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Can Digital Nomads Travel With Student Loan Debt?

Recently, Joe Biden announced a groundbreaking student loan debt relief package to help millions of Americans become debt free or at least one step closer to financial freedom. And while the student loan relief package will majorly improve the lives of many, there are many people who will still owe tens of thousands of dollars in student loans. For those dreaming of trading in their 9-to-5 in exchange for traveling the world, student loans can seem like a significant roadblock to nomadic life. However, with a few easy-to-apply tips and some planning, student loans don’t need to be something that stops you from jumping into digital nomad life.

How Much Can A Digital Nomad Make?

The salary of a digital nomad will depend on a variety of factors. Depending on your career field, certain industries will pay higher than the standard salary of a digital nomad. For freelance digital nomads, salaries can greatly vary depending on how long you have been in your career field. Developing a consistent and reliable client list can take time. Plus, the longer you work, the more you can increase your standard rates. With all that in mind, general surveys show that digital nomads typically make between $15-30 USD per hour and on average have a salary ranging from $30,000-50,000 USD per year.

➡️ Pro Tip: Being a digital nomad, regardless of if you have student loans or not, is not always easy. Learn more about The Hardest Parts of Digital Nomad Life.

Is It Possible To Be A Digital Nomad With Student Loan Debt?

Being a digital nomad does not mean your financial responsibilities back home disappear. In fact, as a digital nomad, you have to be even more tedious with tracking your spending and savings to ensure you can safely explore the world and financially cover your lifestyle. However, student loans don’t need to stop you from quitting your 9-to-5 and becoming a digital nomad. Still, if you are ready to dive into digital nomad life but have student loans, these tips will help you head out on your adventure sooner rather than later.

Jessi's Journey posing next to elephant in Thailand.
I paid of 20k in student loans while slow traveling around South East Asia.

Travel To Places With Low Cost Of Living

According to CNN, the median rent price across the United States is around $1800 a month. And while this of course will vary depending on the state and city, when compared to countries around the world, this average is astounding! Being a digital nomad means having the flexibility to travel anywhere in the world. By traveling to cheaper destinations, it is not only possible to pay off student loan debt, but also to save some money along the way. From Vietnam to Laos, Romania to the Czech Republic, Columbia to Bolivia, and so much more, there are plenty of destinations around the world where you can still get big adventures for little money.

Make A Budget And Stick To It

Regardless of whether or not you are a digital nomad, having a budget offers up financial freedom. Whether you are living paycheck to paycheck or trying to decide how to spend your extra income, tracking each dollar you earn will help you stay organized and pay off your student loans. Before you pack your bags and catch a plane for your first destination as a digital nomad, make your budget! Plan realistically for how much you will spend on expenses and adventures, continuously reassess it during your travels, and most importantly, stick to it! It can be tempting as a digital nomad to splurge on fun experiences, after all, you are a digital nomad to give yourself the flexibility to see the world. Still, you need to make sure you are not spending beyond your means so that you can use your extra income to pay off your student loans while living abroad.

Jessi's Journey posing by lake in Dubrovnik, Croatia.
Make a budget and stick to it to ensure you can explore indefinitely.

Extend Your Stay

Slow travel is a growing trend in the travel industry. While many backpackers will spend a night or two in a city before moving on to the next destination, slow travelers will extend their stays for weeks, months, or even years. Of course, if you are planning to stay in a country for an extended period of time, make sure to check out visa requirements before you settle in. Still, by visiting one destination for a longer period of time, you can not only get the feel of what local life really is like, but also save money. After all, plane and train tickets can add up quickly! Exploring local or nearby spots is much more affordable. Plus, choosing to slow travel allows you the opportunity as a digital nomad to make friends and build deeper connections with other digital nomads.

Save An Emergency Fund Before You Leave

When paying off student loans, it can be challenging to save for an emergency fund. Still having a small amount of money put aside in case of emergency before you move abroad is a critical step to financial freedom. At the very least, try to save up enough money for a flight home in case of an emergency while abroad. Having this extra cushion will also help you if you have a lower income month as a digital nomad and need to use these savings to pay your monthly student loan payment. Still, try not to touch these funds while traveling!

Hustle Hard

One of the pros (and cons) of digital nomad life is that you usually get to set your own work hours and weekly schedule. Of course, this offers great flexibility for you to spend your time scuba diving or exploring instead of working. However, if you are planning on becoming a digital nomad and need to pay off student loans, be prepared to spend many hours working on getting the level of income you want to be able to make extra payments on your student loans.

Jessi's Journey sitting on a wall overlooking the city of Prague.
Student loans don't need to stop you from taking on digital nomad life!

Start Online Work Before You Leave

If possible, start your digital nomad career before you move abroad. Depending on the career you plan to work in as a digital nomad, it can take a few weeks or months to really get a full client list or tasks assigned to make the money you want. If possible, start a side hustle while working a 9-to-5 that you can transition into being your full-time digital nomad job once you quit, or crash on a friend or family member’s couch for free or a low price to give yourself some time to really build a full digital nomad work schedule.

➡️ Pro Tip: Want to be a digital nomad, but don’t know what job to do? Check out these Unique Digital Nomad Jobs You Can Actually Do.

While student loans can limit your budget and the extra income you have to spend, they don’t need to be why you can’t become a digital nomad. Working online and traveling full-time is not easy, but it is most definitely possible. If you dream of ditching your corporate job and enjoying the freedom of life on the road, don’t let student loans stop you from exploring.

Are you ready to join digital nomad life? Share your thoughts in the comments!


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