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Ask Jessie: How Do You Travel After College With Student Loan Debt?

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Travel Question : Hi Jessie! I just found your blog and loved it immediately! Solo travelers are so inspiring. I’m 22, therefore I am obviously struggling to figure out what to do with my life. I know I want to travel, and I know I want to finish school. I was going to college, but took some time off to travel, and now I’m back home.

So, my question for you is, did you graduate with student loan debt, and, if yes, how do you stay on top of that while you travel? I’m thinking I want to get my degree first and study abroad — I didn’t get to when I was in college before — then try to get my dream job as a book or magazine editor. I’d love to do that as long as I enjoy it, and end up traveling the world, whether it is through my job or independently.

My biggest concern is the crippling debt I will be left with after I get my degree. It’s a question that keeps popping up as I read the bios of different travel bloggers. Thank you for reading this, hope to hear from you soon!

– Hallie

Hey Hallie,

Great to hear from you (and thank you for the kind words). I did graduate college with quite a bit of debt — I also went to graduate school and studied abroad, which added to that. When I first graduated I worked my butt off as a waitress and was really, really conscious of my expendable cash. Pretty much the only thing I spent money on was travel, as well as the cheap rent my parent’s were charging me ($50 per week) and the occasional cheap beer when out with friends.

Creating A Travel Budget

I would recommend sitting down with a calculator, pen and paper and working out a realistic budget based on what you make, or will be making, factoring in your personal expenses, bills and loans. What percentage of money can you realistically put into a travel savings once your monthly bills are paid?

Another thing I should mention is that I travel on an extreme budget when traveling. For example, my first trip after university/before graduate school was backpacking Europe for three months. I can remember one single meal that cost me over 5 Euros, because I refused to spend more.

There are definitely times when you should break your travel budget; however, for the most part you should try to stick to a realistic budget. Sure, traveling is a lot more fun when you don’t have to think about money, but if you’re in debt it’s best to be smart. This will allow you to not give up a trip altogether, while also being careful not to go into further debt.

Try to incorporate budget travel tactics like Couchsurfing, staying at hostels, eating street food, opting for free walking tours, avoiding high priced excursions and creating your own experiences, using Couchsurfing forums to meet up with locals and have authentic experiences, and traveling to places where you can stretch your dollar far (I’m a big fan of Guatemala, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Thailand).

As I started traveling more and more, I also began working while traveling. You can try traveling slowly, spending enough time in a place to get a real job there, or you can look for jobs you can do while telecommuting, such as freelance writing. Today, travel blogging is my full-time job so I’m able to travel while still making money, which makes it easier to not have to worry about giving up travel for finances.

Travel Excuses

Another thing to think about is that life will always throw problems at you — debt, work deadlines, significant others who don’t want you to travel…There is never a perfect time to travel, in my opinion. You need to remember that if travel, a truly life enriching experience, is something you really want to do, you need to forget excuses and just do it. You have one life to live, make it the life you want.

That’s not to say you should travel around the world for a year if you have crippling debt, but if you have some debt and can come up with a plan to manage it and still travel, go for it.

Also, are you looking to become a travel writer/editor? I would recommend starting a blog. You could end up making your own career, like myself. Or, even if you just do the travel blog as a hobby, it makes for a great portfolio builder when the time comes to apply for writing jobs. I actually use my blog as a resume.

Hope this helps. Happy trails!

Jessie on a Journey

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Hi, I’m Jessie on a journey!

I take you beyond the guidebook to inspire you to live your best life through travel. Come join me!

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