Becoming Debt Free and Moving To Puerto Rico with Bianca Alba – Episode 131

Bianca Alba on becoming debt free, budgeting, saving money and traveling while paying off debt.
Estimated Reading Time: 8 minutes

An inspiring story of becoming debt free, mindset shifts for better managing your finances, and living in Puerto Rico with Bianca Alba from This Latina Travels Podcast.

Bianca Alba is a proud Latina on a mission to inspire more Latinas to embark in travel. Born in Bolivia, raised in Virginia, Bianca grew up with three sisters in a single parent home, so for a long time, trips and vacations were just an idea. She currently resides in La Isla Del Encanto, aka Puerto Rico for the last seven years and has a full-time job working as a public health advisor. Bianca has traveled to six out of the seven continents, and believes that you do not need to be a millionaire to travel (which I wholeheartedly believe in). She’s on a mission to encourage and support women who look like her to travel the world.

In this podcast episode, Bianca Alba, the host of This Latina Travels, shares her journey to becoming debt-free, her decision to move to Puerto Rico, and how it has impacted her finances and fueled her love for travel. The episode also covers expat life in Puerto Rico, both the pros and cons.

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00:00 Danielle Desir Corbett: Bianca Alba is a proud Latina on a mission to inspire Latinas to embark in travel. Born in Bolivia, raised in Virginia, Bianca grew up with three sisters in a single-parent home. So for a long time, trips and vacations were just an idea. She currently lives in La Isla del El Canto, aka Puerto Rico, for the last seven years and has a full-time job working as a public health advisor. Bianca has traveled to six out of the seven continents and believes that you do not need to be a millionaire to travel, which I wholeheartedly believe. So in this episode, we're going to chat about Bianca's journey to becoming debt-free, the decision to move to Puerto Rico and how it has impacted her finances and fueled lots more travel, as well as expat life in Puerto Rico, the pros and also the cons. Be sure to follow Bianca's podcast, This Latina Travels, where in every episode, Bianca takes you to destinations around the world from Ireland to Colombia and more. As for the resource of the week, grab a copy of my book, Traveling with a Full-Time Job, to get an inside scoop on my favorite strategies for balancing a travel-filled life when you have a traditional nine-to-five job. Lastly, a special thank you to Peppy for the latest five-star podcast review. Peppy says Danielle is well-versed in finance and travel, and so are her guests. I enjoy the topic she picks, even as someone a little beyond the intended millennial audience. I super appreciate that, Peppy, and this episode is not going to disappoint. Welcome to The Thought Card, a podcast about traveling money where planning, saving and creativity leads to affording travel, building wealth and paying off debt. We are the financially savvy travelers. Now, Bianca, you had this amazing quote on your website that for me, I felt that in my soul, because this resonated with me, my family and just how we traveled when I was younger. So the quote says, while our parents traveled for necessity, we're out here traveling for joy. So when did you realize that this dream of travel could actually become your reality?

02:39 Bianca Alba: Well, first off, hi, Danielle. It's so good to share this space with you. And to answer your question, I think I always knew. And like a little background story, like you said, I was born in Bolivia. So, you know, I was born in the heart of South America. My parents literally immigrated with me at six months, to be exact. So I traveled even before I learned how to walk. And while I traveled because of necessity, it was part of my life journey. I mean, even growing up, we didn't travel back to Bolivia until almost 11 years later, because we didn't have the correct paperwork. We didn't have the finances. And we honestly came to the country for the quote unquote, American dream. So it was just surviving. That's what travel consisted of. But it really didn't hit me until I really got to college where I realized the endless opportunities that travel could bring you. I mean, once I got to college, one good thing that I always bring about when I was in college was my sorority. We would travel from state to state. And at the time, I didn't see anything of it, or I didn't really grasp the concepts of it. But now, as 10 years plus later, I'm like, wow, I really did a lot when I was in my early 20s. And then recently, in 2020, when I finally really started my podcast and connecting with other like minded women who resonated with my story from all over the world, and just seeing the power of travel that has resonated with me the most.

04:14 Danielle Desir Corbett: You know, it's so interesting, because when I look back at my grandpa, he actually lived in Congo. And he was a math teacher in Congo for quite a few years. Like one of my uncles was actually almost born in Congo. And he took my grandma to like Amsterdam once. And my grandma has a few travel experiences. But I would say for the most of their adulthood, they didn't necessarily travel. Like they came to the United States from Haiti with the goal of building and making sure that their children are taken care of and have this education and are set. Right. And then there's this middle generation like my mom, who as a single mom, it wasn't in the cards. Like I kind of joke with her a bit. I was asked to go to Disney and the first Disney trip for me was like in grad school. It just wasn't a thing. But I had the pleasure of going back to Haiti every summer. So although travel didn't look the same as everyone else, I'm super thankful for that opportunity because I'm very close to the Haitian culture, the food, the language, the customs. And it opened my eyes to a different type of life. But travel besides that was very dormant for me up until I went to grad school. I had all these experiences. I wanted to do things and money getting in the way and fast forward. But it's just that quote to me really stood out because I feel like for me at least, I feel like my son and my children will definitely have like travel for leisure way embedded in their fabric of their life. But it wasn't always that way for generations

05:58 Bianca Alba: to come. So that really, really spoke to me a lot. Thanks. No, I said that once in a podcast that I was interviewed and I was like, wow, just to sit back, right. Also, and just think that we have also that privilege to be able to teach others how to travel, to take our own parents. Like, you know, I took my mom on a beautiful trip to Gulebra and it was just like to be able to do that also, it's kind of like a full circle because knowing all the sacrifices that our parents did and now

06:26 Danielle Desir Corbett: the fact that we can give back and take them with us. That is so true. My mom and I are going to Paris this year and it's her dream come true. Like I went to Paris in 2014. I went solo and out. It was my dream come true, but I could now take her to live out her dreams. So it's all so heartwarming and like, it just touches me so much. So this show is half travel and half personal finance. And I know throughout your journey, you had acquired a bit of debt. So we'd love to hear about your journey to becoming debt free, how you accumulated that debt and what that looked like for

07:07 Bianca Alba: you in terms of like acquiring this debt over time. Sure. Yeah. So I feel like that journey, I could write a whole book about. I feel like we all can, but I just want to put out like first, a disclaimer. I always feel like personal finance really is personal. And so I think that that's also important because I think many of us like we're real quick to like compare ourselves, right? Like, oh, well, Fulanito was able to pay all her debt. Like how come I can't? And I'm like, well, I mean, the sacrifices behind it is maybe something that you may not know. And so I think that's like the first thing. And then how I accumulated debt, like I always tell people, like it wasn't from one night to the other. Like it definitely was years. I was also very privileged. I got a full scholarship for my undergrad. So I didn't graduate with any student loans from my undergrad degree. But when I went back to school, for grad school, that's where I hid in because you don't get any type of grants or any type of government assistance. And seeing like 20, $40,000 under my name, I honestly started freaking out because I was just like, how am I going to have all this debt? I can't rely on my parents. I can't rely on anybody. It's really just me, myself and I. And finally, when I got my first like real career job, I had to move across the country and they didn't pay for any of it. So that's when credit card came and I just put everything on a credit card and I knew of interest and I knew like the importance of your credit, just like the basics. But I didn't like, you know, put two and two together with all that. And so when finally I started my career, like that's when I was like, okay, well, I can't just have all this debt under my name. I need to start doing other things. And I feel like that's where I started like learning little things. But I also feel like my instinct of survival came up as well, because I was just like, I can do this. And I started just side hustling, like left and right. And that was like the big thing that I feel like a lot of people don't realize like you sacrifice so much. Like I sacrificed my free time for like two, three years. I babysat, I taught Spanish, I did everything that you can think of. That was a waitress for so many years and nothing wrong against that. But it's a lot of work. Like when you're on your feet for like 10 hours, like all you want to do afterwards is just go to sleep.

09:22 Danielle Desir Corbett: I 100% agree. I want to highlight the sacrifices piece, right? There's behind the scenes to become debt free. There's some people who are able to do it like snap a finger. But me personally included in this is that it took sacrifices. I had to say no to a lot of things in order to be able to pay off my student loan debt. When I purchased my home, similar to in your situation, sometimes based off of just your living situation, you end up acquiring debt gradually over time. Not that you want to, but you're kind of like forced into this situation. For me, it was like homeownership and like just being thrown into the woes of like all the things that's required of me. I ended up acquiring debt and I had to get out of that. So everything you said there, I can definitely understand and relate to that. You mentioned actually earning more. So side hustling as your strategy for tackling debt. Did you do anything in addition to that when it came to actually the nitty gritty of like putting money aside? Did you take your side hustle money and throw it immediately into paying off your debt? Or did you create like a savings account with your side hustle money and just made one payment? Just more of the strategy of like how you actually

10:43 Bianca Alba: ended up paying this balance over time? Yeah, no, for sure. I think for me, one, so just to say more, I worked for the federal government and so like they have like a lot of these programs, a lot of these investment accounts that I had no idea. And so it was one thing, first thing was like putting myself out there and learning. And at that time, it was about 2015, 16. So there was podcasts, there was a lot of resources, but you just have to put yourself out there. So learning all that stuff. But for me, it was literally, I would make that money and I would pay the debt. Like I just wanted to get rid of it. I wanted that number to go as low as possible. I know with like student loans, for example, they just require that minimum payment, but I was going beyond and over because for me, it was like, I just want to be debt free so I can feel like that tranquility. And I think also with that comes the financial trauma. Like I won't lie to you, like there's a lot of financial trauma growing up for me, especially in a single family home. We always had food on the table and a roof over our head, but no one ever talked about savings. There was never money. And so also like getting help, like getting therapy and like talking about these trauma stuff and like knowing that it's okay, you're going to be fine. And it's okay to also spend and splurge on yourself. And I think that's also where the travel component comes, because for the longest time, I wasn't splurging. Like I wasn't doing anything for me. And what's the point of just working, working, working and paying off this debt if you're not going to enjoy

12:12 Danielle Desir Corbett: any of it. And you know, the question I was going to ask you right after this was, did you travel while you were paying off your debt? For me personally, I said no to about 99% of things, but I did say yes to travel. And I strategically was able to save money on the side, very little. I was a true budget traveler at that time, but travel was the yes for me. So at that time for you, did you say yes to travel? What did that look like? And if you didn't travel, what was

12:44 Bianca Alba: your mentality like? Why did you say no at that time? Similar to you, yes, travel was a yes for me as well, but definitely more of the budget aside. And the great thing about, like, I guess I'm reflecting on that time period, is that I have similar people in my circle who were on the same salary budget. Maybe they weren't paying off debt as much as I was, but we all, like, you know, if we wanted to do a road trip to Page, Arizona, which absolutely is gorgeous, people are like, what? I'm like, you have to go to the Antelope Canyon and all the like, the reserves out there. It's just magical. And we would split it like we would split a hotel room. So each of us ended up only paying like what $40, $50 at that. So it's something worth considering instead of just going, you know, all that. But travel for me was a safe haven. So I definitely encourage if that's something that you love, and that's something that you want to do, set that little money aside and do it. And it doesn't have to be expensive. You just have to make sure to do your research. And now there's so

13:42 Danielle Desir Corbett: many tools out there, that there really is no excuse. Yes, I'm really a big proponent of being and like you can travel and pay off debt, travel and invest, travel and, you know, run a business. So that and it takes creativity, it takes intentionality, and it takes sacrifices. So everything you said there, like it just resonates with me. And getting debt free is one half of the battle, right? Being able to pay off this debt. But I also wanted to talk about staying out of debt. So how are you avoiding the debt cycle? Because it's so easy to kind of slip and kind of get back into that. So just wondering how you're staying out of all of that.

14:31 Bianca Alba: Yeah, no, again, I'm such a strong component of who you surround yourself with, but not only just physically, but who you listen to, what you're reading. Yes, I went to school for a long time, but I don't know, I love learning these things. And we're so lucky to live in a time where literally everything's in the palm of our hands. So I am constantly listening to financial podcasts, especially of women and women of color. And the amount of information that I learn on these podcasts that are absolutely free, it's just insane. Because I'm just like, wow, again, I didn't grow up learning any of this stuff, not even in school. And so the fact that we're having these conversations, that there's this space, that there are resources out there. And then just my mindset, right? I think that's a huge component of not getting back into debt. I always ask myself, is this something that I need or is this something that I want? And as simple as that may sound, it really does help me. But I also know now, as a grown adult with goals and stuff, I have different buckets. I'm a big component of organizing my finances. So I have my emergency fund, I have my travel fund, I have my one day housing fund, I have my pet fund, because my pets have to go to the vet and do all the good stuff. But it's just organization. And I think that comes with discipline as well. Finances have to be disciplined because if not, you'll just throw all that money away. I remember when I was younger and I was a waitress, I would save half, but then the other half, I don't even know where that money went. So it's all about being strategic, but also having that wiggle room to have fun. And to me, that's where I always make it a purpose every time I get paid to pay myself. Literally, I put a bill, pay myself, and that's my travel

16:20 Danielle Desir Corbett: fund or something fun that I can enjoy. Very, very important. There's so many aspects, when you're talking, I feel like there's so many things pulling at us financially. Bills, goals, fun, and we have to prioritize, like you said, prioritize, be intentional, strategize, and not be afraid to know where we're at too. I feel like for me personally, a big part of not getting back into debt is knowing my numbers, not being afraid to look at my bank account, making sure I'm living within my means. I do splurge. My travel style has definitely been elevated these days, but still knowing what I'm willing to spend and what I'm not willing to spend and knowing that I can't afford everything, but the goal is to work up to the things that truly matter to me. All of those things definitely resonate with me. Now, Bianca, after this debt freedom journey, one of the cool things that I know about you is that you've been living in Puerto Rico for the past seven years. How did you end up living in Puerto Rico, becoming an expat? Let's dig into that part of the conversation.

17:36 Bianca Alba: Yeah. I've been here for almost seven years, which is so crazy to me. It just goes to show how fast time goes. My background is in public health. I'm a public health advisor for one of the federal agencies. At the time, my job was deploying people for the Zika response. There were very limited amounts of Spanish-fluent speakers. I got deployed here. My deployment was only supposed to be for 30 days and ended up being almost four or five months. I just loved it here, Danielle. I loved it so much. Spanish is my first language. I just felt at home. I hadn't felt at home in a while. I was just like, this is where I need to be. This is home for me. I need to find a way here. The branch that I was deployed for had an opening position. I applied and I ended up coming here. It's just so crazy to me because even until today, some days I wake up and I still pinch myself because I'm just like, is this true? Am I going to get pranked? But I never thought it. I never in my wildest dreams thought that I would live in Puerto Rico. My job before was in New Mexico. I did it because I needed to, but that job was the one that opened opportunities and who would have thought? I moved here because of my job, but now my job is remote. I'm doing the remote life. I changed jobs, changed agencies, and I am just living the island life.

19:02 Danielle Desir Corbett: I love that. I love living the island life whenever I'm on vacation, not as an expat, but I do try when I am on vacation. Let's talk about having your job being able to help you and support you in this expat journey because I know a lot of people right now, they are choosing to become remote workers and they decide to, let's say, live in Puerto Rico, but for you, you came to Puerto Rico through your job. What does that look like? And how having this job in Brugrilla, how does that impact your finances at all?

19:37 Bianca Alba: Yeah, I know. That's a really good, important question. I always say the disclaimer too. I am privileged. I have a very privileged job here on the island. I work for the government and they paid for everything. So when I got hired with this job, I knew that there was going to be a moving fee and everything. So that was honestly the reason why I moved because it is not cheap. A lot of people think Puerto Rico and they may think it's cheap, but it's not. It's probably one of the most highest, if that, I think it's the highest taxes for everything. But not only that, just like the moving process also, like everything to get imported, you have to pay taxes, the process to find a place here is super hard, but it's been a different journey because working with the government, you have different benefits that a lot of people on the island don't have. And so that is something that I always discreetly share because I recognize my privilege. And I know that unfortunately the people here don't have that. Like the salaries range from 20 to $25,000 here, which is impossible to survive in. So that's why you have people working two to three jobs or still living at home or living with their families because it's just really hard and everything's expensive. You have to imagine everything gets imported. So food, anything, like little things like gas, all this stuff. But like I said, like I'm really privileged to have this job that maintains my salary. I am single, so I also don't have kids and I don't have a family, but I also have to be smart with my finances because it is a single family home. And I think that's another thing that a lot of people, like when they see it, they're like, oh, she's living her best life. And am I a hundred percent? But I also know that I need a balance and that I need to make sure that there are days where I can't go out because I really do need to save or I need to pay this expensive power bill that's probably triple what everybody pays in the States because the power company is a whole other issue here.

21:30 Danielle Desir Corbett: These are important things to talk about because there's this big push for like remote work and location independence, which I'm a hundred percent all for. And this entrepreneurship track, which sign me up, I'm there, but also that there are opportunities through your nine to five employment where you may be able to go to a different branch in a different country or even a different States. Right. And like you mentioned, Bianca is like looking at your benefits, knowing all the fine print that comes with your benefits and knowing what you are allowed and privileged to, I think is like so important. So this conversation is like really important to me because there's so many different avenues to living our lives. It's just not one way. Right. So I appreciate that. And it's just, again, refreshing to hear that perspective. So digging into more of living in Puerto Rico, I was listening to one of your podcast episodes and you were like vacationing in Puerto Rico is very different than living on the island. So what's the big difference between vacay and like being an expat and actually living and living

22:43 Bianca Alba: like a local. Yeah, I always say that. And I strongly believe it because you know, people here are like, oh, it's so beautiful. You're so lucky you live in Puerto Rico. And I'm like, okay, well stay here and wait till the power goes out. And so I will start there. Like, so the power system is horrible here in Puerto Rico. There's only one company and it's right now it's called Luma and they charge an arm and a leg. So give me your perspective. Like my power bill has been anywhere between 150 to 250 a month and I live by myself and I barely run the AC. There's no central AC usually in any house or apartment in Puerto Rico. And it's just insane. Like you can't even fight them. Like it's, that's one thing that I'm always just like, wow, the natural disasters is always something that of course it's on the news. Like people hear about all the catastrophes, all the hurricanes and earthquakes that have happened. But I think what also isn't really talked about is just how constantly the community is always, always having each other's back more than our government. And you know, that's something that I constantly am talking about in my platforms and anything, because I strongly believe that we need to have these conversations in order for change to happen. Like, is it beautiful to see that the communities work with each other when the power goes out, when we don't have water? Of course, like I can't describe how like genuine and beautiful it really feels, but why? Like why does it have to get to that level? Like every time a hurricane happens, like I'm like boots on the ground, like raising funds to help whoever needs it. But I'm like, why do I have to do this all the time? Like there's tax money that goes into this that should be, Puerto Rico is part of the United States. And when I tell people like, literally Puerto Ricans are treated like second class citizens, I strongly believe that. Like, I mean, not for nothing, simple things as they can't vote for the president, which a lot of people don't know. And I'm just like, yeah, no, they can't vote for the president, but they can fight for, you know, our country and be the first people in hand. Let's again, talk about having a storage about the healthcare systems or the education systems. And it's unfortunately, because I'm in the healthcare field and like for me to get a gyno appointment, it takes about five months to schedule just a regular gyno appointment, which is so wild. And the reason why it's because all the doctors leave to the mainland because they don't make money here. And so it just gives you a perspective again, it's just like why at powerful locations such as Puerto Rico shouldn't be treated like second class or whenever they feel

25:14 Danielle Desir Corbett: like when they need them. Yeah. You know, when you live somewhere, you really are in tune to the issues that pertain to the community versus just going there as a tourist there for a few days, even as a remote worker, right? Like you're just kind of there just to do your thing and you may leave, but there are like some deep issues that you brought up that are very well known, you know, like I've heard a lot of things that you've mentioned, not only from my friends, but also just like in the news and just like on social media. So thank you for highlighting all of those things. Now with that, you know, there are two sides of every coin and there's a lot of positives and a lot of pros of living in Puerto Rico as an expat. And I'm sure you have a list because you've remained in Puerto Rico for seven years. Like you could be anywhere in the world, but you still choose to have your home based on the island. So what are some of the advantages and things that really keep you grounded and say, you know what, yes, Puerto Rico is where I call home?

26:20 Bianca Alba: Hands down, it would have to be the community. Like there's just something about the community here in Puerto Rico, like something as simple as like greeting, right? Like the buenos dias, the good morning, the buenas tardes, good evening, the buen provecho, which is like bon appetit, even though I know that's not English, but you know, it's just like everybody says that to you, literally what you're eating. It's just the culture. Like it's just something I can't even really explain in a putting these two words, but I was talking to like a maintenance person the other day and I was telling him, like, I just think that's what keeps me here. Like knowing that everybody's so welcoming. Everybody just will lend you helping hands without even knowing you, will offer you a plate, will literally be there for you without hesitation. And to me, unfortunately, I don't think that happens in the States. Like, you know, I feel like people don't even know who their neighbors are. And again, like I know that societies, we all have a very rigorous jobs. We all have like, you know, our own families and stuff, but here it's just different. Like the culture and the vibe is just something so beautiful that that's what's kept me here. And then to top it off, I'm not going to lie, the weather, I have loved, loved, loved the heat. And I don't know, every time I think about even moving and thinking about winter, I'm just like, I can't, I feel like I'm allergic now. So I've really loved the warmth and the vibe,

27:43 Danielle Desir Corbett: the people, like that's what makes it for me. One of the episodes you had specifically on living in Puerto Rico and like tips and things you mentioned, like island time is very real in Puerto Rico. So can you talk a little bit about like island time for people who may not know what

27:59 Bianca Alba: that is? Oh, yes, for sure. So yeah, island time is a thing. So when, when you go somewhere to eat, for example, do not go on a time crunch because everybody here is moving on their own pace, very, very slow. I always tell people it's like that cartoon character in that movie, Zootopia, the sloth at the DMV. And I mean it with love and care, like care. I don't mean that as like a diss or anything, but literally like people here just take their time. So if you want to go out to eat brunch, make sure you don't have anything planned right afterwards, because you could be sitting there for three, four hours when we're meeting at like, you know, a gathering or something, like people always put like two, three hours in advance on the invitation because nobody shows up ever on time. But that's just the culture. It's not anything being rude or anything, because I know in the States, like if you have a meeting except for five o'clock, you better be there at 445. Not at six o'clock or anything, but here? No, it's all relaxed.

28:59 Danielle Desir Corbett: Nicole LiDo My husband's family is from Puerto Rico, and my family is from Haiti, and like island time is very real for Haitians. But his family, in particular, always on time. So I'm like the one that they look at like, Danielle, she's always late, island time. I'm like, you know, please, like we should all be late together. No? So, but I'm super excited because like I mentioned to you earlier, like I'm heading to Puerto Rico in a couple of months, and you have this like fantastic travel guide that you've poured so many of your helpful tips and resources. So what's the inspiration behind that travel guide? What can

29:36 Bianca Alba: folks expect? And just let us know more about what's inside. Danielle Hamilton Yeah, so the travel guide inspiration honestly was like people always asking me constantly, like, what should I do? Where should I go? And X, Y, and Z. And of course, like I'm, you know, an open book. My DMs are always open. I love to help people. Like I really generally want people to come here to Puerto Rico. Two-way street, one to, you know, help out the tourism here, but two to really see the beautiful island. Like I always tell people it's more than Mojito and beaches. Like there's so much to do here. And so I started this guide because I was like getting constantly questions. And I was like, you know what, I'm going to make a little bit of money too. Why not? Win-win. Got to build that generational wealth. And I'm like, people spend more on two drinks. So I think $25 is an okay ask. So I break down the Airbnb's that I've stayed in here in Puerto Rico. I break down all the panaderías, which are the bakeries, which are amazing here. And I feel like literally bakeries here have topped it off. And I've traveled all over the world. Nightlife, because I know people come on vacation to have a little fun. And just like my adventures, I love Viejo San Juan. And I feel like, you know, if people would know where to take pictures and what the meanings were and stuff like that. So I was like, well, even though I can't be maybe your personal tour guide, if there's a document that has everything in one, why not? So that's honestly why I started. And it's a tool that I'm actually, I reached a milestone just the other day. I finally reached my 40th copy, which I was so excited because I was just like, you know, again, I did this not thinking anything of it. And it has been sold to so many people that I don't know. And I just think that's the beautiful thing again about connections and stuff. And just, I want people just to love Puerto Rico just as much as I do.

31:25 Danielle Desir Corbett: I love that. I am grabbing my copy for my upcoming trip to Puerto Rico. And financially savvy travelers is a great way to support Bianca, Bianca's initiatives, and to get all of those insider tips and knowledge, right? Something I say a lot of the times is that Google can be deceitful. Number one, things can have change or it's old or just the content is not really great. But having a guide created by someone who's lived on the island, who has been all over the world as well, and who knows that, hey, these are the things that you will really enjoy. This is part of your travel style I think is really helpful. So I will absolutely make sure to have a link in the show notes, the blog post that accompanies this podcast episode. So Bianca, the last question that I have for you, I cannot let you leave here today without you mentioning things to do in Puerto Rico. But I want to talk more about the lesser known things to do, because we know a lot of the rainforest and maybe some cruises, some catamaran cruises are very popular. But what are some things, let's say your top three things that may not be on folks's radar that they should

32:39 Bianca Alba: absolutely know about? Oh, that's so hard because Puerto Rico is just so beautiful. But my number one thing, what I always tell people, if you can get out of the metro area, which is the San Juan area. And I understand if it's your first time, of course, you're going to want to stay in the San Juan area, which is totally okay. But if you can go to the west side, you have to go to Cabo Rojo, which I also talk about this in my guide. And Buye is my ultimately favorite beach. When I tell you this beach is so calm, you feel like you're in a pool. And it is so bright blue. And over the years, it definitely has become really famous. Even locals go there more than just tourists. But if you go on a weekday and go early, you literally have a whole private beach to yourself. So Buye is beautiful. I have a reel about it as well. I love that beach. And if you can stay in Cabo Rojo for two, three nights, do it because it's so worth it. So that would be my number one. My number two would be, if you can, there's two little islands outside of Puerto Rico that are still Puerto Rico. One is called Culebra. The second one is called Vieques. There are catamaran tours that I also talk about in my guide that you can go for the day. But if you can stay in these islands and plan part of it, in Culebra, there's one little beach that's called Culebrita. So it's a little island off that one, which not a lot of people talk about. And that's where I took my mom and my godmother last year for Mother's Day. And it was beyond gorgeous. I was in shock to how beautiful these beaches are. And I always feel like, I'm like, how do I get in shock every single time? Because I'm like, I've been around these beaches for so long, but no, like, beach has something so new. And again, it was just like the atmosphere and just being there. So Culebrita off Culebra. That would be my second one. And my third one, just to kind of wheel it into this area, I would say you have to stop by Pinyones, which is really close to the airport, which is really close to San Juan. But they have the best frituras, which are the fried foods. So literally, Uber can take you from the metro area if you don't have a car. But if you can drive, and preferably not on a weekend, you can stop by and have all this food. Pinyones is also very Afro Caribbean. So I always am like, we're supporting the community and stuff. So you can even take like a bomba en plena dance class on certain days, which is like a big Afro Caribbean dance genre and just learn so much. So those would probably be my top three gems.

35:18 Danielle Desir Corbett: Oh, I am now so excited to plan my trip, especially that bomba dance class. I am ready for that. And if you are like, oh my gosh, Bianca said so many things, I just couldn't write it fast enough. Don't worry. In the company blog post, I will have all of the tips mentioned as well as Bianca's Puerto Rico travel guide as a resource for you, which I highly recommend checking out. So Bianca, now I will let you go. But it was such a pleasure talking to you, learning more about your debt-free journey, your expat life in Puerto Rico. How can folks connect with you? And tell us more about your podcast, This Latina Travels.

36:02 Bianca Alba: Yeah. So you can visit my website at www.thislatinatravels.com, where you can sign up for my newsletter, where I will be sending when new episodes come out and any little freebies that I have. In my website, you'll see how to subscribe to my podcast. And right now I'm just talking about all the different countries and places that I have visited. And so I kind of go into gems that aren't really found on Google, my experiences, things that I wish I would have known before going. And then I just share many, many resources. Like I said, I feel like we spend so much time on our computer doing our research and stuff. For me, it's like, if I can save somebody that energy, why not? Because I feel like that's another reason why a lot of people don't go to these places, because they're just overwhelmed. And so I feel like a whole reason that I started my podcast was to kind of take that load off and encourage people to, okay, if she can do it, I can too. And if you have any further questions, you can totally send me a message. I'm mostly active on Instagram at The Sleptina Travels, but I also have a Facebook page at The Sleptina Travels and TikTok at The Sleptina Travels. But thank you so much, Tineil, for having me. It's always a pleasure

37:14 Danielle Desir Corbett: sharing space with you. It's always, always a pleasure. Now, financially savvy travelers, if you are looking for more inspiring debt-free stories and travel stories, check out episode 82 next with Suniya El Amin, where Suniya shares how she paid off $23,000 in 12 months, and why travel was the one thing she wasn't willing to give up. So that's episode 82, right after this one. All right, that's all for now, and I will see you in the next one. Bye.

In this episode we cover:

  • [2:26] Traveling for joy.
  • [8:58] Sacrifices to becoming debt free and debt free advice.
  • [12:50] Budget travel and paying off debt.
  • [19:02] Expat life and job benefits.
  • [27:50] What it’s like living in Puerto Rico as an expat
  • [29:25] Things to do in Puerto Rico.
  • [33:02] Best beaches in Puerto Rico.

From Debt-Free to Expat Life in Puerto Rico

Sacrifices to get debt-free

If you’re wondering how can I get out of debt, achieving debt freedom takes hard work and sacrifice, but it can be incredibly rewarding and allow you to live a more financially secure life. However, it’s important to remember that everyone’s journey to becoming debt-free is different, so while tempting, avoid comparing your debt payoff journey to someone else’s.

Bianca Alba received a full scholarship to attend college and graduated without student loan debt. However, since there were no grants or financial aid available for graduate school, she accumulated a large amount of student loan debt. Additionally, when Bianca got her first real career job, she had to move across the country and used credit cards to pay for moving expenses.

Drowning in debt, she realized she had to make a change and started taking steps to become debt free.

Bianca Alba: “I know with student loans, for example, they require a minimum payment, but I was going beyond and over that because I wanted to be debt free so I can feel tranquility.”

Bianca started side hustling, taking on babysitting gigs, teaching Spanish, and waitressing to make extra money. This was a big sacrifice, as she had to give up her free time for two to three years. She also started educating herself on personal finance.

First thing was putting myself out there by learning. At that time, it was about 2015, 2016. So there were podcasts, there was a lot of resources, but you have to put yourself out there.

“I am constantly listening to financial podcasts, especially by women and Women of Color. The amount of information I learn on these podcasts that are absolutely free, it’s just insane. Because I’m just like, wow, again, I didn’t grow up learning any of this stuff, not even in school. The fact that we’re having these conversations, that there’s this space, there are resources out there.”

Helpful Tip: Women-hosted personal finance podcasts I recommend include:

Paying off debt and prioritizing travel

Bianca Alba: “Travel for me was a safe haven. I definitely encourage if it’s something you love, and that’s something you want to do, set money aside and do it. And travel doesn’t have to be expensive. You have to make sure to do your research.”

Bianca is a great example of a traveler who has managed to pay off debt and still travel. For the longest time, she wasn’t splurging. She says, “I wasn’t doing anything for me. What’s the point of just working, working, working and paying off this debt if you’re not going to enjoy any of it.”

Bianca avoided getting back into debt by budgeting, setting short-term financial goals, long-term goals, and finding creative ways to save money on travel like traveling with friends and splitting costs.

Listen Next: Financial Literacy Basics with Crystina Cardozo

In this episode, Math coach, Crystina Cardozo shares why you don’t have to be good at math to manage your finances, ways to develop basic financial education skills, and tips for teaching children about money.

Prioritize, strategize, and save.

When it comes to budgeting, it’s important to prioritize, strategize, and save.

Prioritizing means understanding your needs and wants and making sure your needs are met first. Have enough money for rent, groceries, and bills before you spend on anything else.

Strategizing is about setting goals and making sure you are taking the steps to reach them. This could mean setting a budget for each month, tracking your spending, or investing in yourself. Finally, saving is about putting money aside for a rainy day. This could mean having an emergency fund or investing in a retirement account.

“Mindset is a huge component of not getting back into debt. I always ask myself, is this something I need or is this something I want? And as simple as that may sound, it really does help me.

But I also know now, as a grown adult with goals and stuff, I have different buckets.

I’m a big proponent of organizing my finances. So, I have my emergency fund, I have my travel fund, I have my one day housing fund, I have my pet fund, because my pets have to go to the vet and do all the good stuff. But it’s just organization.

And I think that comes with discipline as well. Finances have to be disciplined because if not, you’ll just throw all that money away.”

Listen Next: How To Start a Travel Fund (and Why You Need One)

In this episode, discover how to leverage using a travel fund to save for travel and how it can help make travel a financial priority in your life.

Staying out of debt by paying yourself first

Getting out of debt is one thing. Staying out of debt is another. It can be so easy to slip and get back into debt.

Bianca Alba: One way to stay out of debt is by “paying yourself first.” This is a strategy that involves setting aside money each time you get paid and using it to pay off debt or save for the future. This strategy can help you stay on top of your finances and prevent you from getting into (more) debt.

Bianca explains when paying off her debt, she would make sure to pay herself routinely. She would make a payment (bills and debt) and then use some funds to pay herself, set aside money for travel or whatever you enjoy. Travel was a way for her to intentionally splurge a little and enjoy herself while still prioritizing debt repayment.

Overall, staying out of debt and investing in yourself takes creativity, intentionality, and sacrifice, but it is worth it in the end.

Becoming an expat in Puerto Rico

A lot of people are choosing to become remote workers, some deciding to live in Puerto Rico.

Bianca’s situation is a little different because she works for the federal government and when she got hired for this job, all of her moving expenses were covered by her employer.

Unlike what you may think, moving to Puerto Rico is not cheap. Bianca shares that not only are the taxes high, but finding a place to live on the island is challenging too. Also, everything is imported — so food and gas are all more expensive.

Bianca Alba: “I’m really privileged to have this job that maintains my salary. I am single, so I also don’t have kids and I don’t have a family, but still, I have to be smart with my finances. I know I need a balance – there are days where I can’t go out because I really do need to save or I need to pay this expensive power bill that’s probably triple what everybody pays in the states because the power company is a whole other issue here.”

While Bianca moved to Puerto Rico for her job, and through her job enjoys financial perks, she still understands the need to be smart with her finances. She understands that in Puerto Rico, expenses are high and people often need to work two to three jobs to make ends meet. She also knows that she needs to have a balance between enjoying her debt free life and saving for the future.

Puerto Rico will always have a special place in Bianca’s heart. Listen to this episode, to hear more about Bianca’s journey to Puerto Rico and how it has been her home for almost seven years.

Additionally, she shares some gems that you should note prior to arriving on the island and her favorite things to do in Puerto Rico while you visit. Make sure to grab your pen and paper!

Connect with Bianca Alba

Bianca Alba is a proud Latina and first-generation college graduate. She was born in the heart of South America in Cochabamba, Bolivia and is the oldest of four sisters. Bianca holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Public Health. Despite many years of schooling, Bianca managed to pay off all her student loans and feels liberated by being debt-free.

Bianca is the voice and creator of “This Latina Travels!” – a travel podcast about travel through the eyes of a First Generation Latina traveler and college grad sharing all her travel experiences first-hand.

As a little girl, living in a single-parent household, trips and vacations were just a dream and felt unreachable. This Latina Travels is more than just Bianca telling you about her experiences, but it is a true reflection that dreams can become reality.

“It really didn’t hit me until I got to college where I realized the endless opportunities that travel could bring you. I mean, once I got to college, I was in a sorority. We would travel from state to state. And at the time, I didn’t think anything of it, or I didn’t really grasp the concepts of it. But now, ten years plus later, I’m like, wow, I really did a lot when I was in my early 20s. And then recently, in 2020, when I finally launched my podcast and started connecting with other like-minded women who resonated with my story from all over the world; just seeing the power of travel has resonated with me the most.”

Travel for joy, not necessity.

Traveling for joy is a concept that has become increasingly popular in recent years, especially among millennials and Gen Z. Growing up, travel for many of was seen as a luxury that was out of reach. We were taught to save our money for more practical matters, such as bills, rent, and food.

For many, their parents and grandparents traveled out of necessity rather than joy. They traveled to find a better life, to escape poverty, or to reunite with family members. For them, travel was a means to an end, not a leisure activity. But for us, travel can be a way to explore the world, to learn about different cultures, and to experience new things.

Today, we are fortunate to have more resources to travel for leisure.

Traveling can be a great way to learn about ourselves and to grow as individuals. It can be a way to step outside of our comfort zone and to challenge ourselves, connect with people from all over the world and to make lifelong memories.

Website: www.thislatinatravels.com

Podcast: This Latina Travel

Instagram: @thislatinatravels

Other Episodes You’ll Love

Advance Your Career Teaching Oversees with Adrienne M. Waller – Episode 129

Digital Nomad Pros and Cons with Tom Blake – Episode 84

Paying Off $23,000 in 12 Months and Debt-Free Travel with Cinneah El Amin – Episode 82

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