When I was back in the US for work, I was there for graduation events. Since it was graduation events, of course everyone was asking what we’ll all be doing next. I was surprised by how positive the feedback was after telling about taking time to go volunteer. For the most part, people were extremely excited for me to take this opportunity. After telling about what I’ll be doing in the volunteering, they seemed to like the business development part for professional growth. Some people said they thought it was brave, and one guy called me an idiot. However, what I thought could really hurt my career may even have a very positive impact in the future, especially considering the fact that I want to have an international career. The experience may turn out to help me get the job I want after returning to the company. I’m extremely happy about this, as it reassures me that I made the right decision.
I thought the reaction of my peers was the most interesting, though. I’m taking a very, very different path from most of them. Most people are going for the position requiring 80 hours per week, 100% travel, a nice pay raise, and the fast track to the top. I’m taking the unpaid, live in a small village in the Andes, non-bureaucratic path. What was interesting was how everyone said they were jealous of what I was doing (I am really not trying to brag at all, I just want to make my point). When I ask them why they don’t do the same then, the reply was usually “Student Loans.” It kind of hit me at that time how strange this process has become. We go to high school to get good grades to go to college to be able to fulfill our dreams. Then we rack up thousands, tens of thousands, and sometimes even hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of student loans. We then take the best paid job we can find (no matter how fulfilling or unfullfilling it may be) and are stuck in the job to pay off the student loans, and this can go on for years and years. Let me get this straight, we study and study in hopes of getting ahead in life only to be stuck in a job because of loans?
This also made me start thinking about my situation. Again, I do not want to brag but I am just excited about the position I’m in to be able to take off time to do what I really want. I have to sincerely thank Travis for where I’m at. Without his advice and guidance on getting rid of debt, I definitely would not have the chance to go to Peru and to pursue this dream. I am forever in his debt (pun intended). And also thank you to my parents for supporting me through college. Without their support, I would’ve either not gone to college or would’ve racked up a bunch of loans myself. This is the first time that I am really reaping the benefits from living frugally and paying off debt. I worked hard to pay down my car loan and student loans right after graduating. While others were taking expensive vacations and spending $100 or more to go out for a night, I was taking close trips by car, couchsurfing (which I’ll do even if I have $1M), and limiting my spending on eating out and going out in general. A couple people actually called me frugal and cheap, and I take no offense to that…I’ll take it as a compliment. As Dave Ramsey says, “Be Weird!”
So to sum it up, the sacrifices you may need to take in order to get rid of debt will definitely pay off. You may not feel the effects instantaneously, but you will get the benefit. It may be with an early retirement, it may be with the ability to change jobs when you like, it may be to be able to support your family in ever way necessary, or a combination of these and hundreds of other reasons. Just keep in mind that delaying immediate satisfaction for the future exponential benefit is always much sweeter!