He was shouting at me for not having the currency. He told me to get inside the taxi, and I had no idea where he was taking me. Well, if you are wondering what’s happening here, let’s start from the beginning to the story about Bulgaria.
I was traveling to Sofia,Bulgaria. Yes, it is a unique location. Many travelers (specially Indians) don’t visit there to Bulgaria. So, if you are going alone, it can be alarming.
As I landed in Bulgaria, I was in my jovial mood. Little did I know that there is trouble waiting for me. I was waiting in the visa queue to get the passport stamped. The visa officer asked me why Sofia? I replied, traveling. The visa officer told me to wait on the side. It was quite embarrassing when other tourists staring at you for standing on the side. After the visa officer finished stamping everyone, he came to me and asked again why Sofia, insisted that I’m traveling to the place.
He called his senior, who asked me the same question, and I kept my answer the same. The senior told me to get my bag. Once I got my bag, they took me to an airport prison cell. I started panicking yet kept my cool. These officials could have put anything in my backpack and put me inside the cell. I had no one to call or update anyone if they do something wrong to me. I was sure that they would not find anything in my bag. They started going through my stuff, and they removed almost everything out. I had a threptin (Protein biscuit) box with me, and they were skeptical about opening it.
Luckily, when they went through my papers and camera, they saw photos of Athens. Then they believed me and told me to pack my belongings in two minutes. I just put everything inside my bag and left. While leaving, they made me sign a declaration form that they have checked me thoroughly.
As my passport was stamped, the visa officer told me to take the metro for a cheaper travel option; I told him I have the money to take a cab. He smiled, told me, welcome to Sofia. As I stepped out of the airport, I was reacting as if nothing happened, but deep inside, I was quite shaken. As I was sitting inside the taxi, I was engrossed in my thoughts. Did they check me because of my skin color? Did they have some bad experiences with Asians in the past? I understood the world is not fair. Some tourist has not been asked anything while others are harassed. I was scared, and I did not even see anything outside my car. I just wanted to get inside my hostel and not do anything. But there was more trouble coming towards me.
My cab driver didn’t speak English, and it was difficult to understand him. He got me to my hostel at 8 pm; the gate was closed. I enquired in the nearby shops, and no one spoke English. I thought maybe I might have to sleep outside in some garden today, then what about my belongings, if someone mugs me? My cab driver was losing his patience, and he told me to give his money and figure the hostel thing on my own. I was carrying Euros and didn’t have the local currency (Bulgarian lev). Not aware of the currency rates, I was thinking maybe he is overcharging me. I told him no, I wouldn’t pay in Euros. He got aggressive, shouted so many things, nothing I could understand. He told me to sit back in the car. I had no idea where he is taking me.
He took me to a currency exchange. I got the local currency and thanked him. When I saw the exchange rate, I understood that the cab driver gave me a good deal, but I didn’t believe him as he was very aggressive. Funny how our perception can be so wrong. He asked me where he should drop me. I told him back to the hostel. I thanked him, and I thought where I would sleep outside as the hostel was closed.
Luckily, I saw there was one more door for the hostel. I was so happy to get inside the hostel on that cold night. There were so many uncertainties, but eventually, I checked in and went to my room. I was exhausted from the experiences of the day. I didn’t even order food, and I just wanted to go to sleep. Just wanted the night to get over, and I start fresh the next day. I couldn’t sleep comfortably; a lot of things were going on inside my head. I was thinking, traveling alone can be so scary. So many things could have gone wrong, luckily, I went through it without any significant consequences. I will never forget this night, never felt so vulnerable.
I came to Bulgaria to attend the Infinite Man summit organized by Sasha. It was the first time I would get a chance to meet Sasha (My mentor). I had volunteered to make notes for their videos. Before coming here, I got an excellent opportunity to interact with the team online. I had no idea how well this will work out, and I wanted to take my chances. I had nothing to lose but a huge opportunity to win. Bulgaria was Non-Schengen, and getting the visa was not easy. Everything was worth it as I would get a chance to work with my mentor.
The next morning, everything was different. I had an excellent breakfast to start my day, headed directly to the summit. I reached the venue early. The moment I entered; I saw Sasha. He smiled at me, and he was busy organizing the event. Then it happened, he came to me and asked if I could get him a cup of tea. It was like a movie moment when your hero comes up and talks to you. I was the only one attending the event from the sub-continent. Most of the attendees were from Europe and the USA. I met some fantastic people during the event. I was so happy during the fact that I forgot everything that happened the previous night.
All the three days was mind-blowing. Amazing speakers and excellent content. I had so many “ahh” moments during the event. It opened my mind; I thought so many things are possible in life. I would recommend this event to anyone who wants to improve life. The best part was attending a bonus class from Becca T, where you would dance and heal yourself. It is one of the oldest traditions, and it was a fantastic experience.
Sasha was not aware of who I was. On the last day, I spoke to Mike about introducing me to Sasha. When Mike informed, I’m the same guy who is doing all the video work for them. Sasha was happy to meet in person and told me that he would like to connect post the event. He invited me for lunch with the VIP guest. Imagine all these successful people in one restaurant, and you have seen them on YouTube, you are now having lunch with them. It was surreal, and I was awestruck. I was in my wonderland, rarely present. I was also uncomfortable as I couldn’t relate to most of the things they were talking about. The path chosen by most was unconventional. It was a different world altogether.
Post the event, Sasha invited me to his apartment with other team members. He offered me to be a dating coach with the company. He told me that I would need to go to the USA and learn how to conduct Bootcamp. I was super happy. I instantly said yes, told them I would love to take up this opportunity.
Midst the event, I rarely got time to explore Sofia. I would get up early, and the first spot I got to explore was the Cathedral Saint Aleksandar Nevski. It is a beautiful structure. In the evening I went to Vitosha Boulevard, this is the most happening place in the city. If you are single, you would love this place as every girl that will walk past you, will be gorgeous. There is music, and happy vibes all around.
I would leave you with a story; a taxi driver robbed one of the attendees. They isolated him and robbed him at a knife-point, took away his phone, wallet, and even his boots. Luckily, we contributed money for him, and Sasha gave in 100 Euros. Now, these instances will be rare, but it could happen to you. So be careful when you are using a taxi. Use apps like Taxime; this is famous in Sofia. The prices are also very reasonable. Don’t get into a cab which doesn’t have a meter.
– Do visit the Vitosha mountain in Sofia,Bulgaria. I could not go there as I didn’t have much time.
– Spend your evenings in Vitosha Boulevard, one of the best places the city has to offer.
– The taxi drivers are very notorious, be careful, especially at night times. Use the Taxime app for a safe journey. Google about taxi scams in Sofia,Bulgaria.
– Do visit the Saint Aleksandar Nevski Cathedral(Sofia,Bulgaria).
As a traveler, you will face many adversities. These events will shape you as a person. Travel is full of surprises, just like life. When I look back at these experiences, it makes me smile.
This is Shekar, I see you in the next one. Ciao.
All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me. You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.