coworking-bansko

#StartUpSelfie about Co-Working and Digital Nomads

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Sometimes a song can bring a thousand memories. Whether is the beat, or the lyrics, your favorite chorus, can take you back in time and space. Sometimes a specific smell can do the same to you. About a month ago, it happened to me. Group of five people, in one car en route to Bansko, Bulgaria. The place where I learned how to ski as a kid, but somehow didn’t visited for more than 15 years…

We arrived there in the middle of the night and as soon as I went out of the car, it was a flashback! There is this specific smell that brought so many good memories. Anyone who has ever been there will know and for those willing to visit Bansko will notice, I’m sure. Even though not in the ski season, I was excited to be back, with the purpose of working weekend organized by Co-Working Bansko.

What’s the idea behind co-working space in Bansko and this ‘unconference’, where my first questions to one of the co-founders Matthias Zeitler.

“I love Co-working. It is a great working environment, that allows me to make connections with like-minded people. I met Uwe (the other co-founder) on a Co-boat sailing trip last year and we were thinking about creating a co-living space somewhere. After some research we realized that Bansko could become a great hotspot for location independent entrepreneurs like us and we decided to create a co-working space there together with Irina. Being new to Bulgaria we wanted to get to know other coworking spaces in the Balkans and show them what we plan in Bansko. We have been at various coworking conferences in the past, but we couldn’t find an event that specifically brings people from the region together. So we decided to organize our own ‘unconference’. Initially we had no idea if anyone would follow our invitation, but quickly realized that a lot of people were quite happy that we provided them with this opportunity to exchange ideas and learn about others that are involved in coworking around them.” – said Matthias.

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Saturday was a full working day. We were around 20 people and we split in two groups and worked on different topics like: marketing for co-working spaces, attracting digital nomads, growth hacking tools and techniques, mini acceleration programs etc… During the coffee breaks we were able to get to know each-others better. One of them is Lulu Anderson, super cool Digital Marketing Nomad from the USA and I wanted to learn more about her story:

“This past October I quit my job and life in Boston with no backup plan while on a “3 week vacation” to Indonesia. I bought a laptop in Thailand and then after 2 months of working in hostels and a dive shop I decided to start pursuing some freelance work. In Vietnam I found an amazing coworking space and secured some US based clients. What I’ve learned so far is that Digital Nomad can be a very broad term – my version of it is a mix of working for trade, volunteering with dogs and 10 hours of freelance weekly.

I’ve learned a lot about balancing my hourly rate and the amount of my life I want to exchange for the work I provide, it’s given me a very different perspective on what sort of work-life balance I want for the future. From August until October I helped manage Playworking in Montenegro, a coworking-coliving space. The Bansko opportunity came up and we thought it would be a great experience to network with other spaces in the Balkans. I rented a car and drove through 5 countries in 1 day to get there, which was totally worth it!

So far I have learned a lot and if I can share some piece of advise would be these three things:

– Have a couple thousand dollars in savings for unforeseen travel woes, bed bugs, cancelled flights, flat tires, and cool experiences that come up along the way!
– Don’t over-plan, some of the best times I’ve had have fallen into place when something else didn’t work out.
– Add some purpose into your journey otherwise the travel alone might not be enough reason to keep going on tough days. I bought a mountain bike in Portugal and volunteer at dog shelters all over to keep my compass pointing in a good direction.” – says Lulu.

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Some of the digital nomads out there need to consider visa arrangements while traveling to or staying in XY country. Coming from a non-EU country I was eager to learn more about the experience of Marija Aleksovska. Digital marketing nomad, from Skopje with an idea to open up a co-working space in Tenerife.

“I’ve been outsourcing my great talents for a Canadian Web Marketing Company for 3 years now. As an Internet Marketing Strategist, my role and mission is helping small to medium Canadian businesses promote themselves on the world wide web. Working from the comfort of my home and still being dedicated to my job and company full time, I needed to find a solution for the lack of social interaction. I started by visiting the local start-up and co-working community and long story short I ended up in a car with 4 awesome people I have never met before in life, on our way to Bansko.

My first trip accompanied by my money maker (my laptop) was to Barcelona. I rented a room for a month. Not being used to travel that much before, I stayed the first 3 days in my room, asking myself constantly “What have I done?”, “Why did I book the room for the whole month?”, “I think I want to go home now”.

But things got better, and haven’t stopped traveling since. My favorite place is the Canary Islands, as I spent half of 2016 here, looking forward to celebrating New Year’s Eve on the beach. During these past months I’ve learned 2 crucial things so far, both of significant importance:
1. You need people in your life, make friends as much as possible, you can only take pictures of monuments and nature for so long. We are all travelers in the wilderness of this world and the best we can find in our travel is an honest friend.
2. Whatever it takes, get a good internet connection and ergonomic chair and desk….and a bed…and eat healthy” – says Marija, with a huge smile on her face.

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Sunday afternoon, we gathered for a coffee at the foot of Pirin Mountain, before everyone departs, to reflect on the working weekend.

“My biggest learning was that we all have our own ideas about what a coworking space should be, based on our personal preferences and goals. However a lot of challenges are very similar and we can learn a lot from each other. Also I am very happy that we made lots of new friends and several people are already planning to come to Bansko again, either individually or with some of their members for a workation.” – Matthias says.

“I would most certainly recommend  co-working space Bansko. We had the privilege to take a peek at the new office they are building and it has that ‘Starbucksy’ vibe with a coffee shop and a fireplace. Great and dedicated team as well, can’t wait to go back there and hopefully learn how to ski. Lots of tourists as well, so you’ll get the variety factor.” says Marija, who is already planing a month in Bansko for February 2017.

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To all my ‘location independent’ fellows out there, Co-working Bansko is opening in 10 days. Check your schedule, book your flights and enjoy the beautiful nature in this amazing ski resort.

See you all there!

Cheers

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