Embrace the Hiccups

Recently I was asked to share some traveling hiccups I’ve experienced, and how I dealt with them. Off the top of my head, here are two examples:

Rome. Here’s what happened:

I went on a bar crawl one night in Rome, and the revelries did not end until 6 a.m. As I left the final bar, my hangover had already begun to wrap around me, dragging me down like seawater to clothing. Ocean waves crashed in my head, over and over, and oh god why is the sunlight so bright?

…You get the idea. I had a ton of fun, but I was not in good shape that morning. And I had to figure out a way to navigate back to my hostel, by myself, in a city I wasn’t super familiar with yet.

My solution — it pains me to say this — was to locate a nearby bus stop, squint at the Italian phrases for a moment, groan, and then immediately turn to walk into a McDonalds. I went to the cashier, held out my hands, and sheepishly asked, in an odd mix of English and Italian, how to get to the subway. She directed me to a bus, which got me to the subway, and I was good to go from there!

Here’s what saved me:

I had written down numerous Italian phrases in a notebook before I left for my trip, and I consulted it frequently while I was in Rome. I’m a traveler that believes you should make an effort to know the basics of a language: greetings, goodbyes, basic questions, and cardinal directions, to name a few. It’s polite to make the effort, and it can help. (I can’t prove that my attempt at basic Italian endeared me to that McDonald’s cashier, but I’d like to think that it helped.)

When I’m traveling in a bigger city, I tend to stick to public transportation. So the first thing I do is figure out subway routes. I knew the line I needed to take to get back in the general region of my hostel. And, from there, I walked.

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My goal was the Termini stop, basically located at that orange/blue intersection

I was successful because I made sure to know where my hostel was located before I took off for the day. I intuitively knew where it was on that trip, but on a different trip I wrote the address down in that same notebook. Just in case.

Dublin. Here’s what happened:

I was sitting at a pub in Dublin and it came time to pay my tab. I handed over my credit card. Declined. 

I blinked at the barman, stared at my card (apparently I thought publicly shaming it would work), and then handed over my backup card. It succeeded where its predecessor did not.

Then I went outside the pub and called my bank. And we had a delightful conversation.

Here’s what saved me:

When I travel, I take two forms of payment with me (not a debit card, though), plus cash. That way, if one card fails, I’m still able to pay my bill.

I always call my banks before I travel internationally so they don’t freeze my card and so I don’t have to call them when I’m standing in the middle of Dublin. (In this particular case, my bank had screwed up somehow, so the call was necessary. But usually this method works…)

Before I left, I had set up an international phone plan with Verizon that charged a set rate per day. And I only got charged on the days I used it, so I could save this plan for emergencies…or at least I could make all of my calls in one day and pay less for the privilege. So, basically, after making this phone call to my bank, I called all of my relatives to say hello, because why not? My day was paid.

Embrace the hiccups, and thanks for reading,

Emme

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