Losing Your ATM Card While Travelling

Having money is useful when you’re travelling. You can use it to pay for accommodation, food, transport and the like. There’s only one thing worse than not having money on the road, not having access to the money you do have.

I Lost My Card
In Yogyakarta, a touristy city in Central Java, Indonesia, I collected my cash from the ATM and walked away without my card. Yes, indeed I did.

In most countries I’ve been to, ATMs won’t dispense your cash until you’ve collected your card. The machines even beep madly until you do. Remove card, take cash, put in wallet, walk away. That’s the standard process. Remove card, take cash, put in wallet, walk away. Do this enough over time and it becomes ingrained. …take cash, put in wallet, walk away.


Indonesian ATMs do it the other way around. They dispense your money and then ask, ‘Would you like another transaction?’ No and you get your card. Yes and it asks for your PIN number before allowing you to make another transaction.

…take cash, put in wallet, walk away. So when it gave me my cash, I put it into my wallet and walked away, leaving my card in the machine. Thankfully, without my PIN, no new transactions could be made. When I noticed the card was missing the next morning, I rang the bank and was told the card was likely destroyed. Fuck.

My Brother
Thankfully on this portion of my trip I’m not travelling alone. My brother agreed to lend me some money until it could all be sorted out. Thanks bro!


Backup Options
“We can send you out a new card,” I was told when I Skyped to cancel it. ‘It’ll take three weeks to get to Asia, where should we send it?” At that stage I had only a vague idea where we were going to be in 3 weeks. They wanted an address and phone number to confirm receipt. So, I made a plan, booked a hostel in Singapore and Skyped them back.

Once the arrangements had been made they put me through to MasterCard International. I was given two options: arrange for an emergency card to arrive in 3 working days, or get emergency cash which I could collect from any Western Union outlet. It was a Friday and I wasn’t sure where we’d be in 3 working days, so I went with the emergency cash.

Western Union Emergency Cash
Two hours later I got the call that I could collect the money from any Western Union outlet within 72 hours. The next day, a Saturday, I went searching. Google Maps showed plenty so I walked the humid streets of Yogyakarta looking for them. I found only one, a postal outlet and was told to try a bank, but banks don’t open on weekends. I’d also booked a train to another city for early Monday afternoon, giving me only the Monday morning to get the cash before my 72 hours expired.


Before the train, I visited a bank that Western Union online had assured me I could get the transfer. Nope, they didn’t do it anymore. The 7/11 next to the bank had a WU sticker on the door but couldn’t help me either. I walked the street for 30 minutes, visiting several banks, some with the WU sticker, but none could help me. I eventually found a bank, but was told that the Western Union system was down. Annoyed, I got on the train and rang MasterCard International to arrange another emergency cash advance.

The next day, in Bandung, West Java, I went to a large post office, presented my passport, waited an hour and was finally given my cash.

The English Backup Card
I’d worked in London while in the UK and had about £250 in a British account that I hadn’t wanted to touch. But a week later and two more cities along our route I decided to use it instead of Western Union.

The ATM declined my attempt telling me to contact my bank. Since I hadn’t planned to use the money, I hadn’t told my UK bank I was going to Asia. I Skyped the UK and was told it had been blocked because of my attempt. So, they unblocked it. Next day I tried again, still blocked. I Skyped again, went through 4 sets of security checks before the fraud team finally unblocked it. It felt great to have direct access to my cash again.


Your Card Has Arrived
We were two days from arriving in Singapore when I got the email. It was from my bank and the Subject line read, “Your Card Has Arrived.” Relieved, I opened the email and read that my card had arrived in the Sydney. Fuck.

I politely wrote back explaining my card was supposed to be in Singapore. Checking the notes in my account, they kindly sorted it out, arranging to courier the card to Singapore. As a precaution, I arranged for an emergency card from MasterCard International as well. Two hours later I got the message that my bank had declined the emergency card.

Skyping my bank, I discovered it had been declined because there were no notes about my plans to travel in Asia! But… I’d rung them before the trip to let them know and I’d just gone through the saga of reporting my card lost and getting a new one shipped to Singapore! We added fresh notes and they approved the card.

My Card Really Has Arrived, But…
In Singapore, my emergency card arrived and I went to collect it. It had no PIN so I needed to get cash advances across the counter at a bank. I managed this and had cash! Then 3 days later, my new ATM card arrived. I collected it and was pleased that the saga was finally over. Or so I thought. When I tried to use the card, I got the message, ‘Incorrect PIN’. Yup, fuck.

I Skyped the bank and was told that it must be an ATM issue as no PIN change request had been registered. I tried another ATM with the same issue. I had no choice but to get a new PIN sent to me. It would take 3 days to anywhere in Australia or 3 weeks to Asia. I chose to have it sent to my parent’s house in New Zealand, a 7-10 day wait. I’m glad I’d ordered the MasterCard International Emergency Card.


And Finally
I got the message 6 days later from New Zealand, the letter had arrived. Now in Kuala Lumpar in Malaysia, I tried my card and it works!

Time to get back to enjoying my travels!

Until next time,


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A Tale of Hostel Woe


In my travels I’ve stayed in many hostels, with many different people. Mostly experiences have been good, people are friendly and are usually quite considerate. Sure, there have been noisy early morning packing and noisy drunken roommates, but cases of true woe are very rare. But they do happen…

I live in a long-term hostel while working in London for a few months before going travelling again. I got home from work on Monday to find a new guy had moved into my 3-bed dorm. He was French, spoke little English, was about my age and seemed like a nice enough guy, although perhaps a little fixated on his phone.

It was 3 p.m. and I was relaxing on my bed after a half day at work. He went out, returning 10 minutes later with a 1 litre bottle of vodka. I figured he was going to have a couple of drinks later until he opened the bottle and started chugging. In three chugs he gulped down half the bottle! This is only having been in the hostel an hour.

I decided to vacate for a bit, so grabbed my laptop and headed to a local cafe, letting reception know what was happening as I went past. An hour later I returned to find him standing out front of the hostel hanging onto the steel fence totally unaware of the world around him. I even spoke to him, but if he heard be he didn’t show it. I went inside but came back out to find him sprawled on the ground. I picked him up and half dragged, half carried him to the room, where he promptly passed out on his bed. His phone rang a few times while he slept oblivious.

We need a fob to get into the hostel and he’d dropped his outside. I’d picked it up and put it on the table at the end of his bed. A few hours later he awoke completely disoriented. Our beds are quite thin and his was in the middle of the room. Whenever he tried to get up, he would fall off the other side. He would then get back onto the bed only to fall off the other side. This happened several times.

Finally upright, he searched through his pockets and sighed loudly, then started taking off his clothes. In his underwear, he searched the pockets of his pants again and sighed, again. All this time he was checking his phone every 30 seconds or so.

There is only one window in our room, near the end of my bed and I have a bag under it. He got up and groggily made a b-line towards it with the obvious intention of pissing out it. Yes, pissing. I stopped him, dragged him back to his bed, where he promptly fell off again. Then sitting spread-eagled on the floor, he began to pull down the front of his underwear. I dashed across the room, grabbed the room’s small rubbish bin and thrust it between his legs just as he let rip. Not the most pleasant experience I’ve had, that’s for sure. It didn’t all go into the bin either, some pooled around him. When he’d finished, he slumped onto the bed and went back to sleep.

I went to speak with reception, the police were called, but could not do anything as he hadn’t been violent. They suggested we let him sleep it off and ask him to leave the next morning. I asked for a cleaner to come up with a mop. While the cleaner mopped up the piss, he simply sat on his bed and said nothing, checking his phone. Afterwards he went back to sleep.

An hour later he woke and got dressed. He again searched his pockets, sighed, grabbed his cigarettes and took one out. He searched his pockets again, then headed to the window where he tried to light the cigarette. I stopped him and told him to go outside. After another failed check through his pockets he left the room.

A minute later someone came in and said he was smoking in the hall. I rushed out and stopped him, then called the receptionist who arrived with a french speaking guest in tow. A verbal warning was given. He then found his fob under something he’d put on the end table and went outside to have a smoke.

He slept through the night, but woke at 5 a.m. and woke us up by noisy packing and leaving the room. He returned about 15 minutes later, took another chug of vodka and went back to sleep.

It was my day off, so I went to breakfast and spoke with the morning receptionist who told me they’d given him a written warning. One more issue and he was out. After breakfast I went to the local cafe and on my return found he’d been evicted.

We speculated that this had all been over a breakup, based largely on his constant checking of his phone. But it could have been anything, none of us will ever know. Ah well, another story to tell of my travels…

Until next time,


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Nine Things I Learned While Travelling – Part 3

Back in Part 1 I discussed The Cost of Travelling, Is Travelling Dangerous? and It’s Not Always Paradise
and in Part 2 I discussed Travelling Alone, Tourist vs Traveller and Travelling Speed

Here are more things I learned while travelling…

7) Travelling Leads To Travel Burnout


When going overseas on vacation for a week or two, most people try to do as much as possible as to not waste any of their precious time off. But on getting back they often complain about needing another holiday… They are suffering from short-term travel burnout. Imagine doing that for a year? You’d die from exhaustion.

To avoid this type of burnout, long-term travellers tend to travel more slowly, following something called the ‘three night rule’. This means stopping at destinations for a minimum of three nights. Three nights gives adequate time to explore the new location, go on a tour, sample the food, talk to the locals, buy supplies, talk to other travellers, rest, relax, go out for drinks, have a hangover and still have a day to yourself.

But even long-term travellers can suffer from burnout and this usually occurs somewhere between the third and ninth month. The major causes of long-term travel burnout are overstimulation constant change.

If you follow the 3 night rule, on average after 3 months of travelling you’ve been to 30 places, stayed in 30 different hostels, slept in 30 different beds (or more depending on what type of person you are), showered in 30 different showers, walked through 29 different markets selling mostly the same items, been harassed by 706 different locals either begging or trying to sell you something, seen 16 volcanos, climbed 8 of them, seen 4 different crater lakes, snorkelled 7 times, and… well I think you get the point.

After a while you start dreaming of sleeping in the same bed and seeing the same people for a while. It’s recommended to take a week or two off every three months or so. Large cities are good for this although you can stop anywhere. There are plenty of things to do during a break such as: take a language course, get in touch with a group that shares an interest with you, teach a language or just sit on the beach for a couple of weeks reading books. Then, after a year, go home, get a job, save some more money and begin planning your next trip.

8) Travelling is Addictive


When you begin travelling you quickly discover just how large the world is. Then after a year exploring a continent you go back to work and straight away begin dreaming of your next travel destination. You can’t help it, there are just so many places in the world you haven’t seen. And watching travel shows just make it all worse, you start to get the itch to get back on the road again. It’s then that you realise your addicted.

When you discover the nuances of the different countries and cultures on just one continent, you can’t help but see more. Some people like to think there is a cure for this addiction, citing something called ‘a mortgage’, pregnancy or lack of money. And while this has worked for some, the cures are not always effective as most addicts have found a way around them.

You can tell you’re addicted when you get a rush arriving at a new destination and can’t wait to go exploring. No matter how you’ve administered travel, whether by bus, boat, train or plane, or how long the trip since taking the last dose, be it 2 hours or a year, the rush is still there. Every place you will visit is different and there is always a gem to be found, sometimes you just have to look hard but it’ll be there. Most of us have accepted that once a travel addict, always a travel addict.

9) Travelling Changes You


When you begin travelling you start to learn things about the society you live in, the rest of the world and most importantly, yourself. If you can travel for months or even years with only the possessions in your backpack, you start to learn how frivolous the western world is and how there is far more to life than buying a larger house, getting the latest car, the coolest gadget or that name brand handbag. Life changes from being about consumption to simply living.

More importantly, travelling can teach you how to be happy. Not the happy we learn going to work at that average job, to pay off those massive debts we’ve accumulated because of that house, car, gadget or accessory. We’re happy because we are doing something we love, be it the travelling itself or something the freedom of travelling allows us to do. For me, this is writing.

Travelling also teaches you how to overcome adversity and to be more relaxed, as travelling is not as easy as it would appear. Every day there are challenges to overcome, and while many revolve around communication difficulties (especially in countries that speak different languages), but can include differences in food, thieves, beggars, lack of facilities, sickness, dodgy tour operators and many more.

Most often it will make you a stronger, more relaxed person and capable person, more ready to take on the world than to submit to a life of unhappiness.

Until next time,


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Nine Things I Learned While Travelling – Part 2

Back in Part 1 I discussed The Cost of Travelling, Is Travelling Dangerous? and It’s Not Always Paradise

Here are some more things I learned from travelling…

4) Travelling Alone isn’t scary


The idea of travelling can put people off because they don’t like the idea of doing it alone. But honestly, the hardest part of travelling alone is simply deciding to do it. Once you’ve made that decision it only takes a few minutes at your first hostel to realise that you won’t be alone for long. Hostels are social places where people talk, hang out and do stuff together. Likely some people in the hostel will be travelling alone too and there’ll be someone in the hostel who’s planning to do something you want to do. Suddenly you have someone (or a group) to hang out with, to hike with, to go to dinner with or even go partying with. All it takes is a ‘hi’ to the person next to you at the breakfast table and things go from there.

Travelling solo can also be the best way to travel. You can go exactly where you want without having to persuade anyone. You don’t have to sit through hours doing things you aren’t interested in and if you like a place you can stay for as long as you want, only moving on when you alone are ready. The down side is that you’ll have to get used to leaving your new friends behind, but there will be more friends to make at the next hostel.

5) There’s a Difference Between a Tourist And a Traveller


Tourists and travellers are different. While they both travel, they do it in different ways. Here are a few areas of difference…

Time. The tourist is usually on holiday from work for a week or three and has chosen to go to a place where they can make the most of their time off. If they are visiting multiple destinations, they will fly between them. The traveller on the other hand has chosen to take time off from their life to get to know something more than just a holiday destination, often exploring entire countries or even a continents. They’re usually travelling for a minimum of a few weeks but most probably longer, sometimes even years. And while some occasionally fly, most find cheaper and slower transportation.

Tours. A tourist wants to have a quick fun time at their holiday destination seeing what they went there to see be it the beaches, ski slopes, ruins or a particular hike. They often book tours, while more expensive, they’re efficient because their transport, food and destinations are planned beforehand by someone else. The expense is usually thrown on a credit card and paid off later. Travellers are usually less time conscious and more money aware. They’ll still take a tour, as sometimes it’s the only way to do things, but are just as likely to do it themselves even if it means taking 3 buses and an extra overnight stay at hostel on the way.

Culture. Beyond eating local food and buying trinkets, the tourist tends to not delve beneath the surface of their holiday destination. Because of time, they try to fit in as much as possible and this includes allocating time to just hang out at the pool of their overly comfortable hotel. Tourists tend to stand out from the locals. Travellers like to get to know the region by exploring it, even learning the language and talking to the locals. Then, when they hear about an interesting place from other travellers, they work it into their plans and learn about the culture along the way. They’ll try to blend in with the locals and look like they’re supposed to be there.

6) Travelling Slowly Is Better


I’ve met people who are travelling for three months and are on a mission to get to 12 countries and 30 destinations while doing 54 different activities along the way. This is a recipe for exhaustion and half way through suffer from burn-out.

Unless you’re in the last days of your trip and must make a flight, there’s really no hurry. When travelling for a long time it’s best to take your time, getting to know the country you’re visiting and the culture there. This gives the ability to change things on the fly, staying somewhere longer if they like it or just having a break from travelling for a while. Having time means you can stop in one place to take a language course for a couple of weeks, go on an extended hike through the mountains or take a cruise to Antarctica. Plus, the slower you travel, the less likely you are to suffer from Travel Burnout.

In Part 3 I discuss Travel Burnout, Travel Addiction and How Travel Changes You


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Nine Things I Learned While Travelling – Part 1

Travelling long-term has a way of teaching you about the world, society and yourself. After being on the road for sixteen months, here are nine things I learned…

1) Travelling Is Cheaper Than You Think


I’ve been asked many times how I afford to travel for such a long time. The thing about travelling long-term is, unless you’re very rich then travelling isn’t all high class hotels, airline flights or eating at top restaurants. While we may do this on a two-week holiday, this cannot be sustained by the average long-term traveller.

It’s a fact that travelling through Asia, South America or Africa is cheaper than through Antarctica, Australia, Europe or North America. Before my travels I lived in Australia and my weekly rent alone (not including utilities) was more than double the cost of staying in a hostel for a week in South America. And some places are even cheaper still.

As food is generally cheaper in South America, it doesn’t cost that much to eat out at everyday restaurants even at ’tourist prices’. But since many hostels offer free use of a kitchen, cooking your own meals brings costs down even more. On top of that most hostels offer free breakfasts and some even offer free dinners.

Bus travel is the cheapest way to get from one destination to another within South America, with the cost weighing in lighter than my weekly public transport and fuel costs in Australia.

But, it’s the tours that tend to have the higher price tag on them. But unlike short holidays, where you are maximizing time, long-term travellers don’t fill every second of every day, which cuts down the overall costs of these activities.

So taking those things into account, it was actually cheaper for me to travel in South America for a year than live in Australia.

2) Travelling Isn’t As Dangerous As You Think


When I first decided to travel through South America many people, my parents included, were worried because of the negative hype that continent had received over the years. And it’s true, there were many past issues in South America for various reasons, most notably poverty. And this is no different for Asia and Africa. But the irony is these continents are safer because we choose to travel to them and there is for one very good reason. Tourism.

When you’re a poor country and a buttload of tourists/travellers arrive regularly wanting to spend money, you do everything you can to ensure they feel safe and have a good time. Why? Because when they go home they’ll tell their friends and more travellers will come. To do this they allocate funding to police or military to protect those places tourists want to go. They may look scary, but they’re there to look out for us.

For the most part because we live in the Western Society we turn a blind eye to how dangerous our own countries can be. But with 900 people dead over the past 7 years in the United States because of mass shootings, it makes you wonder.

3) It’s Not Always Paradise


In my travels I have been to some pretty amazing places, places that I could consider calling paradise. But travelling can be hard, especially if there’s a language barrier to break through. There are adjustments to be made, harassing locals, different foods, illnesses, accidents, thefts, inflated costs and many other variables to work through before it can feel like paradise. Then ironically, when you’ve been on the road for a long time, just lying in your own bed or hanging out with your friends can be seen as paradise.

Sometimes expectations lead our definition of paradise. As an example, wanting to go diving at that island that everyone raves about only to find you’re not that fond of diving, or that amazing pristine island with crystal clear waters can quickly turn boring after a couple of days.

In Part 2 I discuss Travelling Alone, Tourist vs Traveller and Travelling Slowly


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The Five Types of Photos Tourists Take

The best way to remember our vacations is by taking numerous photographs. We all have different skill levels when taking these snaps and we take them on an assortment of different devices: point and shoot cameras, underwater cameras, mobile phones, tablets, or whopping great DSLRs.


But in general there are five types of photos tourists take…

1) The ‘Look Where I Am’ Photo

We’ve all clicked through a friend’s album on Facebook only to see them in every single shot. Of course it’s lovely seeing where you were, but we already know what you fucking look like, do we need to see you in every photo? Sometimes you can’t even see the place because of the person.


Others like to look back and remember what they looked like, but surely only one photo would be enough? If I wanted to see you I’d look at your profile picture, I actually wanted to see where you were.


2) The ‘Jump Jump’ Photo

A sub-category of the ‘Look Where I Am’ photo, but for some reason while visiting Big Ben they wanted to jump.


What’s that about anyway? Oh look it’s you in front of the Sydney Opera House and you’re jumping! Aren’t you a clever boy then! Now get the fuck out of the way so I can see the building.


3) The ‘I’m So Clever’ Photo

Another sub-category of the ‘Look Where I Am’ photo in which the subject of the photo is doing something they think is clever. This could look like they’re clasping the sun between their hands or kissing the sphinx.


I know you think you’re being smart, and while some of the photos are pretty cool, so are the other hundred similar photos taken at that place each day.


4) The ‘Panorama’

Panoramas are great ways to take photos of a vast landscapes, cityscapes or similar that can’t be captured by a single photo. These photos give a good sense of scale, and because most cameras can do them they’re easy to take. The problem is many panoramas are distorted like they’re being seen in a convex mirror so are difficult to look at.


A true panoramic shot is one created manually from several shots. Panoramas have their place, but some people have to take them at every single place.


5) The ‘Just the Place’ Photo

This is the category I fall into. When I go to Maya Uxmal ruins I only want to see the Great Temple with no-one in front of it. People such as I tend to go to great lengths to not have other people in their shots, unless the shot is of other people.


When I have my camera out I’m often asked if I’d like my photo taken in front of wherever I am. The asker then seems surprised when I tell them I don’t like being in my own photos. If I wanted to look at myself, I’d use a mirror thanks.


I’ve also been asked, ‘how do people know you were actually there?’ Honestly? Do people actually fake entire vacations and just download other people’s photos? I take photos for my own memories not to prove I was somewhere. I couldn’t give a fuck if someone doesn’t believe I’m the one taking my photo.

Other Kinds of Photos
There are other types of photos such as: the selfie, sunrises/sets, restaurant meals and even the girls in bikinis at the beach photos; but these aren’t necessarily tourist photos so I won’t go into length about them.

Overall, take whatever type of photo you like, it’s your choice.

Until next time,


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5 Simple Ways Not To Piss Off A Non-Smoker

Smoking is a choice but only for smokers. If you want to smoke go right ahead, it’s your life and I can’t stop you.


As a reformed smoker for over 17 years I still get annoyed at the selfish behaviour of many smokers. Having travelled for 12 months through Latin America, where the laws of smoking are more relaxed or even non-existent, its become worse. I’ve graduated to a full scale Anti-Smoker.

For the most part long-term smokers are more responsible than newer smokers. This is especially evident in countries where smoking laws are relaxed. Many smokers don’t  think about non-smokers when they light up, expecting others to just put up with the smell.


So, here are five things smokers can do not to piss off us non-smokers:

Check for non-smokers before you light up
I’ve had people come to sit or stand next to me and just light up a cigarette without even considering if I smoked or not. Then when I bring that fact to their attention most ask, ‘oh sorry, do you mind?’. Of course I fucking mind, I wouldn’t have brought it up otherwise. If I wanted everything I owned to smell like smoke, I’d take up smoking.

Smoke where you’re allowed to
Even in places with relaxed smoking laws there are still places you aren’t allowed to smoke. It’s easy to tell where these places are because of the ‘No Smoking’ signs.


Smoke downwind if possible
Wind generally flows from one direction to another, it’s a fact of nature. When lighting up a cigarette in a group, try to sit downwind so the smoke blows away from the group not at them. This is especially the case when you’re on a boat and you sit at the front where the only way the smoke can travel is past everyone else on the boat.

Be considerate
When smoking in a group where there are non-smokers try to be considerate. Sit on the edge of the group, be aware of where the smoke from the cigarette is flowing, hold your cigarette away from others and try to blow the smoke away or at least up. If someone is eating try to go somewhere else if you can.


Put your butts in the bin
When you are done with your cigarette, don’t just thrown the butt on the ground, that’s called littering, be responsible and put it in the bin so it can end up in the right place.


It still concerns me how many young people are taking up smoking. Is it really that cool? With the cost of cigarettes in Latin America being very low, it’s also very concerning how many people start while travelling simply ‘because it’s so cheap’.


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