Returning to Bansko Nomad Fest for the second time after an unforgettable experience in 2022, I dove back into the vibrant world of digital nomads with excitement. As a volunteer, I had the chance to contribute to the event’s public relations, just like the previous year. However, this time around, I took on a new role as a speaker, sharing my own insights with fellow attendees.
Read on and join me as I take you on a journey through the unique ambiance of Bansko Nomad Fest 2023, where the nomadic lifestyle meets inspiration, connection, and adventure.
Who attended Bansko Nomad Fest in 2023?
The 2023 edition brought together over 700 attendees from 40 countries, representing all the continents (with the exception of Antarctica;). Behind the scenes, a team of dedicated volunteers exceeding 100 in number worked their magic to ensure the event’s success. With 60 speakers who shared their knowledge and over 100 participants who pitched and delivered interesting unconference talks, the festival buzzed with energy and enthusiasm.
A Melting Pot of Nationalities
Bansko Nomad Fest 2023 proved to be an international gathering of digital nomads from all around the world. While attendees from the United States, Germany, Bulgaria, and the United Kingdom formed some of the largest groups, participants traveled even from far-flung places like Australia or Japan. The event truly showcased the global reach of the nomad community, with representatives hailing from India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Colombia, Paraguay, China, New Zealand, Poland, Ukraine, France, Portugal, Switzerland, Albania, Greece, Croatia, and many other countries. It was particularly interesting to see Estonia as one of the best-represented countries, considering that its population is comparable to that of a mid-sized European city.
Nomads of Many Trades
Bansko Nomad Fest offers an intriguing glimpse into the rich diversity of professions embraced by digital nomads. This year it also didn’t disappoint. Remote workers, including software engineers, were well-represented, along with startup founders and solopreneurs running online ventures; some were very creative, like virtual sports coaching or online tarot readings. The event also brought together writers, journalists, digital marketers, online teachers, yogis, virtual assistants, AI specialists (including AI copywriters and graphic designers), and a wide range of coaches, from social media to spiritual and meditation. Content creators such as bloggers, vloggers, and podcasters added their unique perspectives to the mix. I was especially happy to meet many fellow travel bloggers, including:
- Maria from Travelling Buzz, my favorite Bulgarian and a girl that is just as crazy as me about adrenaline and extreme sports
- Jo & Dom from Red White Adventures, a Danish-Canadian couple that creates beautiful and insightful content
- Roza & Yarden from Nomads To Go, a couple from Israel that creates awesome videos, including the official Bansko Nomad Fest video (in which I have the pleasure to be featured)
- Bianca from The Altruistic Traveller who writes about ethical and sustainable travel
- Daniel from Digital Nomad Asia who is an expert on nomading in Asia, and a fellow surfer 🙂
What is Bansko Nomad Fest all about
An Abundance of Knowledge and Inspiration
Bansko Nomad Fest provides a vibrant platform for digital nomads to share their expertise on topics that are interesting to the community. Each morning, two stages hosted simultaneous presentations, giving attendees the enjoyable dilemma of choosing between captivating sessions. Thankfully, all talks were recorded and live-streamed on Facebook, ensuring ongoing access to valuable content. The speakers covered various interests, with AI stealing the spotlight as the hottest topic, attracting significant attention and numerous presentations. Other themes such as productivity, work-life balance, podcasting, passive income, coliving, self-publishing, living abroad, visas, taxes, and real estate also resonated strongly with the nomadic community. My own talk explored the fascinating world of Gamification, offering insights on boosting productivity and overcoming procrastination in an engaging way.
Here are the talks that I enjoyed most:
- “Future Travel Trends: 25 Hot Startups to Follow” by Ian Cummin from Travel Massive
- “Selling With Storytelling” by Samson Vowles, who has a Youtube channel called Delightful Designs on creating graphics with AI
- “Should You Have a Podcast?” by Palle Bo from The Radio Vagabond
- “Can Social Media help you achieve your goals?” by Stefanos Antypas
The Unconference: A Lively Exchange of Ideas
In the afternoons, the festival transformed into a more relaxed outdoor venue at the town park, setting the stage for the highly anticipated unconference sessions. Over a hundred participants enthusiastically pitched their diverse topics on the first day of the Fest, and the organizers ensured that each and every one of them found a spot. These sessions became dynamic hubs of interactive discussions and knowledge sharing, surpassing the stage talks in terms of engagement. Topics ranged from affiliate marketing, van life, and money mindset to startup fundraising, language learning, indie hacking, co-housing, or psychedelics. Among the unconference sessions, there were dedicated workshops on book writing, meditation, and even tantra. There was even a Muay Thai class led by the Hungarian female lightweight champion!
Nighttime Festivities: Connecting and Having a Blast
When the sun went down, Bansko Nomad Fest came alive with a range of evening activities that brought people together for networking and pure fun. From speed dating to karaoke, scavenger hunt, trivia, and a talent show where attendees could showcase their skills, the evenings were filled with excitement. Every day ended with a lively party, starting with an opening bash in the town square where even heavy rain couldn’t stop us from dancing. Add to it a crazy bonfire night in the woods, a hot springs evening, and an epic pool party, during which it rained again. But no one cared; we were all in the water anyway, admiring an amazing double rainbow in the sky.
Discovering Bansko’s Surroundings and Adrenaline Spiking Adventures
Venturing beyond the festival grounds, attendees had the chance to immerse themselves in Bansko’s natural wonders. The renowned Rila Monastery, steeped in centuries of history, showcased Bulgaria’s rich cultural heritage. A visit to the Bear Sanctuary offered a heartwarming experience, witnessing these majestic animals enjoying their newfound home. Wine-tasting tours allowed participants to savor the flavors of the region, indulging in exquisite wines and experiencing the artistry of winemaking.
A cherry on top was a visit to the nearby mountain village of Semkovo, where an abandoned communist hotel is being transformed into an international coliving space for digital nomads. At the moment, this hidden gem provides an exciting URBEX experience, with a surreal atmosphere reminiscent of a horror movie scene. Fumbled bed sheets, full ashtrays, old newspapers, scattered documents and floppy discs, and random ski equipment paint a picture frozen in time, offering a fascinating journey back to the 1980s. However, it will be fully renovated by next year and ready to welcome nomads with modern comforts and amenities.
Seeking an adrenaline rush? Bansko has it all. Enthusiastic hikers explored breathtaking trails, conquering peaks with panoramic views of the Pirin mountains. Adventurers embarked on rafting expeditions, riding the exhilarating river rushes. Horseback riding offered an intimate connection with nature’s beauty, while enduro trips tested the mettle of daring souls on rugged terrain. I personally did the former, trying an electric motor-cross bike for the first time. And I sooo enjoyed it, even though I came back a little bruised and scratched.
My experience as a speaker at Bansko Nomad Fest 2023
Last year, I had the pleasure of mingling with various speakers at Bansko Nomad Fest, and the thought struck me – why not give it a shot myself? Not only would it be an excellent opportunity to practice public speaking, but it would also push me outside of my comfort zone. So already, a year ago, I made up my mind and decided to apply as a speaker alongside my volunteer role. The application process began in the fall of 2023, and a few months later, I got an email welcoming me as a speaker.
Preparing for my talk required a fair share of work. Crafting the perfect slide deck and practicing my presentation to fit within the strict 25-minute time limit kept me on my toes. Balancing my dual role at the festival and wanting to enjoy and connect with others left me feeling slightly overwhelmed. Coincidentally, my presentation was scheduled for the day after my birthday, so instead of partying, I found myself honing my speaking skills. But you know what? I have no regrets!
My main goal with speaking on stage was simply to try something new. I also hoped it would spark more meaningful connections and conversations with like-minded people. Little did I know the impact it would have. Not only did I receive heaps of positive feedback, but also some intriguing collaboration offers that I never saw coming. It’s funny because I had actually hoped to make those kinds of connections at a much larger event I attended previously, the Websummit in Lisbon. You might have heard of it; it’s one of the largest tech events in the world, boasting 70K attendees (compared to 700 in Bansko). What Websummit failed at, Bansko Nomad Fest delivered in ways I never expected.
Being a speaker at Bansko Nomad Fest proved to be an extremely rewarding experience, boosting my confidence and opening doors to exciting opportunities. If you have valuable insights to share with the nomad community, I wholeheartedly recommend applying as a speaker (typically in September or October). You never know what incredible connections and experiences await you on this vibrant stage.
Is there anything about Bansko Nomad Fest that I don’t like?
Huge FOMO alert! Bansko Nomad Fest is an absolute blast, but there’s just so much happening all at once. From insightful talks, thrilling activities, and epic parties to delectable dinners, it’s hard to choose where to focus your attention. Meeting new people and catching up with friends from previous years can be a delightful challenge. And with parties that go on all night long, followed by early morning yoga and stage talks, sleep becomes a luxury. And if that wasn’t enough, the Pirin mountains that surround Bansko are simply begging to be explored with their breathtaking beauty.
That’s why I highly recommend extending your stay in Bansko. Give yourself more time to enjoy all it has to offer, meet new friends, and truly immerse yourself in the nomadic experience. A lot of people do so, and this year I followed their example and spent a total of four weeks working from Coworking Bansko and enjoying its community events. Not to mention going on hikes nearly every day!
Why I recommend attending Bansko Nomad Fest
First and foremost, it’s an incredible opportunity to meet like-minded people who truly understand and embrace your nomadic lifestyle. Your family and friends back home might not quite grasp your choices and keep asking when you’ll settle down or find a real job. But at Bansko Nomad Fest, you’ll connect with plenty of individuals who have no intention of following that path. It’s a chance to finally feel like you belong among your own tribe.
Prepare to be inspired! Whether you’re an aspiring nomad looking for ways to incorporate this lifestyle, dream of starting your own online business, or find passive income streams, Bansko Nomad Fest is where you’ll find amazing people doing extraordinary things. What’s even better is that they’re eager to share their experiences and support you. There’s no sense of competition or envy here – just a true community spirit that encourages growth. Let me share a personal experience: Last year’s Nomad Fest actually helped me revive my travel blog (yes, this very blog!). I was experiencing burnout and had been facing writer’s block for a while, but meeting some incredibly cool travel bloggers at the festival inspired me to give it another go!
But that’s not all! Bansko Nomad Fest also offers fantastic opportunities for collaboration. Whether you’re looking to find new clients, potential employees, or engaging projects, this festival is a goldmine. In fact, I found it much more effective than a 100 times larger event I attended. It’s where meaningful connections are made, fruitful discussions unfold, and exciting collaborations take shape.