May 13, 2019 / 11:07 AM / 4 months ago

Georgia's ex-president swaps politics for life of an Airbnb landlord

DUSHETI, Georgia (Reuters) - Former presidents often take to the lucrative global lecture circuit, join the boards of major corporations, or set up their own foundations. Georgia’s low key ex-president has taken a different path: becoming an Airbnb landlord.

Georgia's former President Giorgi Margvelashvili gives an interview to Reuters at his house in the town of Dusheti near the capital Tbilisi, Georgia May 8, 2019. REUTERS/Irakli Gedenidze

After five years in office, Giorgi Margvelashvili, ex-Soviet Georgia’s fourth president, has also returned to his former life as a politics teacher.

Turning his back on frontline politics at the end of last year, the 49-year-old and his young family live in the provincial town of Dusheti, 60 kilometres (37 miles) north-west of the capital Tbilisi, where he has started renting out a cottage near his own house to supplement his income.

“It’s quite an enriching experience emotionally,” Margvelashvili told Reuters in an interview. “Their (guests’) comments about how they like it, or how they think that I’ve crafted something well, or how they’ve enjoyed the very exciting for me personally.”

Margvelashvili, who has no state pension to fall back on, has also turned to carpentry, making furniture and other objects, some of which he uses to furnish his rental property located in a peaceful countryside setting.

The ex-politician started letting out the cottage to tourists around two months ago. Since then, a couple of dozen people have stayed in the one-bedroom property.

He said some visitors, mainly Georgians, knew that he used to be the country’s president, while for others, such as tourists from other former Soviet republics or from European countries, it came as a surprise.

It’s a far cry from his old life as a pro-Western non-partisan politician whose presidential powers were limited and who often had tense relations with both the country’s ruling party and the opposition.

He and his wife and two young children live in a modest two-storey house near the rental property. His own home is also furnished with many things that he made and is decorated with paintings by Maka Chichua, his wife.

“My retirement from also a way of trying to create a precedent in this country where there is a life after politics,” he said.

Strolling through a courtyard which enjoys spectacular views of the surrounding landscape, he said he was considering adding a horse riding business and gin distillery to his small estate.

When asked whether he missed his old job as president he was unequivocal: “Not at all.”

“It was a pretty intensive five years,” he said. “Now, I just enjoy the easy and peaceful way of life here.”

Editing by Andrew Osborn and Marie-Louise Gumuchian

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