Olumide Gbenro, 33-year-old entrepreneur, grew up in Nigeria until the age of six, then emigrated to London with his parents. After seven years, Gbenro and his family obtained visas to the United States through the Green Card Lottery and moved to Ohio. Now he’s living the good life as a digital nomad in Bali.
“Being a person of color, I felt there were certain times in my life where I just didn’t feel valued as a human being,” Gbenro said in an interview. “I always felt left out.”
As a young man, Gbenro dreamed of a life filled with world travel, art, and socializing with people of the world. But like most immigrant parents, they wanted him to become an engineer, lawyer or doctor.
Gbenro graduated from San Diego State University in 2016 with a dual master’s degree in epidemiology and behavioral science. He then came to a crossroads, traveling the world or choosing the path of medical school and becoming a doctor.
“All my life I’ve just followed the rules, whether they come from my parents, religion or society,” he said. “But deep down I knew that if I took the job in the PhD program I could never go back, I could never travel overseas… I would be stuck in a lab, so I decided to say no.”
So he packed up to see the world, until a few years later he finally found his new home, Bali.
How I became a digital nomad
His first three months abroad he spent with friends from graduate school who lived in Berlin, couchsurfing and living in hostels on tourist visas.
Gbenro left the United States with barely any savings or plans. During his travels, he began documenting travel tips and dance videos which built his following on social media. He realized that creating content was more than a hobby and started collaborating with companies and content creators and offered to help them grow their social media profiles for a fee, usually 250 $.
Gbenro recalls turning his hobby into a “really difficult at first” remote business. Eventually, he developed a stable following and earned enough income to make social media marketing his career.
After his visa expired, he moved to Mexico and then returned to San Diego. He realized after returning home that he was no longer happy.
“There was something about living in America that made me feel like I wasn’t growing up. As a black male, there was psychological trauma and pressure that I felt living there, especially as an immigrant too, feeling like I didn’t fit in.
In 2018, Gbenro launched his business, Olumide Gbenro Public relations and brand monetization in San Diego working with real estate agents, influencers, celebrity chefs, etc. Although he succeeded, Gbenro still felt he needed something different.
It wasn’t until he took to Instagram one day and saw one of his friends lying on the beach with a coconut in her hand that he realized, “It looked like the ‘great place to live,’ he said. “The difference between Bali and all the other towns I researched is that it seemed very peaceful – all the locals, in the photos online, looked really happy and like they were spending a lot of time in nature.”
The following year, Gbenro booked a one-way ticket to Bali and found an apartment through a friend on Instagram. From there, he never looked back.
Luxury living for less
“I don’t worry about the money anymore because Bali has a much lower cost of living than the United States,” Gbenro said. After moving to Bali, he was able to spend more on travel and leisure while saving more than he would in the United States.
When traveling to Indonesia, most travelers would need a tourist visa valid for 60 days, then the government allows four 30-day extensions. This means you can spend half the year in Bali, fly to a neighboring country and come back to restart your tourist visa for another 6 months. Gbenro would fly to Malaysia or Singapore and then return to Bali.
Eventually, Gbenro acquired an investor visa and expanded his business to help people market their properties in Indonesia to contribute to the local economy to maintain his investor visa status. Its investor visa only needs to be renewed every two years.
Through his consulting business, Gbenro earns around $140,000 a year and organizes several conferences for digital nomads.
Most of Gbenro’s expenses are spent on rent and utilities. He spends about $1,000 a month on his one-bedroom condo with private amenities and a restaurant downstairs.
“I probably spend about the same amount of money I would spend each month if I lived in San Diego, but my quality of life is much better,” he said. “I live a life of luxury.”
Here is a breakdown of Gbenro’s monthly budget:
Rent and charges: $1,010
Health insurance: $137
Adapting to life in Bali
Gbenro shared that his biggest challenge moving to Bali was his struggle to be alone.
“I used to go to the beach every day, drink coconuts and see beautiful sunsets, but I lived alone and had no friends here,” Gbenro said.
This motivated Gbenro to start networking within the expat and local communities in coworking spaces and meetup events.
“I was really loved and welcomed by the Balinese. Everyone is always smiling – there’s a really genuine, heart-centered tone here that you can’t find anywhere else.
Gbenro also spoke about the fact that in Bali he was never treated differently because of the color of his skin.
“Bali doesn’t have the same history as America with racism and discrimination – in my opinion they are more accepting of foreigners and people from different backgrounds… people just look at me as a human being, not like a black man.”
He also adopted some of the Balinese traditions, waking up at 8 a.m. to meditate before drinking his tea and reading his emails. Hinduism is a popular religion in Bali and meditation is often practiced there.
“It’s the best decision I’ve ever made,” said Gbenro, who plans to spend the rest of his life in Bali while buying real estate in his hometown of San Diego, as well as Turkey and the rest of the world. the Caribbean, so he can have places to stay when he visits.
“Something about Bali motivates me here. It finally feels like home.