I can feel the stares from the financial planners, accountants and budget gurus, *hands up*, I’m guilty, but I’m going to tell you why I decided to travel the world instead of paying down my hefty $30,000 student loan, so pack your judgement away in that carry-on.
When I decided to go to New York City for college, I made the decision to take on debt in the form of a private student loan from Sallie Mae *cringes*. When I graduated with my degree, it was one of the happiest and most fulfilling moments in life. Knowing I had set out to achieve a goal and to hit that mark, I felt like I could do anything! Then, I remembered, ‘you still got this 30k, to pay off!
It took me a while to get a decent job that I was in love with. My job empowered me to make consistent monthly payments; there were some months where I was paying up to $1000.00. Yep, I was paying the piper. I started off paying as much as I could to pay the loan off ASAP! Then one day, that all changed.
I was sitting down on my bed watching an episode of Chopped, one of the judges asked a chef what would he do if he won the $10,000 prize. His response was, ‘I’m thinking of paying off my student loan but I really want to travel the world’, the response from the judges was a life changer. The judges warned him not to take all of his prize money but instead follow his passion to travelling the world and honing his craft.
From that moment on, I decided that I would rethink the way I was paying off my loan and make room for the things that I loved. I revamped my budget and cut back my loan payments to accommodate travel. What I realised was, I was stressing myself to pay a debt that would probably be around for some time. I failed to enjoy life as it was passing consumed with tunnel vision – I had one goal, pay off this loan! The moment I made the switch, the clouds cleared, and I was able to see the sun. (I know, how corny!) I began to enjoy life because I decided to pack my loan up and put it in a box to the side with a label that said, “One Day”. Don’t waste your 20’s stressing over a loan that will still be there in the end.
I do not claim to be a financial expert, all of this is from personal experience, I just wanted to share with you something many people have asked me about. Lots of young people constantly worry about getting behind on student loans, but student loan debt isn’t the worse debt you can have. Once you make your minimum payments on a timely basis, you’ll be fine. Even the former President and First Lady Barack & Michelle Obama had outstanding student loans into their 40’s. You need to find a way that works best for you. whether this is paying it off as soon as possible or spreading it out, you need to think about your living. With student loan forgiveness schemes also becoming more common, some of you out there might be lucky enough to have your debt written off, meaning travelling will become that little bit easier!
My advice to you is to not waste your 20’s and 30’s fretting over debt. Make your payments and live life! If I had sacrificed travel, I know that I would’ve been able to pay off my debts quicker, but then I wouldn’t have been happy. I’ve travelled to Europe, Asia, Latin America, Africa and had life-changing experiences. I don’t regret any of my decisions, not even getting the loan in the first place. Education, while costly, opened up so many doors for me and allowed me to be eligible for so many opportunities.
I am happy to say that I can see the finish line and will be debt free in a few months. I’ve joked with my family and friends that I will buy a case of champagne and take a shower bath to celebrate! I’m half serious, but I’m too cheap to buy champagne and waste it!
If I can travel the world with a hefty student loan, so can you. Start planning your next vacation today.
LET’S KEEP IN TOUCH!