"For long-term debt repayment, it is my view that you need to take trips. You need a break, you just do... like, 'how can I do this for as little money as possible, so that I can replenish myself and re-energize myself and excite myself about my life?'" (Michelle, Episode 47)
It's now autumn (a.k.a. fall), which is my favorite season! Just felt like mentioning that.
Like Lori (episode 34) and Tiffany (episode 38) today's guest is another fellow member of the WOC Podcasters group. Back in August when I posted in the monthly "collaborations" thread that I was looking for new guests, Michelle Jackson was one of the people who emailed me in response, and here we are today! Michelle is a personal finance blogger and podcaster ("Michelle is Money Hungry"), as well as a proud resident of Denver, Colorado. Being born into a military family meant that she started traveling internationally at a young age, and before settling in Colorado her family lived Okinawa, Japan for a few years, which is actually where Michelle started school. Over the years, as an adult Michelle has been able to travel extensively and frugally without diminishing the quality of her trips, and she's always interested in how money relates to different aspects of life, so she was eager to share some of her knowledge with me.
Michelle's case is unique in that she studied abroad years after she'd already graduated from college. She was working for a while and knew people who were traveling internationally, and in her words, "I just wanted to go... I was like, 'I feel like I can go too.'" French language and culture had been among her passions for many years, and after a previous European trip that included France, she was eager to go back. So she saved up her money and enrolled in ab six-month French as a second language program in Paris with a small group of other people. The program she chose was in its beginning stages, so it wasn't as refined as longer-established programs might have been, but Michelle was lucky because this made her stay in Paris relatively inexpensive. She only spent $4,000 cash for everything (yes, everything) over that entire six-month period! Plus she got to have the experiences she'd hoped to have, like studying French at La Sorbonne, getting to know Paris thoroughly for herself, and making lifelong friends.
Some years later, Michelle was working as an administrator in a university ESL program for international students, which meant that she had a lot of extra time when school was out of session. So she signed up for another French language program that would take her to France, and this time she spent three weeks in a northern town called Amiens. Along with French, Michelle had studied Spanish as well, and she wanted to use her vacation time to study Spanish abroad too. With that in mind, at the end of another academic year she spent three weeks in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Buenos Aires isn't a city she's eager to return to, due to the swastikas she frequently saw (hundreds of Nazis relocated to Argentina to escape prosecution after World War II), and the resentment she felt from locals toward her standing out too obviously as an American and having currency that spent further than theirs did (Argentina's currency had devalued during that time). But she still views that time as valuable in teaching her to be a more mindful traveler, and she's open to returning to Argentina someday and visiting a different city.
A myriad of options
Contending with student loans and credit card debt led Michelle to educate herself about personal finance and debt repayment strategies as much as she could, and eventually this evolved into blogging and podcasting as "Michelle is Money Hungry". She calls herself a digital content creator and a personal finance influencer who, rather than coaching people personally, shares her own experiences and gives empathetic support and suggestions to people who need it. One of the many things she's learned, which has now become a deeply-held belief, is that people don't necessarily have to wait to pay off all their debt before they can go places. From extending work trips, to getting side hustles to pay for trips, to taking a short break from the repayment process to travel and enjoy life and pick back up upon return, traveling can still be possible if that's the way people want to go about it. Plus, as she delineated to me, there are a myriad of options to make flights and lodging less expensive, as well as to shape the type of experience that travelers want for themselves.
"Financially single women" are a major part of Michelle's target audience, and so she's currently preparing for this year's iteration of her "Money on the Mountain" financial retreat. From October 4th to October 6th, women will gather in Denver to discuss their current financial reality and learn new insights about money in a supportive environment. In addition to making content about personal finance through "Michelle Is Money Hungry", Michelle runs a website and podcast about living in Colorado called "Square State", and she also writes e-books in various genres. Michelle can be found on her Instagram page for MIMH (@michelleismoneyhungry) and her Instagram page for Square State (@squarestateco).
Be sure to listen to this episode, "Go Because It's There (Michelle is Money Hungry)" for more! And don't forget to check out the resource list below!
"11 Lessons Learned" (Michelle's podcast episode about her debt repayment journey)
The Bivvi Hostel (hostel in Breckenridge, CO)
MICEFA (Franco-American student exchange/study abroad programs)
Danielle G. is the creator and host of Young, Gifted and Abroad. You can find her other writings at DeelaSees.com.