Most of my social media and blog posts highlight the glamorous parts of moving to Madrid and living abroad. Behind the fun travel videos and smiley pictures, I was going through a lot… financially at least.

It all started when I finally found an apartment, after weeks of a grueling search. The landlady and I liked each other. She had agreed to create a contract for me just as I had asked. She sent it to my email, I read it, translated it, and printed it. All I that was left, was to put down a deposit.

At that moment everything seemed to be in place; I had started working, I had found a place, I was happy. “I would just withdraw the amount for the deposit after work” I decided. After work, I got off the metro to head to the nearest ATM machine I could find. In Madrid, there are tons of ATM machines. Since I was withdrawing a larger sum, I figured it might be safer to do so in the metro, where the metro workers were. I inserted my card in. “ERROR” it read. “What’s wrong, didn’t I make the right currency conversion to euros”, I thought. The machine returned my card back without any amount. “Ok, that’s weird,” I said. I inserted my debit card again. “Please insert your card” read the ATM machine. But it was in… “What is happening,” I said out loud in frustration. The ATM wouldn’t function, it kept demanding I insert my card when it was already in there. To my horror, the ATM swallowed my card.

What’s interesting is that I was very prepared to protect myself from pickpockets, but being robbed by a machine was the last thing I thought could happen to me abroad. 

I walked over to one of the metro workers and tried to explain my situation. At this point, I couldn’t think of constructing a decent Spanish sentence. I was speaking entirely in broken Spanish. The worker gave me a number to call the bank in charge of the ATM machine. When I called, the annoying customer representative kept telling me there was nothing I could do as they destroyed all foreign cards. Out of anger, I hung up the call. I suddenly burst out in tears. I couldn’t believe this was happening now. Everything was going well prior to this moment. It was a lot of trouble finding an apartment and now that I finally got something I lose my card. The guy at the metro tried his best to help out and gave me the ATM machine number to go to the bank the next morning and solve this issue.

 One thing about Spain is that their banks open at 8 am and close at 2 pm from Monday to Friday. So one can’t simply walk into a bank in Spain whenever he/she pleases.  

I had just started work and couldn’t go into the bank the next morning.

I got back to Margarita’s house crying. She kept telling me it would be alright. We went to a Locutorio (Cyber Cafe) to call my bank. They canceled my card and ordered a new one to be sent to my address in Spain.

One of the British guests offered to borrow some amount but I declined. I later called the landlady of the apartment I was to move into the next day and explained my situation. ” I understand and trust you, you can still move in and pay me when you get your card settled,” The landlady said.  This was a huge relief.

Moving to Madrid: The Skyline

Moving to Madrid-Pexels-Madrid, Spain

The next day I moved in and thanked my landlady graciously. I was lucky that I had a little cash that I had saved. This helped me for a while. The moments I had without my card were one of the hardest moments of my life. There were many times I just wanted to go to a nice restaurant to try their food or check out something new in Madrid but couldn’t due to my constraints. Whenever friends asked me to hang out, I would make up something as to why I couldn’t go or if I did go out we would go do something simple like walk around the park.

Moving to Madrid- Conclusion

Despite this crazy time, there was still a lesson point. I learned how to make the best out of being broke. Being broke made me realize that we don’t have to spend much to have a good time. This upsetting incident taught me new ways of doing things with little or no money. Going to the parks were my favorite activities and still will, broke or not.  Best of all I learned how to make money from nothing. The ability to speak English in Madrid is an opportunity in its self. I started giving private lessons and earned money. It took my mind off the financial hardship I was going through especially fighting with my bank to get my card to Spain on time.

It took nearly a month for my card to finally arrive and I haven’t really used it since then. Moving to Madrid opened my eyes to other alternatives to financial satisfaction. Although these last two paragraphs sound like a pep talk,  I’m still scarred from foreign ATM machines.


What are some your travel misadventures?