In my second week in Sarajevo, I am perplexed as to how life in Bosnia really works. When I write this, I mean to say how a relatively high quality of life is sustainable whilst the unemployment rate is over 40% and the average wage is around $400 a month, which would be well below the poverty line in the United States (However, the cost of living is much less expensive than in North America). Nevertheless, the residents of the city are typically well-dressed and fashionable, cafes and restaurants are occupied, and the nightlife is booming. Bars and clubs are packed in the evenings with citizens pouring into the streets. Even my Bosnian language instructor who is originally from BiH confessed to not completely understanding how the country functions in this manner. There is a large informal sector of the economy that accounts for some unreported earnings, but this doesn’t fully explain how so many are able to enjoy a reasonably high standard of living in one of the poorest countries of Europe.
Additionally, I did not think I would be so impressed with the epic landscapes of Bosnia. One typically thinks of the Swiss Alps or the scenery of the Tuscan countryside when it comes to romantic, natural settings in Europe. The mountains here rival those of Switzerland and Austria, while the lush, dense forests are from another world. Quaint, serene towns scattered across the green and scenic countryside next to lovely rivers and lakes make for peaceful retreats away from the city. There is so much potential here for the tourism sector of the economy to provide jobs to those who are desperately in need, although this has not been tapped into as of yet. While Croatia is the juggernaut of the Balkans in terms of visitors, Bosnia could pull more travelers into its own borders with the right approach.