[Image adapted from @brazentravelthoughts]
It was midnight when my plane landed. I had just endured my first long haul flight to the other side of the world. 18 hours and precisely 8,350 miles later (13,440km), I found myself in muggy Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and I was determined to make it through my first obstacle in one piece – getting to the hotel.
I had played over this moment over and over in my mind. I had absolutely no experience traveling in a foreign country alone. Would I get into the wrong taxi? Would I get ripped off by my driver? Would I get my bags stolen along the way?
The air was thick and had a distinct smell of gas, sweat, and endless possibilities. There was incessant honking filling my ears and chatter all around me. I was shocked at the level of activity, considering how late it was.
I stopped at the ATM to grab my first withdrawal and took out enough cash to last me at least two weeks. Being acutely aware of my surroundings, ensuring no one would jump me right after, I was on my way after the money dispensed.
I successfully checked into my hotel, a little pod bed I was excited to stay in cause it was "so Asian" and excitedly drifted off to sleep. The next morning I slowly woke up and started planning out my day. I sifted through my Dong, allocating enough for the day, when I realized my debit card was missing.
Heat creeped into my throat and my head got dizzy. Where could it be?! I checked every nook and cranny of my pod, every crevice of my backpacks. I checked my pockets and my jackets to no avail. I was crushed. How could I make such a massive mistake on DAY ONE?!
As a novice traveller, this felt like the ultimate mistake. I had tried so hard to make it from the plane to the hotel without any mishap, that I failed to realize that ATM's worked backwards from the United States. Cash first, then card.
After several minutes of self-pity, I utilized my greatest travel tool – Google. I typed in "How do I get a new Schwab card while abroad?" into the search engine and several blogs popped up with fruitful advice. Luckily for me, I had been smart in my pre-trip planning by choosing Schwab, arguably the best travel debit card one can use, and found an international number on their website. I used the front desk phone to dial and was met with a human on the other line who swiftly set me up with a new card.
Relief swept over my young baby traveler heart. I was secure and planned out until I could get my card back. Knowing this, I showered up and brazenly stepped out into the 90º day ready to take on the world. I spent the next three days checking out museums, eating Pho, and acclimating to the new climate. I learned how to say Hello, Goodbye, and Thank you in Vietnamese and met up with a college friend. Thankfully, that was one of two times I've lost my card... but I'll save that story for another time.