How to Travel Hack and Pay Off Debt w/ Cinneah El-Amin

Episode Number: 222

Episode 222- How to Travel Hack and Pay Off Debt w/ Cinneah El-Amin

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Jamila Souffrant 0:00

You're listening to the journey to launch podcast, travel hacking, paying off $23,000 of debt and doing it in style with Cinneah of Fly Nanced.

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Intro 0:13

Welcome to the journey to launch podcast with your host Jamila Souffrant, as a money expert who walks her talk, she helps brave Journeyers like you get out of debt, save, invest and build real wealth. Join her on the journey to launch to financial freedom.

Jamila Souffrant 0:38

Hey, hey, hey, Journeyers. Welcome to the journey to launch podcast. Buckle up, we are ready to take off to reach financial freedom and independence on your own terms on the podcast today, I'm so excited to talk about a topic I know you've all been waiting for travel, travel, hacking, how to go places safely and in style, while saving money and possibly still paying off debt, reaching your financial goals, all the things that you're doing in life for the future, but still enjoying the now on the podcast. Today I'm talking to Cinneah El-Amin. She is the founder of Fly Nanced an online personal finance platform that teaches women of color who are blowing their money fast in their early careers, how to find confidence and control in their finances, so that they can effortlessly build wealth and say yes to more travel, more freedom and more life. I love it. Cinneah herself has become debt free after paying off $23,000 of debt in 12 months, she's on track to reach her big goals of financial independence and doing it her own way. I absolutely love following Cinneah and her journey on her social media and just watching her travel and enjoy herself to black girl magic for us to see and to just celebrate. So this episode is going to share a bit of Cinderella story, how she paid off debt, how she got herself on the financial right track and then how she is travel hacking with some tips for us. Because I know the world is sort of opening back up. We're feeling more comfortable. Some people at least are feeling more comfortable to travel. And so I wanted to basically break down the basic travel hacking tips how you can get started on travel hacking using your credit card responsibly to go to the places you want to go that you may have missed out on over the past couple years.

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If you want the episode Show Notes for this episode, go to Journey to or click the description of wherever you're listening to this episode. in the show notes, you'll get the transcribed version of the conversation, the links that we mentioned and so much more. Also, whether you are in OG journeyer are brand new to the podcast, I've created a free jumpstart guide to help you on your financial freedom journey. It includes the top episodes so listen to stages to go through to reach financial freedom, resources and so much more. You can go to journey to launch .com/jumpstart to get your guide right now. Okay, let's happen to the episode.

Hey journeyers I have a journeyer fellow journeyer on the podcast today and she is going to tell us how to live the life she's living because first let me tell you I'm talking to I'm talking to Cinneah El- Amin from finance. And Cinneah is a self proclaimed journeyer. But not only that, she is doing her own thing like she travels, lives a nomadic type lifestyle and show other people how to do the same. She's paid off tons of debt. And I think she has a lot of wealth of information to share with us. I'm really excited to have you on the podcast. Welcome, Cinneah.

Cinneah El-Amin 4:42

Thank you. Thank you so much. This is such a an honor for me as someone who really started learning about financial independence through women like you and feeling like Okay, wow. If other Journeyers can do this, I can do this too. So this is a this is a full circle moment.

Jamila Souffrant 4:59

For me, love it I, I just I love also talking to people who get it who kind of get like the way I talk, you know, super, I'm saying it's super casual and relaxed the way I like to interview people about their journeys, because I feel like there's so many ways we can go. I definitely want to talk about travel hacking, and you know, you lived months in Tulum, Mexico, right? That's correct. Yes. And I want to know how you did that how you just were able to travel to I forgot how many countries you said, How many countries have you been to

Cinneah El-Amin 5:29

just about 30

Jamila Souffrant 5:30

to only 30? Not that much, okay.

I want to be able to like to share that because I listened, there are people right now sitting, not so much really in cubicles as much anymore, but working from home. And as the world opens up, they want to do what you do. So let's first start a little bit in the beginning, because you weren't always talked about being in a lot of debt and having lifestyle creep as you started to work. So can you talk a little bit about what that was like for you? And where you are now your debt?

Cinneah El-Amin 5:54

Yeah, so I grew up in an environment where debt was totally normalized. So it was nothing to you know, talk about having student loans, having a car note having a mortgage, right? It was such just a commonplace in in my lifestyle. So when I graduated from graduate school and started working full time, I fell hard into the traps of living beyond my means, right? And of course, I know that that's what I was doing. But in that moment, it didn't feel that way. Right? Because here I was making a good salary. Right, I was 22 years old, making the most money I've ever made. And I think also coming out of, really five years, four years of undergrad, and then a year of grad school where I was broke as I think I also that scarcity mindset also really made me want to spend my money, right. So living in New York City, I would be going to brunch, I would be meeting up with coworkers for happy hour, right. And even though I was making a really good salary, I didn't have much to show for it, right. Every time I was getting paid, the bulk of my money was going to pay back credit card debt, until it just became a hamster wheel where I was literally living paycheck to paycheck as a single young woman making, like $70,000 right? It was it was actually bananas. Right? And I can't say that I was like, buying designer goods, right. But you know, I love that tweet that goes around that saying like $10,000, a frivolous spending in a year is like 24 bucks a day. That was me, right? Like when you added up, going to Starbucks in the morning, buying lunch out, meeting up with friends after and then having a weekend where you weren't tracking your spending, and does the real live in that fast girl lifestyle. I ended up in over five figures of debt, so between student loans that I had taken on in graduate school to just survive. And then here I was with over $10,000 in credit card debt that I couldn't afford to pay. And that was really where my debt journey started. I knew I needed help. I knew I had a problem with spending. And that's when I honestly started turning to people like you and folks in the hashtag debt free community on Instagram, as my first sparks of inspiration around like, Okay, wow, maybe I can do this, I can become debt free. I can kind of live a different lifestyle that I'm not living currently. So that was definitely my mindset then. And then I would say, there was a lot of work I had to do behind the scenes, right, I needed to go to therapy, I needed to work with a life coach, I started working with a financial coach, right? So I needed that external accountability from other folks to help me just put one foot in front of the other right, I was so conditioned to living beyond what I was making. But I literally had to take it all the way back to like, why am I spending this way? am I spending because I'm not feeling emotionally fulfilled? am I spending because there's some trauma that I'm not dealing with? Right? I had to deal with all of that stuff before I could even start.

Jamila Souffrant 8:57

Well, what did you uncover when he went to therapy? Or started to really do that introspective? Was it all those things you mentioned are certain things that came up for you during that process?

Cinneah El-Amin 9:06

Yeah, I think one of the biggest things that that kind of came up for me was that I had to kind of like rewire my inner child to not look for validation in the form of retail therapy or in the form of like what other people thought right? I think I definitely had grown up kind of being critical being very self critical of myself and not always having the highest self esteem. That's weird, right? People may see me and think oh my god, she's so confident and bold, right? But I I've definitely had moments where I have not always felt comfortable in my skin. And that definitely seeped into my financial decisions, right? When you feel like oh, well, you know, credit, having access to credit being able to buy and spend kind of gave me those endorphins that I feel like I didn't, I wasn't creating for myself. So I definitely see like my financial journey also Being a reflection of my self love journey, right? I know that I love myself more. And I show myself more love now, because I don't allow the shame of my past money mistakes, to dictate what my future looks like, right? And I don't allow that shame to make me feel paralyzed, right. I mean, there were times in my early 20s, where I was so ashamed of my money, I wouldn't even check my bank accounts, right, I would go weeks without looking at how much money I actually had. Right? It would be nothing for me to be like completely overdraft in my accounts, living off of credit cards and feeling that shame in terms of right like, Here I am, in my family, one of the first and youngest people in my family to work in corporate America make this kind of money. And here I am, I can't even you know, keep my accounts from overdrafting. Right, I had to really release all of that. All of that shame and all of that. All that pressure that I feel like I put on myself to really be this perfect, perfect image that is really not sustainable. You know?

Jamila Souffrant 10:55

Yeah. And I saw you had, I think it was a real issue of your Instagram, you talked about like, in those early, like your 20s, early 20s, when you were spending the money, it was like brunch and all this. And so I'm assuming though, like your circle, like you were their friends and family had a lot to do with that, too. Like, what do you think or say, from what you experienced with them that they were basically you living around the same lifestyle? And since you have now learned so much about what, what was triggering you or what was making you spend as much have they also changed their ways? Or did you have friends that were more financially responsible, then I'm always curious, because just as a side note, when I was in my early 20s, like all my none of my friends really had that much money. So that was great for us, because we were so cheap, like, we go to the clubs before, you know, free for 12. We drink like the cheapest liquor it like it was crazy. It was like, we saved money. So I'm just wondering what your circle of friends circle was like and where you guys are. Now with that.

Cinneah El-Amin 11:49

I was fortunate to have a really diverse set of friends, right? Going to school in Ivy League growing up in Baltimore, I feel like I had such a hodgepodge of close friends around me. But I will say that I think those of us who were living in New York City at that time, we were kind of all in the same boat. None of us really knew what we were doing our money. We were all kind of spending like a ridiculous amount, right? Not even necessarily we were keeping up with the Joneses. But I think there's just you know, this pressure to fit in socially by being able to pop out when everyone else is popping out. Okay, girl, well, we're going here, like, are you coming? Oh, no, I can't afford it. What? You know, it's like not a thing. It's definitely not a thing in the New York City culture, I feel like so you know, when I kind of started first taking those steps to pay off my debt and talk about my money. I'll be really honest, I wasn't always super vocal about it. Right. I had a lot of shame around my money. So I feel like I was doing a lot of things on the love behind the scenes on the low. Yeah, because I was, I would think I was also so used to letting myself down before and in my money that it was like, I don't want to tell too many people something. And then what if I'm not successful, right? All of those things are things that I thought about, so I'll be really honest, I was pretty tight lipped with my friends early on in my journey. It really wasn't until I started, like, putting Fly nance out there and like, just saying, Okay, guys, I'm posting on fly nance I have a page where I'm talking about these things. Then more my friends are to see like, oh, wow, like, this is so great that you're doing this. You're inspiring me. So I think definitely, many of them have been in this journey with me. I think as they've seen me just attract more freedom in my lifestyle. It's also made them question Okay, well, dang, if Cinneah can do it, then. Yeah, why can't I write?

Jamila Souffrant 13:37

What was that moment where you realize like, something had to change? Was it like, external? Like you saw something? or heard something? And you're like, I want that life? Or was it more like an internal awakening? What What was that like for you?

Cinneah El-Amin 13:48

It was hitting rock bottom. And it was also learning about fire right around the same time. So it was like the fall of 2018 was when I had like $10,000 due in full on an American Express card and I felt so much anxiety and I was just I was really scared. I was terrified. Like, what's gonna happen if I can't like I can't afford to do this. What's gonna happen? Um, so that was my rock bottom moment having to open up a personal loan to pay off that credit card debt. And you know, for the first time having like, a monthly payment that was over $500 just to pay back that that personal loan that was like a big wake up call for me that like, Okay, I gotta, I have to get my Excuse My French together. At the same time, I started learning about fire. I didn't know anything about fire or financial independence. Before that time, I literally learned about fire through an article that the cut had published. I was like commuting home in the subway one day and I saw this headline and it was like, Oh, I'm retiring at 35. And here's how I'm doing it. And I was like, What? How is this possible? You know, right. So it was kind of like those two things coming together. It was like this, like, I got a glimpse of a lifestyle that I could live in that really spoke to me, someone who always loved travel, and didn't really love working right? I was about a year into my full time career and felt like oh my god, I don't know if I can do this for another 40 years. And at the same time feeling like I'm at a financial rock bottom, there's only up from here, but like, what is my blueprint gonna be? Right? I feel like listening and learning from people in the fire movement kind of gave me a blueprint to say, Okay, I'm not anywhere where I want to be now. But maybe if I focus on getting out of my debt, then I can start to do some of these other things that folks are talking about, like investing and, and all of these other things. Right. So that was kind of like what happened, it was kind of like that secret sauce together and then realizing like, yeah, girl, well, now I have a lot less money to travel with, because I'm paying all this debt back.

Jamila Souffrant 15:47

So and that's the thing, right? Like, it's like that kind of delayed gratification of you want to live life. Now you want to enjoy the fruits of your labor. But there are things that you have to do before you get to the certain points where you can really flex. So what did you start doing then to pay off debt? Because we're going to talk about your debt payoff story. And then I want to get into like the travel stuff that you talk about, which is like so key for people who don't want to travel and like not break the bank? Yeah. So your debt payoff story was that what did you do to get that started?

Cinneah El-Amin 16:11

Yeah, so my debt payoff story. You know, I think a lot of people may know me for paying off $23,000 of debt in 12 months. But let's not forget all the things that we just talked about, right? I was working in silence, I was working with financial coach, I was like, you know, figuring out a system for myself, before I ever went public and kind of set an ambitious goal for myself. But at the beginning of 2020, January 15 2020, I added up all my debt, I had $23,022 of debt across credit cards, student loans, and that pesky personal loan we already talked about. And my my debt payoff journey looked like this, it looked like one me knowing I need to make more money. So I just kind of put it out there that I'm going to attract a higher salary, some kind of way, like I'm gonna make more money. At that point, I had no passive income. I didn't, you know, I had a great paying job, but I knew I needed more to be able to squash that debt in one year. So I did that I ended up transitioning into a new role with a different company. In the middle of the pandemic, as soon as the pandemic started, that's when I started my job

Jamila Souffrant 17:15

that was paying you more money

Cinneah El-Amin 17:17

paid me more money. Yeah, I increase my salary by $30,000. And because we ran the pandemic, right and under quarantine in New York City, that was the first time that I didn't really have much of an opportunity to creep up my lifestyle, because what was open what was going on nothing, right? So that really forced me to say, okay, the bulk of my money has to go into debt payoff, I started getting really just developing that discipline myself to really stick to that zero base budget. So the bulk of my money was going to debt, right. I was for the first time in my life, really tracking my spending and having a clear sense of where my money was actually going to say, okay, as long as I'm covering the things that I need to cover, the rest of this money just needs to go to debt. If I don't see it, I can't spend it. Right. Like I I literally had to kind of trick myself into truly living below my means. And putting that extra money into that. And then another thing that I did was I put any extra money that came my way, like any windfall money, like I got a tax refund, stimulus check. When I moved jobs, right. My previous employer had sent me some other contribution, like anything that I just wasn't expecting money wise. I sent it to debt. And then I think a critical part of that payoff journey was people holding me accountable. Right, I started talking about this on finance, I had nowhere to hide, right every month, people whether it was friends, strangers, folks on the internet, or in real life, we're like, Girl, I know you're not like where's your path? Like, we want to know how you're doing right. So so that also kept me motivated because it was like, okay, girl, you can't go ghost on us. We want to know what your progress is doing. But yeah, honestly, I did a lot of the things that that many folks in the hashtag debt free community do to pay off debt, and it was a hodgepodge. I did a lot of trial and error and and for me, it was just staying consistent. And that that was the biggest piece for me.

Jamila Souffrant 19:10

Yeah, you know, and accountability is so underrated sometimes, especially if you're not there yet to like start sharing. But that's essentially journey to launch. It was not I mean, it was not meant I didn't really started to be what it is now. It literally was I'm gonna achieve financial independence, let me share it and kind of be held accountable to me putting it out in the world. And you know, I'm finding that with your story and a lot of other people and even if it's just paying off debt, right, let's start that's a small part of your journey, but a big part when you're in it, is that being accountable to yourself is fine, but so many people fail at that including me, like and so if I know if I say to someone else, then or you know, to multiple people, it makes me more likely to do it. So if you're listening to this and you find yourself struggling with staying true to the things you say when it comes to your money or checking in like you have to find whether it's one person or you know, start that and maybe anonymous Instagram account where you know, like maybe you're not comfortable sharing who you are yet, but like, you have to put it out there if you know that you need more accountability on this journey, because it really helps.

Absolutely. All right, so you did become debt free in about a year, right?

Cinneah El-Amin 20:14

Yes. Yep. In 12 months, I became debt free. Yes.

Jamila Souffrant 20:18

Which is amazing. And during that time, though, you were able to it sounds like, start traveling again, or at least start because you shared this on your Instagram, just like you were into Tulum for a few months. And then you just recently said you went to 30 countries. So what was that like? Because this is the thing where people are, you know, still probably in debt that still want to travel and or now they're looking to just travel more that they got out of debt. So what is now your stance or advice on paying off debt versus travel? Like, should they live their lives now? and not wait? Or is there a balance?

Cinneah El-Amin 20:51

Yeah, so my verdict is that there's always run for balance, especially when it comes to doing the things that bring you joy, and getting out of the financial situation that you're in. For me, that was part of the reason why I even started Fly Nance is because I felt like there weren't enough people in 2018 2019, when I just started my journey, that we're encouraging people to do what I ended up doing, right, paying off debt, building wealth, and still being able to do the things that you love, like travel, right? I feel like there was this narrative going around the community that, oh, if you have debt, you shouldn't be vacationing. And I don't believe that, right? Especially as black folk, as people of color. Our lives are too short and too precious to be miserable. And our debt payoff journeys, especially right. I know that I'm an anomaly, right? Most people are not going to become completely debt free in one year, right. The fact that I was able to do that also is a is a reflection of some of the privileges that I have, like being a high earner not graduating with a ton of debt to begin with, right. So I acknowledge those things. And also, I knew that I was going to be miserable on my payoff journey, right? I had no idea that in 2020, we were going to enter a pandemic. So I can't tell you how many days there were just like, what if I just don't do this? Right? Like, I wasn't expecting this to happen? What am I just like, you know, don't don't do this. Don't you know, work towards this goal. But I think having that in the back of my mind, knowing that travel was something that I was still financially prioritizing. It kept me motivated. It made it so much sweeter when I was on those vacations because I knew for the first time in my life, this travel wasn't putting me into a financial hole. Right? How many times I've been on vacations, where I was swiping so much that I was actually paying back vacations when I got back home, right? Understanding that, like, I have the power to change that right. But I didn't have the travel didn't have to put me into debt. And that was a big eye opener for me, right?

And how I was able to do it was I wasn't 100% gizelle. Intense, right? If people know what that term is, I know I've talked about like, Yeah, I was like, putting the bulk of my income towards my debt pay off. But I also made sure that some of my money every month was going into a separate account for my travel fund. So that was something that I started doing as part of my personal finance, awakening to say, Okay, I'm someone that loves to travel, and I never set aside money for it. That's why I find myself in debt every time I want to travel. Right. So having that travel fund allowed me to be able to go to the Dominican Republic, for example, and in Mexico in 2020, and still pay off my debt. So I think there's absolutely, there's absolutely balance, I don't think that has to be an all or nothing zero sum game.

Jamila Souffrant 23:39

And it sounds like to say being honest with yourself. Because sometimes you'll hear stories, I've had people on the podcast, they're very disciplined, like they can go without, and they just live in like more simpler lives, they don't need much, and that works for them. And sometimes you hear that you're like, Oh, I want to be like that. Like, I only want to spend like $10,000 a year. And it's like, really, because you like these things, you have these friends that you want to stay connected with like, so doesn't mean you do all the things, but you should be honest with yourself like me, I'm going to be honest with myself, I like going out to eat, you know, I like to buy Not that I like to buy the expensive drinks. But if I'm somewhere and the drink is $15 like I don't I want to be able to buy that right. And so I need to budget for that. Yeah, so it sounds like people also just need to be honest with what it is. And if that delays paying off debt, it's knowing that it will do that and understanding what the payoff is and like the opportunity cost looks like so that way you're aware of it. It's like I know me doing this or saving for this extra thing is going to maybe extend my debt payoff date by six months, but the quality and what brings me joy is more important. So I'm willing to do that kind of balance.

Cinneah El-Amin 24:42

That's exactly it. That's exactly it. And I think the bat is important when we talk about right this overall journey to wealth building to financial independence, right? It's not a race, right? It's not a sprint to see how fast we can do it. Right. It's it's to your point. It's about enjoying the life that we're living along the journey, right? This is a lifelong journey, right? It's not about how quickly can we do this. So we can have a cool headline that was definitely not something I ever thought about right. And, and to your point, I could have been out of debt a lot faster. Had I not said, I also want to make sure that one when I'm debt free, I'm not starting from zero in terms of my net worth, I want to make sure I'm saving money in emergency fund, we're living in a pandemic, I can see very clearly that we need to have, I need to have cash on hand if an emergency happens. I want to be able to take a trip if I want to and celebrate the fact that I've been so disciplined this year. So I love what you just said.

Jamila Souffrant 25:39

Yeah, and actually love that you just said about the it's not a sprint, because I know for me, I made it more intense because I was so unhappy with my current situation that I thought if I could, you know, save as much I can get out of it faster. But then some parts of that seemed really like sticky. And if you for me, because I'm just like, well now like I'm being attentive and saving all this money, but I'm also like, not enjoying my day to day life, which is why it's so important to make it a lifestyle, make it a balance that you know, I always say so you forget that you're even on the path like you're on it, you're doing all the things it's kind of on autopilot a bit because you know, you got the habits and mindset together. But you're going to reach it and you're enjoying your life and your work and whatever contributions you bring into the world. And it's like, oh, like, Oh, I reached this milestone and but I'm still like living life and enjoying it.

Cinneah El-Amin 26:24

Okay, wait, I'm so glad that you said that. Because that's where I'm at now, right? I'm not I mean, I'm nowhere near having like, I'm nowhere near my fire number. But I've done the work to create those habits that Yeah, life is on autopilot. And it doesn't mean that I'm not working towards my goals, right? I just looked at the other day, I was like, Oh my gosh, and Mama said my big milestone I set for myself in 2021. Right to hit six figure net worth. And I'm not thinking about I'm not obsessing about it right. I'm living life. I'm so glad that you said that. Yeah. All right.

Jamila Souffrant 26:55

So let's get into the travel stuff. Because now Yeah, well, just opening back up, I want to do more of this with and without kids, you know, I want to do some solo travels and travel with my husband and travel with the kids. So I'm looking for tips. I know journeyers are looking for tips on how we can save on travel. And then what you've been able to do so like to start with just like your best travel hacking tips or things you've been able to discover as you started traveling more

Cinneah El-Amin 27:19

one of the first tips that I would say as it comes to hacks when I travel is really understanding that a lot of things that we think are fixed costs when we travel are really negotiable, right? So a great example of that is when we stay in Airbnb. So if any journeyers are listening, and you like to say an Airbnb, like I do, right for that flexibility, that freedom, that comfort, know that you can negotiate the price of your Airbnb with the hosts. I think a lot of times we go on Airbnb, and we think, Oh, this is the fixed cost, right? And a lot of times, right, we may find a property that is everything that we want, right, but it's slightly above our budget, I want to challenge you to message that host before you actually book and ask them if they have any flexibility to adjust the price to meet your budget. I've saved hundreds of dollars around the world by doing this, right. It's something that I started doing in 2020. And it's helped me in the Dominican Republic, it's helped me in multiple places in Mexico. So now it's just something that I do whenever I use Airbnb is that I don't get afraid to just ask the host. Hey, like, I love your property. This is like a script that I would use like, hey, so and so I love your property. I would love to book it as soon as possible. But it's just slightly above my budget, would you be willing to adjust the base price to Xyz so that I can book it this week? And I would say nine out of 10 times the host agrees right? Because to them, it's more important to have this book with someone who is a communicative proactive and can afford to stay at their property, then not have it booked at all right? So that's the other thing about it and not be afraid to ask for what you need. So that's that's one good tip.

I think Another good tip that I use, when it comes to hacking travel, is knowing where to go for cheap flights, right? I know, this is like the one topic that everybody's like, Oh my gosh, flight prices cost so much. They're no flight deals. And since outside open up, and I disagree, I'm like wait, but I see somebody flight deals all the time, right? It's just because we have to know where to go to find the quality deals that we need. So one resource that I highly recommend to any journeyer listening is to subscribe for Scott's cheap flights. They are my favorite cheap flight subscription service. scotchy flights will literally send you an email personalized to your home airport so whenever airports that you deem are going to be easy for you to travel from and you'll receive personalized cheap flight deals directly to your inbox. So I will say I'm a lazy planner when it comes to travel. I love to travel, I love to look up stuff. I love to take trips. But when it comes to the planning side Oh no, that's not that's not what brings me joy, right. So I love the fact that with scott cheap flights, like, I can just enter my Gmail and see all of these great flight deals. And for me, someone who is more flexible with where I travel more flexible with the time that I have off, it's great to be able to say, oh, wow, like, I could go to Tokyo for under 300 bucks in the spring or in the fall, like, I'm gonna do that. Like, that's a great deal. And actually, yeah, I'm referring to a flight deal that I got through Scott speed flights not too long ago. They found like all these insane deals to Tokyo for like spring 2022. I definitely had the chance to do that for like, under 350 bucks. Yes, sign me up. Right. So I think that's another good tip.

Jamila Souffrant 30:49

Yeah. Are they free is that a free service, so you have to pay for it. They have a free version and a premium version,

Cinneah El-Amin 30:54

I will say the premium version is only 49 bucks for the year and it more than pays for itself. And they're not paying me to say this, but I just really loves scott cheap flights.

Jamila Souffrant 31:09

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Jamila Souffrant 32:35

It sounds like also it's important to be flexible, right? So some people have this like idea, I want to go to this place. And so that's like a little bit more inflexible, and maybe some of the deals they can get. But if you're curious and open to things and possibilities and adventure, you can just say, Well, let me just see what's available and on sale right now. And like kind of base my travel around that.

Cinneah El-Amin 32:55

Absolutely right. No, that's that's definitely right. And, and you know, when it comes to flexibility, I think it's also not even honestly, only about the locations that we choose. It's also right, if you have your heart set on a specific place. It's about being flexible with the airports that you depart from, maybe it's being flexible with timing, maybe it's being flexible by saying, hey, the flights a lot cheaper if I leave on Wednesday, can I work remotely on Thursday and Friday so that I'm already in the destination, and I'm not paying the weekend price to fly somewhere. Right? That also matters. And sometimes it also means being flexible in terms of the airlines that we fly with. I mean, unless you are someone who is chasing status, like you want to be a top tier loyalists on a certain airline, I encourage you to think about flying a different airline if the price is right, right.

Jamila Souffrant 33:44

I'm laughing Yeah, cuz I'm laughing about like, you know, the the means or the jokes about Spirit Airlines, I like

Cinneah El-Amin 33:50

to say that I was about to say okay, so I will say being fully honest, I've never flown spirit. But I've flown friends here. I've flown frontier across the country to Denver for like under $100. I've never flown spirit. But I have so many friends that I've met through fly nance, who swear by spirit that I'm just like, okay, maybe I'm missing out on something right. And actually a good hack that I learned from my good friend, Mika, financially winning is that if you aren't gonna fly spirit, book, your ticket at the airport counter, because you'll save 50%

Jamila Souffrant 34:22

Airport counter when you get there.

Cinneah El-Amin 34:24

You don't have to wait until you get there. But like, say for example, like living in Harlem, when I lived in New York City, I was about like 15 minutes away from LaGuardia. So I could go to LaGuardia at any point as soon as the flight prices available on spirit and buy the ticket at the counter. Because when you do that you're not paying their online convenience fee. They charge like, anywhere up to like 3030 plus dollars just for you to conveniently buy online. So when you book at the airport counter, you're saving that. So think about a flight that's only 50 bucks, right? If you've taken out that $30 fee, you've just saved Almost half on that flight,

Jamila Souffrant 35:02

right? Alright, I'm gonna let you get to your tip. So something is coming up for me because I'm imagining my husband if he listens to this, he's like that sounds good but I want to travel nicely I want to travel in style is a lot of the hacks are really budget friendly, which is fine then it's like the luxury or the comfortability aspects are not there because I know that people are just like, Alright, yeah, I'll do that. Maybe you in my budget, I might pay off journey, but I kind of want to now enjoy and travel nicely. Do these hacks also work in nicer areas or nicer Airbnb and hotels and things like that?

Cinneah El-Amin 35:32

Yeah, absolutely. So the hack when it comes to Airbnb definitely works for any type of Airbnb, it just requires you to reach out to the hosts. I think if you are someone who wants to experience luxury and doesn't want to pay the full price for it, travel hacking is what you should be doing. So travel hacking is essentially the art of using travel reward points to offset the cost of your travel travel hacking has allowed me to fly first class for by paying pretty much nothing, it's allowed me to, you know, completely fly for free around the world. So travel hacking is is definitely what I would recommend if you're someone who wants to experience more luxury travel without paying the full price for it. And it's really easy to travel hack, right. So travel hacking, if you're going to go if you're someone like me who's like 2021, I want to take trips immediately, then I would definitely recommend opening up a travel rewards card to help you accelerate earning those points, right. It's definitely possible to earn points without credit cards. But if you're someone like me who wants to get out there sooner rather than later, then you absolutely want to make sure that you're doing this some of my favorite travel rewards cards are the Chase Sapphire preferred card, the American Express gold card, which actually I prefer over platinum, because I think for most of us, it fits our lifestyle better than a card that's really giving you lounge access. American Airlines has some great cards, their Platinum select MasterCard is great, especially if you are looking for American airline points, which are super valuable. So there are definitely a lot of options out here. When it comes to travel rewards cards, I often get asked the question like okay, so where should I start, like what card is the best? And I will say one, it really depends on where you're trying to go, right. Because if you're trying to go to a place that's really only serviced by a certain airline, you might want to look into the card that fits that best. If you're someone like me who's pretty flexible and just wants to go wherever the best deals are, then it definitely is good to start with Chase. And why is that is because Chase is pretty strict around allowing you to open up too many cards and certain time, right, they have a five over 24 rule, which essentially says, even if you have stellar credit, you don't have any inquiries or anything else on your credit. If you've opened up five or more accounts in the last 24 months, they're going to deny you I know because this has happened to me. So I would definitely say if you're flexible, start with Chase, if you know specifically where you want to go the experience that you want to have, do a bit of research and figure out what's going to be the best pathway to get you there. Write a website that I love to blog, I love to read for travel hacking advice, and just what's happening in industry is the points guy. That's a great place to start. If you are someone who's just like, yep, I want to do the overwater bungalows and the St. Regis Maltese what's the best way to do it to fly? do that?

Jamila Souffrant 38:23

Yeah, I'm gonna link the points guy at resource because that's one of the the websites I often have looked at. And points I do want to say this about points and credit card. Because there's this thing where, okay, we're telling people to pay off debt. And that's important, especially credit card debt. Once you get to a level where you're out of credit card debt, you can manage spending on your credit card and paying it off every month. This travel hacking is gold. I know for some like they have no like, once I got out of debt, like I'm not using this anymore. Like I don't care what happens like they're there. They're done. And I would say and that's fine, if that's the route you're going but for many people to say you save tons of money on travel, including myself, I have so many points for free flights that, you know, I can take now because I literally like spend everything on my credit card, but I'm budgeting that spend, and I'm paying it off every month. So if you have that discipline and ability travel hacking, is that that next step that you can actually save money when it comes to doing the things you want to do.

Cinneah El-Amin 39:20

Absolutely. And I think for me why it's one of the reasons why I even started talking about travel hacking through finances, because I realize a lot of black woman like me had no idea that this was something that we could even do, right. We never grew up seeing people like us do this. And often when we talk about travel hacking, there's still this image of a young white guy doing it right. And not us, right people like us who right had built that financial discipline who are still living everyday lives and want to get rewarded for the spin that we're already going to have. Right so for someone like me who is a recovering over spender, someone that had over $10,000 in credit card debt, I definitely understand the fear that can come with feeling like am I going to lose control and fall back into the lifestyle that I had before. But as you said to Jamila, when we create a plan for ourselves to be able to travel hack responsibly, it opens up an entire world for us, right? I used to think when I saw people getting on flights and flying first class, Oh, my gosh, they must be rich, right? You must be rich to be able to stay in these amazing suites to be able to fly first class people have these luxuries. But no, it's about understanding how the industry works and using it to our advantage, right. So if you are listening, and you know, you're kind of like, yeah, this all sounds great. I've heard this before. But I need that hand holding in terms of how to make it actually happen. I actually have a super affordable course, where I teach people just like you how to start travel hacking, and really just overall, how to travel affordably right. Even if you're not gonna use travel reward points. What are the best sites that we can use to find travel deals? How can we travel when we feel like we don't have enough time off? We don't have friends to travel with right? All of those things I've thought about and put into a course that's helped me right, I've been able to see 15 countries in the last four years. And I didn't always have a ton of money to do that. Right. So if you are curious, I can definitely provide the link to that course. And it's also always in the link in my bio on Instagram.

Jamila Souffrant 41:26

Yeah, I'll share that resource in the episode show notes. And then the other thing I wanted to mention was just some more tips for people booking and you talked about planning, what I saw that you mentioned on your Instagram, too, was joining Facebook groups are the places you want to go, which I think is so smart. You know, like if you're researching a place to travel to a destination versus like googling, which is fine. It's like they have specific location Facebook groups, where they can really tell you what's the best place to stay and what's like the best restaurants or like, feels right. So you want to talk more about that.

Cinneah El-Amin 41:58

Yeah, so I know, a lot of us probably sleep on Facebook, right. But Facebook groups were a humongous resource for me, especially when I visited Tulum for the first time in 2020. Right, really, during the pandemic. And then of course, when I relocated to Tulum in 2021, right, I'd never really thought about facebookers at destinations visited Facebook groups until I joined black in Tulum. And that was so important for me, right? Because as black travelers, we often want to know, like, Where were the vibes, right? Where are we at? Right? What are the restaurants that we enjoy? Where are they playing our music, right? So joining that black in Tulum Facebook group was like really eye opening, because I was able to hear from travelers who were on the ground. Were there right now saying, Hey, no guys avoid this place. It's not it's not worth it right? Or go to this place. There's a really great vibe and great service, right? So being able to have almost like personal guides, and just people who want to help and want to see you enjoy yourself was really great. Actually, the first time that I visited Tulum, I ended up doing a week solo right after all my friends left for their vacation. I was just like, yeah, I'm not ready to go. And I actually extended my trip solo. And what did I do? I ended up going back into the Facebook group and just saying, Hey, is any anyone else solo traveling this week and want to like meet up for lunch. And I'm so glad that I did that, right? Because then I ended up meeting with other black solo travelers, we found other activities, other events, right. And then I got connected with an entire community of black expats who were living in Tulum and Playa Del Carmen in Mexico. And that was the spark that I needed to see like, Oh my gosh, like, I can do this. And not only can I do this, but I can do this and also find a community of people who understand what it's like to relocate from the US and find a new lifestyle in Mexico. So yeah, I swear by destination specific Facebook groups, if you're looking for how to find them, you know, you can always type black travelers in your destination digital nomads and your destination, expats in your destination women, female travelers and your destination. And I'm sure you will find an established community of folks who are willing to help you and just answer those questions that honestly those Google blogs and you know, a lot of those top searched links are probably just not going to give you the perspective that you're really looking for.

Jamila Souffrant 44:24

Right. And it's so funny because sometimes like when you like when I look at Yelp or just like, What's another big travel like TripAdvisor? Yeah, like I'm just like, and they're like, Oh, this, like, you ever look at a review. And like all of you say it was so great. And then you go in and like that, that food, like didn't have any flavor. I'm like, who reviewed this like, and I'm like, okay, so it's really nice to know, kind of like that you have a connection or there's some similarity to what the people who have worked there who kind of get the culture who can give you the real feedback. So another thing that's happening so the world is sort of opening back up as more people get vaccinated, and so people will be traveling more I will be one of them is what Like some safe ways or safe tips for people, as a, you know, start to embark on their traveling journeys.

Cinneah El-Amin 45:06

When it comes to traveling right now, it's about really understanding what are the local guidelines and restrictions for the places that you want to travel? I think when we're living in the United States, we can definitely be a little kind of centric to what's happening here and not think about what are the protocols in other countries. So you do not want to be that person who didn't know that there was a quarantine restriction or any type of other requirements until you are about to land in that place. So make sure that you do your research, go to their local embassy pages, and really understand what are the requirements for travelers right now? I think that's absolutely number one. I think number two is joining some destination Facebook groups and really understanding what is really happening on the ground, right? Because when you hear from other tourists and say, Yeah, like what is actually the experience of going to restaurants going to resorts in those places, that'll give you a better sense around, you know, is this a place that you want to visit right now. Or maybe it might be best to kind of put off that travel until a later date, I've definitely had trips planned in early 2021, where it was just kind of like, I think as I'm kind of learning more about this place, I don't think it's the right decision for me to visit this place right now. Number three, especially if you're solo traveling is definitely having a system and in terms of who are those contacts that kind of know where you are, where you're going to be starting that group chat with folks, having that like system, have folks in place, who really are going to be able to know your itinerary and know where you're where you're traveling to, right, because as we do know what the world opening back up, it just means that there are a lot more people who want to take advantage of travelers and tourists coming back into these places, right? So always having that that plan of action, to just stay safe and have other people back home know where you're traveling is super important.

And then I think the fourth thing when it comes to traveling safely right now is when we think about travel, I think oftentimes we think about like hopping on a plane and going to a new international place and really making it like a journey that we're taking to a new place. But I also challenge you to think about what are ways that we can travel in our own backyards. Right, taking a staycation at that cute little boutique b&b that you've seen, right? Going to that restaurant that you are just like, Oh my gosh, I've always I've been wanting to go there since the pandemic started, let me do that, right. like not being afraid to explore our own backyards that can look like our own cities that can look like cities in our area. I know for me, I love taking Amtrak and just happen on the Amtrak and taking like a day trip to like a nearby city, especially being in the northeast, like, I challenge you to also think about some of the things that may have been in your backyard, under your nose, right? Being in New York City. Um, you know, I definitely underestimated all the amazing cool things that are like an hour outside of the city, right in New York State, right, from whitewater rafting, to hiking, rock climbing, like there's such an abundance of things that are under our nose. And we don't even always know it. So I think sometimes traveling safely can also look like not always traveling so far wide, but but like looking for those experiences in our own backyard. You know,

Jamila Souffrant 48:21

I love that you said that. Because again, I think it's always that, like I have to go so far out, or you know, get a stamp on the passport, which is great to have this experience. And it's like literally this experience is like 20 minutes away, but you just have to open your eyes, do the research and find it and be open to it. Um, so yeah, that is such a great, great advice for everyone. One of the things that actually you were talking, I'm like, you know, I have to ask her this because you still work a full time job, but you have this leverage of traveling. And one of the things we kind of talked about before you press record was that you said you were not going to be limited because of your job and travel. And I feel like it'd be remiss for me not to share because I know someone's listening. It's like well I work full time It sounds like you're doing this and like you know you have freedom and maybe maybe you're not like working for someone else. So any tips for someone who does have a job right now maybe they are fully remote, maybe there's some flexibility in you know, not returning back to the office how they can also achieve this kind of flexibility you have achieved for yourself with traveling and potentially still working for someone else.

Cinneah El-Amin 49:26

Yeah, so I think it's absolutely possible to to create this lifestyle for yourself when you're working in nine to five I definitely have done it and a couple things that I have done that are super commonplace for me, but maybe not for everyone else's one maximizing your PTO right girl if you could vacation days use them right? Don't be afraid to use your personal time off especially during the summer where maybe work might be a little bit slower or you know you know your work schedule and how it ebbs and flows. Don't be afraid to create that time for yourself. Right. So maximize my PTO, whether that looks like tacking on days around holiday so that I have a longer long weekend to be able to travel, whether that looks like taking advantage of, you know, other company days where, you know, maybe there isn't work going on where I can get out of town, definitely leveraging remote days or no meeting days to be able to say, Okay, can I take an evening flight on Thursday night to land in my destination, so that Friday, I can work remotely and Saturday and Sunday, I can enjoy my time in that new location, right? Being creative with how you use your time off. I think number two is if you have flexibility and are thinking about making a career shift, really considering companies that have a culture that values a remote first environment that values you being able to take time out. I know that can look a little different from those of us that are in other industries. But I know for me, I was always very intentional about the jobs and the companies that I did choose because I know that my lifestyle is not just about my job it's about like my l i f e right. So when I think about like my life holistically travel is a big component of that. So I never wanted to take a job that was going to require me to work 80 hours a week in an office, right? Even if that meant I was never going to make those kind of salaries or whatever and what have you. For me, it was more important to have that holistic lifestyle that made sense. So I think if you are someone who really does want more traveling or a lifestyle, I encourage you to think about maybe working with a career coach or working with someone who is going to help you position yourself for those opportunities that will make a remote work, lifestyle more important and more possible. Right.

Before I relocated to Tulum, I worked with an expat coach. And I think working with her also really helped me understand that I had a lot of limitations that we place on ourselves, our self inflicted, right, we tell ourselves, oh, this is not gonna be possible. My My boss is not gonna let me do this. Instead of just doing it right. I didn't ask for permission. When I left for Tulum. I just went, I had obviously done a test run. I like I told you, I was in Tulum for two weeks, I worked remotely then. So that gave me a chance to test out like, Okay, this is my VPN work, can I still take calls? Does my team know that work is happening? Or is this actually causing me to not be able to fulfill my responsibilities? Once I checked all those boxes? When I was ready to relocate? I didn't think about like, Oh, well, what if right? I obviously talked to HR I read our employee policy cover to cover. And I knew that, okay, I'm covered. There's nothing in here that says, as an employee, I have to disclose my location that I have to do all of these things, right. What I did when we were in the pandemic was I took advantage of what was pretty much a gray area for a lot of companies, right? My company never explicitly said, Hey, you can't work from another country. So I took that to mean, yes, I can work from another country, right. So I think the third point is to not let your own fears kind of limit you right? Oftentimes, if we are strong contributors, if we're doing great work. And we have people managers who understand that we are happy ourselves, and we have the flexibility to be able to have autonomy over where we work, then that's the type of employer that you want, right? And oftentimes, those employers and those managers are not going to stop you from doing what you need to do. So long as you're still checking the boxes and getting the work done. Right. So that was definitely my experience. Would love to say, Oh, my gosh, I work for this super cool. Like, I get to choose wherever I work. No, that's not actually it. Like I'm, I'm a US based employee, but I took advantage of that opportunity. And I didn't allow it to stop me, right. I knew that I saw a vision of myself living in Mexico and I went after it.

Jamila Souffrant 53:55

Yeah, I love that not putting limitations on yourself and not like having preconceived notions because you might be surprised what someone tells you that you can do. Alright, so Cinneah, please let everyone know where they can follow your work to see your future travels on your Instagram and your site and then you can talk a little bit about your course where they can find that

Cinneah El-Amin 54:14

Yeah, so you can find me Cinneah on Instagram at fly . Nance that's FL y dot n a n c e d You can also check out my website fly to learn more about me and all of the cool things that I have cooking up to help you find clarity your money so that you can do more things I'm doing say yes to more travel more experiences, and more luxury. That's what I want for everyone listening. And you know, in terms of my course right now, if you're someone who's listening, you're just like, yeah, I need a step by step on how I can be outside How can be traveling like Cinneah then definitely head to my website or the link in my bio on Instagram. To find my affordable course I have jam packed all of my hacks into an affordable course because I want as many people as possible to have this information around how to start that travel fund, how to find those best deals and a lot of the things that we talked about how to get started travel hacking debt free, and I have some other cool things cooking up. So be sure to like, subscribe to my email list as well. When you do you'll also get my free workbook that's going to help you in real time see, like, Okay, how much might you have to work with that could be going towards your financial independence journey that could be going towards paying off debt that could be going towards travel? Right? Um, so I want to help you do that. So definitely take a look at the resources I have available.

Jamila Souffrant 55:37

Amazing. Thanks so much Cinneah for coming on. It was great talking to you. Same here. Thank you so much for having me.

Okay, I hope you enjoyed that conversation with Cinneah. I just love hearing other people's journeys, especially women and people that I can relate to women that I know also like it's so fly that she also at one point was listening to the journey to launch podcast and other platforms like this to help fuel her journey to help educate her on financial independence. And I just think it's a gift to be able to share the platform so that you can learn about people like her. And hey, one day you can be on this podcast yourself. And or you're doing your own thing. You're sharing your own journey to help inspire and teach others on how you're reaching financial freedom. And if you are enjoying this episode, you always know that I love for you to follow the journey to launch Instagram page and tag me take a screenshot of you listening. Have something that you learn from the episode tag me and tag the guest. So my Instagram is at journey to launch Cinneah's Instagram is at Fly Fly dot Nance and a n c e d. Now recently her Instagram was taken down she wasn't given any noticed it was taken down by Instagram. So I really hope by the time that this airs, it'll be up. But if not make sure you go check out her website which is flying

Oh, one last thing. If you are listening to this on Apple podcasts or the Apple App on your iPhone, make sure you're following the podcast. So I've been putting out episodes every week for the past going on for years now. And the main thing about podcasts is discoverability is about people listening to it but then also continuing to grow the reach of the podcast. So Apple podcast made some recent changes that may have impacted the way you listen to this podcast to one make sure you are now following the podcast before it was subscribed. But they now changed it to following you can follow the podcast. That way. You won't miss an episode when it comes out. And then also wherever you listen Honestly, it doesn't matter if you listen to Apple podcast on Google podcasts, Spotify, wherever you listen, just make sure you're following and subscribed so that you don't miss an episode and that honestly helps with download numbers. And then of course, leave a podcast review on Apple podcasts if that's where you listen and share this with a family or friend put it on your social media. Let's continue to help grow the podcast and the platform.

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Do you want to learn how to travel in style while; paying off debt and pursuing Financial Independence? Then this week’s Journey To Launch podcast episode with Cinneah El-Amin is for you. Cinneah shares how to travel affordably utilizing travel rewards points and gives us tips on how to navigate travel w/ a 9-5 work schedule. 

Even though she had a good salary, Cinneah was living beyond her means and carried shame around her $23,000 credit card debt. In the episode, you’ll hear what rock bottom moment propelled Cinneah to begin her self love and Financial Independence journey and how she paid off her debt in 1 year. 

Cinneah’s story is fascinating because even though she still works a 9-5, she travels often and was even able to relocate to Tulum, Mexico in 2020. Tune in to hear Cinneah’s inspiring story and learn practical tips on how you can travel on a budget and while pursuing your money goals. 

In This Episode You’ll Learn:

  • What propelled Cinneah to start her financial independence journey
  • How Cinneah paid off $23,000 in debt in one year
  • Why it’s important to have people hold you accountable
  • How to travel on a budget, travel hack, and tips of travelers with a 9-5 and much more…
I'm Listening to Episode 222 of the Journey to Launch Podcast, How to Travel Hack and Pay Off Debt w/ Cinneah El-Amin Click To Tweet

Other related blog posts/links mentioned in this episode:

  • Listen to the Learn to Trade As A Side Hustle To Reach Your Financial & Life Goals FREE Audio Training with Teri Ijeoma by clicking here.
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  • Leave me a voicemail– Leave me a question on the Journey To Launch voicemail and have it answered on the podcast!
  • Watch me on News12  Watch my latest segments on News12
  • YNAB –  Start managing your money and budgeting so that you can reach your financial dreams. Sign up for a free 34 days trial of YNAB, my go-to budgeting app by using my referral link.

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