Panic Moments on the Road – What to Do When the Worst Happens

Travel is a fun, exciting experience until it’s not. Most of us embark on a vacation or  new journey with a certain amount of trepidation and fear of what we aren’t expecting. Sometimes the unexpected becomes wonderful memories, but other times really bad things can happen while traveling. So what do you do when the worst happens?

In 2010, I  traveled to Israel on a rare solo trip. Rare because my partner and I almost always travel together and because I usually don’t have an opportunity or desire frankly to travel alone. However, I took advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime airfare special knowing Scott would be unable to go. Little did I know that traveling solo saved me a lot of trouble.

It was the second day of my trip and I woke up early to start another full day of sightseeing in Jerusalem. I was enjoying a Diet Coke and reading my email in the lobby of the hotel when I noticed a text message. I don’t text usually, I find it an incredibly annoying mode of communication, so I was curious who would have sent me a message overnight. It was from my bank, saying that my account had been frozen due to unusual activity.

At first I was annoyed. I called them in advance to let them know where I would be traveling and when, just as I always do. I called them and found out the issue was not the card activity in Israel, it was the card activity in California. Since we don’t live in California, I was a little concerned. I immediately texted and emailed Scott and asked him to see what was going on, since I really couldn’t make long telephone calls in Israel.

Souks Don't Take Cards

Knowing there was a six hour time difference, I set out to tour the city and waited to hear back. It was around 2:00 PM local time and I had just entered the Temple Mount complex when I got the message. Scott was frantic, in a series of hundreds of transactions someone had illegally used my card and managed to completely wipe out our checking  and savings accounts.

I couldn’t believe it. My identity had been stolen and I was 6,000 miles away in Jerusalem. Luckily Scott was on the case and spent the entire day on the phone with the bank. Given the severity and the dollar value of the theft, the issue had been elevated to the bank’s super duper response team, no doubt manned by former black ops professionals. By the end of the day the bank had returned part of the money, but they had also canceled my debit card. That meant I was in Israel, a country that’s pretty cash reliant, with only credit cards. I was stuck.

Thank God for modern technology and the internet because the next day Scott was able to send me enough cash to last the trip through Western Union. What’s even more scary to think about though is what would we have done had Scott been on the trip with me? We would have had no way to get more money, other than contact family members and go through a lot of hassle. One of the worst things that can happen, identity theft, had occurred but we managed to deal with it fairly quickly and nimbly.

Granted, this is a pretty unique situation, but it just points to the fact that you can’t predict travel hiccups and it is best to be as prepared for them as possible.

Here are some tips to keep yourself safe:

  • Make copies of all your travel documents, including passport, and store them separately from the originals. Even better, scan the documents and email them to an account you can easily access from anywhere in the world.
  • Take note of addresses and phone numbers of embassies and consulates in every country/city you plan to visit.
  • Have a small amount of cash hidden away carefully in case of emergencies.
  • Make sure a friend or relative at home has a copy of your itinerary, travel documents and pertinent health information.
  • Be cautious but not fearful. Being safe while traveling depends a lot on your ability to be self-aware and cognizant of your surroundings. Approach new situations with caution, but don’t be unnecessarily fearful. You’re there to have a good time, but be smart about it.
  • If it doesn’t look or sound right, it probably isn’t. Your instincts are good, trust them. If a situation looks dicey or a stranger is telling you things that don’t sound right, just walk away.

These are just a few tips to help you as you travel; remember to travel safe but also have a fun time.

By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer.

8 thoughts on “Panic Moments on the Road – What to Do When the Worst Happens”

  1. How terrible, Matt. That’s definitely a concern of mine, identity theft. It’s hard to deal with even if you’re at home, but in another country? That was very bad luck. I’m glad it turned out okay.

  2. I’ve got a little shiver along my spine just reading your adventure. A bit scary and mostly disturbing.
    We have become a little dependent on the technology and any failure can place us in a very unpleasant situation. Sure, there’s always a solution but something like this can spoil your trip.
    Your tips are vey good. I hope you have recovered all your money :)

  3. I was also robbed of all of my money while traveling with my sisters via night train from Paris to Lourdes. (I joked with them that I didn’t have to shop anymore, please just feed me!) Despite that ‘travel hiccup,’ that trip to me was still one for the books. ‘Trip of a lifetime,’ for sure. (‘Til the next one, that is.) Ü

    1. Yes, although there were many more issues we had to sort out with the bank and the bank actually emptied our accounts on two additional occasions, only to return it. Long story, but I think it’s finally over. :)

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