This 33-year-old man left the US for Georgia and lives on $1,592 a month

In 2020, Mike Swigunski was among millions of people in lockdown as the Covid-19 pandemic swept the world. But instead of snuggling up with roommates or family, Swigunski was 6,000 miles away from home, alone in a foreign country.

Swigunski had only planned to visit Georgia, a small country that lies between eastern Europe and western Asia, for 30 days. But when Georgia closed its borders in early March to help slow the spread of the virus, the Missouri native was forced to extend his stay in the country’s capital, Tbilisi.

However, as Swigunski recalls, he quickly fell in love with Tbilisi’s old-world charm, as well as its laid-back culture of good food and warm hospitality. Now, Swigunski, 33, lives and works in Tbilisi as a nomadic businessman, a decision that has helped him live “a better quality of life for a fraction of the cost,” he tells CNBC Make It.

If I lived in the US, Swigunski adds, “I’d have to work a lot more… I’m semi-retired now.”

Tragedy, then wanderlust

Swigunski had always dreamed of traveling the world, and before graduating from the University of Missouri in 2011, he found himself at a crossroads: pursue a traditional corporate job or travel to Prague, where he was offered the opportunity to lead a group of students. who study abroad.

Then, a month before graduation, Swigunski’s mother died of breast cancer. “He was absolutely devastated,” she says. “He was 22 years old and I didn’t know which way to go… but I knew my mother would have wanted me to follow my dreams.” He decided to follow his passion and booked a one way ticket to Europe.

Since then, Swigunski has visited more than 100 countries, living and working in different places for months or years: he has been a travel writer in Korea, an advertising manager in Australia, and a marketing and sales manager in New Zealand, among others. jobs.

Four years ago, Swigunski decided to monetize his remote work and travel expertise. Her business, Global Career, is an online resource for job boards, workshops, training and more where people can learn about entrepreneurship as a digital nomad.

“These services are helping other people by inspiring them to create a different journey or start their own global careers,” he says. “I want to help other people become digital nomads in a faster way.”

Living in Georgia is ‘ten times’ cheaper than in the US

Swigunski’s annual income ranges from $250,000 to $275,000, and thanks to tax benefits in Georgia, he can keep much more of his income than he otherwise would.

Georgia has a 1% tax rate for individual small business owners like Swigunski, and the US has an expat tax benefit that excludes up to $112,000 of taxable income.

“Running multiple businesses from Georgia is definitely a lot easier than if you were in the US and it mostly comes down to cost,” he explains. “If I was trying to replicate my same infrastructure in the US, it would probably be ten times more expensive.”

Under Georgian law, citizens of 98 countries, including the US, can reside there for a full year without a visa and apply for an extension after the year is up, which is how Swingunski continues to live in Georgia.

Her biggest expenses are rent and utilities, which together add up to about $696 a month. Swigunski lives in a two-bedroom apartment with a private Italian garden that he found through a local real estate agent. “As soon as I saw this place, I fell in love,” she says.

Here’s a monthly breakdown of Swigunski’s expenses (through February 2022):

Mike Swigunski’s average monthly spend

Gene Woo Kim | CNBC do it

Rent and utilities: $696

Food: $469

Transport: $28

Telephone: $3

Subscriptions: $16

Health insurance: $42

Ride: $338

Total: $1,592

One aspect of living alone that Swigunski learned he didn’t enjoy early on is cooking, so once he moved to Georgia, he hired a private chef to come to his house six days a week and cook meals for him, which costs about $250 per month.

A private chef might sound like a lavish expense, but Swigunski says it’s actually saved him a lot of money. “Without a chef, I’d be eating a lot more and ordering takeout,” he says. “But having a chef allows me to eat healthier and saves me money and time that I can spend on my business.”

“I am happier living in Tbilisi than anywhere else”

Swigunski’s favorite part of being a nomadic entrepreneur is that “every day it looks different.”

Every morning, Swigunski likes to enjoy a cup of coffee and read a book outdoors in his garden, then tries a quick meditation and exercise before logging into work.

He usually works from home because that’s where he’s “most productive,” but sometimes he heads to a coffee shop or co-working space with friends.

One of the biggest differences between living in Georgia and the United States, Swigunski says, is that Georgians are “much more laid back.” “A lot of places don’t even open until 10am and in general Georgians work to live, they don’t live to work,” she adds.

There is a phrase that describes Georgian hospitality: “A guest is a gift from God.” That has been true for Swigunski, who notes that people are “very welcoming to foreigners” and have been “absolutely wonderful” in the experience of him.

But living abroad is not as glamorous as it might seem on the surface. “It’s not for everyone,” says Swigunski. “There are going to be a lot of different variables that you won’t be able to replicate from your previous life of living in the US.”

Because Georgia is still a developing country, Swigunski explains, “The power or water goes out a little bit more here than other places; it doesn’t happen every day, but it does happen a couple of times a year.”

Although he is sometimes homesick for his family and friends in the US, Swigunski says he is “happier living in Tbilisi” than he would be living “anywhere else in the world,” and plans to stay in Tbilisi in the future. foreseeable.

“Would I live in America again? I don’t want to speak in absolute terms, I love America,” he says. “But as of now, I enjoy my life abroad much more than if I were to live in the US.”


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