Paying Debt VS The Travel Dream

I love receiving emails and I especially love emails that keep me motivated. It’s flattering and encouraging to know so many people read this blog. Below is an email I got from Christian. I’ve been asked this question many times and thought it’d be perfect for an article. With Christian’s permission, I’ve included his email and my response.

Christian’s Email

Hi Michael,

I love your website, Art of Backpacking. In particular, I love your advice regarding the corporate lifestyle to your current lifestyle. I’m a freelance graphic/web designer and have considered many times going to work for banks & investment firms, but I’m still glad that I haven’t to this day. I graduated with a degree in Economics and unfortunately this degree put me in about $100,000 worth of debt. So while I learned a lot, I’m struggling because all I want to do is travel, yet I owe huge payments (more than my rent) every month. Any suggestions? I’ve already paid off one high interest credit card and the rest is being paid off very slowly.

Is it best to buckle down, get another job and pay off as much as I can before traveling? Or should I just move to another country and try to pay it off there (while I’m living my dreams)? Just curious about how you would handle this.

Thanks,

Christian

My Response

Hi Christian,

Thank you so much for emailing me. This is a good question and I’m often asked this.

I, too, had debt before I traveled. Debt is usually the main issue many people have when they’d like to travel but can’t. I believe it needs to be conquered with a plan in place before you travel.

There is something to consider. Are you traveling long-term? Or is this a short vacation? If it’s short term, it’s still possible and probably a good idea to take a trip regardless of debt. It could be a nice break from your day-to-day life.

Long-term travel (months or years) requires more freedom from the things that tie you to home. This includes debt, contracts, and goods.

As cliche as it is to say, debt never goes away and especially school debt unless you start paying it off. I believe it’s a better idea to pay off the debt as soon as possible within your home country where you may have more opportunities and a higher income than going abroad. If you do happen to get a higher income abroad, the first year or two is difficult to save. Being in a new country is exciting and thrilling, you’ll want to experience as much as you want because that might be the whole reason you’ve moved abroad otherwise you could be doing the same thing back at home.

Having a dream is a great step forward but the preparation to get to the dream is where all the action is. Steps can’t be skipped and it’s a long difficult process. With determination and will power, the travel dream can be achieved by anyone. Remember your travel dream when you’re working and don’t get sucked into more debt. I hear many people say they’re going to travel and so they start saving for a month but then they lose motivation and continue their day-to-day job for years.

Good luck and safe travels!

Michael

Christian’s Email

Hi Michael,

To answer your question, I desire to travel long term. I want to backpack europe and asia over the span of a year and live abroad, perhaps in italy for a couple years.

I’ve been putting a tremendous amount of thought into this and I agree with you 100%. I think I need to pay down at least 60-70% in order to even consider traveling. Right now my student loan payments are more than my rent, which can be disheartening sometimes. But fortunately I’m only 26 and have a good amount of life left in me ūüôā

I’ve already paid off one credit card (of two) which has relieved some stress. I think if I buckle down for two solid years I can pay off a significant portion of it my loans, although it won’t be easy by any means. Fortunately, reading blogs and websites like yours are extremely motivating. I love hearing the stories and I often find myself tearing pages from travel magazines to save for motivation too (definitely cheesy, but whatever works right?).

Christian

Like I said before, I love getting emails from all of you. Please feel free to send me any questions, suggestions, or comments to contact (at) artofbackpacking (dot) com.

75 Comments

  1. Lloyd on May 22, 2011 at 7:48 am

    Hey Michael & Christian,

    This¬†is a great topic because, like you said Michael, it’s a burden that holds a¬†lot of people back from traveling.¬†

    Every person and every situation is different. I, for instance, have always wanted to travel long term but was under the impression that I needed to rid all of my debt or come across a boat load of money. But the fact is, long term travel is possible even with debt.

    I have between $50,000 – $60,000 in debt due to student loans and credit cards and I currently live in South Korea. While it is popular for many people to come here to teach English because the money is nice and the cost of living is low, South Korea and teaching English are not the only ways to experience the world.

    Since¬†moving here, reading blogs/websites and talking with other travelers a new world of ideas and opportunities have opened up. I’ve come to realize now that you don’t need to pay off all of your debt or have large amounts of money. What you do need is a plan and desire to do whatever it is you want.

    So long as you don’t take huge risks and you plan carefully, you don’t have to let your debt control your life. Because, after all, it is your life – so live it!

    • Michael on May 23, 2011 at 4:08 am

      I think most importantly is to pay off the debt with high interest rates. School loans are among the lowest with interest rates. Credit cards are usually killer and should always be paid off as soon as possible.

      Are you still able to travel as you like within and outside of South Korea or do you feel that paying your loans is a burden while teaching there?

  2. Waegook Tom on May 22, 2011 at 7:37 am

    Oh, travel versus paying debt – I totally relate. I CAN say with 100% confidence that Christian should under NO CIRCUMSTANCE run away and think the creditors won’t find him…because if they don’t find him, they’ll start bugging his family instead. 2-years-younger-than-now Me learned this the hard way.

    Great advice that you’ve given here, too. I’d maybe suggest working abroad – savings opportunities here in South Korea are great, and many of my American friends are using it as a way to clear down student debt whilst still enjoying a new culture and not the same amount of lifestyle restrictions that would exist on having a debt of that size in the US, i.e. they can eat out, go to a club, take a weekend trip without it impacting their budget on food etc.

    Tom

  3. Waegook Tom on May 22, 2011 at 8:37 am

    Oh, travel versus paying debt – I totally relate. I CAN say with 100% confidence that Christian should under NO CIRCUMSTANCE run away and think the creditors won’t find him…because if they don’t find him, they’ll start bugging his family instead. 2-years-younger-than-now Me learned this the hard way.

    Great advice that you’ve given here, too. I’d maybe suggest working abroad – savings opportunities here in South Korea are great, and many of my American friends are using it as a way to clear down student debt whilst still enjoying a new culture and not the same amount of lifestyle restrictions that would exist on having a debt of that size in the US, i.e. they can eat out, go to a club, take a weekend trip without it impacting their budget on food etc.

    Tom

  4. Steph on May 22, 2011 at 7:43 am

    ¬†Christian- have you consolidated your debt? You shouldn’t be paying so much that it’s more than your rent!

    • Claire on May 22, 2011 at 12:45 pm

      I agree with Steph here-there is no reason it should be more than your rent. You can always ask for a payment plan based on income. You usually need to submit your tax returns from the year prior and they adjust your payment based on what you made. I know this, because I just did it! If you made tons of money, then this would obviously not be your best bet, but if you’re like most of us, you’re not making tons of money! You can also ask for deferment or forebearance in some cases, although it is always still good to pay a little bit-interest is still accruing.
      Regarding the debt itself, I would encourage you not to let it put your plans on hold for a crazy long time. Yeah, pay the other credit card off before you go, but $100k worth of student loan debt is going to be there a good long time. That is the kind of debt, in my opinion, that you can manage while still traveling abroad. 

  5. Steph on May 22, 2011 at 8:43 am

    ¬†Christian- have you consolidated your debt? You shouldn’t be paying so much that it’s more than your rent!

    • Claire on May 22, 2011 at 1:45 pm

      I agree with Steph here-there is no reason it should be more than your rent. You can always ask for a payment plan based on income. You usually need to submit your tax returns from the year prior and they adjust your payment based on what you made. I know this, because I just did it! If you made tons of money, then this would obviously not be your best bet, but if you’re like most of us, you’re not making tons of money! You can also ask for deferment or forebearance in some cases, although it is always still good to pay a little bit-interest is still accruing.
      Regarding the debt itself, I would encourage you not to let it put your plans on hold for a crazy long time. Yeah, pay the other credit card off before you go, but $100k worth of student loan debt is going to be there a good long time. That is the kind of debt, in my opinion, that you can manage while still traveling abroad. 

  6. Lloyd on May 22, 2011 at 8:48 am

    Hey Michael & Christian,

    This¬†is a great topic because, like you said Michael, it’s a burden that holds a¬†lot of people back from traveling.¬†

    Every person and every situation is different. I, for instance, have always wanted to travel long term but was under the impression that I needed to rid all of my debt or come across a boat load of money. But the fact is, long term travel is possible even with debt.

    I have between $50,000 – $60,000 in debt due to student loans and credit cards and I currently live in South Korea. While it is popular for many people to come here to teach English because the money is nice and the cost of living is low, South Korea and teaching English are not the only ways to experience the world.

    Since¬†moving here, reading blogs/websites and talking with other travelers a new world of ideas and opportunities have opened up. I’ve come to realize now that you don’t need to pay off all of your debt or have large amounts of money. What you do need is a plan and desire to do whatever it is you want.

    So long as you don’t take huge risks and you plan carefully, you don’t have to let your debt control your life. Because, after all, it is your life – so live it!

    • Michael on May 23, 2011 at 5:08 am

      I think most importantly is to pay off the debt with high interest rates. School loans are among the lowest with interest rates. Credit cards are usually killer and should always be paid off as soon as possible.

      Are you still able to travel as you like within and outside of South Korea or do you feel that paying your loans is a burden while teaching there?

  7. Sasha on May 22, 2011 at 8:04 am

    I’ve been really lucky and escaped getting into ant debt saving ruthlessly and spending only within my means to avoid needing a credit card.¬† But I never had student loans to pay off so my life has been pretty breezy! It would suck to feel like you have to hold yourself back because of all you dept!¬†

  8. Sasha on May 22, 2011 at 9:04 am

    I’ve been really lucky and escaped getting into ant debt saving ruthlessly and spending only within my means to avoid needing a credit card.¬† But I never had student loans to pay off so my life has been pretty breezy! It would suck to feel like you have to hold yourself back because of all you dept!¬†

  9. Anthony on May 22, 2011 at 8:35 am

     I must be hard for people in the States that have these massive student loans and when you finish studying and want to go an travel the world you feel like you are being held back to continue to work and pay off that debt. It is a hard decision to make.

    • Michael on May 23, 2011 at 4:02 am

      It’s killing us.

    • goteresago on June 3, 2011 at 2:24 pm

      You have no idea…. with the¬†knowledge¬†I have now, I could have went abroad as a foreign student and saved money. Student loans here are just atrocious…

  10. Anthony on May 22, 2011 at 9:35 am

     I must be hard for people in the States that have these massive student loans and when you finish studying and want to go an travel the world you feel like you are being held back to continue to work and pay off that debt. It is a hard decision to make.

    • Michael on May 23, 2011 at 5:02 am

      It’s killing us.

    • Transcendental Gypsy on June 3, 2011 at 3:24 pm

      You have no idea…. with the¬†knowledge¬†I have now, I could have went abroad as a foreign student and saved money. Student loans here are just atrocious…

  11. Brian on May 22, 2011 at 9:28 am

    You definitely don’t need to pay it all off if you can create income while you’re traveling, whether its teaching, Internet marketing, whatever. But you have to have a plan to pay while you are traveling. I paid off 95% of everything before my round the world and it made the trip 100x better because I didn’t have those loans weighing on my mind as I hopped around the world.

    • Michael on May 23, 2011 at 4:01 am

      Yeah. While all of it doesn’t need to be paid off, most of it would be a good idea.

  12. Brian on May 22, 2011 at 10:28 am

    You definitely don’t need to pay it all off if you can create income while you’re traveling, whether its teaching, Internet marketing, whatever. But you have to have a plan to pay while you are traveling. I paid off 95% of everything before my round the world and it made the trip 100x better because I didn’t have those loans weighing on my mind as I hopped around the world.

    • Michael on May 23, 2011 at 5:01 am

      Yeah. While all of it doesn’t need to be paid off, most of it would be a good idea.

  13. Katie on May 22, 2011 at 9:41 pm

    I can soooo relate to this!¬† I finished law school 10 years ago with $100,000 in debt.¬† I took a 6 figure job at a big law firm and paid double my minimum payment every month,but didn’t pay down nearly as much as I should’ve.¬† Now, I’m 4 years into an alternative, much lower-paying career and I’m dying to take time off to travel long-term but I still have $65K in debt and a $460 monthly payment.¬† I’ve already consolidated so that’s not an option and, frankly, I think deferral is a horrible choice in the long run because you only end up accruing more interest and owing even more!¬† So I’m saving and factoring in the monthly payment into what I need to save to do a year-long trip.¬† Waiting until it’s all paid off just isn’t an option – I’d be 50!!¬† It just annoys me that choices I made 10 years ago are coming back to haunt me…

    • Michael on May 23, 2011 at 3:57 am

      Ouch. It’s such a messed up system, isn’t it? Paying minimum and waiting till it’s paid off would take a lifetime. Like Christian was saying with owing that much debt – it’s a good idea to at least pay off as much as possible (60%-70%) before someone travels.

  14. Katie on May 22, 2011 at 10:41 pm

    I can soooo relate to this!¬† I finished law school 10 years ago with $100,000 in debt.¬† I took a 6 figure job at a big law firm and paid double my minimum payment every month,but didn’t pay down nearly as much as I should’ve.¬† Now, I’m 4 years into an alternative, much lower-paying career and I’m dying to take time off to travel long-term but I still have $65K in debt and a $460 monthly payment.¬† I’ve already consolidated so that’s not an option and, frankly, I think deferral is a horrible choice in the long run because you only end up accruing more interest and owing even more!¬† So I’m saving and factoring in the monthly payment into what I need to save to do a year-long trip.¬† Waiting until it’s all paid off just isn’t an option – I’d be 50!!¬† It just annoys me that choices I made 10 years ago are coming back to haunt me…

    • Michael on May 23, 2011 at 4:57 am

      Ouch. It’s such a messed up system, isn’t it? Paying minimum and waiting till it’s paid off would take a lifetime. Like Christian was saying with owing that much debt – it’s a good idea to at least pay off as much as possible (60%-70%) before someone travels.

  15. Normand Boulanger on May 22, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    I too was stuck with some debts, not merely has high has Christian’s but still enough that it took me many years to pay it off, now it’s done and gone by. I’m now 35 and planning to leave¬†next year for a two years around latin america (where this trip will take me after that is still undetermined). So Christian don’t worry about what your age, traveling¬†is in your heart no matter what age you are.¬†I’ve been dreamin of this trip for a long time and it’s finally around the corner. Be patient my friend, good thing come to the patient ones.

    • Michael on May 23, 2011 at 3:50 am

      Beautiful advice.

    • Mihai5000 on August 30, 2011 at 3:03 pm

      Ok, we pay all debts, but what if you are 35, and you travel 2 years, it’s not too late for kids at this age? I have the same problem… and I wanna have kids ūüôā

      • Michael on September 5, 2011 at 9:28 pm

        35 or 37 is definitely not too old to have kids. As long as you’re in good health, I think it’s a great age to have kids. I’m nearing 27 and I don’t have kids. Perhaps I’m not the best person for this kind of advice either though.

  16. Normand Boulanger on May 22, 2011 at 10:49 pm

    I too was stuck with some debts, not merely has high has Christian’s but still enough that it took me many years to pay it off, now it’s done and gone by. I’m now 35 and planning to leave¬†next year for a two years around latin america (where this trip will take me after that is still undetermined). So Christian don’t worry about what your age, traveling¬†is in your heart no matter what age you are.¬†I’ve been dreamin of this trip for a long time and it’s finally around the corner. Be patient my friend, good thing come to the patient ones.

    • Michael on May 23, 2011 at 4:50 am

      Beautiful advice.

    • Mihai5000 on August 30, 2011 at 4:03 pm

      Ok, we pay all debts, but what if you are 35, and you travel 2 years, it’s not too late for kids at this age? I have the same problem… and I wanna have kids ūüôā

      • Michael on September 5, 2011 at 10:28 pm

        35 or 37 is definitely not too old to have kids. As long as you’re in good health, I think it’s a great age to have kids. I’m nearing 27 and I don’t have kids. Perhaps I’m not the best person for this kind of advice either though.

  17. James Shannon on May 22, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    ¬†do what I did … save up 1-12 months worth of debt payments along with your travel funds, then set your payments on automatic withdrawal from your bank account

    It’s what I did with my credit card, and it worked for me!

    • Michael on May 23, 2011 at 3:49 am

      If you had the money, why not pay with all the money you saved? Interest rates will only make you pay more in the long run.

      • Missy Holden on March 5, 2012 at 6:21 am

        I am with James on this one. My current strategy is to save for twelve months of debt and expenses to keep my current home, whilst still paying the maximum amount off my loan and building a side business in the process to hopefully accelerate the process. My theory is that I can then travel for up to twelve months whilst not worrying about my debt. By the time the twelve months is up, I will have paid at least a third of my debt off, and then I can combine saving for the trip and paying a little more off my debt over the following six months. So in 18 months time from now, I can travel for up to twelve months and come home to no extra debt.

  18. James Shannon on May 22, 2011 at 10:51 pm

    ¬†do what I did … save up 1-12 months worth of debt payments along with your travel funds, then set your payments on automatic withdrawal from your bank account

    It’s what I did with my credit card, and it worked for me!

    • Michael on May 23, 2011 at 4:49 am

      If you had the money, why not pay with all the money you saved? Interest rates will only make you pay more in the long run.

      • Missy Holden on March 5, 2012 at 7:21 am

        I am with James on this one. My current strategy is to save for twelve months of debt and expenses to keep my current home, whilst still paying the maximum amount off my loan and building a side business in the process to hopefully accelerate the process. My theory is that I can then travel for up to twelve months whilst not worrying about my debt. By the time the twelve months is up, I will have paid at least a third of my debt off, and then I can combine saving for the trip and paying a little more off my debt over the following six months. So in 18 months time from now, I can travel for up to twelve months and come home to no extra debt.

  19. Andrew Caldwell on May 22, 2011 at 9:55 pm

     Hey Christian,

    I’m in a similar situation, but your repayments sound huge, must be a hefty interest rate.

    Teaching English abroad (in the big 3 or 4 in SEA): Japan, Korea, Taiwan apparently pays quite good, some people use this as a strategy to handle repayments back home?

    • Michael on May 23, 2011 at 3:45 am

      Teaching could work but the pay may be considerably lower than back at home. Thailand and China are really difficult to get a high paying job. Pays great for the country itself but not much of anything outside of it. Korea and Japan has good opportunities but it’ll take some discipline to not spend it on traveling.
      Thanks for the comment!

  20. Andrew Caldwell on May 22, 2011 at 10:55 pm

     Hey Christian,

    I’m in a similar situation, but your repayments sound huge, must be a hefty interest rate.

    Teaching English abroad (in the big 3 or 4 in SEA): Japan, Korea, Taiwan apparently pays quite good, some people use this as a strategy to handle repayments back home?

    • Michael on May 23, 2011 at 4:45 am

      Teaching could work but the pay may be considerably lower than back at home. Thailand and China are really difficult to get a high paying job. Pays great for the country itself but not much of anything outside of it. Korea and Japan has good opportunities but it’ll take some discipline to not spend it on traveling.
      Thanks for the comment!

  21. Nancy Sathre-Vogel on May 22, 2011 at 10:41 pm

    While I never had massive debt like you have, I did have some. We lived beneath our means and paid as much as we possibly could to the loans until we got them paid off.

    We also opted to teach overseas (both hubby and I are long-time certified teachers). While we taught in other countries (12 years) housing was provided, the cost of living was pretty cheap, and we paid no taxes. We were able to save quite a bit – which now pays our travels.

    I always say, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” You can make it happen if you really want it.

    Nancy @FamilyonBikes

  22. Nancy Sathre-Vogel on May 22, 2011 at 11:41 pm

    While I never had massive debt like you have, I did have some. We lived beneath our means and paid as much as we possibly could to the loans until we got them paid off.

    We also opted to teach overseas (both hubby and I are long-time certified teachers). While we taught in other countries (12 years) housing was provided, the cost of living was pretty cheap, and we paid no taxes. We were able to save quite a bit – which now pays our travels.

    I always say, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” You can make it happen if you really want it.

    Nancy @FamilyonBikes

  23. Adam @ SitDownDisco on May 23, 2011 at 1:42 am

    It’s great to read a variety of different views here. In my experience, quitting work and traveling the world perpetually is about wealth creation. That is, an asset that will pay you money while you travel, whether that be a business or simply mutual. To set off on a journey with negative equity is probably not the way I would do it. I’d slog it out until the debt is gone and build a business on the side in the meantime. Otherwise the debt will grow and you’ll get bak home in a few years with $200,000 and with absolutely no prospect of long term travel ever again.

    • Michael on May 23, 2011 at 3:38 am

      That is indeed true. Because of interest, the debt will only grow.

  24. Adam @ SitDownDisco on May 23, 2011 at 2:42 am

    It’s great to read a variety of different views here. In my experience, quitting work and traveling the world perpetually is about wealth creation. That is, an asset that will pay you money while you travel, whether that be a business or simply mutual. To set off on a journey with negative equity is probably not the way I would do it. I’d slog it out until the debt is gone and build a business on the side in the meantime. Otherwise the debt will grow and you’ll get bak home in a few years with $200,000 and with absolutely no prospect of long term travel ever again.

    • Michael on May 23, 2011 at 4:38 am

      That is indeed true. Because of interest, the debt will only grow.

  25. Tom's China Blog on May 23, 2011 at 5:38 am

    I think student loans is entirely different from credit card loans, so this would influence my opinion. Student loans aren’t a result of spending money foolishly like the way credit cards often are. It sounds like if you do go abroad, though, you will have to work, or how else would you pay off your student loans? I can just manage paying off loans being an English teacher in China, but I have much less debt than you. The most important thing, as Michael states, is you need a plan. Know how much you are going to make, estimate your expenses, and make sure it is feasible give the lifestyle you wish for yourself. Whatever you do, don’t go in blind-sighted and expect things to work out. I think your already making the right choice by asking around! Best of luck to you!

  26. Tom's China Blog on May 23, 2011 at 6:38 am

    I think student loans is entirely different from credit card loans, so this would influence my opinion. Student loans aren’t a result of spending money foolishly like the way credit cards often are. It sounds like if you do go abroad, though, you will have to work, or how else would you pay off your student loans? I can just manage paying off loans being an English teacher in China, but I have much less debt than you. The most important thing, as Michael states, is you need a plan. Know how much you are going to make, estimate your expenses, and make sure it is feasible give the lifestyle you wish for yourself. Whatever you do, don’t go in blind-sighted and expect things to work out. I think your already making the right choice by asking around! Best of luck to you!

  27. David William on May 23, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    I’m in the same boat, but I have decided to pay off my student loans for now, while saving for traveling. Then once I decide to leave, I’m gone. I dont want to pay off student loans while I travel. Who knows what will happen though. I’m blogging about my times now and as I travel so we will see!

  28. David William on May 23, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    I’m in the same boat, but I have decided to pay off my student loans for now, while saving for traveling. Then once I decide to leave, I’m gone. I dont want to pay off student loans while I travel. Who knows what will happen though. I’m blogging about my times now and as I travel so we will see!

  29. Scott - Quirky Travel Guy on May 23, 2011 at 10:54 pm

    I agree with taking some time to bring the debt down, and then traveling. But don’t wait too long. Student loans aren’t so bad because the interest rates are low and you can pay them slowly over 15+ years. Credit cards are a whole different ball game!

  30. Scott - Quirky Travel Guy on May 23, 2011 at 11:54 pm

    I agree with taking some time to bring the debt down, and then traveling. But don’t wait too long. Student loans aren’t so bad because the interest rates are low and you can pay them slowly over 15+ years. Credit cards are a whole different ball game!

  31. G / Operation Backpack Asia on May 24, 2011 at 4:34 am

    Great advice Michael and I totally agree if you’re talking short-term travel, then yes it’s possible and probably advisable to get out there and travel either to relax and unplug from your normal routine and/or to keep the adventurous and curious sense invigorated! For long-term stuff I would say in your planning stages definitely definitely build in getting rid of that debt first, unless you specifically want to work abroad and basically just live “normal” life in a different locale (which should probably include the normal income because you don’t want to be paying off a USD loan in Thai Baht from¬†a low-salary job!) rather than traveling around and being on the move.¬†

    I found a few tips, tricks and personal systems that helped us to save up for our 3-year backpacking trip through Asia (we’re just about 2 years into it now) that I’d be happy to share with anyone who’s not really sure where to begin. I’ve been meaning to write a post on it for ages but in the meantime anyone is welcome to get in touch and I’ll see if I can help supplement some of the great stuff on this blog with our experience too!¬†

    Christian I send you my best wishes for a fun and happy trip preparation and I hope you keep a blog we can all read when you set out!

  32. G / Operation Backpack Asia on May 24, 2011 at 5:34 am

    Great advice Michael and I totally agree if you’re talking short-term travel, then yes it’s possible and probably advisable to get out there and travel either to relax and unplug from your normal routine and/or to keep the adventurous and curious sense invigorated! For long-term stuff I would say in your planning stages definitely definitely build in getting rid of that debt first, unless you specifically want to work abroad and basically just live “normal” life in a different locale (which should probably include the normal income because you don’t want to be paying off a USD loan in Thai Baht from¬†a low-salary job!) rather than traveling around and being on the move.¬†

    I found a few tips, tricks and personal systems that helped us to save up for our 3-year backpacking trip through Asia (we’re just about 2 years into it now) that I’d be happy to share with anyone who’s not really sure where to begin. I’ve been meaning to write a post on it for ages but in the meantime anyone is welcome to get in touch and I’ll see if I can help supplement some of the great stuff on this blog with our experience too!¬†

    Christian I send you my best wishes for a fun and happy trip preparation and I hope you keep a blog we can all read when you set out!

  33. Ian [EagerExistence] on May 26, 2011 at 6:21 am

    I have debt. But, like you guys have said, I spent 3 years paying down 70% before I started my long-term travel. So far, Im doing ok. But thats at the 1-1.5 month marker. Time will tell. And right now, I think Im in exactly the right place, at exactly the right time ūüėČ

    • Michael on May 30, 2011 at 7:48 pm

      70% in 3 years? Impressive.

  34. Ian [EagerExistence] on May 26, 2011 at 7:21 am

    I have debt. But, like you guys have said, I spent 3 years paying down 70% before I started my long-term travel. So far, Im doing ok. But thats at the 1-1.5 month marker. Time will tell. And right now, I think Im in exactly the right place, at exactly the right time ūüėČ

    • Michael on May 30, 2011 at 8:48 pm

      70% in 3 years? Impressive.

  35. Mike Cotton on May 30, 2011 at 6:04 am

    It is a fascinating question and one which more and more would-be travellers are going to have to confront. In my case I’m incredibly lucky, my student loan doesn’t need to be paid off before I earn ¬£15,000 pa (something which isn’t likely to happened anytime soon). Also with the low interest rate I have, debt really isn’t something I have to worry about.

  36. Mike Cotton on May 30, 2011 at 7:04 am

    It is a fascinating question and one which more and more would-be travellers are going to have to confront. In my case I’m incredibly lucky, my student loan doesn’t need to be paid off before I earn ¬£15,000 pa (something which isn’t likely to happened anytime soon). Also with the low interest rate I have, debt really isn’t something I have to worry about.

  37. Superxicana on June 2, 2011 at 11:00 am

    Thanks for this article. I can totally relate! Debt kept me from traveling for many years. I got out of credit card debt 2x ($10K each time) before I started my first long term trip. I then decided to default my student loans for a year so I could make my travel dreams come true first. I just couldn’t wait to pay $50K off first!!

    Now after traveling for 1 yr, I am going back to the US for a little while to make some $$$$ so I can  keep traveling and pay the rest of those ($50K) suckers off.

    I am hoping to also figure out other ways to use my skills & abilities to make money while on the road for my next big trip in South America.

    I plan to teach English in Japan next year where the pay is very good and would allow me to continue to pay my student loans while making my dream of living in Japan a reality.

    I def welcome any more tips =))))

    • Michael on June 6, 2011 at 2:12 am

      Best of luck to you! Definitely try no to default your student loans any further and try to pay off as much as you can. In the long run, you’ll be able to travel longer and be more free. No need to go back to the US next time. ūüôā

  38. Superxicana on June 2, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    Thanks for this article. I can totally relate! Debt kept me from traveling for many years. I got out of credit card debt 2x ($10K each time) before I started my first long term trip. I then decided to default my student loans for a year so I could make my travel dreams come true first. I just couldn’t wait to pay $50K off first!!

    Now after traveling for 1 yr, I am going back to the US for a little while to make some $$$$ so I can  keep traveling and pay the rest of those ($50K) suckers off.

    I am hoping to also figure out other ways to use my skills & abilities to make money while on the road for my next big trip in South America.

    I plan to teach English in Japan next year where the pay is very good and would allow me to continue to pay my student loans while making my dream of living in Japan a reality.

    I def welcome any more tips =))))

    • Michael on June 6, 2011 at 3:12 am

      Best of luck to you! Definitely try no to default your student loans any further and try to pay off as much as you can. In the long run, you’ll be able to travel longer and be more free. No need to go back to the US next time. ūüôā

  39. Joanna on June 4, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    Awww this is great !!!!

  40. Joanna on June 4, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    Awww this is great !!!!

  41. Lavanya on June 7, 2011 at 6:35 am

    Very Interesting, as I was in this exact position as Christian is about 2 years ago. Faced with the same dilemma I had decided to move to Dubai, UAE to work here for a few years and pay back my University debt AND save up for travels, as I wouldnt have been able to save up for both if I had continued living and working in India (where I’m from).
    And today after 2 years of a struggle I’m only 3 months away from my dream of a year long trip.
    It wasn’t easy by any means and there were times I faltered with the savings too. But I spent the first year here buckling down and putting at least 40% of my salary away into the debt and the second year a mix of debt and travel fund.
    I would definitely advise christian to move to a place where the savings potential is relatively higher (e.g Dubai is an Income tax free haven) and cut down expenses wherever possible.
    I hope this helps.
    Good Luck! ūüôā

  42. Lavanya on June 7, 2011 at 7:35 am

    Very Interesting, as I was in this exact position as Christian is about 2 years ago. Faced with the same dilemma I had decided to move to Dubai, UAE to work here for a few years and pay back my University debt AND save up for travels, as I wouldnt have been able to save up for both if I had continued living and working in India (where I’m from).
    And today after 2 years of a struggle I’m only 3 months away from my dream of a year long trip.
    It wasn’t easy by any means and there were times I faltered with the savings too. But I spent the first year here buckling down and putting at least 40% of my salary away into the debt and the second year a mix of debt and travel fund.
    I would definitely advise christian to move to a place where the savings potential is relatively higher (e.g Dubai is an Income tax free haven) and cut down expenses wherever possible.
    I hope this helps.
    Good Luck! ūüôā

  43. Evan Lovely on June 7, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    OK, I feel like I’m going to be the lone voice here telling you that you can do both. It’s tricky, and I have to admit that I haven’t tested it, but I’m about to.

    So you’re a web developer, huh? Me too. Got debt? Me too. I’ve snagged a good job in a city doing work and I realized that the majority of my expenses were related to living in that city, namely rent and food. I’ve chatted with my boss and have¬†arranged a remote working agreement a la 4 Hour Work Week.¬†In 3 months I’ll be moving out of my house and putting all my stuff in a storage unit, then am buying a 1 way ticket to SE Asia where the living expenses are much less than in the US. I’m going to have to keep up working while I’m gone (committed to 20 hours/week, but can bump that up to 30 if I feel it), but this will enable me to make these travels happen. I’m committing to make sure that I am working enough to pay for travel expenses (by not paying rent in the US the 1st month I’m gone, that covers my one-way ticket there!), and I need to be covering debt payments too. I have enough credit flexibility that if the whole plan goes to crap by me not working enough, then I buy a ticket home, then go back to the original plan: working in a city hard to pay my debt off. I feel that I can do it. The prospect of the possibility to travel is enough to spure work while traveling. It’s not for everyone as most think of vacation as a time to cut off from their lives, but I don’t think of it as vacation; more like a location life experiment, or something…

    I’ll be posting online about my trip starting this September if anybody’s interested. Flickr, my blog, and Twitter will be the main outlets. Stalk me here: http://about.me/EvanLovely

  44. Evan Lovely on June 7, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    OK, I feel like I’m going to be the lone voice here telling you that you can do both. It’s tricky, and I have to admit that I haven’t tested it, but I’m about to.

    So you’re a web developer, huh? Me too. Got debt? Me too. I’ve snagged a good job in a city doing work and I realized that the majority of my expenses were related to living in that city, namely rent and food. I’ve chatted with my boss and have¬†arranged a remote working agreement a la 4 Hour Work Week.¬†In 3 months I’ll be moving out of my house and putting all my stuff in a storage unit, then am buying a 1 way ticket to SE Asia where the living expenses are much less than in the US. I’m going to have to keep up working while I’m gone (committed to 20 hours/week, but can bump that up to 30 if I feel it), but this will enable me to make these travels happen. I’m committing to make sure that I am working enough to pay for travel expenses (by not paying rent in the US the 1st month I’m gone, that covers my one-way ticket there!), and I need to be covering debt payments too. I have enough credit flexibility that if the whole plan goes to crap by me not working enough, then I buy a ticket home, then go back to the original plan: working in a city hard to pay my debt off. I feel that I can do it. The prospect of the possibility to travel is enough to spure work while traveling. It’s not for everyone as most think of vacation as a time to cut off from their lives, but I don’t think of it as vacation; more like a location life experiment, or something…

    I’ll be posting online about my trip starting this September if anybody’s interested. Flickr, my blog, and Twitter will be the main outlets. Stalk me here: http://about.me/EvanLovely

  45. Samon Bagons on August 6, 2013 at 3:41 am

    Hi Admin,

    I am Christina Haze, one of the members of a financial community.

    I love to write a unique article about financial content and would like to contribute something for your site: (artofadventuring com) absolutely free and in return all I need is just one link within the article.

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