Anyone else out there feel like they’re swimming in student loan debt? Of course, because it seems these days every direction you turn there’s another story of how debt is commandeering someone’s future. I’ve debated writing about this topic for a long time, but it’s part of my story. A major part since it dictates when and how much I travel. I have loans and when I want to toss in this normal life and become a nomad I realize I can’t. I need to make enough money to pay those loans off.
I start to think of a hundred scenarios:
What if I pay off the debt in the shortest amount of time possible? I’ve been saving and paying off my loans fairly aggressively, but if I work even harder, make more sacrifices, I could be debt free in a few years.
What if I travel full time and put off the loans? Isn’t there some way to get to $0 payments through unemployment… or maybe I could go into forbearance? But then I’d accumulate so much interest and the loans would be around forever!
I could continue to try to match my payments with a deposit in my savings account each month until I have enough to travel and pay my loans from the road. But how long could I sustain that? The longer my travels, the longer I’d have to save in advance.
It’s my internal dialogue. Constantly. A hundred scenarios going through my mind, but all it takes is one to get me worrying. What if I get stuck in a passionless career trying to pay off these loans and stop traveling?
I think there are a lot of other people out there who don’t travel due to debt-related restraints – after all, many travel and finance experts say to pay off your debts first. And their advice is sound, but for my sanity I decided I had to strike a balance: get a 9-to-5, work a lot, save money, cut expenses and split my funds between aggressive repayment (freedom faster!) and travel (the addiction, the end goal).
But that balance is one thing on paper and another in action. When I am not 100% on top of my finances I get stressed out. When I am not traveling I get a little anxious. And I also spend a lot of my precious time prioritizing moneymaking over personal enjoyment/development (you can tell I am clearly not of the “find a stable job, settle down” mindset).
And we haven’t even mentioned the cutbacks. I live at home, I… Okay the cutbacks aren’t so bad. I love living with my family, my mom does all my least favorite things (most of the time), like laundry. Moving back home was the perfect compromise for me – but a big one nonetheless. I loved my home in New Orleans. I miss it a lot.
The worst is when I get itchy feet. What I really desire are long winded trips with no real agenda – like my summer in Thailand. I want the time to immerse myself in a place, really enjoy it, and the freedom to change location on a whim. Instead, I’m taking the occasional vacation. Looking at my long-term repayment plan with my short-sighted desires, I wonder if I’ll ever get anything more than that. I have to remind myself of future trips and the big picture.
I am one year into my repayment and I have made some incredible progress. I’ve paid off my mom’s parental loan and about $10,000 of my student loans. I’m finally at a place where I feel in control of my payments. It feels good.
I am able to balance debt and travel. But only because of my priorities – debt first, travel second.
Do you have debt? How does it affect your dreams and decisions?