Overhead view of Traveler's accessories and items with black notebook and copyspace
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How to Travel and Pay Off Your Student Loans

There is this question floating around in many people’s minds that could deter them from embarking on a journey of a lifetime! You probably know the question.

Should I wait to pay off my student loan before traveling or should I say fuck Sallie Mae and just travel?

Well, my question to you is, why not do both? Why sit at home and be miserable paying off your loan(s) when you can explore different countries, eat weird foreign food and pay off your student loans at the same time?

How, you ask? Well you’re in luck my friend, this guide will show you how!

Programs/Scholarships

There are various programs and scholarships out there that can help you pay off your loans while giving you the opportunity to discover a place you have never been to. The only catch is that you have to be willing to do some good in the world :), i.e. volunteer!

group of happy volunteers planting treel in park
Syda Productions / shutterstock.com

1. AmeriCorps

AmeriCorps is a national volunteer service program that meets community’s needs in education, environment, public safety, health, and homeland security within the USA.

How it works:

AmeriCorps volunteers either work a full or part time position for 10-12 months in one of the many non-profit organizations, community partners or public agencies. Members can volunteer in any location within the United States. I know for sure that AmeriCorps works because I did it for two years before traveling full time. During my time as an AmeriCorps volunteer, I was able to live in another state while at the same time paying money towards my student loan debt.

Benefits:

  • Upon completion of your service, AmeriCorps members receive a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award (i.e. not real physical cash) that can be used towards furthering their education (college, grad school, vocational training) or loan repayments. At the end of my two year service, I received $11,000 in Education Award!! This is currently allowing me to travel and make payments to my loan without paying a cent out of my own pockets! #Winning
  • During service, most AmeriCorps members qualify for temporary postponement of their federal student loan payments. All accrued interest during service is paid off by AmeriCorps :)
  • You can do your volunteer service in any state! Even in more exotic places like Hawaii.
  • Though this is a volunteer service program you do get a modest living allowance and depending on the program you may receive housing, health insurance, and child care.
  • Make a difference in the lives of others.

Resources:

Official Website:
AmeriCorps

boys and girls posing at streets of Bangui in Bangui, Central African Republic
sandis sveicers / shutterstock.com

2. Peace Corps

Peace Corps is another volunteer service organization of the United States however it is international. Peace Corps members are sent abroad to help “tackle the most pressing needs of people around the world”.

How it works:

Peace Corps members travel to a foreign country to help with issues such as education, food security, agriculture, AIDS/HIV, health and more. The volunteers’ service location is determined by the needs of the host country and the volunteer’s skills. The minimum commitment for Peace Corps is two years.

Benefits:

  • Upon completion of service, members are paid $8,000 (before taxes of course) to help with transitioning back home. You can use this money however you please (more traveling maybe :D).
  • Volunteers receive a modest living stipend, housing, full medical and dental coverage, training, paid travel expenses, 48 paid vacation days, and university and career benefits upon completion.
  • With 48 paid vacation days, you can not only explore the country you are living in but neighboring countries too.
  • Umm you get to live in another country duh!!!
  • Stafford, Perkins, direct or consolidation loans may be eligible for deferment. Perkins loans may also be eligible for 15-70% cancellation benefits. Please Note: Rules and regulations are different for each type of student loan. So please make sure to consult with your loan provider and/or Peace Corps to see if you qualify for student loan relief before joining the program.
  • Also, in order to make sure that even financially burdened applicants can serve, Peace Corps partner, Seed Global Health provides up to $30,000 in debt relief for eligible volunteers through private philanthropy.
  • Make a difference in the lives of others.
  • Truly experience a different culture.

Resources:

Official Website:
Peace Corps


International Jobs

At this point in the post, a lot of bloggers would suggest Workaway, Couchsurfing or Wwoof, which don’t get me wrong are great platforms to use while traveling but they won’t necessarily help you pay off your student loans. They will only help you decrease your spending. However, this post is not about decreasing your spending, it’s about making money while traveling to pay off your loans. Below are a few jobs that will allow you to do just that:

Cruise Ship Sailing from a Port
NAN728 / shutterstock.com

1. Cruise Ships

Pay off your loans while sailing through the oceans! Cruise ships are huge and they need staff members to maintain, entertain, and clean. Some ships need over 1000 workers for each trip. Although this job is not for everyone, it can be a goldmine for those who can handle it.

How it works:

It’s as simple as googling it! Just type in “Royal Caribbean (or any other major cruise ship line) + jobs” and you will find more than enough job vacancies. There are over 300 job opportunities available on a cruise ship, ranging from gift shop retailer to shore excursion manager. You are bound to find something you qualify for, not to mention cruise ships have a very high employee turnover! So don’t be afraid to go for it. Plus the benefits are crazy: depending on your skills and job position you can be paid anywhere from $1,500 – 3000 a month with all expenses paid for, so everything you make is pocket money. You don’t pay for food, rent, or utilities. You just make money! Not to mention you get paid to see some amazing places around the world.

Benefits:

Instead of listing the benefits I figured I would quote a fellow traveler and ex cruise ship worker, “There are usually crew activities such as parties, wine and cheese nights, crew shows, a crew gym, tours, contests, spa nights and a bar or two to help keep your social life active and interesting. When you combine all of this, you end up with a work experience that allows you to travel, network with people from around the world, save a great deal of money and have an absolute blast in the process. And did I mention that you get about two months vacation in between contracts where you can go wherever you want in the world? Not bad at all!” -Derek Earl from Wandering Earl

Resources:

Recommended Reading:
How to Get a Job on Board Cruise Ships

Useful website with many cruise ship job listings:
All Cruise Ship Jobs

group of asian primary school boys and girls studying in class.
imtmphoto / shutterstock.com

2. Teaching English Abroad

Teaching English abroad is probably one of the most common jobs done by travelers trying to save money while traveling. English is a universal language and that means people are eager to learn it. So take advantage of this. Teach English overseas, earn money, pay your loans and explore the world!

How it works:

Search through job listings on Dave’s ESL Cafe or hire a recruiter to find the perfect teaching job for you. Many teaching jobs come with an all expenses paid contract and pay a very competitive salary. Contract lengths vary by school and country but most are for a year. Obviously the longer you stay the more you can make. Popular countries to teach English in are South Korea, China, Taiwan, Vietnam and Thailand. However, the United Arab Emirates is known to have the most lucrative employment package as English teachers are in high demand there.

What you need:

A teaching degree or experience is not always needed to get hired overseas. However, we strongly recommend taking an accredited TEFL course. With this certificate, you will have an edge on other candidates and will most likely get paid more than those that do not have one.

Benefits:

  • Okay I will state the obvious, you get paid to live, travel and work in a foreign country
  • Depending on the country you can be exempt from paying taxes
  • Paid vacations
  • Depending on your spending and saving habits you can save ~$1000 or more each month
  • Get international work experience
  • Opportunity to learn a foreign language
  • Make a difference in the lives of others
  • Truly experience a different culture

Please note that the exact benefits depend on the school and country.

Resources:

Recommended Reading:
So You Want to Teach English in Korea?
Ultimate Guide to Teaching English Online With VIPKID
How Save $17,000 Teaching in Korea
9 Great Blogs About Teaching English in Asia

Job Listings:
Dave’s ESL Cafe

Kangaroo Traffic Sign
Petr Kratochvila / shutterstock.com

3. Working Holiday Visa

A Working holiday visa allows people from specific countries to live and work in another country for a certain period of time. Popular working holiday visa destinations are: Australia, New Zealand, UK, US and Canada.

How it work:

Working holiday visa requirements differ for each country, however most visas are usually valid for six months to a year and are for people between the ages of 18 and 30.

You can only apply for a working holiday visa if your native country has an agreement with the country of your interest. For example, Americans can get a working holiday visa for New Zealand, Australia and Canada but not for Brazil, or Costa Rica.

Research is required to see what country you are eligible to get a working holiday visa in. Once granted the visa you can get jobs in whatever really, depending on your skills of course, but the most popular jobs that don’t require any previous experience are are hostess, receptionist, fruit picker and bartender.

What You Need To Apply:

Beside the requirements mentioned above, countries usually require that applicants have travel insurance, sufficient funds to support oneself while searching for a job, a valid passport and proof of a round trip ticket. Make sure to check your country of interest’s working holiday visa requirements before applying.

Benefits

  • Really experience a country like a local
  • Opportunity to earn money for travel as well as make payments toward your student loan
  • Gain international work experience
  • Get an opportunity to try various trades

Resources:

Recommended Reading:
The Best Travel Blog About Working Holiday Visas
Working Holiday Visas around the World
Detailed list of available Working Holiday Visas in the World

Air hostess with the airplane cabin crew smiling
ESB Professional / shutterstock.com

4. Flight Attendant

Being a flight attendant isn’t your typical 9 to 5 job. You won’t be sitting behind a desk praying for the clock to hit 5pm. Rather, you get to see the world and don’t have to worry about bringing work home!

How it works:

Though becoming a flight attendant is a very competitive job, getting started is as simple as meeting basic requirements (such as height, appearance, etc.), and applying. You do not need to attend a special flight school, only a H.S. Diploma or GED is needed. Training is provided onsite for 3-8 weeks before employment begins. Getting invited for training doesn’t mean you got the job. All applicants must pass training before they can become an employee for the airline.

Bonus skills to have when applying: ability to speak multiple languages, experience in customer service, and of course be dependable and flexible.

Things to know:

  • Hours: Flight assignments can include nights, weekends, holidays and extended hours (layovers, etc.)
  • Pay: Income does vary from airline to airline. The average income as of May 2015 was $44,860 with the top 10% earning about $70,000 a year. However, keep in mind that entry level pay can be as low as ~$18,000 a year.
  • Senior employees get the best benefits with first picks on hours, schedule, and flight routes.

Benefits:

  • Free airline travel (even outside work hours)
  • Discount travel tickets for family, spouse/partner and friends.
  • Can have dinner in one place and wake up in another.
  • Accommodation and meals paid for when working away from home

Resources:

Recommended Reading:
What is it Really Like to be a Flight Attendant?
Flight Attendant Jobs: What It Takes To Work At 30,000 Feet In The Sky

If you don’t want to be a flight attendant, you can apply for other airline jobs such as baggage handlers or ticket agent and get some of the same benefits (such as free airline travel) as flight attendants.

Girl receives a key to a car.
Lorenzo Patoia / shutterstock.com

5. Driveaway

Driveaway allows you to travel across the USA, Canada and Australia in someone else’s car while getting paid to do so! How? By helping rental companies transport cars from one location to another. So if you enjoy driving and have a passion for spending time on the road, becoming a driveaway driver maybe for you.

How it works:

Many times people rent out cars and return them in different locations from where they have picked them up. Which means plenty of cars end up in the wrong location and need to be returned. So to solve this problem, rental companies hire drivers to take vehicles back and forth to the right destinations.

To become a driveaway driver simply search for “auto driveaway” or “transport driver” on different job search engines or apply directly with the car rental company of your choice.

If you choose to do driveaway with a third party company (a middleman) you will mostly likely not get paid for it and might even end up paying a few dollars to actually drive the car. So I would avoid them if your primary goal is to pay off your student loan debt.

Things to Know

  • Must be over 23 years old and have a valid driver’s license with a clean driving record to qualify.
  • Need to have a flexible schedule.
  • Most companies ask for a deposit between $300-400 which you get back on delivery.
  • Benefits, allowance for accommodation, included fuel or length of delivery depends on the rental company.
  • Once you are assigned a vehicle, you are given an assigned number of days to deliver the car. Number of days offer enough flexibility for drivers to do some sightseeing as companies understand drivers want to see sights along the way. Adhere to assigned days and route in order to get your deposit back.

Resources:

Driveaway Agency in North America:
Auto Driveaway


Lower Monthly Payments

The following options are ways to help reduce your monthly payments while traveling. Please remember to contact your loan provider to make sure these options would work for you and your specific loan(s) before doing anything.

1. Switch to auto pay – By signing up for auto pay with your loan provider you can qualify for a 0.25% interest rate reduction. I know it’s won’t make a huge impact but hey, every cent counts.

2. Switching to income based payments – By applying for an income-driven repayment plan you can drastically reduce your monthly payment. Please note that interest on the loan will still accrue. However, you can make payments to the interest each month (since you will be working and traveling) instead of full monthly loan payments.

3. Upromise – a free program through Sallie Mae that awards cash back on online purchases, dining out, travel and more via your debit or credit card. If you sign up, Upromise will automatically transfer your earnings to your loan provider. This is a good way to earn money on things you normally purchase and reduce loan payment amounts each month. However, don’t go out of your way to spend money just to earn rewards because that would defeat the purpose.

4. Study abroad – If you are interested in studying abroad, it is a great way to explore a country and possibility defer your loan payments until you have finished school. Understand that deferment means that you may still pay for the interest, depending on your type of loan. Subsidized loans do not accrue interest while in school. The best way to know if the school you want to go to abroad is recognized by the federal aids office is to contact your student loan provider.


Wow, you have made it to the end. Congratulations, you are now officially equipped with the proper tools to start building an action plan to start traveling with student loans. So what are you waiting for?

Do you know of another opportunity to help one travel with student loans?

Inspired? Pin this for later…

How to Travel the World and Pay of your Student Loan Debt Pinterest Pin

The Author

Jazzy is a professional travel writer and the editor-in-chief at Road Affair. She has been traveling around the world with her partner in crime, Ben, since 2012.

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Comments

    1. Hey Shannon,

      I couldn’t agree more! Life is too short to sweat over the small stuff.. even if the number is large lol :)

      If you do do driveaway in Australia, let us know how it goes!

      Thanks for stopping by and showing some love xoxo

  1. Great post. I recently just finished up a college and have ultimate travel fever. I’ve always wanted to travel and now that I’m no longer in school, Im taking advantage of it. But student loans are going to kick in 6 months from now and I’m already freaking out. Thanks for posting all these tips and ideas about paying down loans.

    1. Hey Tasania! Congrats!!! As a gift to yourself, you should take advantage of those 6 months and go travel, you deserve it (though I should warn you that the travel fever may get worse, and you might never come back lol)! Then you can go back home and start working or just keep traveling and work while you travel.

      Congrats Again! :)

      p.s. I hope your travel fever gets you on the road and not get cured by the pressure to buckle down and work until you pay off your student loans. Take a leap of faith, and if it doesn’t work you can always go back!

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