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I quit my finance job and became an Airbnb host in Italy. I have no regrets about choosing happiness over money.

Perri Ormont Blumberg   

I quit my finance job and became an Airbnb host in Italy. I have no regrets about choosing happiness over money.
  • Anton Govor left his corporate finance career to become an Airbnb host on Lake Garda in Italy.
  • His business, GardaDoma, has hosted over 3,000 guests and generates more than $250,000 in revenue.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Anton Govor, a 39-year-old Airbnb superhost based in Brenzone sul Garda, Italy. It's been edited for length and clarity.

I'm the founder of GardaDoma and an Airbnb Superhost in Brenzone sul Garda, Italy. Since 2019, my seven properties have hosted over 3,000 guests, and our annual revenue on Airbnb exceeds $250,000.

I spent over a decade in corporate finance in Moscow. I started my career as an analyst at Ernst & Young, where in five years I progressed to a senior manager position.

In my last corporate role, I was a managing director for strategy at MOEX Group overseeing strategy, international relations, and innovations. From 2014 to 2019, I was deeply involved in the fintech venture capital area.

In 2018, I purchased a 17th-century house on Lake Garda from a 93-year-old local farmer and started the journey of GardaDoma.

I visited Lake Garda for the first time when I was 21

During a drive from Munich to Florence, I stopped in Lake Garda completely by chance. Its stunning views and the yachting, kite-surfing, and hiking available year-round made me fall in love with the place. For 10 years, I went on road trips across Europe, visiting Lake Garda each time.

When I visited Brenzone, the idea of establishing a family-run guesthouse popped into my head. Brenzone stands out as the most nontouristy and authentic spot on Lake Garda.

I bought my first property, a six-room building, from a local farmer for around $460,0000 and turned it into a vacation home for my family. I always loved using Airbnb when I traveled, so my family, friends, and I decided to start renting out rooms. I did this alongside corporate work for a year but soon realized I enjoyed hosting guests much more than working in finance.

I chose to leave my finance career behind

In December 2018, my second son was born at Lake Garda, and I took parental leave at our house. After two months, I decided I wanted to live in Brenzone full-time, not in a skyscraper in a big city, and left office work to become my own boss.

I quit my corporate career and immigrated to Italy from Russia.

My paycheck was a lot higher in finance, which made me accustomed to a higher living standard, but the job lacked purpose for me. When I started my Airbnb business, my income decreased roughly four times.

But now, whether I'm welcoming my guests, playing the guitar for them, or taking them on a boat trip, I feel immense fulfillment. Mine is a story about choosing happiness over money and following the path in life guided by my heart. I have no regrets whatsoever.

I work around the clock, but I love what I do

Even though I work long hours, I have a much better work-life balance and enjoyment than at my corporate job.

From 6 to 9 a.m., I work on reports and budget calculations and answer Airbnb booking requests. From 9 to 11 a.m., I spend time with guests at breakfast and check-outs and deal with all matters related to their comfort. From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. I send dinner round-call messages to existing guests and Airbnb pre-check-in messages to arriving guests.

I devote 1 to 4 p.m. to property maintenance and planning the dinner menu with our work family, who take shifts in cooking. From 4 to 7 p.m., I welcome newly arriving guests. Dinner starts at 7:30 p.m., and I always spend this time with guests at the table.

During the low season, I plan expansion, check out apartments in the area for potential acquisition, and make partnerships for summer activities. In the high season — from Easter until the end of October — it's all about organizing events and activities and spending time with guests, which is my favorite part of the job.

The business has grown to include 10 friends and family members

Most tasks are handled by family members and friends. We greet each guest in person, offer customized recommendations, and are available 24/7.

The average cost per room is around $107, and the average cost per apartment is around $215 during the high season. Meals and activities are priced separately, though I often take guests on a hike or yacht ride for free since I love doing so.

A certain psychological disposition is needed for a job like this

We maintain the initial charm of personal hospitality — a differentiating point that our guests greatly value, as it's difficult to find. Our Instagram account makes us stand out and conveys our hospitality.

The key to success for every hospitality business is to create a loyal guest base who visit frequently and share positive recommendations. You have to greet guests in a manner that encourages them to return.

We respond quickly to customer feedback and improve the service. For example, we launched a family home where each floor had two rooms with shared bathrooms and soon started receiving feedback from guests that they loved an authentic, close interaction with hosts but prioritized comfort and privacy, especially private bathrooms.

The next season, we included private bathrooms in each room. Later on, we added apartments nearby, so guests can socialize at our guest house during meals while still having all the comfort of the private apartment rental.

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