I remember being stuck in my studio apartment in Gold Coast, Chicago on a winter day totally miserable. I watched the snow fall and began thinking about my future and what I wanted to do with my life. A few months prior I went on a two-week backpacking trip to Nicaragua and Costa Rica where I met my boyfriend and had the time of my life. Now back in the states lying my head on the old familiar pillow, talking to the same people about the same things, working to pay rent and studying for my bachelors degree – I felt the itch.
When I began searching for ways to move abroad I started breaking down my expenses and estimating how much I’d be paying overseas. I think I figured about $1,500 – $800 for my loan payment, $400 for rent (max), and an extra $300 for food, utilities, and a phone plan. I searched for months trying to find a way to travel and pay bills, and in September I finally found light. Believe it or not, I was gone by February. I’ve been traveling for a year and two months now and have been able to pay my whopping $1,200 loan payment (it changed… I know) and still save enough money to travel for 4 months. I’ll even have enough start-up money to get my feet back on the ground once I’m back in the states.
If this sounds completely ridiculous to you then keep reading. Here’s my story, and way that I travel and pay off my student loan debt.
My first move into the expat world happened in September of 2013 when I first heard about HESS International Organization. When I moved to Taiwan in February it was a drastic change but allowed me to have a steady income while still having room to explore Taiwan. I played it smart and bought only what I needed and saved the rest for my travels and return home money. I even had enough money to take two weeks off to go to the Philippines and get my PADI Open Water Certification!
Teaching English in Taiwan is the main reason I’m able to do four months of travel and pay off six months of my student loans. Chyeah!
Tutoring is something you can do on the side or even full-time if you have the time. You can make anywhere from $20-$48+ an hour in Taiwan based off of your experience and client. At one time I was blessed with two clients and was making about $36 USD an hour tutoring about once a week each. Tutoring online is an option too and is something I’m thinking about for my first few steps in the states. The money isn’t as good, but with this and what I’ll tell you below; it’s a good start.
I didn’t start REALLY freelancing till this March and have been making enough to continue traveling for another month or two if I wanted. The type of freelancing I do is mainly travel writing.
Aside from travel writing I also accept partnerships with travel companies, advertising on my website, provide Marketing and PR consulting services, promotions, and more! Almost anyone can freelance if they’re good at a particular online skill and have access to the Internet. I mean – I’m working from an iPad and still making this dream work!
Now onto the no-income-related-income. When I say festivities I don’t mean festivals, girls nights, or low-cost activities. I’m talking about drinking, parties, and expensive outings. If you can steer clear of the beer and a higher class social life you’ll save tremendously. Trust me. I didn’t say no to everything, but rather prioritized what’s more important to me – a hangover or a week stay in a bungalow on the beach in Thailand.
Skip the restaurants and ignore every stupid McDonald’s you see. Street food is cheaper than all of that and probably better for you too! There’s really not much more I can say other than – you’re in another country so explore other cultures. For the last year and two months I think I’ve eaten in less than 20 restaurants. It’s doable.
For the last month I’ve been volunteering for an adventure company, Radak Adventure, which helps me save money on food, stay, and activities. Yes, you heard right. I get to eat, sleep, and go rafting, waterfall abseiling, kayaking, jungle trekking – everything for FREE. Now I must say that this is hard to find. A lot of volunteers have taken advantage of opportunities like this so the companies have had to resort to charging volunteers. Here, if you work hard and show initiative you can pretty much stay as long as you want.
Are you struggling to pay off college debt and trying to find a way to travel? Subscribe to my blog below to find out more ways to travel and save money while paying off student loan debt.