I spent a week at Bansko Nomad Fest — an international gathering of nomads to network, learn, and celebrate location independent living. Here’s my thoughts and reflections from the world’s largest digital nomad festival.
The first thing you notice at Bansko Nomad Festival is the sheer size of the nomad community as you check-in at the town square and assemble for the group photo amongst a sea of pink festival t-shirts. Wearing the pink wrist band identifies you as part of the community, and you quickly spot fellow attendees at cafes, restaurants, or just walking down the street. I felt included everywhere I went, and there was a genuine sense of community for the whole time I was in Bansko.
One surprising thing (but it’s kind of obvious) is how many Travel Massive members are part of the the digital nomad community. Every day I bumped into Travel Massive members — including old friends and people who I knew online but hadn’t met in person. We also hosted a Travel Massive lunch and it was fantastic to meet members in our community and learn about their travels, and make new connections within the group.
“What’s your QR code” said Alex, as he put his beer down to exchange WhatsApp contacts. It was past midnight and we’d been having a great discussion about Antalya, a beachside town in Türkiye popular with nomads where Alex runs a coworking. We connected on WhatsApp, and arranged a catch-up at the airport before our flights out of Sofia. Instead of a pocket full of business cards that I’ll throw away, my phone is lit up with new WhatsApp conversations and groups with people I will actually keep in contact with. The magic of connecting on WhatsApp is that it’s a mutual agreement to scan each other’s QR code — I’ll never accept a business card again!
Almost everyone in the digital nomad space is an entrepreneur — either building their own startups, or consulting with clients. Naturally, people are curious how you make money, so it’s a common phrase to overhear “what’s your business model?” during the week. The resulting phenomenon is a continuous feedback loop of conversations about revenue models. It was mind opening to learn how people are making a living, and everyone was happy to listen and give feedback about their businesses. These conversations are a really valuable part of the festival.
One highlight from the festival was meeting the co-founders of Mapmelon (Sole and Ramon) and Nomadago (Ben and Danny) who are putting nomad communities on maps (literally). I attended Mapmelon’s talk about the history of nomadism, joined their groups for coffee, and hung out with Danny at a dinner. During the week we brainstormed ideas and hatched a plan for a cool meta-map feature on Travel Massive. Ramon’s already built an API endpoint, and I can’t wait for a quiet moment to write some code on our end to create our MVP 😎
When you first arrive in Bansko, you can’t help but notice there’s cats on every street corner, and they are all looking at you! 👀 There’s also some street dogs (most are friendly, some not so friendly…) “If you want to adopt a pet in Bulgaria, just bend over and pick one up, and take it home!” said one of the comedians at the talent show, to a roar of laughter. If you’re an animal lover, you’ll love Bansko. Being around furry animals makes you feel happy.
The week also featured a host of social activities, and one of my highlights was the bonfire night in the woods, complete with DJ, disco lights, self-serve drinks, and glow sticks. Nomads certainly know how to throw a party. Afterwards I hitched a ride back to town with @belaroundtheworld in the back of a Russian jeep driven by Phillip, a friendly British guy who runs a popular Jeep Safari Tour business in Bansko.
My #1 take away from Bansko Nomad Festival is how positive and talented everyone is in the nomad community, both in business and in spirit. Fittingly, the closing ceremony ended with a talent-show, with some entertaining music, dance, and comedy performances that showcased the creative talents within the community.
Bansko Nomad Festival is what happens when you bring together talented entrepreneurs from across the globe into a space to be creative, to have fun, and learn. The energy and genuine friendships this event created will create new partnerships, businesses, and probably change some people’s lives — the sky is the limit!
I’m very thankful to have had the opportunity to attend the festival and meet so many incredible people in the nomad space, to make new friends, and be part of a movement that’s creating their own destiny in travel.
A few days after the festival, my friend Silvia messaged me on WhatsApp: “I really miss the community”.