I think the question I get asked the most out here, by other expats, those thinking about moving here and the Bulgarians themselves is, why Bulgaria. My answer is probably very similar to everyone else’s, ‘because I always wanted a house in France’.
This is the truth, since returning to the UK in 1989 from Belgium, I always wanted to go back across the channel and Provence had a wildness about it that appealed to my nature, but then it became popular and out of my price range. So I saved a little more and the French just kept putting their prices up, it was like they were trying to tell me something and despite my belligerent nature, eventually I listened and looked further afield.
We found Sicily and fell in love with it, we bought a cheap do-er-upper and had a good friend and French architect complete the renovations for us, only to find that while we’d been busy plastering, painting and cramming a MkI Mondeo full of furniture, the Italians had cottoned on to the South of the island and suddenly the cost of living might as well have been in Kensington.
So on the search went for somewhere we could afford to live as well as buy…voila…Bulgaria. So you see the reason we are here at all is because the French didn’t want us and we couldn’t afford the Italians.
I did do some research on costs out here and estimated what we would need annually to survive and sparks started to fly about what we could do to make this a reality. You see most people that emigrate either do so on a corporate contract or are on a nice little pension, we had neither. So the result was we brought our imaginations, our willingness to work hard and adapt to the situation, packed up all our worldly goods (and a great deal of crap) and well here we are!
The ‘pot’ is not bottomless, in fact you could paddle in it, but we are doing most of the renovations ourselves where possible and learning so much about ourselves in the process. We have had some help, Barry rewired our house, Paul build us a little shower room while we dug our own septic tank hole and drainage trenches, Richard supplied our septic tank with instructions and support and a local guy built our barn wall for us …the less said about that the better!!
But the point is Dan has built floor frames and laid floor boards, rendered walls, built walls, fenced, dug holes, concreted floors, built a chicken coop, fitted a kitchen and I have plumbed in hot and cold water and central heating, laid a stone floor in our kitchen, tiled, painted, designed stuff, planned stuff, mixed 100s of barrows of cement by hand, fought off marauding ants, sanded, stained and varnished till I was high and all this cost us just the materials and a bit of imagination and effort.
Oh and we have so many more things to learn, the garden being the biggest challenge for me. We have the land I always craved, we have the opportunity to provide most of our food for ourselves, but have little to no knowledge on where the hell to start. This year I will be focusing more attention on learning these skills, how, what and how much to grow, when to plant and how the hell to use all the bounty I hope to harvest.
Then there’s the language. I’m looking forward to getting stuck in a bit more to learning that. A garage to build, a sauna and cob oven to design and build out of alternate materials, a terrace, a natural pool….everyday I look at this site that we chose to move to and my head burst with ideas, sometimes these have to flex and change as other’s ideas are added to the pot or roadblocks are put in your way, but this is just part of the excitement.
It hasn’t all been sweetness and light though, we have lost some treasured members of our family and new ones have joined us in the madhouse, but this is life and I’m just glad I came and found it instead of waiting for it to find me.
A friend recently said ‘to be honest I thought you’d be back by now, but your resourcefulness knows no bounds’. When we left England I was a Project Manager and Dan was a forklift driver so if we can do this so can you! It’s not clever, it’s not brave, it’s not even resourceful, it is just seeing that life is not infinite and sometimes taking a chance to get the kind of life you want is the right thing to do. Succeed or fail, either is better than regretting not trying!
You see the question should not be ‘why Bulgaria’ but more ‘why now’…that would get quite a different response!