Traveling When You Have Debt

Traveling When You Have Debt

This post is inspired by the fact that a number of my colleagues are traveling to conferences this spring. Now these conferences aren’t in exotic locations like Iceland or Africa, but traditional American cities like Austin, Baltimore, Chicago, and others. I deliberately chose not to go to one conference this year because I didn’t have any travel money from my employer and I didn’t have anything to do at the conference.

One of the things that is important as an academic is conference travel. I have received the opportunity to attend international, national, and regional conferences because of my job. Traditionally, I have something to do there. Either I am presenting a paper or some kind of workshop. I am actually attending a conference in Atlanta in a couple of months where I am presenting a paper but I am only going to be there for two days. I am actually kind of disappointed because I love that city. I lived there for 4 years and thoroughly enjoyed my time there (hated the humidity though). But because I have a small travel budget and debt I can’t justify (at least in my own mind) spending more than two days there, which will about be my travel budget.

So seeing my colleagues at these conferences got me to thinking am I denying myself too much of life? Do I have this wrong. Should I “live” a little more?

I will give you another example. I was in China last year teaching some classes and my colleagues decided to go to Shanghai for the weekend. I would have loved to have gone, but I was in the middle of paying off debt, and I determined I couldn’t pony up the extra $500-$1000 it would’ve cost for a train ticket, hotel, etc. I actually came out even on the China trip because of the small stipend we received for our food and travel. If I would’ve went to Shanghai I would’ve probably come home with more credit card debt, but I missed an opportunity to see a world class city.

I also admit that I have done the same thing when going home to visit my family or a vacation in the summer. During the summer I pretty much work all summer through advising, teaching, and/or research. Mrs. ROB goes to visit her family (and I could go too) but I say I have to work because I need to pay off more of this debt.

I wonder in all of this drive to pay off debt I am not missing out on life somewhat. I don’t want too. I love travel, but I have a really hard time going into debt to pay for things, even though I know it will be paid off later. If I planned for it more I think that would be fine, but that is something we don’t currently do. Maybe we need to do that more?

How do you handle traveling for work or vacation? Do you have a separate account? Plan it out? Am I working too much?

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