As a teenager, Jesse Schoberg began planning his escape from Elkhorn, Wisconsin, where he was born and raised. “It’s a typical small Midwestern town: small, quiet, not too much adventure,” he tells CNBC Make It. “I always knew I wanted to get out and explore the world.”
The 41-year-old entrepreneur has now been living abroad for 14 years, spanning more than 40 countries – and has no plans to return to the US any time soon.
Schoberg defied the traditional path of attending college and securing a 9-to-5 job, instead choosing to move to Madison at 19 to improve his programming skills and help with their website design and business to help development.
By the time he turned 27, however, Schoberg began to feel restless. He decided to move to a new city and looked for apartments in Austin and Denver, but his mind kept wandering to Panama City, the capital of Panama, where he recalled having “one of the best vacations of his life.”
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 inspired during a work retreat in Curaçao, to try it.
Between his travels, Schoberg now calls Bangkok home. He moved to Thailand in December 2021 and shares a one bedroom apartment with his fiancée Janine.
“The quality of life in Thailand is 90% much better and less stressful compared to the United States,” he says. “It’s also much easier to afford a luxurious lifestyle.”
Become a digital nomad
Schoberg has built an impressive career as an entrepreneur and web developer, earning a six-figure salary every year — but his success didn’t come overnight.
When he first moved to Panama, Schoberg brought the web design and development company he had started in the US and his client list with him.
In 2013, Schoberg and two of his friends who had worked with him on previous projects for the company, Jason Mayfield and Laura Lee, founded DropInBlog, a software startup that helps website owners create an SEO-optimized blog on almost any platform add log.
Today, DropInBlog has 12 employees working entirely remotely, with Schoberg at the helm as CEO.
Becoming his own boss gave Schoberg a more flexible schedule, and he used his newfound free time to travel: after visiting several countries in South America, including Colombia and Costa Rica, he decided to look to Asia and lived for short ones Time spent in Taiwan, Japan and the Philippines (where he met his fiancee on a Tinder date).
In 2015 Schoberg stopped in Thailand – and he knew immediately that he had found his new home. “When I first arrived in Bangkok, it just had this pulse that felt familiar with Panama City…there’s just this incredible energy in the streets and among the people,” he says. “I knew immediately that Bangkok would be my Panama City 2.0.”
Schoberg and his fiancé spend their time between Mexico City and Bangkok while he waits for his Thai Elite Visa, a renewable 5-year visa that costs about $18,000 and gives you unlimited access to Thailand and entry and exit Exit privileges granted.
“I live much better here than in the USA”
Since moving to Bangkok, Schoberg has been able to spend more on travel, food and other hobbies, and add to his savings. “Although I can afford a pretty decent life in the US, I live much better here than in the US,” he says. “The level of service you get here – fancier movie theaters, nice cars – beats what you get in the US.”
As an entrepreneur and CEO, Schoberg makes about $230,000 a year. His biggest expenses are his rent and utilities, which together add up to about $2,710 a month. Schoberg and his fiancée live in a one-bedroom apartment in a building with a private gym, pool, lounge, restaurant and daily maid service.
He and Janine spend about $1,900 each month on takeout and dining, often ordering food from local restaurants through a popular app called gopanda. Schoberg’s favorite dishes 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, Schoberg says, and local restaurants often offer discounts to long-term customers.
The food scene, he says, is a “huge plus” to living in Thailand and one of the main reasons he decided to move to Bangkok. “Bangkok has an amazing culinary scene, it has pretty much every type of food in the world,” says Schoberg. “There’s a Belgian sandwich shop and a Vietnamese barbecue place just around the corner from my apartment.”
Here’s a monthly breakdown of Schoberg’s spending (as of June 2022):
Rent and utilities: $2,709.52
Health insurance: $280.39
In total: $7,875.28
Thai culture and people are “much friendlier and more relaxed” than in the US, Schoberg adds, and while English is spoken in more popular tourist areas like Bangkok, learning Thai as a foreigner has given Schoberg “a huge advantage.”
He attends two Thai classes a week, which costs $269.44 a month, and emphasizes that in Bangkok you can “really engage with the culture and have a better life” if you can understand Thai.
As a new resident, Schoberg is still exploring Bangkok and all it has to offer, including its many malls, parks, restaurants and concert halls – one of the magical aspects of living in Bangkok, he adds, is that it can feel like you You live in two different cities at the same time.
“You have the city at street level, these are your food vendors, people running to work, taxis and motorcycles,” he says. “And then there’s this sky city that’s happening in the skyscrapers, with chic rooftop bars, workspaces, and malls … here you have the contrast between the Chanel store and the 20-cent pork skewer that’s being grilled in the street.”