To really support your values, you have to plan for them. Blogger Melanie Lockert of Dear Debt shares why she’s taking the time to learn a second language.

I’m a Southern California native (yes, we exist) so growing up, I came face-to-face with many different cultures. The most prominent were Spanish-speaking communities, many of which came from nearby Mexico, Guatemala, or El Salvador. So when I had to take a language class in high school, there was no doubt about which one I’d pick:  It was Spanish all the way.

Learning another language was an incredible challenge that made me empathize with people who come to this country and have to start over. It’s tough to learn another language! But I embraced learning Spanish and did well in my classes—so much so that I continued my studies in college and even studied abroad briefly in Spain.

Upon graduating from college, my Spanish skills were good enough to score me a job where I spoke with Spanish-speaking families every day and was one of the go-to bilingual people on staff. Though I wasn’t 100 percent fluent, my abilities were strong enough to get me jobs that required language proficiency, and I was able to do my job with the communities I served.

When it Comes to Languages, You Lose what You Don’t Use

Then, I went to graduate school, built up a lot of student loan debt, and veered away from nonprofit work. I wasn’t interacting with the same communities and wasn’t speaking Spanish every day.

For the past several years, I’ve slowly started to lose my ability to speak Spanish. I can understand it, but I find myself less confident when speaking it. I forget words that once were second nature to me.

In short, I’ve lost the habit. In a lot of ways, Spanish isn’t as prominent in my life anymore, especially since I work as an online writer.

But now that I’m back in Los Angeles after six years away, I’m committed to mastering the Spanish language once and for all. I’ve had so many stops and starts with my progress, and at the moment, I’m rusty.

Aside from using to spruce up my vocabulary, I have a plan to travel with a purpose and go to a Spanish-speaking country to obtain language fluency.

My Plan for Budget Travel with a Purpose

Traveling is a huge passion of mine, and most of the time, I try to go somewhere with Spanish as its first language. I’ve been to Spain, Argentina, Mexico, and Uruguay, honing my skills in each place, while simultaneously unraveling the idiosyncrasies of each specific accent.

However, most of those trips were short. They were vacations to have fun or see friends. The trip I want to take next is not to relax on the beach with a margarita or party until dawn, but with the specific purpose of becoming fluent in Spanish.

At this point, I’m thinking of going back to Mexico, this time to explore Mexico City and Oaxaca. Mexico City is robust and cosmopolitan, while Oaxaca has a lively artistic center. Both cities intrigue me and seem like places where I could happily spend a few months. My goal is to spend two to three months in Mexico toward the end of this year; the plan is to fully immerse myself in the culture, take Spanish classes, and meet new friends.

My Trip Budget

Planning a vacation is different from planning a trip with a purpose. There are many more variables involved, and depending on what you’re doing, it could be for an extended time.

For my particular trip, it involves a flight, finding an apartment, Spanish classes, local transportation, and daily expenses. Here are some of my projected costs:

Flight: $400 from Los Angeles to Mexico City

Accommodations: $1,000

Food, transportation, excursions: $2,500

Total: Approximately $4,000

Now, $4,000 isn’t exactly a small amount, but for two to three months, it’s not that bad. Also, my plan is to start socking away funds each month in a specific savings account, so I can reach my goal. I usually go on two to three smaller trips throughout the year, but plan on laying low this year and squirreling away funds to make this bigger dream trip a reality.

Being able to travel and explore another culture while finally reaching my goal of language fluency will help me cross another goal off my bucket list. And to me, that’s worth every penny.

Melanie Lockert is a freelance writer and passionate
debt fighter who writes at
She recently climbed out of $81,000 in student loan debt
and is currently dreaming of her next adventure.

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While Society of Grownups hopes the information is useful, it’s only intended to provide general education. It’s not legal, tax, or investment advice, and may not apply or be useful to your specific financial situation. If you need recommendations geared to your personal financial situation, schedule time with a financial planner.

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