Stuck Without Money Abroad… Again.

You know that saying that goes, “stuck up the creek without a paddle“? Yeah, well I’m kind of in one of those situations this very moment. Except, my situation is that I’m stuck abroad without a bank card. Yep, I’m in Split Croatia without a damn cent (or kuna) to my name, or at least access to it, and it seems that this situation is becoming the norm for me.

When you find yourself in situations repeatedly that make life super sucky, shouldn’t you avoid those situations? Yeah, you’re telling me. And I’m kicking myself for being here again. If you’ve followed my travels (and mis-adventures) you may recall just last year when my bank card was gobbled up by an ATM in Bangkok, and I had to spend 4 days without money or food or hope surviving only on crackers to get me by. Chya, that was a doozy.

I spent days on the phone trying to get my bank to rush me some cash just so I could afford even some street food, days dreaming of food entering my aching stomach, and days cursing myself and the travel lifestyle.

I was ready to call it quits with travel I was so fed up with the lifestyle at that moment.

One might think I’d never let that happen again by thinking ahead and getting an extra bank card for emergencies. One might think…

Yet, here I am once again with knots of worry in my stomach and disastrous scenarios running through my head. In situations like this, it’s easy to fall into a chaotic state and panic. Panic definitely was filling me the past couple of days as I try to sort out funds and access to cash, while figuring out how to eat and keep a roof over my head.

How did I end up with no cash abroad again?

This situation isn’t like the time I ran out of money in New Zealand because of poor budgeting, forcing me to labor long hours in a windowless kiwi fruit packing factory with 1500 non-English speaking foreigners.

This isn’t like Italy, when I found myself with under 10 euros waiting on a freelance check that was a month late, and survived off of stale bread and ketchup (for flavor of course) and the fresh water fountains around Rome. Hey, at least there I had a tiny room in an ancient Roman brothel turned theatre to sip cheap wine and watch the world wander by my window.

And this isn’t like Bangkok last year, but very similar.

What had happened was…

Two nights ago, I was enjoying a detox from 5 months of drinking and pizza while working on sailboats and chowing down on a delish veggie burger and sipping some hippy juice. It was glorious, just saying. When I went to pay, the card was declined. I thought that was strange, so I went to a nearby ATM to withdraw cash. No luck. That has happened before because…Croatia…so I went to another and tried. Declined again. Knowing I had just been paid, I knew I had the cash, so I phoned my bank.

That’s when the bad news started piling on.

The bank said the card was most likely damaged, which didn’t make sense as it was working perfectly fine the day before. But either way, they would need to send me a replacement. When the supervisor stated “7-10 days for arrival” I nearly choked.

In my pocket I had some lint and a crumpled up 10 kuna note. That was it. It was just days I had withdrawn more cash without any issue.

I begged to supervisor to rush the replacement card, but he said the 7-10 days was the rush and I’d have to wait. After I hung up I clenched my teeth so not to scream out the fuckitty fucks bouncing around my brain and went back to the hostel. Bangkok replayed in my head over and over that night, and I laid awake with disaster scenarios running through my mind.

I told myself the next day would bring better news, but I was too damn hopeful.

That morning a solution slapped me in the face as I woke up — Western Union.

The one thing that saved me while I was waiting on a card in Bangkok was some cash sent by a good friend through their service. It has to be around Croatia right?

So I went through the process on the app, set up a cash pickup here in Split sent to myself, and BAM. Done. I was sure that would cure everything and I’d be frolicking about that afternoon with cash in my hand and a falafel wrap in the other.

NOTE: Western Union definitely didn’t sponsor this, and I have some words about them later on, so I just wanted to clarify.

The only problem, for now, was that the only real Western Union shop in Split was 3 miles away, so I went down to the local post office for pick up.

And that’s where more problems poked their ugly heads.

After sitting in the post office for 2 hours like Beetlejuice waiting for his number to be called, they couldn’t help. The staff told me there was an issue, and I had to return tomorrow. I asked what the issue was, but they just shrugged and handed back my passport.

More fuckitty fucks mumbled.

Why didn’t I just get a back up card this time? Why didn’t I think ahead and get more cash out?

*Bangs head on wall repeatedly*

The remainder of the day, I became a pathetic ball of sulk and curled up in my hostel bed depressed and worried. There I laid for hours, not knowing what to do or where I’d go tomorrow now that I can’t pay the hostel.

I had to turn my attitude around if I was going to get through this.

Finally, before sunset, I decided to get off my sorry ass and do something productive, or just something to boost my mood. I popped into old town Split, wandering through the maze of ancient Venetian alleyways and under the high arches of Diocletian’s Palace. I felt the stone, I felt the sun, I breathed. Getting lost, as I love to do obviously, instantly relieved some of the stress weighing down on my shoulders. Instead of sitting around with my head in my hands, I opened my eyes and ears and mind and took in my surroundings.

After all, though I had no access to money, I was still in an ancient city in another country. I was still doing something I love, though I don’t love this part of that passion.

I decided to pop over to a sandwich place nearby and used my last 10 kunas on a sandwich that, because I hadn’t eaten all day and I was broke, was one of the best damn sandwiches of my life.

Popaj sandwich in hand, I walked to the marina edge to sit and clear my head and enjoy that mondo sandwich. And there, it dawned on me that this wasn’t going to be the end of the world just as it wasn’t all of those other times. That this was a part of travel, and a new lesson. It showed me once again that the brutality of traveling the world is something I’d rather endure than a job I can’t stand, however hectic traveling can be.

I sat on the edge of the dark obsidian waters, on those worn Venetian stones, watching the silhouettes of birds soar across that cotton candy sky, planes cut across the pink and blue canvas like paint brushes, I had not a penny to my name but was rich in the soul. Things would get better, because travel is not all good experiences, but life experiences. And as long as I kept my spirit up and took action, everything would work out.

And damn was that sandwich tasty.

This story will be continued…
sandwich at sunset in Croatia

Have you ever found yourself without a card abroad? How did you get through it?

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