7 Travel Bloggers Reveal How They Travel Despite Student Loan Debt

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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

A post shared by Kate McCulley (@adventurouskate) on

“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.”

Follow Kate: Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram 

2. Matt Gibson of XpatMatt

A post shared by Matt Gibson (@xpatmatt) on

“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.

Follow Matt: Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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.”

Follow Stephanie: Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram 

4. Shannon Ullman of Lives Abroad

A post shared by Shannon Ullman (@livesabroad) on

“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.”

Follow Shannon: Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram 

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.”

Follow Katelyn: Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

6. Laura Grace Tarpley of Let’s Go, Tarpley!

A post shared by Laura Grace (@lgtarpley) on

“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!”

Follow Laura: Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram 

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!”

Follow Kollin: Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram 

Inspired to see the world in spite of your loans? Here are a few posts that might help you get started on your journey:

Bon voyage!

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 9 lenders of 2021!
LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 
1.88% – 6.15%1Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Splash

1.88% – 5.64%2Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Earnest

1.88% – 5.64%3Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit NaviRefi

2.50% – 6.85%4Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit CommonBond

2.25% – 6.39%5Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit SoFi

1.90% – 5.25%6Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Lendkey

1.89% – 5.90%7Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Laurel Road

2.39% – 6.01%Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Elfi

2.13% – 5.25%8Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit PenFed

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 June 1, 2021.

2 Rate range above includes optional 0.25% Auto Pay discount. Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

Interest Rate Disclosure

Actual rate and available repayment terms will vary based on your income. Fixed rates range from 2.59% APR to 5.79% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Variable rates range from 1.88% APR to 5.64% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 36% (the maximum allowable for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate student loan refinance 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 2.04% and 5.8% to the one month LIBOR. Earnest rate ranges are current as of 6/8/2021, and are subject to change based on market conditions.

Auto Pay Discount Disclosure

You can take advantage of the Auto Pay interest rate reduction by setting up and maintaining active and automatic ACH withdrawal of your loan payment. The interest rate reduction for Auto Pay will be available only while your loan is enrolled in Auto Pay. Interest rate incentives for utilizing Auto Pay may not be combined with certain private student loan repayment programs that also offer an interest rate reduction. For multi-party loans, only one party may enroll in Auto Pay.

Student Loan Refinancing Loan Cost Examples

These examples provide estimates based on payments beginning immediately upon loan disbursement. Variable APR: A $10,000 loan with a 20-year term (240 monthly payments of $72) and a 5.89% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $17,042.39. For a variable loan, after your starting rate is set, your rate will then vary with the market. Fixed APR: A $10,000 loan with a 20-year term (240 monthly payments of $72) and a 6.04% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $17,249.77. Your actual repayment terms may vary.Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest. com/terms-of-service, e-mail us at [email protected], or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.

Earnest Loans are made by Earnest Operations LLC or One American Bank, Member FDIC. Earnest Operations LLC, NMLS #1204917. 535 Mission St., Suite 1663, San Francisco, CA 94105. California Financing Law License 6054788. Visit earnest.com/licenses for a full list of licensed states. For California residents (Student Loan Refinance Only): Loans will be arranged or made pursuant to a California Financing Law License.

One American Bank, 515 S. Minnesota Ave, Sioux Falls, SD 57104. Earnest loans are serviced by Earnest Operations LLC with support from Navient Solutions LLC (NMLS #212430). One American Bank and Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.

© 2021 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved.

3 Important Disclosures for Navient.

Navient Disclosures

1. NaviRefi loans are made by Earnest Operations LLC, a member of the Navient family of companies, subject to individual approval and underwriting criteria. California residents only: Loans made or arranged pursuant to a California Finance Lenders Law license. Additional terms and conditions apply.

– To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or non-citizen permanent resident of the United States, reside in a state we lend in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.navirefi.com/help-and-questions. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Loan terms are subject to eligibility. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application. Loan approval is subject to confirmation that your debt-to-income, free cash flow, credit history and application information meet the minimum requirements. You must have a minimum FICO score to be considered.

– You can choose between fixed and variable rates. Fixed interest rates are 2.75% – 6.04% APR (2.50% – 5.79% APR with Auto Pay discount). Starting variable interest rates are 2.13% – 5.89% APR (1.88% – 5.64% APR with Auto Pay discount). Variable rates are based on an index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) plus a margin. Variable rates are reset monthly based on the fluctuation of the index. We do not currently offer variable rate loans in AK, CO, CT, HI, IL, KY, MA, MN, MS, NH, OH, OK, SC, TN, TX, and VA.

– You can take advantage of the 0.25% Auto Pay interest rate reduction by setting up and maintaining active and automatic ACH withdrawal of your loan payment. The interest rate reduction for Auto Pay will be available only while your loan is enrolled in Auto Pay. Interest rate incentives for utilizing Auto Pay may not be combined with certain private student loan repayment programs that also offer an interest rate reduction. NaviRefi rate ranges are current as of June 1, 2021 and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.

– The information provided on this page is updated as of 06/1/2021. Earnest Operations LLC reserves the right to modify or discontinue (in whole or in part) this loan program and its associated services and benefits at any time without notice. Check www.navirefi.com for the most up-to-date information. Terms and Conditions apply. Call 855-284-4893 for more information on our student loan refinance product.

– Earnest Operations LLC – NMLS #1204917, CA CFL #6054788 – 535 Mission St., Suite 1663, San Francisco, CA 94105.
Navient Solutions, LLC – NMLS #212430 – 123 Justison St., Wilmington, DE 19801. Visit https://navirefi.com/lending-licenses for a full list of licensed states.

4 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

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.

5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

Fixed rates from 2.74% APR to 6.74% APR (with autopay). Variable rates from 2.25% APR to 6.39% APR (with autopay). All variable rates are based on the 1-month LIBOR and may increase after consummation if LIBOR increases; see more at SoFi.com/legal/#1. If approved for a loan your rate will depend on a variety of factors such as your credit profile, your application and your selected loan terms. Your rate will be within the ranges of rates listed above. Lowest rates reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers, or may become available, such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp. or an affiliate (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license #6054612; NMLS #1121636 (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org). Additional terms and conditions apply; see SoFi.com/eligibility for details. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.

6 Important Disclosures for LendKey.

LendKey Disclosures

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 04/07/2021 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.90% APR – 5.25% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.95% APR – 7.63% Fixed APR with AutoPay.

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.

  1. Checking your rate with Laurel Road only requires a soft credit pull, which will not affect your credit score. To proceed with an application, a hard credit pull will be required, which may affect your credit score.
  2. Savings vary based on rate and term of your existing and refinanced loan(s). Refinancing to a longer term may lower your monthly payments, but may also increase the total interest paid over the life of the loan. Refinancing to a shorter term may increase your monthly payments, but may lower the total interest paid over the life of the loan. Review your loan documentation for total cost of your refinanced loan.
  3. After loan disbursement, if a borrower documents a qualifying economic hardship, we may agree in our discretion to allow for full or partial forbearance of payments for one or more 3-month time periods (not to exceed 12 months in the aggregate during the term of your loan), provided that we receive acceptable documentation (including updating documentation) of the nature and expected duration of the borrower’s economic hardship. During any period of forbearance interest will continue to accrue. At the end of the forbearance period, any unpaid accrued interest will be capitalized and be added to the remaining principle amount of the loan.
  4. Automatic Payment (“AutoPay”) Discount: if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically from a bank account, the interest rate will decrease by 0.25% and will increase back if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically from the borrower’s bank account. The 0.25% AutoPay discount will not reduce the monthly payment; instead, the discount is applied to the principal to help pay the loan down faster.

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%.


This information is current as of April 29, 2021. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.

8 Important Disclosures for PenFed.

PenFed Disclosures

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 2.13%-5.25% 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.