Along with the fact that the money factor tends to stop people from traveling, even more so does the burden of debt. I myself have a bit of this, but am still making it priority to continue seeing new places. Since this seems like such a crazy concept to people and they are bound to wonder, “how?”, I wanted to take the time to answer this.
I’ve noticed that as soon as a person accumulates a bit of debt, whether it’s credit card, student loans, etc, they tend to immediately feel that they are tied down to it. The mind set with most immediately becomes, “I have to pay this off before I can do anything else or spend any more money on anything major.” This is the responsible way of looking at it, of course, but who needs to be responsible right? 😛
Ok, so there’s definitely a balance here. Responsibility is good, but relaxing, taking a deep breath and not letting debt rule your life is even better. I personally have a 15k student loan at the moment, but I’m still traveling regardless.
Yes, I know 15k is still a small mound compared to what some have, but the concept still remains that no amount of debt should stop you from doing fun and exciting new things with your life.
So, here’s what I am currently doing with my loan debt. Instead of deferring my student loan payment, which is another good option, I readjusted my payments based on income. Since my income was so low during the year my payments are based on (I was still in school during said year) my payments are currently $0. Sounds nice, right? However, if you’re wanting to continue decreasing your debt as you travel, the deferment or $0 payment option is probably not the best.
Another option is to make a low payment every month and budget it into your traveling. For example, if you have a monthly budget of $2000 and want to make a $200 monthly payment, your money left for travel would then be $1800 (this doesn’t sound like enough money to most, but if you’re a backpacker this is about the average amount one would spend in a month on budget travel). I’m planning on working my payment into my budget in the future, otherwise I’ll never pay it off. But for now I’ll just enjoy those $0 “payments”.
I know it seems like it would be a challenge to budget a student loan payment into an already very low backpacker budget, but as long as you plan ahead and keep a low and manageable payment, it’s possible. It’s also optional to make a larger payment if you settle down and work in a certain area and save some more money.
That’s just a few examples of how you can manage student loan debt on the road. If you’re traveling for a year or less, I’d recommend just deferring loans. If longer, or if you don’t want to defer, then budget ahead of time as I suggested before.
If you have any credit card debt -which I’ve also had a bit of myself- it’s easiest to make the minimum payment while traveling and include it in your budget, and if you decide to travel long term and stop and get a job, you can make larger payments in order to try to pay off more of your balance. As long as you at least budget for the minimum payment, you won’t have any issues with your credit or with debt increasing.
Above all, I think this is more in the mindset than anything. Some stress so much over debt that they would never even consider traveling with it, while others are aware that it’s very possible to travel even long term with it. Remember, what’s the worst that can happen? Your credit could go downhill a bit because you make a late payment or miss one. Not the end of the world, right? As I said before, as long as you plan and budget payments ahead of time, it probably won’t even come to this.
I’m still learning how to manage debt myself, so I may update this post in the future. Stay tuned!