In 2020, Mike Swigunski was among millions in lockdown as the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the world. But instead of hanging out with roommates or family, Swigunski was 6,000 miles away from home, let alone in a foreign country.
Swigunski had planned to visit Georgia, a small country nestled between Eastern Europe and Western Asia, for only 30 days. But when Georgia closed its borders in early March to help curb the spread of the virus, the Missouri native was forced to extend her stay in the nation’s capital, Tbilisi.
As Swigunski recalls, though, he quickly fell in love with Tbilisi’s old-world charm, as well as a relaxed culture of good food and warm hospitality. Now, Swigunski, 33, living and working from Tbilisi as a nomadic entrepreneur, a decision that has helped him live a “higher quality of life for a fraction of the cost,” tells CNBC Make It telling.
If he had been living in the US, Swigunski says, “I’d have a lot more work to do… Now, I’m semi-retired.”
tragedy, then wander
Swigunski had always dreamed of traveling the world, and before graduating from the University of Missouri in 2011, he found himself at a crossroads: pursuing a traditional corporate job, or traveling to Prague, where he had to join a group. was given the opportunity to lead. Students studying abroad.
Then, a month before graduation, Swigunski’s mother died of breast cancer. “I was completely devastated,” he says. “I was 22 years old, and I was confused about which path to follow… but I knew my mom would want me to follow my dreams.” He decided to follow his passion and booked a one-way ticket to Europe.
Since then, Swigunski has toured more than 100 countries, working in various locations for months, or at a time: he is a travel writer in Korea, an advertising manager in Australia and a marketing and sales manager in New Zealand, among others. been with. Jobs.
Four years ago, Swigunski decided to monetize its expertise in remote work and travel. Their Business, Global Careers is an online resource of job boards, workshops, coaching and more where people can learn about entrepreneurship as a digital nomad.
“These services are helping by inspiring other people to create a different journey or start their own global career,” he says. “I want to help other people become increasingly digital nomads.”
Living in Georgia is ‘ten times’ cheaper than in the US
Swigunski’s annual income is between $250,000 and $275,000—and thanks to tax benefits in Georgia, he gets to keep a lot more of his income than he would otherwise.
Georgia has a 1% tax rate for individual small business owners like Swigunski, and the U.S. has a tax benefit for expats that excludes income up to $112,000 from tax.
“It is certainly a lot easier to run multiple businesses out of Georgia than if I were based in the US and that mainly comes at a cost,” he explains. “If I were to try to replicate our similar infrastructure in the US, it would probably be about ten times more expensive.”
According to Georgian law, citizens of 98 countries, including the US, can stay there for a full year without a visa, and can apply for an extension after the end of the year Swingunsky is still living in Georgia.
His biggest expense is his rent and utilities, which are about $696 each month. Swigunski lives in a two-bedroom apartment with a private Italianate garden that he found through a local realtor. “I fell in love as soon as I saw this place,” he says.
Here’s a monthly analysis of Swigunski’s spending (as of February 2022):
Mike Swigunski’s Average Monthly Spending
jean woo kim | CNBC Make It
Rent and Utilities: $696
health insurance: $42
One aspect of living alone is that Swigunski learned early on that he didn’t enjoy cooking—so once he moved to Georgia, he hired a private chef to come to his house six days a week and prepare meals for him. hired, which costs around $250 per. month.
A private cook may sound like a lavish expense, but Swigunski says it has actually saved him a lot of money. “Without a chef, I would have been eating too much and ordering takeout,” he says. “But being a chef allows me to eat healthier and it saves me money and time that I can invest in my business.”
‘I am happier living in Tbilisi than living anywhere else’
Swigunski’s favorite part of being a nomadic entrepreneur is that “every day looks different.”
Each morning, Swigunski likes to enjoy a cup of coffee and read a book outside in his garden, then he tries to do a quick meditation and workout before heading off to work.
He usually works from home because it’s where he’s “most productive,” but sometimes he goes to the coffee shop or co-working space with friends.
One of the biggest differences between living in Georgia and the US, Swigunski says, is that Georgians are “much more relaxed.” “A lot of places don’t even open until 10 a.m., and in general, Georgians are not working to work but to live,” he says.
There is a phrase describing Georgian hospitality: “A guest is a gift from God.” This is true for Swigunski, who notes that the people are “very welcoming of foreigners” and have been “absolutely wonderful” in his experience.
But living abroad is not as glamorous as it may seem on the surface. “It’s not for everyone,” Swigunski says. “There’s going to be a lot of different variables that you won’t be able to replicate from your old life of living in America”
Because Georgia is still a developing country, Swigunski explains, “your electricity or water turns off a little more here than in other places—it’s not happening every day, but it does happen twice a year.”
Although he sometimes feels at home to his family and friends in the US, Swigunski says he is “more happy to be in Tbilisi than anywhere else in the world” and that Tbilisi for the foreseeable future. Planning to live in
“Will I ever live in America again? I don’t want to speak in absolute terms, I love America,” he says. “But so far, I enjoy my life abroad more than if I were to live in America”
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