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Travel

Seriously, hire an accountant to do your taxes

When we’re sick, we consult doctors. When we have plumbing problems, we hire plumbers. When someone needs to have a piece of software built, they hire a software developer. But for some reason, when it’s time to file our taxes, a lot of us try to do it ourselves.

Seriously people, just hire an accountant. A good accountant will find all sorts of ways to bring your tax obligations down and save you money that you wouldn’t have saved if you did your taxes on your own.

Every time I paid a few hundred dollars to an accountant to do my taxes for me, he/she always got me a few thousand dollars in refunds that TurboTax never got me. This year, because I was in the United States for the majority of 2016, I thought that I wouldn’t be qualified for the Foreign Earned Income Tax inclusion. Well, turns out that I “can” sort of do this by filing for an extension for my 2016 taxes so that I can file later in the year in December. I would have never known about this if I haven’t paid a few hundred dollars to my accountant. Thanks to my accountant, I’m now due a refund of a few thousand dollars at the end of the year rather than owing the US government a few thousand dollars in taxes.

Also, think about it this way. Let’s say you spend 10 hours (probably more if we’re being honest) agonizing over your taxes. How much is your time worth? Let’s say you’re a freelance software developer billing at $100 per hour. So if you spent a total of 10 hours doing your taxes, filing your taxes just cost you $1,000, never-mind the stress of not knowing whether you filed your taxes correctly or not. On the contrary, let’s say that a competent accountant who’s 100x better than you will ever be at filing taxes only cost $300. And working with an accountant will potentially save you thousands of dollars in taxes you owe to uncle Sam. Needless to say, it’s smarter and more cost effective to just pay the accountant.

So yes, just suck it up, pay a few hundred dollars, and hire a competent accountant. You’ll probably end up making money thanks to all of the refunds that you’ll be getting.

If you’re a nomadic individual like me, I used Greenback Expat Tax Services to file my 2016 taxes and so far they have been excellent.

5 days in Tbilisi, Georgia

I first heard of Georgia 9 years ago (looking at Wikipedia, it happened in 2008) where I heard in the news that there was a war between Georgia and Russia.

Being an American, I was like, “Huh? Our Georgia? The State in the South?”. Well, turns out there was a country named Georgia somewhere in Eastern Europe, or more like Asia surrounded by countries like Turkey, Armenia, and Russia. A few weeks ago, out of curiosity, I Googled for pictures of Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia mostly because I wanted to visit the Eastern Europe area anyways and thought it would be cool to visit countries that digital nomads generally don’t frequent. And this is what I saw.

Beautiful panoramic view of Tbilisi at sunset, Georgia country

Looks beautiful right? I thought it kind of looked like a Shrek village and within two days bought a ticket so that I could visit.

Getting there

Getting to Tbilisi, Georgia will be different for everyone. I was coming from Medellin, Colombia and decided to fly to and stay in Madrid, Spain for one day to rest up before taking another flight to Tbilisi. You can go to Tbilisi from Medellin but you’ll be making a lot of transfers and the total travel time will be around 30 hours long, which I didn’t want to do. I thought it would be best if I rest up one day in Spain before continuing my journey.

From Medellin, it seemed that Spain was the easiest and cheapest entry into Europe, and the only direct flight I could find into Spain from Medellin was to Madrid. The ticket cost me around $700 USD and the ticket from Madrid to Tbilisi, which had a connection flight from Warsaw, Poland, cost around $250. So almost $1,000 in total to get to Tbilisi from Medellin.

Weather

I have to admit, spending almost a year (close to 10 months in total) in Medellin really spoiled me when it comes to weather. The first thing that came to mind when I first arrived in Tbilisi was, “damn it’s cold, damn it, it’s cold, it’s cold, it’s cold, it’s so cold”. I had completely forgotten that it’s still winter here in Georgia and spring hasn’t started yet. And that there are countries in the world with 4 seasons. Thankfully I had two light jackets with me that I could put on, but I still find it cold. Call me a wuss but the weather in Tbilisi is not something I enjoyed. Due to the cold winters, I suggest coming here in the Spring, Summer, or Fall to really enjoy the city.

Language

Georgians speak what’s called “Georgian”. Yep, this country has its own language, which makes communication difficult. I found that around 20 – 30% of young people can somewhat communicate in English while older people spoke both Georgian and Russian. To sum it up, I found communication difficult. The Georgian language also barely has any vowels and so everyone constantly sounds like they’re angry at each other. Unlike Spanish, I have zero desire to learn Georgian, as it is only useful in Georgia.

Tbilisi – the city itself

Tbilisi is a beautiful city. The architecture here is a bit of a mix between European style and Asian style as Georgia is situated right in-between Europe and Asia. After months in Medellin, a city that isn’t the most architecturally impressive (let’s just leave it at that) compared to its European counterparts, I felt like I was in a fairytale that we used to read in kindergartens.

The city is extremely walkable, has sane drivers who follow traffic rules unlike South America, and has a convenient metro system that makes getting around the city easy.

Food

Compared to Colombian food, I thought Georgian food was like having an orgasm in my mouth. A picture of what I had for lunch one day

I have no idea what this is called but it was full of flavors and was delicious. I think it was a stew of some sorts with lamb, tomato, and various vegetables. I much much much much MUCH prefer food here compared to Colombia.

Oh, and a picture of a traditional Georgian sweet

Churchkhela – Georgian sweet

Georgians – the people

This is the first time for me being in one of the pre Soviet Union countries. My nomadic travels so far have been in South America, with most of it being spent in Medellin, Colombia. I wrote above that Medellin is a dump compared to European cities, but one thing it does have going for it is the city’s extremely friendly, generous, kind, and hospitable people. In Colombia, I felt welcomed and at home. I wouldn’t mind making Medellin my permanent home just because of the Colombian people.

People from Tbilisi on the other hand seemed a bit cold. In Medellin, random people on the streets would yell, “Welcome to Medellin, I hope that you enjoy our city!” while in Tbilisi, people just ignore you. They don’t look at you, don’t take any interest in foreigners, and thus I generally felt un-welcomed in their country. This hasn’t only been my experience. I met a few other travelers during my few days here and they felt the same despite living here for months. Maybe it’s due to Georgian history (they’ve been invaded quite a few times in their history and been completely raped by everyone, including Persians, Russians, and etc.) where they’re distrustful of other people, or maybe it’s a pre USSR country thing where people are just cold and unfriendly and they take time to warm up.

All in all

I’m not in love with Tbilisi. It’s a pretty city and I think it’s worth a visit, but I wouldn’t stay here long term due to the language barrier and its people. Maybe if I spoke Georgian I could enjoy the country a bit more but so far, but due to Georgian not being a very practical language (only useful in Georgia), I have zero desire to learn it.

If you’re still interested, come for a few days and see if you like it.