It had been a long flight and I was exhausted and things were going from bad to worse. As soon as I had tried to withdraw money from the ATM I discovered that the bank had frozen my account. It makes sense; I mean with all of the problems of fraud and identity theft, I can understand why banks need to be cautious. It reminded me that instead of just opening an International bank account, I should have told them that I would be going abroad.
Normally the bank freezing my account wouldn’t be a problem, because I would have some spare money on me. With that money I could easily sit at a coffee shop, drink a nice coffee and then use the Wi-Fi to contact the bank and unfreeze my account. The problem was that I didn’t have any money on me, or for that matter a laptop, smartphone or tablet. I was what you would call up s%@t creek without a paddle in a country that I’ve never been to before and where I can’t even speak a word of the language.
This was my worst travel disaster to date and with little hope and few ideas there was only one thing to do; beg, borrow
or steal. I started pacing around the airport with my backpack digging into my shoulders eyeing up the crowd. I was looking for a certain type of person and I decided my best bet was to try and find them at the departures lounge (people always have a bit of change left over when they leave a country).
Ten minutes later I was standing by the door of the departures lounge looking for possible candidates. After less than a minute a surfer came into view carrying a board with him and wearing a backpack. He was the one…
As soon as I started talking to him I realised that this was going to be difficult, especially as the person was Romanian and didn’t understand much English. Luckily he could speak Italian and so I explained to him my situation as best I could while speaking Spanish in an Italian accent. Although he did look at me funnily and I’m almost certain he didn’t understand half of what I was saying, he took pity on me in the end and gave me some money.
Since that day almost four years ago I’ve lived by a very simple mantra used by Boy Scouts and idiotic travellers; be prepared. Seriously, when you travel you can never have too many bank accounts. I now have two current accounts, one international bank account and I’ve just opened an offshore savings account.
The second thing I appreciate now more than ever is the kindness of strangers. Those little favours can really make a real difference to someone’s day. The five euros that the Romanian surfer gave me got me out of a huge hole.