I was 18 the first time I ventured outside of the U.S. on my own.
I only needed eight weeks' worth of clothing, but I packed two huge suitcases, a carry-on bag, an extra backpack and at least half a dozen handbags.
When I landed in the dead of winter in Salta, Argentina carting 100 lbs of summer dresses behind me, it was a wake up call I've never forgotten.
I've been learning to travel the hard way ever since––and tripping myself up plenty of times along the way.
I accidentally let a local talk me into a $500 bike rental
I had the chance to check out a public bike share in Montreal for the first time last year. But since I couldn't read the instructions in French, I asked a local to explain the process.
It was free for the first 45 minutes, he said, and I would be charged a couple of extra bucks every hour after that.
Unfortunately for me, he forgot to mention the $250 security deposit the company applied to my credit card for each bike. I rented two.
Good thing I had used a credit and not my debit card, because it took well over a week for the temporary charge to disappear.
I forgot to tell my bank about a D.C. road trip
After President Obama was elected in 2008, I hatched a plan for the ultimate 48-hour road trip–– from Athens, Ga. to D.C. for his Inaugural address.
I just forgot to tell my bank about it.
Apparently, swiping my debit card at a slew of gas stations up and down the East coast in such a short period of time spelled "FRAUD" to them. They froze my account and I wound up stranded at a North Carolina pit stop until I could get a representative on the phone to correct the mistake.
If I had been overseas, it would have been an even bigger nightmare.
I trusted my roommate in Chile while she was robbing me blind
When I moved to Chile after college, I decided to rent a room in a nice apartment from a local. She was trustworthy enough, and I let myself get comfortable after a couple of months. Then she took on a new tenant.
At the time, I kept a couple hundred U.S. dollars for emergencies sealed in a bag in an unlocked drawer in my bedroom dresser. Two weeks after the new girl moved in, I started to notice small denominations were missing. Then a whole $100 was gone. And so was I, after I confronted her about the theft and moved out.
These days, the only emergency cash I carry on extended trips is in a savings account I can access from just about any ATM.
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