Traveling the world – it’s the dream, right?
But if you have student loans, you might think your only option is to spend your days on Instagram, scrolling past the magic you wish you could experience.
The truth, though? With some careful planning and hard work, you can travel with student loans.
For proof – and advice on how to do it – I turned to the pros: seven travel bloggers who’ve managed to explore the world despite more than $250,000 of loans between them.
Here’s their inspiring advice.
1. Kate McCulley of Adventurous Kate
“When I decided to travel Southeast Asia for seven months, I owed more than $15,000 in student loan debt.
But I didn’t let that stop me – instead, I decided to budget enough money to cover my student loan payments while I was away. It was just another expense that I needed to save up to cover.
I’m fortunate in that my student loans are public, not private, so I was not subject to sky-high interest rates that would have made traveling much more difficult. When my seven-month trip turned into five years of full-time travel, I just kept budgeting my loans as a monthly expense.
I didn’t want to wait until my loans were paid off before I could start traveling – even if I paid them off aggressively, it would have taken years in order to do so. I wasn’t going to delay the opportunity of a lifetime. Paying a little extra in interest made it worth it, in my opinion.”
2. Matt Gibson of XpatMatt
“I graduated from the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, with about $20,000 in student loans back in 2003. I was eager to travel, but living in Vancouver, I was barely able to afford my living expenses, let alone pay off my loan.
Then, I met a guy who was planning to go teach English in Taiwan. So, I looked into it. It turned out that in Taiwan, an English teacher could save anywhere from $1,000-$3,000 per month.
It sounded ideal, so I bought a plane ticket and flew over in the summer hoping to find work for the beginning of the school year in the fall.
Everything I’d heard had been true. I paid down about $1,000 on my loan every month working about 25 hours per week. In the meantime, I also started my freelance writing career with a series of articles about Taiwan and started my adventure travel blog.
On holidays, groups of us would often travel to places like Thailand, Hong Kong, and the Philippines. Eventually, I finished paying off my loans and started travel writing and blogging full time.”
Note: Although Gibson taught in Taiwan for six years, he paid off his loans after only three.
3. Stephanie Be of TravelBreak
“Inflation in the millennial generation can make travel and lifestyle difficult – but it forces us to pinpoint our priorities. I attended UCLA with multiple scholarships yet still pay about $300 a month in student loans.
When I graduated in 2012, I decided to defer my loans a year to work while traveling – eventually starting my business. What’s one more year of interest compared to a year of travel?
I’d also sold my car and worked odd jobs until I’d built a career as a freelancer. I wasn’t paying student loans and traveling and shopping for Chanel or driving a Mercedes.
Four years later, I make between $5,000 to $15,000 a month working remotely and traveling. The ‘finding yourself’ concept may seem dreamy and silly, but my personal and professional life was reshaped by that gap year.
If going to UCLA (despite the student debt) was the best decision I’ve ever made, traveling for a year after graduation was the second.”
4. Shannon Ullman of Lives Abroad
“I thought my life was pretty much over when I looked at my $35,000 student loan balance. After getting over my initial mental crisis, I decided to get creative. While I had always used my extra money to travel throughout college, I would no longer have extra cash.
I was unwilling to give up travel altogether, so I took an online ESL (English as a second language) course and landed a teaching job in China.
My company paid for my apartment, the cost of living in China was cheap, and I was able to make a monthly wage plus supplement it with private tutoring. With all of that together, I was able to pay my student loans, travel around Asia, and save!
After that, I found teaching jobs in Vietnam and Thailand and eventually started freelance writing, allowing me to make money from my laptop while I moved around to different countries and states. I actually just paid the minimum, which was around $150 for about five years.
Then, I moved back home after traveling and really focused on cutting them out. So now, after all of that, they’re down to about $16,300.”
5. Katelyn Michaud of Diaries of a Wandering Lobster
“Between my undergraduate and master’s degrees, I graduated in 2012 with a total of $44,104 of student loan debt. It wasn’t until I returned home from a vacation in Belize in 2014 that I decided I wanted to take a career break and travel the world.
My goal was to start in January 2016, giving me just over two years to save up money and pay down some of my student loan debt. I started side hustling by teaching fitness classes, starting a travel blog, freelance writing, and selling everything I didn’t need.
With that money, I was able to pay my student loan debt down to about $18,000 – with another $7,000 saved for travel and $3,000 in my emergency fund. I made sure to have enough money in the bank to pay my monthly student loan bill of $300.
I opted to spend a year in Australia on my working holiday visa, which allowed me to work while I traveled in the country. The income I made in Australia helped extend my U.S.-based travel fund and also allowed me to throw a few hundred dollars here and there to finish paying off my undergraduate degree before my 30th birthday.
After almost 18 months of travel, my student loan debt is now at $13,800. Many people think it’s impossible to travel long term with student loan debt, but if you plan ahead and are smart with your money, it is possible.”
6. Laura Grace Tarpley of Let’s Go, Tarpley!
“I didn’t take out any student loans, but my husband, Daniel, did.
We combined our finances when we got married last October. He graduated in 2014 with just under $15,000 in loans. We have seven years to pay the remaining $10,590.
We’ve found two ways to keep the debt from dragging us down while we travel.
First, we integrate work into our adventures. Before we got married, Daniel worked in South Korea for a year and was diligent about making higher loan payments than necessary. We both work as English teachers in China now.
Second, we have side gigs. We both have extra tutoring jobs once or twice per week after school. I’m also a freelance writer and blogger.
All the money I make from writing goes into our American bank account, which we use to pay student loans and other bills. That way, the money we make from teaching in China can go into savings or towards big trips.
Thanks to our side gigs, we were able to take a five-day vacation in Tokyo last month, and I’m currently planning a trip to Beijing!”
7. Kollin Lephart of Every Girl, Everywhere
“Traveling with student loans can be extremely tough on a person. When you feel the bite but have responsibilities back home, it makes the lifestyle seem almost impossible. But no worries, ladies and gents; it’s not!
My secrets are living somewhere cheap so you can save, researching the places you stay so you’re getting the best bang for your buck, traveling during the offseason, and working while you travel. Gigs for freelance writing, photography, website design, and more are all available to you and can be found on numerous websites.
Taiwan (where I lived for a year) was so cheap that I saved nearly $10,000 and was able to put that toward my $100,000 student loan. Then, I traveled off the money I made freelancing.
Don’t let debt hold you back – use it as a driving force to push harder so you can live the life you’ve always wanted!”
Inspired to see the world in spite of your loans? Here are a few posts that might help you get started on your journey:
- How to Pay Off Your Student Loans by Teaching English Abroad
- Want to Travel and Pay Your Loans? Check Out These 5 Adventure Jobs Sites
- How to Become a Digital Nomad and Travel the World
- 7 Jobs You’ll Love if You Want to Travel the World
- How to Take Your Dream Vacation While Still Paying Off Debt
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 9 lenders of 2021!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|1.89% – 6.15%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.99% – 5.64%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|3.80% – 9.36%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.91% – 5.25%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.25% – 6.53%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.15% – 4.42%6||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.89% – 5.90%7||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.39% – 6.01%||Undergrad |
|2.00% – 5.63%8||Undergrad & Graduate|
|Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews! |
1 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.
Splash Financial Disclosures
Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. If approved, your actual rate will be within a range of rates and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, income and other factors. Refinancing or consolidating private and federal student loans may not be the right decision for everyone. Federal loans carry special benefits not available for loans made through Splash Financial, for example, public service loan forgiveness and economic hardship programs, fee waivers and rebates on the principal, which may not be accessible to you after you refinance. The rates displayed may include a 0.25% autopay discount
The information you provide to us is an inquiry to determine whether we or our lenders can make a loan offer that meets your needs. If we or any of our lending partners has an available loan offer for you, you will be invited to submit a loan application to the lender for its review. We do not guarantee that you will receive any loan offers or that your loan application will be approved. Offers are subject to credit approval and are available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rates, which are available to the most qualified borrowers. Participating lenders, rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice.
To check the rates and terms you qualify for, Splash Financial conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, the lender will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.
Splash Financial and our lending partners reserve the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen and meet our lending partner’s underwriting requirements. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. This information is current as of May 1, 2021.
2 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 2.98% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.49% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.34% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of October 26, 2020, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 10/26/2020. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at [email protected], or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
© 2020 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
3 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change and state law restriction. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900), NMLS Consumer Access. If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 0.15% effective Jan 1, 2021 and may increase after consummation.
4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of 5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.
As of 02/17/2021 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.91% APR – 5.25% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.95% APR – 7.63% Fixed APR with AutoPay.
5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
6 Important Disclosures for PenFed.
Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. Fixed Rates range from 2.89%-4.78% APR and Variable Rates range from 2.15%-4.42% APR. Both Fixed and Variable Rates will vary based on application terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. For Variable Rate student loans, the rate will never exceed 9.00% for 5 year and 8 year loans and 10.00% for 12 and 15 years loans (the maximum allowable for this loan). Minimum variable rate will be 2.00%. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.
7 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
All credit products are subject to credit approval.
Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.
As used throughout these Terms & Conditions, the term “Lender” refers to KeyBank National Association and its affiliates, agents, guaranty insurers, investors, assigns, and successors in interest.
Assumptions: Repayment examples above assume a loan amount of $10,000 with repayment beginning immediately following disbursement. Repayment examples do not include the 0.25% AutoPay Discount.
Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): This term represents the actual cost of financing to the borrower over the life of the loan expressed as a yearly rate.
Interest Rate: A simple annual rate that is applied to an unpaid balance.
Variable Rates: The current index for variable rate loans is derived from the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) and changes in the LIBOR index may cause your monthly payment to increase. Borrowers who take out a term of 5, 7, or 10 years will have a maximum interest rate of 9%, those who take out a 15 or 20-year variable loan will have a maximum interest rate of 10%.
KEYBANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.
This information is current as of April 29, 2021. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.
8 Important Disclosures for Nelnet.
Checking your rate results in a soft credit pull, which will not affect your credit score. If you continue with your application, Nelnet Bank will request your permission to obtain your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies. This is a hard credit pull and may affect your credit score.
Interest rate reduction of .25% for automatically withdrawn payments from any designated bank account (“auto debit discount”). Auto debit discount applies when full payments (including both principal and interest) are automatically drafted from a bank account. The auto debit discount will continue to apply during periods of approved forbearance or deferment if the auto debit discount was in effect at the time of receiving the forbearance or deferment. Auto debit discount will remain on the account unless (1) the automatic deduction of payments is canceled or (2) there are three consecutive automatic deductions returned for insufficient funds at any time during the term of the loan.
Request for the cosigner to be released can be made by the borrower after 24 consecutive, on-time payments (not later than 15 days after the due date) of principal and interest have been made. Borrowers in deferment or forbearance must make 24 consecutive, on-time payments after re-entering repayment to qualify for the release. The borrower must be current on their payments at the time of the cosigner release request and show the ability to assume full responsibility of the loan(s) by meeting certain credit criteria on their own at the time of the request, including, but not limited to, being a U.S. citizen or having permanent residency in the United States, being the age of majority in their permanent state of residency, providing sufficient proof of income, and having no student loans in default.
Hardship forbearance allows you to temporarily suspend payments on your loan(s) while you are experiencing financial hardship. It is offered in increments of two or three months, with a maximum of 12 months available, in aggregate, over the life of the loan. If your loan(s) are in good standing at the time of your request, you will be eligible for forbearance in increments of two monthly payments. If, at the time of your initial request, your loan(s) are considered past-due, you will be eligible for forbearance in increments of three monthly payments. Future increments of forbearance, up to a life-time maximum of 12 months, may be requested upon the completion of making a certain number of principal and interest payments. During the two- or three-month forbearance period, you will not be required to make payments; however, any unpaid interest will continue to accrue and will be capitalized (added) onto your principal balance at the end of the forbearance period. You may continue making payments in any amount without penalty during the forbearance period. Your loan repayment term will be extended by the number of months in the forbearance period.
Refinance Loan Eligibility: You must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien with a valid U.S. Social Security number, and be the legal age to enter into binding contracts in your permanent state/territory of residency, or be at least 17 years of age and apply with a cosigner who is at least the age of majority in their state/territory. Non-residents can apply with an eligible cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien with a valid U.S. Social Security number. The student loans you refinance must be in their grace or repayment period, and you can no longer be enrolled in school on a half-time or more basis. You must have at least $5,000 in student loans to refinance. You, or your eligible cosigner, must have an annual income of at least $36,000. Approval subject to credit review. Other credit criteria may apply.
Refinance Loan Limits:
Loan Refinancing Risks: Federal student loans include benefits that may not be offered with private student loans. Carefully review any potential benefits that may be lost by refinancing federal and private education loans, such as the loss of any remaining grace periods. To learn more about what to take into consideration when refinancing federal student loans with private education loans, click here
Selecting ‘Get Started’ results in a soft credit pull, which will not affect your credit score. If you continue with your application, Nelnet Bank will request your permission to obtain your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies. This is a hard credit pull and may affect your credit score.
Fixed interest rates range from 2.99% APR (with auto debit discount) to 6.25% APR (without auto debit discount). Your interest rate will depend on your (and if applicable, your cosigner’s) credit qualifications. The fixed interest rate will remain the same for the life of the loan.
Variable interest rates range from 2.00% APR (with auto debit discount) to 5.63% APR (without auto debit discount). Your interest rate will depend on your (and if applicable, your cosigner’s) credit qualifications. Variable rates may increase after consummation. The variable interest rate is equal to the One-Month London Interbank Offered Rate (“One-Month LIBOR”) plus a margin. The One-Month LIBOR in effect for each monthly period (from the first day of the month through and including the last day of the same month) will be the highest One-Month LIBOR published in The Wall Street Journal “Money Rates” table on the twenty-fifth (25th) day (or if such day is not a business day, the next business day thereafter) of the month immediately preceding such calendar month. The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) for a variable interest rate loan will change monthly on the first day of each month if the One-Month LIBOR index changes. This may result in higher monthly payments. The current One-Month LIBOR index is 0.15% as of 5/4/2021.
The lowest interest rate for each loan type requires automatically withdrawn (“auto debit”) payments, a five-year repayment term, and the borrower making immediate principal and interest payments. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rate. The interest rate and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) may be higher depending upon (1) the credit history of the borrower and, if applicable, the cosigner, (2) the repayment option and loan term selected, (3) the loan type selected, and (4) the highest level of education attained. If approved, applicants will be notified of the rate qualified for within the stated range.
*Checking your rate results in a soft credit pull, which will not affect your credit score. If you continue with your application, Nelnet Bank will request your permission to obtain your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies. This is a hard credit pull and may affect your credit score. **Your actual savings may vary based on interest rates, outstanding balances, remaining repayment terms, and other factors.