I graduated college over a year ago, and since then I have made it a goal of mine to travel as much as I can. I know that may be pretty cliche to say, but it’s true! As someone who didn’t really begin traveling until I started college, I knew that I wanted to utilize my post-grad life (and my employer’s flexible PTO) and see the world as much as I could.
But how did I do this, if I’m in student-loan debt and I work full-time? While I know that travel is definitely not accessible for everyone, I wanted to make it accessible for myself. So here’s how I make it happen.
Figure out your priorities
It’s true: one of the most important things you have to do for yourself if you want to achieve any goal is figure out your priorities. When I was getting ready to graduate, I had a few goals in mine. I wanted to get a steady job with a reasonable vacation policy (C and I had plans to visit Disney at the time, and we booked that trip before we even had jobs lined up HAHA). I wanted to make enough money so I could start paying off my student loans as soon as I received my first paycheck. And I wanted to save money by either living back home with my parents or living someplace affordable for me.
So what happened? I accepted the first job offer I received, I started paying off my loans two weeks after graduation, and I moved in with my boyfriend’s parents. Now this may not seem like the perfect plan, but it was a plan that worked for me. Currently, I have a new job (thank goodness) that I love, I’m still living with C’s family (though we’ll move when he goes to med school), and I am still able to pay off loans. And it’s working. It’s not perfect, but I’m grateful every day.
But as you can see, I made travel a priority. In my two full-time positions since grad, I have been given the privilege of flexible PTO, which has allowed me to take almost monthly trips back home to my family and every-so-often vacations with C and my friends. This isn’t realistic for everyone, but I tried my best to make it realistic for me.
By this, I mean be flexible with your destinations, your travel dates, and your accommodations.
When we graduated, we decided with our group of friends that we wanted to plan a trip in the future so we could all reunite and have a set date to see each other. But one person in the group wouldn’t be available until almost 10 months after graduation. Even though this seemed far away, we booked an Airbnb anyway: we all decided we would rather have the possibility of something far in advance to look forward to than nothing at all. We opted for an Airbnb because it was way more affordable for a 5- or 6-person group than individual hotel rooms, and we traveled to Honolulu because it was the most affordable flight to Hawaii we could find.
Why did this work? Because we were flexible! We weren’t too picky with our destination, we booked super far in advance, and we chose to stay somewhere that we knew would work for everyone. It wasn’t perfect, but in the end, it was absolutely a dream come true.
Don’t write off quick or local trips
This has to be something that has helped me keep my little adventure bug alive for the past year. I don’t write off quick or local trips as not being exciting or worthwhile. This is because travel doesn’t have to be far away or expensive in order to be thrilling or fun. You can take a one-night trip to a place you’ve never been or a staycation in a nearby city and still have an awesome time.
Before I started working in San Francisco, a few months ago two dear friends of mine took a trip up to the Bay. The three of us spent a weekend in a hotel in the middle of SF, and we had an amazing time! This was one of my favorite trips I have taken in the past year, and it isn’t because I spent my entire savings on a plane ticket. Rather, it’s because of the company I had. We laughed, we ate, and we explored. It didn’t matter that I stayed somewhere just an hour away from where I live. No matter where we would have gone, it would have been amazing.
True, I work my butt off so I can have the chance to see new places. And I am planning to keep doing it until I can’t anymore. But the point is, travel doesn’t have to be impossible for a recent grad in debt. You just have to know what you want and go after it.
Side note: I didn’t include trips like checking Kayak for hotel deals, using Google Flights to track airfare, and searching the best times of year to travel to each destination. There are plenty of resources online that have these tips, and I’m still new to the traveling game myself. But if you have any questions, feel free to comment below. 🙂