Turn the Dream into Reality: Things I Learned at Bansko Nomad Fest 2023

As soon as I arrived in Bansko, I was captivated by the cool summer breeze, the tranquil streets, and the silence of the mountains surrounding the resort. I checked in at my hotel and then headed to the town center to see what was happening.  Located right next to the Holy Trinity Church, the town’s main square was buzzing with energy as the Bansko Nomad Fest 2023 kicked off its opening celebration. I got my badge and brightly colored pink T-shirt and then mingled with the cheerful crowd. Their laughter and chatter filled the air. The atmosphere was effervescent, and everyone was so excited to be there you could read the excitement on everyone’s faces. Some joyfully reunited with old friends, and others, like myself, wore expressions of anticipation and slight bewilderment, experiencing the festival for the first time.

Everything culminated with an amazing group photo of almost 700 people wearing pink T-shirts.  

Upon my arrival in Bansko, I couldn’t believe I finally got to attend the biggest digital nomad festival in the world. It was a long-awaited dream come true that I had wished for since 2020. All kinds of obstacles seemed to be getting in the way. But this year, in 2023, I had the chance to immerse myself in this extraordinary event, and I must admit, it exceeded all my expectations.

How to get to Bansko?

Bansko is 156 km away from Sofia, so if you are traveling by plane, it is very convenient to land in Sofia and then take a bus or car. You probably should take the car if you’re coming from Romania like I did. There are 543 km, and arriving at Bansko will take you around 7h30min – 8h. 

girl smiling in car

I stayed in an Apart-hotel right next to the Bansko Gondola Ski Lift. I had to walk around 20 minutes to arrive at the town center and 30 minutes to reach the City Park. Some days I woke up late in the morning; I was happy I had the car to spare those 20-30 minutes of walking distance.   

The festival unfolded across three distinct places: the Nikola Vaptsarov Community Center, serving as the Main Stage; the Bansko Visitor Information Centre, hosting the Cinema Stage; and the City Park, where the exhibition area and Unconference stage were located.

There was also a Facebook group that we all had access to and an event app. Even though it was a bit slow on Android, it helped me organize my schedule and prioritize the activities I wanted to participate in. However, the 24 hours didn’t seem enough when you’re at Bansko Nomad Fest!

What were the highlights of the keynotes?

While I’ve been a freelancer for a few years, I am very new to the digital nomad lifestyle. This seems to be my most natural step after attending the Bansko Nomad Fest 2023. At this festival, there are many talks and presentations about the digital nomad lifestyle, entrepreneurship, mindset for success, nomading with kids, and even real estate. Bansko transformed into a digital nomad hub over the years, having a lot of affordable accommodation options, coworking spaces, and incredible natural landscapes. On top of that, its location makes it easy to explore nearby countries like Greece, Turkey, North Macedonia, and Romania. 

 The keynotes were happening in the mornings and lasted until lunch. These are some that caught my interest during the festival:

Home: finding a definition that works for you 

Presenter at Bansko Nomad Fest 2023

Beck Power explored the way each of us defines having a home. And for those who need a home base even when living as a digital nomad, it’s important to determine your essential criteria before choosing a specific place. What stayed with me after this presentation:

  • It’s super important to know yourself and what your needs are in terms of having a home. Beck shared with us useful checklists on how to discover these needs.
  • Stop caring about what other people think or do. Sure other places may be trendy, and we can face our families’ criticism regarding our choices. But rather than doing something that is not aligned with us, better to follow our own intuition. 

How I went from being a workaholic to a 25-hour work week while growing the business 

It was a great presentation by Domenico Pinto on productivity and how to work fewer hours without compromising on productivity. I found answers to a lot of questions I had about organizing my time and tasks in such a way that I constantly add value to my business. For example, knowing what tasks you should do yourself, when to delegate, and how to differentiate between the urgent and essential ones. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does it add value to the business?
  • Will it make a difference if it’s done by me?
  • Will I be quicker, more efficient?
  • Is this the best use of my time?
  • Is it a one-off or repeat task?

The Real 4-Hours Work Week – Make more while doing less

On the same subject, working less while achieving more and living purposefully, I particularly enjoyed Jannis Riebschläger’s talk about the 4-hour work week. It was a different approach to living, working, and traveling, finding out-of-the-box solutions for having the things you wish without compromising your time. Because, in the end, time is not only money; it is our life. Here you can watch Jannis’s entire talk, which is available now on YouTube:

Working from anywhere without working from everywhere

I resonated with this subject presented by Nathan J. Thomas from the very beginning. Once I started to travel more, I noticed that it’s difficult to fully enjoy a place when you are constantly thinking about work. And, of course, if you don’t have so many work commitments, you can fully enjoy traveling but don’t have many resources to live on, and then the financial stress shows up. This was an interesting topic and a 100% real problem. As a freelancer communication strategist, I intimately know both types of pressure, which are very unpleasant. 

Keynote presentation at Bansko Nomad Fest 2023

The solution? To constantly grow as a professional, but at the same time, don’t justify your happiness through countless hours of hard work. I particularly liked Nathan’s idea of putting the NO in Nomad. Before saying “yes” to any new project, ask yourself if it brings you any 3 or the following 4 benefits:

  • Money
  • Learning
  • Meaning
  • Fun

I also participated in a presentation about real estate properties in Bansko. This is a segment that has constantly developed over the past few years. We’ve also visited a few apartments to get to know the market. 

I’ve learned so much during this festival! From AI tools and how to use them as a marketer to how to manage remote and asynchronous teams efficiently. Additionally, I have acquired valuable insights into cultivating self-trust in business and developing a success-oriented mindset.

And those are only a few of the many subjects presented. The keynotes were happening simultaneously on the Main and Cinema stages, so I had to choose. Still, I believe that many of these subjects deserved more than 30 minutes of our time.

What else was there to experience? The Unconference and fun activities

Girl in the park

In the second part of the day, after lunch, there were many interactive workshops and meet-ups at the Park. The Unconference concept is so cool. It promotes interactive discussions on different topics. I participated in a few, but mostly I enjoyed taking a short break in the afternoon. I strolled among the tall trees while listening to the sounds of nature or just unwinding. It seemed so easy to immerse myself in the beautiful nature that Bansko generously offered to everyone who visited it.

The town center is full of small cafes and cozy restaurants with terraces. It is just perfect for a chat while savoring a cup of the finest capuccio. The streets were almost empty, with small shops here and there. Still, after leaving the overly crowded and heated Bucharest, this seemed like a little paradise to me. 

As the evening arose, other fun activities were waiting for us. We played scavenger hunt, although the unexpected rain made everything more challenging.

Then we went to the hot springs at Izgreva to enjoy a hot bath and network. And, by the way, our dinner at the hot springs was delicious. So don’t miss that one if you’re going there next year!

people sitting around the bonfire in the forest

One of the most incredible moments of the entire week for me was the Epic Bonfire Party on June 29th, coinciding with my birthday! It took place in the woods, where we even had a DJ and danced while the air was filled with floating soap bubbles. We had lots of fluorescent sticks to create all sorts of amazing objects like oversized glasses and funny headbands. Moreover, everything was thoughtfully set up in a designated area within the forest, complete with convenient restrooms. With two bonfires burning, we danced joyfully, indulged in delicious marshmallows, sipped on refreshing drinks, and let our creativity flow as we painted our faces imaginatively.

Other than that, there were plenty of other activities to choose from rafting, fitness sessions, meditation, enduro Ebike tours, wine, and beer tasting, just to mention a few. Trust me, you just cannot get bored at this festival. At most, you leave with major FOMO, like I did, haha!

The best part of Bansko Nomad Fest 2023 – meeting with some pretty amazing people

This year there were approximately 700 people at the event. It was a blast, and I connected with many inspiring and fun nomads. It’s amazing to see so many nationalities get together as they all live the nomad lifestyle. We were so different and yet so similar at the same time. 

I realized that remote working doesn’t necessarily open the door for you to the digital nomad lifestyle as a community does. 

I wish to see Bansko Nomad Fest host thousands and thousands of digital nomads in the future.  

girl pointing to the Bansko Nomad Fest poster in the park

It’s a great place to meet digital nomads from all over the world, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders. And on top of that, the local community of digital nomads living in Bansko is so wonderful and welcoming. I am looking forward to returning. 

I am thrilled to have finally transformed my dream into reality, getting the opportunity to participate in this festival as a freelancer. This experience has taught me the boundless possibilities and shattered that voice telling me I can’t have everything in life. In truth, you can have it all if you dare to step outside the concrete box you were raised in and embrace the idea that your life can extend far beyond the limitations you once knew. 

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