I had been told time and time again that the longer I traveled, the more chances I would have of things going horribly awry.
“Don’t jinx me!” I’d always say in response. I fancy myself a careful traveler with a good head on her shoulders, but no matter how careful one tries to be, things will, inevitably, eventually go amiss.
I hadn’t noticed anything was missing, so I continued on my trajectory of spending baht like it’s Monopoly money, and arrived in the coastal town of Ao Nang with about 200 baht (the equivalent of USD$6) to my name. Stopping by an ATM before my long-tail boat ride over to my beloved Tonsai, I opened my wallet and realized:
My freaking debit card is missing!!!
I hyperventilated while searching every orifice of my bag for about 5 minutes before digging out my emergency stash of dollars (that I actually earned for painting this mural, it’s funny how things work out), and changing them over to Thai baht. Figuring that there was nothing to be done at the present moment, I got on the long-tail boat as planned, and headed for Tonsai, where the electricity doesn’t run during the day and there are no banks.
On my second day there, I was lamenting my situation to a Canadian I had just met, who immediately insisted on handing me three thousand baht (about USD$100). Again and again I refused, but he insisted.
“It’s really not a lot to me. Just pay it forward,” he said.
That few thousand ended up guiding me through until my arrival back in Ao Nang where I had my bank send me funds via Western Union. Ten days later, my debit card arrived via FedEx. Though a frankly crappy and anxiety-causing situation, it wasn’t the end of the world, or worse, my travels!
If you find yourself in a similar situation, take the following steps:
- Inform your bank of the lost card and identify any fraudulent charges as soon as you can. I did this all via Skype, which did not charge me for calling 1-800 numbers.
- Have either your bank or a family member send you funds via Western Union. If you have credit cards and know your PIN number, sometimes the fees are more favorable to withdraw a cash advance on those vs. Western Union. Another option is to PayPal another traveler some money and have them withdraw funds from an ATM for you.
- Your bank may require you to fax over your location information – mine did. It was very helpful in this situation to have my mother on my account as she had easier access to a fax machine (I added her before leaving – this has turned out to be a great idea for several reasons).
- Find a location you trust, like a nice hotel, to have your card sent to. I chose the dive shop I had just finished a Similan Islands dive trip with, as it was not too far for me to get back to and I knew I could trust them.
- Your bank should send the card via FedEx. Obtain a tracking number and track its progress.
Other ideas that friends have since come up with include having multiple bank accounts so that the Western Union fees can be avoided. This is a smart move and one I’ll be employing moving forward.
So, all said and done, I lost a little, and gained some faith in humanity via a gift from a stranger. It rings true time and time again, when we’re in need, that’s when help arrives.
Have you ever lost something important while traveling? What did you do to remedy the situation?