When did you last try something new on your travels? When was the last time you felt real euphoria and the thrill of the unknown?
by Maria Angelova

In the spring of 2016, Ivalina Nenova and her team, the people behind the largest tourist projects in Bulgaria (the tourist portal NasamNatam.com, and the series of guides 50 places to visit in Bulgaria), invented a fun new game. Every time someone from the team visited a destination, their colleagues came up with a list of challenges for them to complete. For example, eating a particular flavour of ice cream, hitchhiking to a specific location, playing beach soccer with the locals, taking a ‘selfie’ with a Bob Marley double …. Gradually the game took shape as a business idea and the book “203 Travel Challenges” entered an overcrowded guide book market. It offers a new model of travel – one that goes beyond visiting famous sights and taking photos. A model where you complete challenges from the book, or you invent the challenges yourself. The goal is to avoid skimming the surface of a destination and being fed the typical commercial touristy stuff, which is so difficult to escape in today’s packaged world.
Challenges from the book include: travel in the footsteps of a favourite character from a book or film, welcome the Beaujolais nouveau, bathe in a waterfall, go on a journey only knowing the start and end, travel for free. The book contains 203 ideas with detailed descriptions and variations of challenges both for beginners and seasoned travellers.

“The book contains many psychological and personal development strategies” says Ivalina Nenova. “While you are completing the challenges in the book as a game, you don’t even feel how you are easily changing within yourself. You start to notice much more, to value more people around you, and to change your spheres of interest, because you get to know yourself better.”
After the success of the book in Bulgaria, the English version “203 Travel Challenges” became available worldwide via Amazon. A new website www.203challenges.com features new ideas for challenges, inspirational travellers from around the world and ways of diversifying travel.
“Getting out of one’s comfort zone is not an easy task, but it gives you so many new perspectives. We had to get out of our own zone of comfort to tackle the competition in the market. That meant making a change first in ourselves and then in the projects we create. This change required us to face our fears. It is not by chance that for me one of the most demanding challenges in the book is challenge No. 78 – “Do something you’re afraid of”. But that’s what brought us satisfaction and confidence in ourselves. Ironically, the very book we created, challenges us every day. For example, in the process of its management or the interpersonal relationships in our team. And this is how it is when we challenge ourselves,” says Ivalina.

My favourite is challenge number 202 – Give up on something. This reminds me that we cannot have everything at once. To deny ourselves something actually means to devote ourselves to something else.
I also really like challenge number 61 – Cuddle a kangaroo or a koala, or another animal. I look forward to kissing a koala or penguin or a dolphin – dreams are meant to come true!
I would not do challenge number 32 – Skateboard on the crater of an active volcano. Skateboarding is not my thing. But I would adapt the challenge and walk round the rim.
My challenge to readers is number 149 – Bring a Friend on a Surprise Trip. Choose the destination and tell your friend only the date, time, and what to wear. Then share your story with us at editorial@elysium.press