events at Coworking Bansko

Bloggers on Top – A 3-Day All Inclusive Travel Blogger UNconference in the mountains of Bansko, Bulgaria. Join us Oct 4-6, 2019!

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Coworking UNConference – A 3-Day All-Inclusive Coworking Industry UNconference in the mountains of Bansko, Bulgaria. Join us Nov 8-10, 2019!

Bansko Nomad Fest 2020 – a celebration of the location-independent lifestyle and digital nomad mindset. For one week in June 500+ digital nomads, remote workers, entrepreneurs, and freelancers will take over the beautiful village of Bansko, Bulgaria for an amazing mix of presentations, workshops, sports, mindfulness and nature.

Summer Activities in Bansko – There is so much to do in the mountains and valleys around town in summer that even a year wouldn’t be enough to see it all. Located at 1000m altitude at the base of Pirin National Park, Bansko is the starting point for exploring the surrounding mountains, craggy peaks, meadows, and high alpine lakes.

Winter Events in Bansko – Ski in the morning, work in the afternoon, sip wine in the evening! Not a dream life, we call this our reality in Bansko 🙂 Ski races, movie events, concerts, cold beer, warm fireplaces, ice bars, hot springs, you choose, Bansko delivers!

Day Trips from Bansko – Once you have explored the Bansko area and you are ready to leave town for a bit, there are a number of sights to put on your “must-visit” list.

 

Want to learn more about Coworking Bansko (and not ready to come meet the team in person just yet?!) – check out this Digital Nomad Guide to Bansko I help them put together. Why do you think I couldn’t leave? After 20 pages of content I wasn’t even halfway done ONLY with the activities and events in the area 🙂

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Custom Coworking Bansko mural created by the talented Nomad in Residence Ad Alonso

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