My €150/Month Digital Nomad Apartment in Bulgaria
This, my friends, is a game changer.
What if I told you you could rent a fully-furnished, turn-key 1BR apartment in a ski town for less money than your current, monthly electricity bill?
You would probably think I was crazy. In fact, even I couldn't fathom this possibility less than a year ago. But last summer, on the advice of perennial digital nomad hero, Johnny FD, I decided to move to Bulgaria. To be honest, before meeting Johnny on the Nomad Cruise, Bulgaria wasn't on my radar. But after a month of traveling through the Mediterranean with a few hundred other remote workers and entrepreneurs, I needed a break from socializing and a change of scenery (first world problems, amirite?).
As a teen, I traveled the world as a competitive surfer, then student athlete in college, then through study abroad programs. Upon graduating with my MBA in 2005, I headed straight to Costa Rica to start a career in real estate. Since 2011, I've helped more than 1,000 people relocate to 25 different countries through my remote relocation company. At the same time, I traipsed through about 60 countries on my own. Basically - what I'm trying to say is that I thought I'd been there/done that and that nothing could surprise me anymore.
I was wrong.
When Johnny suggested we go to Bulgaria, my interest wasn't exactly piqued, but I trusted his judgment and decided to take a look. I was surprised at what I found after researching online.
As a full-time digital nomad, I change home bases every 1-3 months for the most part. But after spending three months in hyper-expensive Japan, then a month of non-stop travel with the Nomad Cruise, I was looking for a place to go that met the following criteria:
Low cost-of-living - I'd been spending money like it was going out of style and needed to pull back
Close to Athens (the nearest airport to where we were in Santorini)
90-day visa so I could stay put for 3 months
Quiet and peaceful
Healthy lifestyle (Let’s just say I gained some weight on the cruise)
Good co-working space
Digital nomad community to meet people
Bulgaria checked all the boxes, so Johnny and I [spent 5 hours booking our trip] then headed to the airport.
In our research, we found a huge disparity in rent prices. Based on some tips from the co-working community, we decided to ditch Airbnb and look at places in person through a local property manager. I'm glad we did, because monthly rent prices on Airbnb were anywhere from $500-2,500 per month (a normal range for most cities), while local rates are more like €150-250 per month. I know; I know - that’s not a typo.
Airbnb Rent Prices: $500-2,500/month
Local Rent Prices: $200-300/month
Anyway, so the plan was: Athens -> Sofia -> Bansko, a small mountain town known for skiing but that happened to have a solid co-working space, Coworking Bansko, and a year-round community of digital nomads and expats.
Upon arrival in Sofia and through our bus ride to Bansko, I wasn't sure what to make of Bulgaria. Johnny and I spent a few hours on the bus just watching YouTube videos to give ourselves a crash course in Bulgarian history, geography, and culture.
When finally we arrived to Bansko, we found a sleepy mountain town that looked more like a ghost town than a trendy ski resort destination. Our future landlord, Miroslav, picked us up at the airport and took us to see some units for rent.
Most of the buildings look similar in Bansko, built with bricks, red roofs, and wooden accents. There are also plenty of unfinished construction projects (for reasons that I can go into later). Inside, the apartments are pretty basic. Most have rustic, wooden furniture, kitchenettes, and basic amenities. As a former real estate agent of 7 years, I wasn't super impressed with the indoor interior.
After living in places like Vancouver, Tampa, Amsterdam, Tokyo, Sydney, and London - I'd become acclimated to a more chic, modern style of architecture. You could say I was admittedly spoiled.
Johnny and I selected two apartments in the same building and spent the rest of the day unpacking every single thing we had. I was feeling an adrenaline crash from months of travel, plus a bit of culture shock. But I settled in for a 3-month stay in my new home. My goal was to focus on work, sleep, health, and getting into a daily routine. You can see the interior of Johnny’s apartment here, where we filmed an episode of Travel Like a Boss Podcast.
Over the next few months, I fell in love with Bansko and my apartment.
It was hard to conceive that I was perfectly happy and content paying a FRACTION of what I'd been spending on rent for the past few years.
Some rent examples:
2BR Loft in San Jose, Costa Rica
2BR Condo in Charlotte, NC
1BR Apartment in St. Petersburg, FL
Studio in Roam Tokyo co-living space
Yet, here I was - happy as a clam in an apartment that cost anywhere from 6-15% of anywhere I'd lived in the past six years.
I knew I had to share this discovery, so I made this apartment tour video and wrote this blog. My hope is that this will prompt people to think about what would be possible in their lives and what types of personal and financial goals they could reach if they decreased their housing expenses by 90%. Also, to remind people that long-term travel is way cheaper than living at home or going on vacation.
Here were my rent expenses:
May 2018 €200 (all utilities included)
June 2018 €180 (plus electricity)
July 2018 €150 (plus electricity)
Spoiler Alert: My electricity bill was €20/month (obviously, this would be higher in winter). Even if you have to pay for ultra high-speed internet, that could run you another €10/month.
Enjoy, everyone! As I write this in January of 2019, I'm back in Bansko - renting a fully-furnished 1BR apartment for €250/month all-inclusive of utilities.