A Dream on Hold

This is a little tale about what happens when life kicks in your door and says You! Yeah You! Grow up! Now!

In regards to the picture. Debt can be like the weight of your pack on your first backpacking trip.

Life right after college was full of possibilities. I know first thing was first. I need to get a job. At the time, I was still irresponsible with my money. I didn’t understand money, other than how to spend it, let alone how to manage my personal finances.

I got my first job out of college at a call center in Ottawa a mere two months after graduation (2004). It didn’t pay much, but I found a roommate, split expenses and started saving to travel Europe for two months. My goal was $6000 for those two months. Plenty of cash plenty of time right? You bet, now I didn’t do much research to come up with that figure it just seemed like a good number to enjoy most places in Europe I wanted to go.

So months went by, and I was starting to build up some real cash. Considering I was only making about $1600/month I and I was up to $4000 saved for Europe I thought I was doing good. As luck would have it, a tax return came in and gave me a nice boost just over $5000. Sooooooo close I could envision myself on the plane staring down at the incoming shorelines of my very first backpacking adventure. Another paycheck came in my travel fund was almost full.

Everything was going great until… I get a phone call.

Guy: “Can I speak to Mr. Gallagher please?” Me: “This is him” Guy: “Mr. Gallagher, you have defaulted on this portion and that portion of your student loans and have been moved in to collections” Me: “uh, what the &^$#! are you talking about?”

This is where it actually got a little complicated. I had been paying a portion of my student loan but because of who manages student loans in Canada changed while I was in college. Part of my loan was with the bank, part of it was with the government. This also made a student loan consolidation impossible.

Now, I’m not sure if you have ever had to deal with a collection agency before but it is brutal. Expect to be harassed and threatened in to payment. This person did not stay civil past informing me of my default. Not that I did anyway, but I was more in shock then ready to pick up arms a fight over this. I took all the information (dates & amounts) and called up the bank to verify everything and sure enough the bank sent me all the paperwork.

Did I not mention the amount? Just over $6000 dollars… my heart fell on to the floor.

That’s everything I had been working towards. Now I did look at other options the first being, well I’ll just worry about it when I get back. Maybe trying to settle on a specific amount? I started to read some personal finance books and blogs. I came to realize the advantages in life of having a good credit score and how much it costs to be in debt. When faced with these situations you do need to think long term. That meant paying off debt wins. So at the time it felt like I was flushing my travel fund down the toilet. I promised myself from this day forward I will be financially responsible in my daily life and apply that to the way I travel. After all, the less you spend the longer you travel right? (there are exceptions but that’s a whole other post) I viewed this just as a delay. I was still going to build my travel fund back up and make that jump across the pond.

Now, I think it’s one of the best decision I ever made. I stand now completely debt free before the tender age of 30. And I still managed to go to Europe, twice! It just happened a little later than I expected. What I’m trying to say is do not forget about life, and financial management is one of the biggest parts of growing up. Try to take care and understand this side of things as well as chase your travel dreams.

11 Responses to A Dream on Hold

  1. Congrats on being debt free! I just turned 30 a few months ago and I can say the same. Being financially responsible really frees you up to do the things you love in life, such as travel 🙂

    Nomadic Samuel September 17, 2012 at 3:04 pm Reply
  2. Thanks Sam! I feel the exact same way! I now have two travel funds I pay in to every month!

    Shaun September 18, 2012 at 5:26 pm Reply
  3. Congrats on being debt free! As a recent Canadian university graduate, I know exactly how you feel! I’ve managed to save up enough money last year to pay off almost half of my loans, so hopefully I’m on the debt-free path soon enough! 🙂

    Michelle November 7, 2012 at 9:13 pm Reply
    • Thanks Michelle! Good luck on paying off yours too. It seems like a long road but so worth it.

      Shaun November 8, 2012 at 1:56 am Reply
  4. Being debt free is one of the biggest privileges on this planet.

    If you have no debt, you have unlimited choices. You could even, say, sleep face down on a beach for 4 months if you wanted. Debt is like a prison sentence.

    Congrats!

    Rob November 24, 2012 at 11:44 pm Reply
    • Thanks Rob! It really is. Getting smart about my money was a life skill I had to learn the hard way. But Glad I did, when I did.
      And because of it, I work hard to keep myself out as well.

      Shaun November 25, 2012 at 2:06 am Reply
  5. Cograts on being debt free! I hope to be there in the the next 5 years!

    La Viajera Morena December 1, 2012 at 9:20 pm Reply
    • Thank you, and good luck! It’s one of those things you have keep chipping away at or else it never goes away!

      Shaun December 2, 2012 at 1:59 am Reply
  6. I envy you on being debt free. Law school debt is NO fun! And quite hefty! It will be a long time before that’s paid off, and many (MANY) drinks will be had when it’s done! Happy new year!

    Koren @ City Gal January 7, 2013 at 1:29 pm Reply
    • Happy new year to you too! Law school isn’t cheap but neither is the skill set you`ve learned.
      Make a debt repayment plan. Don`t inflate your life style and you`ll be debt free before you know it.

      Thanks for the comment!

      Shaun January 7, 2013 at 6:19 pm Reply
  7. Pingback: Shaun's Cracked Compass 2012 best posts | Shaun's Cracked Compass

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