I’m freshly showered and sockless, sat in a freezing cold hostel in the middle of Bulgaria. We would have missed out on this particular town completely had it not been for a kindred waitress in a restaurant in Sofia, who said we had to come here as part of our trip. “OK, sure,” was the general consensus of my boyfriend and I, “we’re just killing time.” We also figured the name of this penultimate destination on our month-long trip – Veliko Tarnovo – would sound pretty good in a rap verse (him) or a blog post (me).
For those not in the know, the Netherlands move had to be put on hold for a month for contractual reasons, giving us the smug excuse of hastily making travel plans that would sustain us for a month while we waited around. September was spent in a state of near-distress, wondering how on earth we’d find an apartment in an overpopulated town of students when we were previously both freelance and every real estate agent needed to see payslips from a current employer. Turns out sending a bunch of invoices wouldn’t suffice (understandably, I suppose), but after spending three weeks between hostels, caravans on eco-farms and surfing friendly people’s couches, a guardian angel (formerly known as a friend of a friend) came through and let us take over the contract on her beautiful Dutch apartment, complete with high ceilings, narrow stairways and the Euro-standard lack of bath.
Where would you go if you had a month to kill? There was no point going back to London – no tenancy was tying us down and we’d already said goodbye to our friends three times over. I obviously wanted to go to Italy to put the six Italian classes I’d completed earlier this year to good use, but after doing some simple maths we figured it would take a huge chunk out of our savings, which weren’t looking too bad, but not too bounteous either. (I’d spent a year living frugally AF in London, so wasn’t in a position to spend €90 on a gondola).
Bulgaria it was. And what a great decision it’s turned out to be. Dividing our month equally between four cities – the “multi-layered city” Sofia (named so because of its stacked-up archaeology), then Plovdiv, a town so beautifully named and even more beautifully formed. We then took the train to Varna, because if you’ve got a month to spend somewhere in Europe you may as well spend some of it at the coast, and now Veliko Tarnovo, where everything looks like an Instagram post, you can’t help but walk at a snail’s pace and take it all in (okay, maybe the steepness of the hills also slows me down).
We climbed a mountain on our second day but haven’t exerted ourselves too much since. Here’s a photo of me wearing my Peckham Rye t-shirt in the middle of a mountain range in the Balkans. I look fairly pleased with myself but I did cry a bit when the altitude got a bit much.
Spending a month somewhere is ideal because you don’t feel as guilty for spending whole days doing nothing. In October 2018, I knitted 1.5 scarves, had many 4pm beers and became acquainted with several hostel cats. We’re now heading back to Sofia for a couple of nights and then flying home (!) to Amsterdam, ending two rent-free months of transient life *namaste*.
I’m really excited for whatever the next year brings. London is a great city but I felt no compulsion to stay put. I don’t agree that “if a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” I think “if a man is tired of London, it’s because he grew up in a small town and London was just too expensive. And he went on holiday a few times and realised he could live and work anywhere else in the world so long as there was Wi-Fi.”
Anyway, time for dinner. Until next time!
P.S I am launching a newsletter this Sunday! Resourceful is a weekly email for people interested in living with less and saving some money. It’s going to be about figuring out what you really need and learning how to be happy with it. I promise to steer clear of too much ‘financial mindfulness’ BS and will occasionally drop in some tasty voucher codes. I’ll share more details on my Twitter page this week while I’m waiting to board my plane, most likely.