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How to Travel Without Falling into Debt: Embracing the "Workcation"

Hannah Locklear | November 14, 2023

Hannah Locklear
Editor at SoloSuit
Hannah Locklear, BA

Hannah Locklear is SoloSuit’s Marketing and Impact Manager. With an educational background in Linguistics, Spanish, and International Development from Brigham Young University, Hannah has also worked as a legal support specialist for several years.

Summary: With the advent of remote work, traveling is more accessible than ever before: a concept known as the “workcation” as coined by Andy Abramson. This blog references an interview with Andy in which we explore how careful planning and smart utilization of financial tools, like international debit cards and mobile banking, can help you avoid debt while traveling.

Traveling the world is a dream for many, but the fear of racking up debt can often dampen the adventurous spirit. And in many cases, the desire to explore the world can clash with the practical need to manage expenses and avoid debt.

I recently had a chat with Andy Abramson, CEO of Comunicano and experienced world traveler, about how increased accessibility to remote work has led to more world travel.

After selling his house in Solana Beach, Andy embraced a nomadic life, spending three months living in Europe, particularly in Portugal. It was during this time he coined the term "workcation." This concept wasn't merely a catchy phrase but a philosophy to blend work and leisure, steering clear of what Andy wittily calls "altercations" – the unwanted intrusion of work into leisure time. The workcation acknowledges the need to remain productive while also savoring the experiences travel offers.

Read more on Andy's blog.

Avoid debt while traveling by embracing the workcation

How can Andy's "workcation" model help you travel without accruing debt? Here are some tips inspired by his approach:

  • Plan with a Workcation Mindset: Choose destinations that offer both relaxation and a conducive work environment. Look for accommodations with reliable Wi-Fi and a comfortable space for working.
  • Budget Wisely: Factor in your expected earnings during the workcation to your travel budget. This proactive approach helps balance expenses with income.
  • Leverage Remote Work Opportunities: If you're not already working remotely, explore flexible job options or discuss temporary remote work arrangements with your employer.
  • Schedule Wisely: Structure your day to balance work and exploration. For example, dedicate mornings to work and afternoons to leisure activities.
  • Long-Term Stays for Better Deals: Just like Andy's three months in Portugal, longer stays can often reduce accommodation costs and provide deeper travel experiences.
  • Travel Off-Peak: To maximize savings, plan your workcation during off-peak seasons. You'll enjoy lower prices and fewer crowds.
  • Local Living to Cut Costs: Embrace local living by shopping at local markets and cooking some meals, just as you would at home.
  • Track Your Expenses: Maintain a daily log of expenditures to avoid overspending. Apps like Mint or You Need A Budget (YNAB) can be handy.

The idea of a workcation isn’t just a playful term; it can be a sustainable travel model that blends work and leisure to avoid debt. After all, no work and all play will inevitably lead to financial issues. But why stay at home and work all the time when you can combine work with travel?

With this in mind, let’s further investigate ways to avoid debt while traveling.

How to avoid debt when traveling abroad

Traveling abroad offers an exhilarating chance to explore new cultures and environments, but it can also quietly pave the way to unexpected debt if not carefully managed. Below, we explore some practical strategies from Andy Abramson on how to enjoy your international escapades without letting your finances spiral out of control.

From crafting a realistic budget and understanding currency exchange rates to choosing the right payment methods and tapping into local insights, we’ll guide you through the essential steps to savor your journey abroad, keeping your budget intact and your memories untainted by financial woes.

1. Use your credit cards wisely

There are many benefits of using credit cards to accumulate airline and other travel points. This strategy can indeed transform necessary expenditures into future travel opportunities. However, if you use a credit card to accrue travel points, be cautious about paying it off to prevent debt spirals. Using credit cards can be a powerful tool in a traveler's arsenal, provided there is a plan to pay off the balances regularly and avoid unnecessary interest charges.

However, keep in mind that points tend to lose their value over time, as Andy pointed out in our interview:

“Leverage your frequent flyer and your hotel points to the hilt because my advice to you today is use them now because they'll be worth a lot less than a couple of months to a couple of years. The value of the points are going down. You may have more, but on a dollar for dollar basis or points for points basis, they are worth less today than they were when you earned them. And that's why you should always use them as quickly as you can, not store them up.”

2. Embrace international debit cards

International debit cards and services like Revolut and Wise allow travelers to easily transfer funds from their home accounts to a card that handles multiple currencies. This means travelers can pay in local currencies without worrying about exchange rates or ATM fees, ensuring that they’re getting full value for their money.

Andy’s strategy of transferring only what he needs keeps his spending in check, avoiding the common pitfall of overspending when using credit. This approach not only helps in budgeting but also secures the larger part of funds safely back home.

3. Notify your banks that you are traveling

This precaution prevents the freezing of your cards when foreign transactions appear, ensuring continuous access to your funds. Despite advancements in banking technology, it's better to be safe and take a few minutes to inform your bank, eliminating any potential financial hiccups during your travels. Andy said:

“Move everything from paper to paperless and get notified by email and then set up. Alerts yourself with your banks, credit cards, et cetera. When payments are due, set them up so they notify you at least a few days ahead of time so you can actually manage things. Always be sure you have access to your bank accounts internationally, which again, is a reason why you need to notify your banks.”

4. Carry local currency

Carrying a small amount of local currency for minor expenses is especially useful for places where digital transactions might not be the norm. It helps in easily managing small expenses like tips and public transportation, saving you from the hassle of always using your card.

Now, let’s take a look at a real example of how to manage debt while traveling from Andy.

The bottom line

Combining the judicious use of credit for earning travel points with the strategic use of international debit cards can create a balanced, financially savvy way to see the world. By notifying your banks, and carrying some local currency, you further smooth out your travel experience, focusing more on the joy of exploration and less on monetary concerns.

Travel doesn’t have to be a burden on your wallet if approached with the right tools and a smart plan. And what’s more, with the advent of remote work, traveling is more accessible than ever before.

With a little preparation, travel doesn’t have to mean debt. As Andy said:

“Plan your trips, and plan how much you want to spend. Be careful what you spend money on. Don't spend money on things you don't need. if you see something that you want to do, like a vacation that you know you're going to take, book it. But also know the rules around cancellation or changes.”

Now, safe travels and happy workcationing!

Resolve your debt through settlement

Despite your best efforts to budget wisely and use financial tools effectively while traveling, you might still find yourself facing some level of debt. It's not uncommon, especially when unexpected expenses crop up, or if the allure of once-in-a-lifetime experiences surpasses your initial budget.

So, what do you do if you return from your travels with more debt than you can handle comfortably? One viable option to consider is debt settlement.

Debt settlement, also known as debt negotiation or debt resolution, is a process where a debtor and a creditor agree on a reduced balance that will be regarded as payment in full. It typically comes into play for unsecured debts, such as credit card debts or medical bills.

The amount a creditor will accept in a debt settlement varies widely based on several factors, including the type of debt, the creditor's policies, the debtor's financial situation, and how long the debt has been outstanding. Generally, creditors might agree to accept between 40% and 80% of the outstanding balance, but this is highly variable and not guaranteed.

Here’s how the debt settlement process typically works:

  1. Negotiation: You negotiate with your creditor (or a debt collector hired by your creditor) to reduce the total amount of debt owed. The argument is usually that the debtor is in such a financial position that a reduced payment is better than the risk of getting nothing if the debtor files for bankruptcy. So, if you can demonstrate financial hardship, most creditors will work with you.

  2. Agreement: It may take a few rounds of negotiations to come to an agreement, but once both parties are satisfied, the new, lower amount is set as the "settled" debt. Be sure to get your agreement in writing to avoid future complications.

  3. Payment: Perhaps the most important part of settlement is abiding by your settlement agreement and paying it off. This new amount, either a lump-sum or payment plan over several months, should be taken seriously. Failing to pay off your settlement as outlined in your agreement can cause even bigger debt issues than where you started.

SoloSettle, a product from SoloSuit, is designed to help you negotiate and settle debts without necessarily having to hire a debt settlement company or attorney. It offers a technology-driven solution for those facing debt collection lawsuits or seeking to settle debts outside of court.

To learn more about how to settle your debt, check out this video:

Now, let’s consider an example of how to settle your travel debt.

Example: Monica spent several weeks in Greece and Italy, working remotely and exploring the Mediterranean. While abroad, Monica racked up several thousand dollars in credit card debt because she failed to budget out her trip. Upon returning to the US, she struggled to catch up with her workcation expenses and juggle her other financial obligations. After several months of missed credit card payments, Monica received notice that her creditor was suing her. She used SoloSettle to negotiate the debt and successfully settled her debt for 70% of the original amount.

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