Why I quit my career in Dubai and bought a studio in Bansko, Bulgaria

I’ve just come back from an amazing evening in the SPA right next to my apartment, after two weeks of “unconferences”, trips to Greece and delicious food. So here’s my story.

Here I am in Dubai, working at a major IT company, earning a shit-ton of money (tax-free), living in a hotel and taking taxis pretty much anywhere.

“What’s wrong with that?” You might ask.

Beautiful. Just not what I’m looking for right now.

Nothing. Except if someone had asked me, 10 years ago, what I would be doing at 27, I would have probably not said “working 9–5 in an office and bragging about the fact that I live in the glamorous Dubai”. After all if it didn’t suck they wouldn’t have had to make it prestigious.

After only a month I started being very anxious. I was so worried about my future and one day I decided to sit my ass down and try to figure out everything, old school: with pen and paper.

The result turned out to be a table of pros and cons, of people to learn from and people to get away from, of places to live in and places to leave out. And I quickly realized: this isn’t what I want.

I landed in Dubai at 4:30 AM on a Sunday. Straight out of the airport I took the metro to the Dubai Mall. I thought I would be excited to finally see the city. I wasn’t. I thought I would be excited to see the Burj Khalifa. I wasn’t. I thought to myself “I’m just tired, I’ll be more excited tomorrow”. I wasn’t.

I have to admit the lights look pretty cool while landing

I believe we all want different things in life and we all respond differently to the same stimula. For so long I thought living and working in Dubai would be so exciting that I even started forcing some excitement onto myself and the people around me. Such is the power of expectations. I lied to myself, I lied to my friends. I kept sharing photos and videos of cool stuff I’d do or see around (guys, if you are reading this, I’m sorry) without actually feeling like this was “the shit”.

Dubai wasn’t for me.

Again, great place but not what I’m looking for at the moment.

I went back to working remotely and I wondered why on earth I had left such an amazing opportunity for something so…Boring. I could finally travel more, do more, dream more.

And so it began, the quest for the perfect place to live. My first choice was Valencia (Spain). I had been there a couple of times and literally loved every spot of the city. But, this time, I wouldn’t go for safe and cozy. This time I would be bold. After all, Valencia will be there whenever I need it.

City of Arts and Sciences, Valencia

Bansko (Bulgaria) had been on my radar for a few years, only as a holiday destination. One of the best (and cheapest) ski resorts in Europe, amazing place for those who love skiing (yeah that’s me and no, Ski Dubai doesn’t cut it). Never as a place to settle down permanently or even temporarily.

Sorry but this wins.

Then Coworking Bansko happened. I started reading Matthias’ articles, the Facebook group’s posts, found myself staring at those beautiful photos and finding more resources about the town (like the excellent Bansko Blog). Until I decided to come visit.

The quiet space.

I’m writing this article directly from the desk of “the Space”. A place that made my definition of Bansko change from “a nice place to ski” to “a great place to meet smart people, with interesting personalities, doing cool stuff, and where you can even ski!”.

You’ll learn to love that umbrella

You might think I was attracted to Bansko (and Bulgaria in general) because it’s cheap and because of the low taxation.

And you would be (partially) right. I mean, I still have a pragmatic side.

But Bansko also revealed itself to be a great small town, clean, with welcoming people, good infrastructure, crazy fast internet, good food, green parks, plenty of activities (other than skiing) like mountain biking, horse riding, shooting, rafting, hiking, paragliding and more, and, most of all, a place to call home. At least for a while…

So after only a week here I bought a studio for less than 10000 euros. That’s not a typo. Less than 10k to have a base 1 km from the best ski resort in Bulgaria and the best value for money you can find in Europe.

This time I was bold.