I am super excited to share this interview with my matchmaker friend and colleague, Justine! Like many of us, Justine was saddled down with 66k in debt after finishing her Master’s. Too many of us end up in debt after finishing school with no idea how we are going to pay it off while working an office job and living in an expensive city. It can start to feel like a burden we’ll never escape from.
Justine was able to pay off 66k in debt in under a year while traveling. I think what’s so amazing about Justine’s story is she shows that you can make smart financial decisions, not despite the fact that you’re traveling, but because you are traveling. Justine paid off her student loans because she was able to use travel to reduce her cost of living, while creating a life of more freedom for herself.
Read on for more about Justine’s travels and how she paid of her student loans while living as a digital nomad!
1) Tell us a little bit more about you! What do you do?
Hi! I’m Justine Luzzi, I do a few things! I am an Intuitive Reader + Teacher, helping awakened and sensitive souls navigate this crazy world! I also just started a new coaching venture focusing on Conscious Love & Healing from Toxic Relationships. I’ve been a virtual matchmaker for a long time now, but my bigger mission involves teaching the world what authentic and universal love feels like.
2) What inspired you to travel for 4 months? Why South East Asia?
I have always dreamed of being location independent. Traveling has always been a passion of mine. Needing permission from someone to physically do my work elsewhere felt really limiting. Four years ago I had a corporate job in digital marketing, that could have been done 100% remote and they wouldn’t let me work from home one day a week. I felt trapped.
I began to do some healing work on myself, and realized, I needed more freedom. I quit that job, and looked tirelessly for remote work that would suit my new venture in life. I found it with virtual matchmaking and intuitive card readings. When my lease was up in NYC, I threw out most of my stuff (it was old anyway) and booked a flight to SE Asia. The plan was Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Singapore, and Malaysia.
My connection to SE Asia was solidified when I took my first trip to Thailand in 2013, so I made the decision to start my digital nomad journey there. As my fellow travelers know, not all travel plans pan out exactly the way you envisioned it. While in South East Asia, I made it to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam and Siem Reap + Phnom Penh, Cambodia, but after two months in Asia, trying to accommodate my clients in EST timezone started to take a toll and I knew I needed a change.
I decided to spend the remaining months of my trip in Europe where the time difference was much more doable. I spent most of my time in Athens, Greece and Belgrade, Serbia.
I had planned on spending more time as a digital nomad, but the greatest city in the world, NYC, was calling me home. I also started to feel unsettled being in a different time zone, different language, different currency, every few weeks.
3) A lot of people think spending 4 months traveling sounds like a bad financial decision, but you were actually able to pay off all of your student loans (66k!) that year. How did you make that happen?
I lived so cheaply! As a New Yorker, I’m used to a high cost of living. Living in South East Asia and Eastern Europe was actually super affordable! I’m also a travel hacker. I used my credit card points for great deals, ate a lot of street food, and checked travel blogs for the best deals.
The idea that traveling is expensive is just a limiting belief. I lived like a queen and most of my expenses for the month were not more than $500 USD. I was able to save a lot of money and throw it towards my 66k in debt. 3 months after I got back from my travels, I was able to pay everything off!
4) How did travel change your outlook about your life or career?
It changed so much of my outlook. As Americans, I personally feel we have an obligation to leave the country and live how others live. To me, this creates a lot of empathy, gratitude, and inclusiveness. I love feeling like I’m the minority, and not fitting in. It teaches me a lot about humility.
It has also taught me a lot about work-life balance. I’ll admit, I did work a lot while I was traveling, so it was challenging. Some days I had a 10 hour day and never left the Airbnb, except to grab food. But it is important to understand that you don’t have to be in a cubicle being micro-managed to do great work. We’re not caged animals. If a company has hired you to do their work, they need to trust that you will do it. I had a lot of trust from my employer, and that’s one of the things I loved about my company.
I also want to add, it’s OK to get sick of this lifestyle. I found myself beating myself up a bit when I wanted to come home. It’s hard being on the road so much. It’s OK to crave stability. Just lean into what feels good.
5) What advice do you have for anyone who wants to become a digital nomad?
Sooo much. First, don’t make plans so far in advance. You don’t know what’s going to happen. Let it flow. Be realistic within 2 weeks time, but you can’t be that rigid. You don’t want to book an entire place for a month to find out they have bed bugs (that happened to me in Ho Chi Minh). Be alert- pay attention. I tried to cross the Vietnam border by bus with an expired passport- not pretty- I owe everything to the English-speaking bus driver who sorted everything out. Book enough time in a place that allows for a 40-hour work week AND exploring. Oh, and have fun and be curious 🙂
Feeling inspired? You can learn more about Justine and connect with her at her Youtube Channel.
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