Niqua, Journeyer and founder of Financially Winning and Traveling With Niqua, joins the Journey to Launch podcast to share how she paid off $21,000 of student loan debt while balancing a full time job and traveling the world.
Her inspiring debt payoff story and her captivating travel experiences earned her recognition in Travel Noire. She’s been to over 30 countries and 30 states and helps others travel more with tips, hacks and strategies.
In this episode, you’ll learn more about:
- Practical tips on maximizing PTO, remote working, and benefits so you can travel throughout the year
- How Niqua’s upbringing influenced her decision to pay off $21,000 of student loan debt
- The best free and cheap travel deals Niqua has scored because of credit card travel hacking
- Traveling tips and tricks: apps to use internationally, reducing phone bills while abroad, travel strategies you may not have thought of + more
You can watch the video to this episode below or by clicking here.
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Niqua V. 0:03
And I know for some people, they may seem like, well, it's okay to have certain debt. I don't think that having debt is a morality thing or it's bad. But just for me personally, I just didn't want to have the student loan debt. So I ended up just saying like, okay after the six month grace period, and if I just paid the minimum for the other six months of the year, starting in 2020, would be when I would start tackling my student loan debt.
Minus 10 seconds. Welcome to the journey to launch podcast with your host jameelah. So frogs as a money expert who walks her talk, she helps brave juniors like you get out of debt, save, invest and build real wealth. Join her on the journey to launch to financial freedom five, four, three, two, one.
If you want the episode show notes for this episode, go to journey to launch.com 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 journey or 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 hop into the episode.
Jamila Souffrant 1:40
Hey, journeyers. Today on the podcast we have a fellow listener of the podcast and journeyer Her name is Nika. Nika is the founder of financially winning and traveling with Nika, she was able to pay off $21,000 of student loan debt within just 11 months. Her inspiring debt payoff story and her captivating travel experiences she embarked on during her debt repayment period, earned her recognition and travel in the war. She's been to over 30 countries and 30 states and she has all of that, and her travels on her social and in her businesses. So I'm really excited to have you on the podcast Nikko, welcome.
Niqua V. 2:19
Thank you so much, Jamila. It's a pleasure to be here today. It's just a full circle moment as being a journeyer. And an avid listener of the podcast, super happy to be here.
Jamila Souffrant 2:29
And this is like the true power of social media and connection is that I always remember seeing you post when you listen to Wednesday episodes on your stories. So when I saw that you requested to be on the podcast, you have a story to share of your own. Like I remembered you. I was like, Oh, I always see her supporting and listening to the show. So I'm really happy to have you on and share your journey with fellow journeyers. So again, welcome. And I can't wait to hear more.
Niqua V. 2:55
Yes, I'm super excited for today's episode.
Jamila Souffrant 2:58
While also I hear an accent. Where are you from? And tell us more because I can already tell we're gonna vibe just alone on the accent.
Niqua V. 3:06
Yes, yes. So for everyone that doesn't know me, everyone calls me Nico. And I'm actually from the Virgin Islands. So I grew up in the British Virgin Islands. And I was born in the US Virgin Islands. So I am a dual citizen as well. And that's a unique aspect of my story. My mom is actually from another Caribbean island. My dad is from the Virgin Islands. So I have a big melting pot when it comes to my background. So yeah,
Jamila Souffrant 3:34
let's talk a little bit about what got you to this point. Because you share your debt story online publicly, which I can totally relate to right, like starting your journey and sharing it with others. But how do you get to that point? What made you want to start sharing that and we can go from there?
Niqua V. 3:54
Yeah, absolutely. I think one of the things is I grew up in, you know, that Caribbean household where we learned a lot about like saving for a rainy day and you know, further your education and kind of doing all the things that your parents was like, This is what you need to do to be successful. Right? Once I eventually moved at a very young age, I was at the legal age of 18. But that was pretty young for me to still go out on my own, without my parents being there to help me through college in terms of being physically there. So I had to kind of do the long distance with going to school on my own and my parents and majority of my family being back in the Virgin Islands. So one of the things that hearing about those money stories, I eventually of course, you know, went to college did all the things and I ended up in some student loan debt. But I always say honestly, compared to the number that a lot of other people have, my number was not as bad for me having like an MBA. That's three degrees in total. I did my associate's for free in the Virgin Islands because Community College is free. And then I had scholarships and grants to bring me through for a majority of my undergrad. But I did take out very minimal loans for undergrad, but a chunk of those were for from graduate school. So that's kind of how I got to like having student loan debt in the first place. And I felt that I wanted to see somebody like me in the space sharing about my story. And you know, just how did I even get here in the first place, how I was able to navigate the student loan system, of course, I didn't grow up knowing about student loans and those different ways to pay for college per se. So I wanted to just kind of be a voice in the space to share my story in paying it off.
Jamila Souffrant 5:49
You so you left Virgin Island to your bachelor and your MBA? Where did you go to school? And what did you study?
Niqua V. 5:55
Yeah, so I have a background in accounting and finance. So I do have an MBA and my bachelor's degree is in accounting. So I'm definitely one of the finance accounting girls. And I went to school at UCF and UW F. Those are in Florida,
Yeah, absolutely. So I would say in the beginning, the experience was a little terrifying to be honest, because you know, you're away from everyone, everything that you know, and you just knew that you had to be successful in college, right? I would say I was generally, you know, the a student type of person from when I used to live in the Virgin Islands. So I kind of just tried to keep that same like attitude, being like, well, I have no choice. But to be successful, like, my parents are working hard to be able to see me be this college graduate, of course, being first generation as well. So it was like I had to kind of get it done. I did apply to about two or three schools, and I got accepted to them. But then for me, Florida was closer to home. And I didn't have to really deal with a lot of the winter per se, one of the schools that I got accepted to was in New York. And my brother was actually in New York. And I was like, Yeah, I don't think I want to go through the winter. So I ended up just defaulting to Florida because of weather and close proximity to home.
Jamila Souffrant 7:44
When you were in school, what did you think you were going to do? What your degree and how long ago? Was this so we can get just a timeframe of how your career progressed?
Niqua V. 7:52
Yes, absolutely. So I feel like I definitely knew that I wanted to do something in the accounting and finance space. One of the things that College definitely taught me though, is that there's a lot that you can do with that type of degree and with that type of background. So they kind of prep me in the form of like a lot of different internships, I was that person that had, you know, every summer, every spring, you know, whatever I could, I was doing internships in different companies. So I work for the big accounting firms, I work for the private companies, just to get a feel of like, what what I actually want to do afterwards. So that's kind of one of the ways I was able to figure out like, what I wanted to do with my degree.
Jamila Souffrant 8:39
And did you graduate and start a full time job, what were your next steps and getting out into the real world?
Florida. Okay, so was that just a natural? How did you decide on those schools? And how was it being away? And I'm asking those questions, just as you know, immigrating, or not immigrating, but being able to leave your home island, and go to a whole new environment, culturally, like weather wise, even though Florida is still tropical. But what was that experience like? And then we can talk a little bit more about how you started to think about your debt as you graduated?
Niqua V. 8:45
Yeah, so when I completed my undergraduate program, so that was about, I'm like, Wow, I feel like I'm so old, like eight years ago. That was about like, eight years ago, I finished my undergrad program. And I technically took like a gap year between my undergrad program and my graduate school program. And that's when I pursued my MBA. So that was about five years ago since I graduated from my MBA program. So I feel like it prepped me especially having that gap year, I used that year to like, you know, travel and do different things. I did work full time during my graduate program, which also helped me to reduce the student loans that I took out, because my company did eventually pay for, you know, Paschal of my MBA degree. So I was able to save costs there as well, which is one of the reasons why I toughed it out and worked full time as an accountant during my graduate program.
Jamila Souffrant 9:47
So when you graduated from your graduate program, you're working full time. Are you still working full time? Are you a full time entrepreneur?
Niqua V. 9:55
Yes, so I am in still in the nine to five space a lot of people are always shocked when I say that because they're like, wait a minute, you said that you travel, you know, every month and all these things. But I do still maintain a nine to five career in the accounting and finance field.
Jamila Souffrant 10:11
Well, that's good to know. Because I think one of the nice things about your story is you are traveling, you have your side businesses, and you're still working nine to five. So you probably have a pretty stable paycheck.
Unknown Speaker 10:24
Jamila Souffrant 10:25
And so I definitely want to talk more about you balancing that and how that looks in the real world for people who are thinking to themselves, well, you know, I'm working a nine to five, how can I explore more of my interest and travel more? So for you? When did you decide that you wanted to pay off your debt? Because there's a lot of people who have debt, student loans, and they're fine with it, they can just carry on pay the minimum. And it's not as concerning. So what for you was the moment where you decided to focus on paying it off and your finances in general to make this an intentional journey?
Niqua V. 10:58
Yeah, that's a really great question. And I think one of the things with me is because of my upbringing, debt was not really something that I was used to having. So I never really had like credit card debt. In the past, I did have like a very small car loan, but I paid that off, like, in no time, because I was just managing my cash flow at the time. So my financial advisor was like, you could just take out a small loan, and you could, you know, pay it off, I did work with a financial advisor with my local credit union. And they were like, Yeah, you'll be able to pay this off super easy. So I've not been a person that was used to even debt to be honest, because I never grew up with my parents really being like, oh, yeah, like, you know, they have dad or hearing them Be like, you know, they have credit card debt, or they offer this or offered that. So I would say that my upbringing definitely framed out some of my mindset when it comes to debt. And once I got through my graduate program, I did take advantage of the six month, you know, forbearance and things that they give you after you graduated. And then honestly, the other half of the year, I was like, well, I'll figure this out next year, pretty much. But I started to kind of just that thinking like, okay, when am I going to, like pay this off? And I just wanted to get rid of it. Basically, a lot of people I know, as you said, they're kind of like, Yeah, I know, I kind of have this student debt. But debt was just never something that I really wanted to have, whether it was student loan debt, or credit cards, or you know, high car loan, things like that. And I know for some people, they may seem like, well, it's okay to have certain debt, I don't think that having debt is a morality thing, or it's bad. But just for me, personally, I just didn't want to have the student loan debt. So I ended up just saying like, Okay, after the six month grace period, and after I just paid the minimum for the other six months of the year, starting in 2020, would be when I would start tackling my student loan debt.
Jamila Souffrant 12:56
Got it. Now, where is home base for you. So you're working full time is a mostly remote position that you hold in, which is why you're able to travel?
Niqua V. 13:05
Yes, I do have a remote position.
Jamila Souffrant 13:08
So talk about that did was that because of the pandemic? Or was that before the pandemic that you had that and where are you working from? So you are able to do everything that you're doing?
Niqua V. 13:17
Yeah, that's a great question. So due to the pandemic, I did have a role where, before the pandemic, actually, I did have a role where we did kind of do like a hybrid approach. So I was already familiar with type of like, work from home or that hybrid type of setting. But I would say that the pandemic definitely, you know, propel that where it became fully remote. Also, during that time since becoming debt free, I, you know, negotiated and switched positions to be able to increase my income because, of course, wealth building is now one of my main focus, you know, since being debt free, two years ago, it's actually yeah, it's actually two years. So it's like, amazing, but that's kind of like where I'm at when it comes to that space. And I am still based in my home state of Florida. So I'm still here in Florida. And I work remotely from here, but I do have flexibility with, you know, being able to be a fully remote worker. But I would also say that I tell people work from home and remote are two different things. So you don't want to get trapped in thinking that just because you're a company gave you like a work from home position that you can just pick up and go because that may be something that they're not able to be flexible with because of the type of job that you do or whatever it may be. In prior positions. During the pandemic, I was able to technically move back to the Virgin Islands for three months, just to be able to be around my family because everyone of course was around their family and I was isolated here in the States and they just let me you know, work from there for three months and it wasn't an issue butalso a person that delivers when it comes to my work and my job. So I think people also need to not try to be too clouded by like, yeah, I want to work remote, I want to have work from home position or whatever it may be. But they, they need to not forget that you still need to be a deliverer. Like you can't be missing things. And you know what I mean?
Jamila Souffrant 15:21
Yeah, I know, I have, I'm lucky to do what I'm doing from home and, and have a space to do that. But I know a lot of my friends who are working from home and they're, they're honest, they're just like, I don't get as much work done, I actually rather go in the office. That's what some friends say, some friends who like I'm good with working from home, or even though it may take me longer to do something because I have so much distractions, I rather have this experience. So I, I think it's also just important to know yourself,
Niqua V. 15:47
Jamila Souffrant 15:48
To know what you can get done. Because you're right, if you want to have the flexibility, you still have to deliver the work needed. And sometimes people need more structure to do that.
Niqua V. 15:58
Exactly. And I think one of the things is also being a person that, just as you said, like you know yourself, you know, your deadlines, you know what you have to get done. But I would say that a lot of my travels is still where it's within the guidelines like of the PTO that I have available to me even prior to me working at the current company that I'm working for now. I've always been someone that has been very savvy with the PTO that I have available. Of course, we know that a lot of the times when you have certain positions, you may only have maybe two three weeks, I was still traveling while I was in graduate school at a large amount, like people were just like, oh, like I know you're in graduate school. And I think you're still working. So how are you kind of doing this. And that's how my travel log and you know, the travel brand basically came out is through me getting all the questions about traveling and how I was able to balance you know, going to school full time, and then also still working full time in the demanding field that I was in. And that's how traveling with Nikko basically came about. So I've always been like this flexible person and very strategic when it comes to maximizing the PTO and the time off that I have available to me. So I think a lot of people sometimes get caught up in like, well, I don't have a remote job, or I'm not working from home. So I don't have that flexibility. But they didn't have that all the time. Like you know what I mean? But I was still making a way to be able to travel and and make it work for me.
Jamila Souffrant 17:32
How are you balancing that? Part of and I don't mean to be a hater. Would it sound like a hater right now? But I mean, you don't have any children, do you?
Niqua V. 17:41
I do not.
Jamila Souffrant 17:42
So I feel like fellow parents are like, well, Nika, of course you can just get up and go when you want. For you, how are you balancing the travel and work? You know, are you working? Do you? Do you plan that when you get somewhere? You're so working one day? Or like what is that? Give us a tip so that people who can't get up and go or feel like they want to travel more but feel like they have restrictions can maybe learn something?
Niqua V. 18:09
Yeah, absolutely. So I would shout out like to mom bloggers that I know the parents can definitely follow because they travel with their children. So you guys need to be following the traveling child and the mom Trotter. These are parent travel bloggers that travel with their children they talk about one is homeschool, the others are not. So they talk about homeschooling their child and being able to travel and then the other traveling the traveling child, they actually take their child out of school, you know, so they know how to navigate like taking your child out. Of course not having them miss like a whole bunch of things. So it's definitely possible. So don't feel bad. I know like I'm not a person with children. But trust me, there's resources out there. Okay.
So when it comes to me, I would say one of the things is I and this is a tip that I tell people literally all the time, when you are working a nine to five, you need to be mapping out your PTO from the beginning of the year, technically, from like q4 of the previous year, you need to start being like, okay, each quarter, what am I trying to do? And what can I truly accomplish with what I have? Meaning like if you know, you get three weeks of time off? Does being on vacation, maybe once a year sound more feasible for you? Or do you rather take like one big summer trip, and then you're gonna take like smaller trips like around holidays and things like that. That's one of the ways I have always been able to strategically have a nine to five and still manage being able to travel often is because I've been able to maximize having, you know, holidays off, you know, and just combining those with the weekends and the time that I am allotted for my company, so people don't map out their PTO and that's a big Miss for them. Is because then when they're trying to take July off, everyone else already has their time off in for July, if you had mapped it out from, let's say, November, December prior year, so it does take a little bit of organization. But if you really want to do this, then you have to be organized.
Jamila Souffrant 20:17
Yeah, I think Know thyself is going to be important in every aspect of this journey. But even when it comes to that, right, because I think, for example, me right when I, I get a little stressed when I think about planning things out too far ahead. And I don't know if it's part of me being neurodivergent. And if that's maybe part of the reason why my brain, even though I'm able to plan things out and accomplish stuff, like there's a lot of things that when I think about it, I'm like, I can't plan out far ahead. I don't know what's gonna happen in eight months. And then what happens though, is and when I get closer to maybe something being able to happen or plan something it's closer to. And so I do feel our I suspect that there are some people who are like me, where it's hard for them to think ahead, but I think it's just important to note that recognizing that but trying to figure out systems to help you if you do want to travel more do things far in advance is to recognize that about yourself, because there's a lot of benefits and and being able to map something like what you're saying out because of like you said, requesting time off, or even figuring out where you're gonna go for the best discount at that time. Like that all makes sense.
Niqua V. 21:24
Exactly. And I think that's a good point. And for individuals that feel like, you know, they don't want to plan like an entire year in advance, you can then take it by maybe quarters, right? So you can then say like, okay, in q4, I'm going to try to have an idea of like, what I may want to do maybe in q1, and then just take it in like smaller chunks, so that you're not overwhelming yourself too much. But it will require some type of planning, just because if you are on limited, you know, PTO time, you want to be able to try to just map that out in some way, shape, or form.
Jamila Souffrant 22:00
How are you managing and maybe you don't have to with your employer? Well, it's your time to take off. That's one thing, but then also your side hustles? Are the things that you're doing on the side? Is that something that they know about? Do any of your co workers know this? Or is it something you keep completely separate? And what's your thoughts around that? Because I know for some people, it's scary, like to maybe pursue other things, or they think maybe their employer won't agree or So how have you been handling that?
Niqua V. 22:27
Yeah, so one of the things is I make sure that I'm aligned with any type of like policies that may, you know, have like an issue or anything like that. And I do keep my professional and my businesses completely separate. Just also for privacy purposes, you know, how easy it is for people to just find out information about individuals. So just for me to protect myself as well. I do take very precautionary measures online when it comes to my brand and my business. But I always ensure that I do keep that separate, I don't discuss or disclose to like co workers and things like that, like, hey, like I have this company or this brand. And I'm doing all these travels, I also think that it's better that way as well. Because you don't want to set the precedent of, well, this person is taking time off because like, they probably have something with a brand or it's just like no, like the person is just taking time off. They're either spending time with family or they may be taking a vacation, but you want to just for me personally, I always want to keep that separate.
Jamila Souffrant 23:34
Yeah, and make sense. Because I kept that very separate when I was working. But it's just like one of those unspoken, it's like money, right? Like, we know, money impacts all of us. But we sometimes rarely talk about it with the people that were closest to or in general, right, unless you are specifically looking to have the conversations or listening to podcasts like this. And I feel like that was people and like work in corporate America, like we know that you have a life outside of here. And of course, you may want to keep things professional, but I just feel like there's such an untapped resource and diversity of people when it comes to who they really are, that they can't like, show that and share that with others that they work with, for whatever reasons. And of course, like you sometimes you just don't want to you want to keep it separate. But I'm just like I'm thinking I like what I was able to do when I was working full time and how that could have benefited other people that I knew and work with. But we just didn't talk about it and what they're doing that I would love to know more about. But again, we just keep things separate because you don't want to run across someone who's going to not agree or sabotage you in any way.
Niqua V. 24:36
Yeah, and I think one of the things I would say is that when it comes to travel if travel topics do come up, like I'm definitely open with sharing different tips, you know, and tricks and things like that, you know, taught them about like travel hacking with points or I've given them tips to like how to find like cheap flight deals, when it comes to the finance things. If like, let's say an investing topic came up or whatever the case may be, I would share, like, where it's like I feel comfortable to just give like those tips. So I do think that it's a way for you to kind of just balance like, hey, like I do know about this certain information, but not having to, like, you know, go into like, oh, well, I'm a business owner, I actually own like a personal finance company.
Jamila Souffrant 25:20
Yeah. What is your goal with what you're doing? Because you do have what seems to be a nice job that allows you flexibility, and then you do have what seems to be promising businesses on the side. So is it that you want you to continue this as long as you can, just because you can balance it all knew and really enjoy it all? Or is there a goal maybe in the future to do the traveling and the talking about finances full time?
Niqua V. 25:46
Yeah, I would say that I'm pretty happy with the current dynamic that I have, I'm still able to work with my clients when they need personal finance help. So I work with clients one on one to help them with their journey in trying to budget pay off debt and all of those things. So I do like that aspect of it. I don't think that will go away anytime soon. And I do think that I worked really hard for my career and building that from the ground up. So I do think that that is here to stay as well. And of course, the travel. And yeah, I do think that I can continue to do it all. I don't have any plans to maybe x one for the other. I do think that it's feasible, it has been working well where I can help people in all of the aspects that I touch.
Jamila Souffrant 26:37
And I love that I love that because I think it's a great example of hearing from someone who's like, I like my corporate job, but And you seem to have then found yourself something that suits your lifestyle. So that's really important, because I can imagine if you were working in a company that you had to go in the office you couldn't travel was more strict, or that you probably would feel differently. But I just think not everyone needs to be a full time entrepreneur, you can have side hustles, or expressions of your talents outside of your job. And if you can focus on that, and you have the capacity to do that, you can do more than one thing. I just think it's a great example to show. It doesn't have to be all or nothing.
Niqua V. 27:15
Yeah, and I think that's one thing that sometimes we see a lot where it's like, oh, well, you know, quit your nine to five to do x, y, z. And I'm like, Well, I can still help people and my company in my nine to five. And I like doing that. And I also want to impact people that I know, or I don't know, in the travel and finance space. And I think it's definitely not like all or nothing. And that's what we do see a lot where it's like, well, you have to choose. And I don't want to choose because I like doing all the things. And of course, everything is not going to get the same amount of like effort. So it's about time management. And you know, just navigating, I would say I'm a person that I'm very organized. I'm I'm very like, sensitive and conscious of time. So that helps me balance all the different things. But I'm aware and I know myself where it's like, if I do have to cut back on content, I know like, Okay, well, I'm gonna just have to pull back from creating travel content for this week or two weeks, because I have a lot of deadlines going on at work. So it's also about just balancing and giving yourself that grace as well. And not thinking that you have to always give everything 100%. But you can give your best,
Jamila Souffrant 28:35
and the season of life that you're in. Which is why I think even if you do love your job, it's important to prepare financially and beyond the financial independence journey, because I hope you feel this way forever, right? And whatever you decide to do, if you decide to expand a family or not, you may not choose to do that. It just feels like you may change your mind about certain things. But you want to be in a position to have that power to say, I financially built up the side business or I have enough money where if I wanted to take a break or find something new to do, I could and I feel like some people get stuck, where they're not thinking about what the future can hold and how they feel today may not be how they feel in five years. I'm not prepared for that.
Niqua V. 29:16
Exactly. And that's a good point Jamila, because I think I always put myself where I'm outside of the box. Like I never want to feel that just because yes, I do enjoy my career. And I enjoy what the you know, the other things that I do right now, that does not mean that maybe like I don't want to retire early, like I'm still on fire movement, like I'm still all about that. And you know, building my wealth and being able to retire early. Because when it does come to that point, it will be more of a choice where I can say well, maybe I'll just go part time in my nine to five if I still kind of want to get that brain activity continuing, but then still pursuing a lot of my other dreams and aspirations.
Jamila Souffrant 29:58
So for some of us but not necessarily me. I feel like I don't know that I can live in the Caribbean or the islands like full time, but I definitely want to go back. I'm just like, Oh, I'd love to be here for like a month. Right. But as someone who's grown up there, you say you went there until you were like, what? Teenage like late teens?
Niqua V. 30:14
Jamila Souffrant 30:16
Right. And I always feel like we always want what we don't have, or we didn't experience full time. And so there are some people who are like, Oh, I'd love like, my goal is like, my whole financial independence goal is to one day quit my job. So I can live on an island or in an island, or I want to work full time from an island. And being someone who's from an island and who grew up on an island. Not that I want you to say anything bad about growing up in Ireland. But for you, is that a goal for you to move back to the Virgin Islands? Or for you, because you grew up there? It's like you want a different type of life? You don't really have aspirations to retire move to the islands?
Niqua V. 30:51
Yeah, so that's a really great question. Because people do ask me a lot. Like, why are you here, like, you know, you grew up in the Virgin Islands, or you're from the Virgin Islands. And I have a special place in my heart, of course, for my island. And I do want to actually own some additional like property and land and things there. So that is a part of my wealth building strategy. That's what I grew up knowing in terms of wealth building, like owning property owning land, my parents, that's kind of how they focused on their wealth building journey. So that's what I grew up knowing. And that's, you know, the people around me, that's what I know people to have. It's not necessarily where, oh, they have the stock market. And they're investing, but I know them to have property, I know them to have multiple pieces of land. So I do want to incorporate that in my wealth building journey. And who knows, I'll probably go back there, you know, and just kind of be between the US and there, because I do have that privilege. And I never take that for granted. I don't know if it would be where it's a permanent move. But I do think that I would want to still have that experience in my adult life being where I'm in that financial position to just go back and forth. And you know, it not be an issue.
Jamila Souffrant 32:09
Right? Does your current job restrict you from like, working from there? If you want to go permanently?
Niqua V. 32:14
Yeah, I think I would probably just have to ask like permission. I've definitely, like just talked to them about it. And they're just like, I mean, we don't really care. Like, honestly, I've been kind of lucky, where it's like, it's very flexible. And I do think if I would want to go there, it would just be a matter of like, Hey, okay, how can we figure out like the legalities of it? Or if I would still remain as like, you know, a Florida resident, and I kind of go back and forth, or whatever it may be. But I do think that it could be a conversation if I would really want to do that.
Jamila Souffrant 32:46
Love that. Now, let's get into some travel tips. Yeah. Now, what are some things we should know about travel are some things you've been able to do that the average person does not know, we should be looking out for to save some money?
Niqua V. 33:02
Yeah, so one of the tips I would definitely say is a lot of people do not utilize certain apps when they're traveling, especially internationally. That is helping them to kind of like Miss Miss opportunities. For example, I would say like, you need to make sure that you have apps such as x e, for example, if you're going to a foreign country that don't use the US dollar, how would you know what the currency exchange rate is at that time, instead of you trying to be Googling, like, what's the current exchange rate? If you literally just download that very simple app X e, you will be able to do that right there. And then so you're not getting scammed. You know, exactly. You know how much money you're supposed to be getting back and things like that. Another one is, I would say is error law. That's an app that people run up their phone bill, for example, we know how expensive these phone providers can be when we're roaming. And sometimes you just need data, right? There's apps that you can literally purchase very cheap e sim packages, that you can literally purchase it for that week that you're going to be traveling and have data access versus trying to run up your local phone providers and your phone bill.
Jamila Souffrant 34:19
What's that app again?
Niqua V. 34:21
it's called Errol. And it's very simple. Your phone just has to be unlocked. It's an app that gives you access to over like 200 countries. So the country that you're visiting definitely is probably going to be there. And you can just purchase an e sim and a data package and you'll be able to use your device.
Jamila Souffrant 34:40
I'll make sure I get the spelling and the link to these apps that Nico's mentioning for the show notes but keep going with the tips.
Niqua V. 34:48
Yeah, absolutely. And then one of the other ones that I think is very important, is also I saw Tik Tok recently where this young lady apparently didn't know that her path Support had to be within like six months past the time that she was going to be traveling to a certain country. And I was just like, Oh, am G, guys, if you are a US citizen, you can literally go to the travel.state.gov website. And you can find all of the information that you would need as a US citizen to go to a certain country. It literally has it laid out there, you can search the country, it will tell you how long your passport needs to be valid for, if you need a visa, if you need vaccinations, you know, it would have the direct link to like the visa if there's an E visa available for like that country. So that's a huge travel hack that I try to tell people. And a travel tip is definitely always check the US government travel state.gov website before you plan international travel. Because I know sometimes people are just used to us having you know, of course, we do have a strong passport. And that's a privilege to have a US passport. So we think that maybe we don't have to get visas for certain places, or we don't need to have you know certain things in place. But you need to check for those things. And that website will definitely help you.
Jamila Souffrant 36:17
Yes, I actually have a travel hack I can share with you guys, because it's something I didn't know maybe you're listening to like I already knew that to me Hola. But just in case you don't. I was traveling back from Portugal and a couple other countries. I think when I came back from Jamaica and Mexico, you know, you're going through customs to get back into your country. So I flew into JFK, there's usually a long custom line. But at the mobile entry app, it's called the US Customs and Border Patrol app. I'll link this in the show notes too. But literally, the line was so long, but no one was telling anyone that they could just download this app, put in your information and then go on the expedited line, which saved us like an hour. So wanted to share that tip, because I don't feel like they tell you that in the airport, like we're coming down, I just read a sign and saw it. And it saved us so much time to get back into where we are traveling from. It's I don't know if it's at every airport, but it's definitely at JFK in customs.
Niqua V. 37:12
Yes, so that is the mobile passport control app, it is a app that is by Homeland Security. So it's very secured. And that is something that I definitely always tell people and I've used, I've had my friends use it, I do have global entry. So for those people that maybe don't have global entry, or they're waiting to get Global Entry, you can definitely use the mobile passport control app that Jamila mentioned. And it is very select airports. But if you come into like a major airport, it probably will be available. And it does help you with having expedited entry and it is free as well. So you can definitely download it. Because I'm that person, I told my friends, I'm like, You guys better download this app, because I will leave you when I go into that global entry. So it has definitely worked. I know for a fact that it works. And I also put tips like that on my travel page. And I tell people about that app as well. So that's a really good app for you guys to check out.
Jamila Souffrant 38:12
So I know that people say if you you know if you're flexible with your dates, your travel dates, that's when you can get the bits flights and the rate. But not everyone can be flexible with that. So have you seen the difference between when you want to fly? At the date you want to fly versus open? Like when have you been able to save the most on flights? Is it true that I believe some people will say the certain day you look up a flight is better than another day? Have you found that to be true.
Niqua V. 38:37
That is definitely not necessarily true in terms of like, Oh, if you search on this day, it's gonna be the cheapest on this day. And if you search at midnight, and all that things, one of the ways to just get travel deals, if you are not flexible in terms of your dates is to be flexible with your location. So if you still can only travel within a very specific time, if you can maybe give or take like a day or two, you know, either a day extra or a day less. That would definitely help with, you know, trying to find travel deals. But if you're dead set on specific days, I think if you're flexible with your destination, that's how you're going to be able to get the most bang for your buck. A lot of people also where they don't think about like, if they live in a state where they may have like access to multiple airports within like maybe an hour or two of the next airport. You want to also think about probably flying out from another airport because for example, if you're in the New York area, you might say, Okay, well yes, JFK is probably like one of your defaults, but flying out from LaGuardia may have gotten you like a better deal. So you want to also check like nearby airports if you are willing to really save, you know where you can be like, Okay, well, instead of me flying out of JFK, I'm just going to do LaGuardia. Are and save money on my airfare. So I always tell people, if you're not able to be flexible with your actual dates, depending on where you live, you may want to be flexible with just the destination. And then also the airport that you are flying out of. A lot of the times I go based off of the deals that I can get, because of course, I am still trying to save money when it comes to traveling. I do use a lot of points and miles because I am a travel hacker. So of course, I'm a very advanced travel hacker compared to you know, the average person, but I definitely find deals where I am deciding to say, Okay, I'm just going to pay cash for this. I do try to find those deals as well.
Jamila Souffrant 40:42
What for you have been some of the best deals you've gotten like was like the best or cheapest for free fighter nicest hotel, you say that that you'd have to pay a lot for?
Niqua V. 40:54
Yeah, let's see. So I would say last year, I was able to score a round trip with my girls to Costa Rica, for about like 120 round trip to Costa Rica. So that was pretty cheap and affordable. For free. Wow. I've done a lot. I've done a lot of free. So I would say some of my large trips that I was able to just travel hack are like I visited Kenya, Tanzania. I did Egypt, Jordan.
Jamila Souffrant 41:27
And these were all points credit card points.
Niqua V. 41:30
Yes, these were all points. Trinidad Carnival this year for my birthday. I travel hack that. I've definitely travel hack a lot of good good destinations.
Jamila Souffrant 41:41
While we should just explain travel hacking. I mean, it's pretty self explanatory. But I know I know it more for using your credit card to gain points and then to travel, use it to buy the flight or use it to pay for the hotel. I usually do it for flights. So when you say like carnival, or any of the other locations, you mentioned, this is you opening up credit cards or you just spend on one credit card. Let's just for people who are new to this, give them just a really quick breakdown on how you're earning so many points to be able to travel like that.
Niqua V. 42:14
Yeah, absolutely. So as I kind of mentioned, I am an advanced travel hacker. So that would mean that I am definitely using a little bit more advanced techniques in terms of opening multiple cards, meeting, multiple minimum spends to be able to earn as many points as possible. But for the average person that maybe wants to begin travel hacking, it would just be finding a card that would be able to get your trip accomplished pretty much. So I always tell people to just work backwards. So if you're trying to go to a specific destination, and you're like, Okay, well JetBlue flies there, you might then want to then work your way into okay, how can I figure out getting points for JetBlue to travel hack, right, you can start looking to see how much in general are JetBlue flights when it comes to using their points? And then you would say, Okay, well, I know that if I get this card that can get me you know, for myself, and maybe a partner or my child or whatever, that can be enough points to get us flights there. If you're then saying like, Okay, well, the destination that I'm going to, I want to stay at a Hyatt property, right? You might then say, okay, like what card would be able to help me maybe not specifically earn Hyatt points directly, but it might be a chase card where you can transfer your Chase points and turn them into Hyatt points and booked the hotel for free or for you know, minimal costs. So there's definitely different ways to do it. But I always tell people to when you're starting out, just work backwards and work with like one trip. For me, I always make sure that I have multiple currencies, we say, in the travel hacking world, just meaning the type of points that we have, like making sure that you have Chase points, you make sure that you have Amex points and you know, just different ones. So that's what I mean by multiple currencies. But for the average person, if you are trying to get started, it would be where I would suggest that you kind of work backwards. And you probably start with a card that is like a chase, for example, because it's very flexible with what you can do with the chase points.
Jamila Souffrant 44:22
Yes. And. I feel like I should do Boo Boo Boo boop, disclaimer, disclaimer, this, to me is a more advanced not just like advanced strategy for someone who can manage their debt.
Niqua V. 44:34
Jamila Souffrant 44:35
I know that managing debt is not for everyone. So people hate credit cards. So people are still in credit card debt. This is not a strategy I think you should use because if you still aren't credit card debt, you couldn't you can't get out of it. Opening up another car to travel really is just us just a slippery slope. So it's not a strategy that I think everyone should be using. But if you are able to pay for credit cards every month, you're good with managing debt and feel in control of it. It's definitely a way to save money. I like to say it's like one of the, as you go through the journey or stages, I have this the five journey or stages you traveled to, there are certain stages in which yes, it's okay to leverage that to do what you need to do. So want to make that boo, boo, boo, boo, disclaimer,
Niqua V. 45:17
that's awesome Jamila, because I literally always say that people are probably tired of me on my platforms. Just saying that because of course, I always have to go back to the finance side of things when I am discussing travel hacking. And I let people know that this is not for people that if you're currently struggling with credit card debt, this is not something that you would want to start out with, because you are still trying to navigate that space of paying off debt, and things like that. And when people ask me about like, oh, well, what's the interest rates, I'm like, I don't know, because I don't pay interest. Like, I have strategies for meeting these minimum spend. So I can get the bonus points and you know, doing all the things, but I'm not in debt, to be able to travel. So I always make that disclaimer as well. I'm not someone that encourage putting flights on using those bye, bye now pay later stuff, I'm not someone that encourages people to just open a bunch of cards to get rewards to travel. Because at the end of the day, the interest that you're going to be paying on these cards, they're not, it's not worth it, right? Like, it's not worth it, you want to wait till you're in a good financial space to be able to start doing travel hacking. And that's something that I always reiterate to my audience as well.
Jamila Souffrant 46:40
Right. And also to, to know your own journey and where you are and what you can handle. So I'm not also saying you can't travel, if you are in debt, yes, but there is something to be said for holding back for delaying that gratification of travel for whatever, maybe it's for a few months for a year until you feel in control and have a strong pay off strategy, or you want to pay it off completely. But you can also pay or save up front for your travel. So if you know that that's important to you. And that's what's gonna get you through the day, the year to look forward to that trip, then put a stop putting away for it right and understand opportunity cost, if you're going to start saving up versus paying down debt faster or investing. And you made that conscious decision. It's your decision your life. But I just want I don't want you to feel or people to feel like oh, that means I can't do anything because I'm in debt. Not necessarily, it just means you have to be proactive and have a strategy around it, or you're going to stay stuck in the same situation years from now.
Niqua V. 47:36
Exactly. And I always tell people that I travel when I was paying off my student loan debt, of course, that was during some of the time was the pandemic. So I was forced to not do certain things. But I've always been someone that just made a way for traveling. So I found ways to save money for travel over the years, travel hacking is just a part of it. It doesn't mean that I don't ever spend like cash on things. So I just want to be clear as well that I do you know, obviously have to spend cash on sometimes my excursions and things like that. But one of the ways that I am traveling frequently is with points and miles and making sure that I'm not racking up any debt in the process. But I've always been someone that has balanced like, hey, well, I still want to
Jamila Souffrant 48:30
Well, Nika, this conversation has been great. I'm so glad to finally meet you. Versus seeing you all the time on Instagram. Please tell everyone where they can follow your blog and your travel page and then find out more about you if they want to know more.
Niqua V. 48:45
Yeah, absolutely. So you guys can find me over at financially winning for all of the finance tips, helping you on your wealth building journey. And you know, just the basics of paying off your debt saving, budgeting and all of that. And then on the travel side of things, I do have a travel brand, which is traveling with mica and that's where I share all of the travel tips, hacks and strategies. And you can also just find me on all of those social media platforms, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, all of those.
Jamila Souffrant 49:18
Yes, and I'll be sure to link that all in the show notes. Thanks so much again, Nika for coming on the show.
Niqua V. 49:24
Thank you so much, Jamila. It was a pleasure being here and hi journeyers and bye.
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