I Racked Up $10K Of Debt Traveling The World–Here’s What I Learned While Paying It Off


Byron Bay lighthouse view Courtesy of Rita Brodfuehrer

Courtesy of Rita Brodfuehrer

By Rita Brodfuehrer

This story originally appeared on LearnVest as "Confession: I Went Into Credit Card Debt Traveling the World."

We all have regrets money regrets, that is. But, like all mistakes, we wouldn’t be who or where we are today without them. In our "Money Fails" series, real people share how they bounced back from cringeworthy financial slip-ups, what they learned along the way and why they’re the better for it.


"Just put it on a credit card and pay it off when you get back!

That’s what my then-boyfriend’s dad advised me as I set out on my first international trip.

Phil had spent his 20s backpacking around the world, returning to New York only for short stints to make some cash and do it all over again. He settled down eventually, but only after wanderlust had run its course. I wanted to be just like him (minus his uncanny resemblance to Richard Dreyfuss, circa Jaws).

Id only used my credit card to fill my 98 Buick LeSabre up with gas. I come from cautious stock my dad still spends his Saturdays scouring Price Chopper for the best deals on deli meat so I didnt plan on following Phils advice.


I also didnt plan on falling in love with New Zealand. The people were friendly, the waves broke left and there was an endless supply of free beer. To top it off, my boyfriend dumped me, so I had no reason to go home. But, New Zealand was expensive.

I remembered Phils advice. Wasnt this the once-in-a-lifetime experience he warned me about? Shouldnt I live it up?

I began putting all expenses on my emergency card (a quarter-life crisis is an emergency, no?) that had 0% APR for six months. "Ill be home by then," I thought. "Everything will work out."


Wrong. Back in New York, I had no place to stay. I got an apartment with friends, but because we had short credit histories, the landlord demanded two months security deposit. I had to borrow money from my dad, and purchase a few big-ticket items, like a bed and a dresser, with the credit card.

Then, the 0% APR ran out. My minimum payments ballooned from $25 to $150. The interest alone was over $75 each month.

Credit card debt was a vicious cycle. I could only pay the interest each month, so I never made a dent on the balance. All my cash was going to payments, so I was never able to save. When an unplanned expense cropped up (did I mention I drove a 98 Buick LeSabre?) I couldnt cover it, and had to use the credit card again. Before long, I was in more than $10,000 of debt. I had to make changes, fast.