I’m going to jump on the ‘Independence Day’ theme for today’s post, because, as cheesy as it sounds, I had my own little Independence Day last week.
On Tuesday, I clicked ‘submit’ on my very last student loan payment EVER. On Friday, I got an e-mail that it had cleared.
I am now officially debt-free.
After over 7 years of (largely) unnecessary debt, this is a very. big. deal. And while I don’t buy into regrets, I would certainly not recommend learning this money lesson the hard way.
So if there is one piece of advice I can give to young travelers, it is this:
Do not rely on your credit card to travel.
Yes, this seems obvious. But when I was young and careless, I ignored the little voice in the back of my head. The one that said, “Lauren, this is a bad idea” every time I decided to use my credit card to pay for something.
Admittedly, a few of my trips came out of those reckless swipes. If I’d been sensible, I wouldn’t have gone to Prague, Samoa, or Perth. It’s hard to say I’m sorry about that.
But I am sorry about all the trips I couldn’t take in the future – the ones that I had to miss out on because I was paying off my debt. And there were far more things I couldn’t do after running up that debt than the things I did to get it.
I’m not saying that having a credit card is a bad idea, because I don’t think it is.
Abusing a credit card? That’s a different story.
Credit cards and travel are natural partners, especially when you’re booking transport and accommodation online. And I do believe in living in the moment, especially while traveling.
But living in the moment doesn’t mean using your visa to buy another round, or extending your trip because you got a credit line increase.
And it can be really, really hard, but sticking to a budget is an incredibly important part of long-term travel. If you don’t, you’re sacrificing your future travel plans, all for the sake of a moment.
You’ve got to decide: is this moment worth it?
Sometimes it is, like buying a spur-of-the moment flight so you can spend one more day in Vienna with someone who you’ll later end up marrying. (Yes, it was romantic and extravagant but completely worth it.)
…And sometimes it’s not, like buying those expensive boots because you were sick of dressing like a backpacker. Especially when you have to abandon them in London because they don’t fit in your luggage. (Fail.)
And, as a bonus piece of advice: Sometimes you’ve got to say no.
No to that third gelato in a day (which would have made it seven consecutive days of triple-dips). No to another pair of earrings or no to another budget-busting dinner out. No to that extra month on the road if it’s financed purely by credit.
Unless you’ve already allotted for these expenses in your budget, in which case I’ll have a scoop of amarena, please.
But maybe the most important thing to remember is this (holy cow, I’m OVERFLOWING with advice today!):
Whatever your means are, be sure to travel within them.
That way, you’ll be able to keep on traveling for a long time to come. Trust me when I say that is worth so much more than an avalanche of impulse buys.
Happy Independence Day – what advice would you give to someone who’s hitting the road for the first time?