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28-year-old left the U.S., relocated to Thailand, and pays $544/month for his 1-bedroom apartment—take a look inside

Marc Aziz Ressang for CNBC Make It

In April 2021, Paul Lee took a vacation to Thailand. Five months later, he decided to leave the United States behind and make a permanent move to the Asian country.

Lee, originally from Georgia, had been living in New York City and grossing around $1 million a year thanks to his e-commerce business. Despite doing well enough to pay for his parent's retirement, the 28-year-old tells CNBC Make It he found himself without purpose, feeling depressed, and needing to make a change.

"When I first arrived to Thailand, I just felt rejuvenated. Everything was completely new to me, and I felt like it was a fresh new start," Lee says. "The more and more I live here, the more and more I fall in love with the city."

Lee moved to Bangkok, Thailand in 2021.
Marc Aziz Ressang for CNBC Make It
Lee moved to Bangkok, Thailand in 2021.

Since moving to Bangkok, Lee has been making around US $150,000 a year as a content creator and real estate agent, according to documents reviewed.

Working in real estate helped Lee find several living arrangements in Bangkok, including luxury condos. The apartment he's in now is a one-bedroom in the Thonglor neighborhood which Lee says is "the Soho of Bangkok."

It's a 650-square-feet unit that costs 20,000 baht — around USD $544 — in monthly rent. Lee also pays $20 for Wi-Fi, $80 for electricity, and $3 for water each month. The apartment came furnished, and Lee has access to amenities, including a pool and a gym.

Lee pays around $544 a month for his 1-bedroom apartment in Bangkok.
Marc Aziz Ressang for CNBC Make It
Lee pays around $544 a month for his 1-bedroom apartment in Bangkok.

To move in, Lee had to pay a security deposit of two months' rent or about $1,088.

Despite lower grocery costs in Bangkok, Lee eats out for every meal and spends $500 a month on food. "I'm not gonna lie, the food in New York City was very good as well, but I think in Thailand, it's just a lot more homey, a lot more local, and a lot spicier," Lee says.

His other expenses include a $93 monthly gym membership which is a bit of a splurge considering Lee has free access to a gym in his building. But the cost is worth it for Lee, because he can take advantage of the co-working space, coffee, and numerous networking opportunities in the space.

Also his current gym's price is nothing compared to luxury gyms in New York, like Equinox, where memberships can start at $240 a month.

Marc Aziz Ressang for CNBC Make It
Lee tells CNBC Make It he chose to leave America because he found himself materialistic and living in an "environment that was just very individualistic, very doggish, and very hyper-aggressive."

Lee has only returned to the U.S. one time since his big move to Thailand — for his sister's wedding. He tells CNBC Make It he chose to leave New York City because he found himself being too materialistic and living in an "environment that was just very individualistic, very doggish, and very hyper-aggressive."

"Bangkok stood out to me because it seemed very metropolis. It seemed very fun. It seemed very affordable and it just had a very good culture and didn't really have any major compromises to me," Lee says.

Lee has made a new life for himself in Thailand, he says, and returning to the U.S. doesn't feel likely.

"I had to go through this journey of being poor and becoming quite wealthy to realize all this wealth that I had accumulated didn't really give me what I wanted and didn't give me the satisfaction I was looking for," Lee says.

Since relocating to Thailand, Lee's parents have moved to South Korea and visit him several times throughout the year.
Paul Lee
Since relocating to Thailand, Lee's parents have moved to South Korea and visit him several times throughout the year.

His parents were initially shocked he'd moved so far but ended up following in his footsteps when they moved to South Korea. They visit him in Bangkok from time to time, and Lee travels to see them, too. He says it's one of the best perks of his new life in Thailand.

"At the end of the day, even though I don't make nearly as much money as I made in New York City, I am far... wealthier in terms of my happiness, in terms of my well-being, my peace," he added. "These are things I never was able to achieve back home in the States."

Conversions from Thai baht to USD were done using the OANDA conversion rate of 1 baht to 0.02 USD on July 1, 2024. All amounts are rounded to the nearest dollar.

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