Gotta love what you do!

What do I do? …or the last 3 years in a 1000 words!

Gotta love what you do… I’ve heard the cliché so many times. And until 3 years ago I really thought my future was in the hospitality sector. I was working in hotels, big hotels, small hotels, climbing the ladder of success as you might imagine, trying to reach the TOP. The top being becoming a hotel manager. Oh happy days…I will get to be important, I will manage people, I will go to serious meetings, with my little suits and corporate looks. Oh well, it turned out it wasn’t meant to be. I am looking back now with relief that it did not happen at all. More than 3 years ago, after a serious medical emergency / health problem, I moved to the quiet town of Bansko, where life is separated in a high and low season and something in between. A place where the streets are named after my grand-grandparents, where the mountain is my guru, where life is simple and yet not boring at all.

3 generations in a selfie

Here I started to finally enjoy life, I began to read a lot, to do crafts and I got reunited with my long lost passion — painting. The local people were wondering who I am and why I am here. My friends all asked me the same question — “Are you nuts? Why the hell would you move from Sofia (the capital) to Bansko?” Then, pretty soon after that all of them, one by one, came to see me and confessed that secretly every one of them is dreaming of leaving the big city and going into a more quiet and balanced existence.

my house in Bansko… photo by Plamen Gonev

The thing is, Bansko is not a village, it’s small yes (only 7000 people are sharing the views here), but it’s not quiet at all. You see Bansko is a ski town, and a lot of people from all over the country and quite a few foreigners come here to work during the high season — the town literally doubles in population. A few of those “aliens” (as they are called by the locals) have become my best friends and we share some of the most amazing memories together. So yes… I had the opportunity of a fresh start, and we all think of Bansko as our restart button, our safe house, the place where we started to really live. I’m not saying it’s perfect, naturally living in a small town has its downsides, but waking up every day to the magnificent Pirin Mountain, knowing you can reach the beautiful meadows in 5 minutes, having natural hot springs 4 km away, eating juicy home grown tomatoes from the grandmas in the market or homemade butter from Nataly, and being able to go to Greece or Sofia in 2 hrs — it’s worth every downside…believe me.

Finding a job in Bansko was another thing; salaries are way lower than in Sofia, but fortunately for me, after my stay in the hospital the appetite for fancy clothes and shoes has become minimal. Anyway it is not very easy to walk the streets of Bansko in high heels I tell you. Tried it once, will not try it soon again. It is a hill town after all! So yes, salaries are relatively low, but there were so many niches that could be developed, so many things I could do. And I tried, with my friends we started an advertising company, design and photography, basically everyone came on board with what they are good at. We called it Talent Team. Then we had this great idea to make a delivery service for food in Bansko, we almost did it. Then one day browsing in GoDaddy looking for an interesting domain I saw that www.ilovebansko.com is available. Oh I had so many ideas for this… we had hundreds of ideas, but none of them really made it. As you can see the entrepreneurial community was already here, we just needed more people like us to support us in this endeavors.

So when I heard that some people I don’t know are opening a Coworking Space in Bansko I was thrilled. “Finally, something for me.” And when two days later I received an email saying “Hello Irina, we are opening a Coworking Space in Bansko and we want to meet you and to discuss how we can work together if you are interested…” “If I am interested? Hell yeah!”. We meet, we chat, we shake hands and we begin. And I tell you Matthias and Uwe are people that you need to meet, this German-Austrian Timon and Pumbaa like combo, are not only very smart and amazing individuals, but also such fun to be around.

The story of us finding a location, struggling with construction and other interesting things I will leave for another time. But I’ll tell you this, educating the locals about the new thing in town and explaining “coworking” to people that have never heard about it, turns out to be a pretty difficult task. “So it’s an office?” “No” “It’s an internet club?” “Sort of ..wait..what…No!”

The truth is it’s all of those things together. Coworking is a combination of a lot of things, but mainly it is an environment, a creative zone, where like-minded people work, collaborate and flourish together. And since we officially opened on 15 December 2016, a few members already started business together and we have had and have members from Australia, Austria, USA, France, UK, The Netherlands, Belgium, Malaysia, Turkey, Canada, Macedonia, Croatia, Israel, Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, and Bulgaria… I hope I am not forgetting anyone. We are expecting people from Kenya, India and Nigeria. I think it’s safe to say, we have a small world here, and in contrary to the big world out there, we live in peace and cooperation ☺

opening of the coworking space

So those were the last 3 years of my life in just a little bit more than 1000 words.

Gotta do what you love…they say. What do I do? I work in a small world. And I love it!

Irina

Artist and a Coworking Panda