This digital nomad left the US for Bangkok and lives on $8,000 a month
Jesse Schauberg began planning his escape from Elcorn, Wisconsin, where he was born and raised, when he was a teenager. “It’s your typical small town in the Midwest: small, quiet, and not too adventurous,” he told CNBC Make It. “I always knew I wanted to go out and explore the world.”
The 41-year-old businessman has been living abroad for 14 years, splitting his time among more than 40 countries – and has no plans to return to the US anytime soon.
Schoberg went against the traditional path of attending college and getting a 9-5 job, instead choosing to move to Madison when he was 19, honing his coding skills and helping companies design and develop their websites.
By the time he reached the age of twenty-seven, Schauberg began to feel anxious. He decided to move to a new city and looked for apartments in Austin and Denver, but his mind kept drifting to Panama City, the capital of Panama, where he was spending “one of the best vacations of his life,” he recalls.
He moved to Panama City in 2008 and lived there for six years before packing his bags to travel the world full time as a digital nomad, a movement he learned about, and was inspired by during a work retreat in Curaçao.
In between his travels, Schubert now calls Bangkok his home. He moved to Thailand in December 2021 and shares a one-bedroom apartment with his fiancée Janine.
“The quality of life in Thailand compared to the US, is much better for 90% of things and more stress-free,” he says. “It’s also easier to provide a luxury lifestyle.”
Becoming a digital nomad
Schauberg built a massive career as an entrepreneur and web developer, earning a six-figure salary every year – but his success didn’t happen overnight.
When Schauberg first moved to Panama, he brought the web design and development company he founded in the US – and his list of clients – with him.
In 2013, Schauberg and two friends who worked with him on previous projects for the company, Jason Mayfield and Laura Lee, created DropInBlog, a startup program that helps website owners add an SEO-optimized blog to virtually any platform in minutes.
Today, DropInBlog has a remote staff of 12, with Schoberg at the helm as CEO.
When he became his own boss, Schauberg gave a more flexible schedule, and used his newfound spare time to travel: after visiting several countries in South America, including Colombia and Costa Rica, he decided to visit Asia, where he lived for short periods in Taiwan, Japan and the Philippines (where he met his fiancée in Tinder date).
In 2015, Schauberg stopped in Thailand – and knew right away that he had found his new home. “When I first arrived in Bangkok, this pulse was familiar to Panama City … There’s just this amazing energy on the street and with the people,” he says. “I knew right away that Bangkok was going to be Panama City 2.0.”
Schauberg and his fiancée have been splitting their time between Mexico City and Bangkok while he waits for an Elite Thai visa, a 5-year renewable visa that costs around $18,000 and gives you unlimited access to Thailand as well as entry and exit privileges.
“I live here much better than I used to in the States”
Since moving to Bangkok, Schauberg has been able to spend more on travel, dining, and other hobbies in addition to increasing his savings. “While I can afford a nice life in the United States, I live a much better life here than I did in the States,” he says. “The level of services you get here – fancier movie theaters, nice cars – totally blows away what you get in the States”
As an entrepreneur and CEO, Schoberg earns approximately $230,000 annually. His biggest expenses are rent and utilities, which together amount to about $2,710 each month. Schauberg and his fiancée live in a one-bedroom apartment in a building with a private gym, pool, co-working space, restaurant, and daily cleaning service.
He and Janine spend about $1,900 a month on fast food and dining out, often ordering food from local restaurants on a popular app called gopanda. Schoberg’s go-to meals are laos khao soi, a tomato noodle soup with ground beef, and Pad krapow, a spicy chicken dish with basil. Both meals typically cost $2 to $3, and local restaurants often offer discounts to long-term customers, Schauberg says.
He says the food scene is a “huge plus” to living in Thailand, and one of the main reasons he chose to move to Bangkok. “Bangkok has an amazing culinary scene, you have pretty much all the food in the world here,” says Schoberg. “Near my apartment, there is a Belgian sandwich shop and a Vietnamese grill joint.”
Here is a monthly breakdown of Schoberg’s spending (as of June 2022):
Rent and utilities: USD 2709.52
health insurance: USD 280.39
available: USD 2669.37
the total: $7875.28
Schoberg adds that Thai culture and people are “more friendly and relaxed” than in the United States, and while English is spoken in more popular tourist areas, such as Bangkok, learning Thai gave Schauberg a “big advantage” as a foreigner.
He attends two Thai classes a week, costing $269.44 a month, and assures that “you can really immerse yourself in the culture and have a better life” in Bangkok if you are able to understand Thai.
As a new resident, Schoberg continues to explore Bangkok and all it has to offer, including its many malls, parks, restaurants and concert venues – and adds that one of the magical aspects of living in Bangkok is that it can feel like you’re living in two different cities at once.
“You have a street-level city, which is the food vendors, the people running to work, the taxis and motorbikes,” he says. “Then there’s this sky city happening in the skyscrapers, with its fancy rooftop bars, workspaces and shopping malls…Here, you have the contrast between a Chanel store and a 20-cent pork skewer being grilled on the street.”