How I Paid Off Over $15,000 of Debt While Travelling the World

I’ve seen blog post after blog post about “How to Save Money to Travel.” Whether it be saving for a vacation or a move abroad they all focus on many of the same things. The main being, that travelling needs to be a priority so you set aside money for it accordingly. This is followed by many tips about not eating out, skipping your daily latte, selling all your possessions and so on and so forth.  

While I don’t disagree with this tips per say, what a lot of them miss is that you can save a lot of money not only before you travel (to fund your travelling), but while you travel. 

Saving while travelling leads to an overall life of travel, not just vacation after vacation. It could be moving abroad for years or a never-ending backpacking trip. That choice is yours. Here’s how I saved money while travelling the world.  

The Stoppers

The hardest part of starting a life of travel is getting past the major stoppers: 

  • Friends & Family
  • Possessions 
  • Expectations
  • Money

This isn’t to say you should just drop your friends, family, and everything you own, say screw it to traditional expectations of you and get on a plane. There are more ways than ever before to stay in touch with friends and family. When moving abroad, you’ll eventually come home and visit or have them visit you. I’ve come home in between trips for a wedding, just to come home, and because I needed to return to my home country for visa purposes. If it’s a fur baby you’re worried about leaving behind, check out Travelling With Pets.

While selling all your possessions may give you a nice chunk of change, it’s not always necessary. If you own a home, selling it could be an option, but you could also rent it out, or turn it into an Airbnb. As for a car, if you plan on being away long term, selling it is likely your best option, but simply taking it “off the road” as far as insurance is concerned could be enough, or allowing a friend or family member to take care of it for a while. As for all the other “stuff” we just accumulate, determine what you absolutely love, and sell, donate, or otherwise get rid of the rest. I’ve been lucky enough to still have a room at my mom’s house while I’m away, but a regular purge is still needed.

One of the more difficult things to move away from is expectations. Once I finished University, it was pretty standard to try and find a decent job, hopefully in my field, and make some money to pay off my student loans. For those already in jobs, it’s difficult to leave the familiarity of a place or stability of an income. There’s the worry that your career will stagnant or drop off if you leave.

All these worries are completely valid and normal.

The biggest stopper for many people though tends to be money. And money ties in with many of the stoppers above. My biggest stopper was easily my student loan. How in the hell was I going to be able to pay off tens of thousands of dollars in debt, and still follow my travel dreams?

Here’s how I saved money while travelling the world.


My Debt Story

Like most people my age, I graduated University with far too much student debt. From what I’ve gathered from my friends around the world, North Americans are hit the hardest (particularly Americans, I feel for you guys). Personally, I came out with around $35,000 in a mix of student loan and credit card debt.

Are there things I could’ve done to be more financially prepared and stable whilst in school? Totally. But I don’t in any way regret my University experiences, both academic and otherwise. 

How to save money while travelling

How To Save Money While Travelling

1. Start As Early As You Can

Get into the travel life early and it will be easy to continue. By never having purchased a car or house in my life, I didn’t need to worry about finding a way to get rid of them. 

If you’re still in school, look for opportunities to travel. In some cases, you can earn credits abroad, volunteer abroad or do a full semester abroad. In my first year, I volunteered for a couple of weeks in Lima, Peru. This is not only great travel experience but it can also be rewarding. In my third year, I spent a semester abroad in Trinidad and Tobago. Living in another country is an amazing way to experience a new place, and by doing so through a school it eases you into the process. 

These are just instances for while in University. High school students can also look into exchanges, something I participated in during high school and moved to France for three months. Those not in school can also look into cultural and youth exchanges. If already working see if your company has an international branch in a place you’re interested in.

Starting early allows you to experience more travel, often for an extended period of time, but without the commitment. It is also much cheaper than just going on vacations. My semester in Trinidad and Tobago cost less than a regular semester in Canada. My tuition was the same, but my cost of living was much lower — even including the flight!

2. Avoid Paying For The “Big Stuff”

This is a majorly important step for saving money. Flights and accommodation suck up so much of a budget. The only way I could see as much of the world as I have so far is by working abroad. I did so by teaching English in Korea. Once I received my teaching contract, the school covered the flight and apartment. Once there, many of my meals (during school hours) were covered as well!

This led me to be able to save most of my income. Transportation was cheap relative to Canada, as was my cell phone bill, and I bought minimal groceries. 

Other ways to get “big stuff” covered is through work exchanges like work away and helpx. In both cases, you volunteer your time in exchange for a place to stay and sometimes meals. You could be volunteering in hostels, on a farm, or anywhere someone needs help. 

Another option, though I haven’t personally done it, is to be an Au Pair. Live with a family in their home and look after their children. You get a free room, some pay, and occasionally the flights are paid for (though not common). If you’re lucky you’ll get to travel to even more places with the family!

One of my favourite ways to avoid paying for accommodation while travelling, particularly on shorter trips, is house and pet sitting. This involves staying in someones home and minding their plants, animals, and overall home. I find these places on a site called Trusted Housesitters, and while there is a fee to join, it’s more than paid for itself in accommodation costs. You can easily filter by location, length of time, and type of pets. 


3. Travel “Local”

Make the most of where you’re going. After my exchange in university, it would’ve been nice to go home for a little bit, then continue travelling. But it wouldn’t make much sense to fly back to Canada then to Argentina to backpack through South America when I was already half way there.

Same held true when I was living in Korea. I always kept an eye out for great deals and travelled within the region. During my teaching contract, I took a great trip to Japan, the Philippines, and to Hong Kong. These were all short flights that were relatively inexpensive. Once finished in Korea I backpacked around South East Asia before making my way back to Canada. “On the way” home I stopped off in Vancouver. Make the most of your flights to travel to all the places you want to go.

4. Be Slow & Flexible

If you’re trying to fit everything in one, short trip, it’s going to be very expensive. Same holds true for when you need to travel specific dates to specific places. If you’re stuck on a time, be flexible with a place. Stuck on a place, be flexible with the time. Set up travel alerts on sites like Skyscanner so you can get the best deals right to your inbox.

5. Hustle.

Saving money while travelling and paying off debt isn’t a vacation. You’re simply living your life somewhere else. You’re exploring new places, but you still have to work. Whether this means working abroad or remotely you need to find a way to make money or at least save a lot more than you would at home.

While I was teaching in Korea I not only had my teaching job, but many other side jobs. I was tutoring, modelling, doing voice over work. Whatever it took. It can be tiring at times, but worth it. In doing so I was able to send over $1000 home each month to pay off some of my debt. This still left me with enough to live a fun life in Seoul, travel regionally, have my backpacking trip before coming home, and a bit of a savings buffer before working again once home.

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By | 2017-08-12T17:34:36+00:00 August 4th, 2017|budget, Travel|0 Comments

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