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 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 card and not my debit card, because it took well over a week for the temporary charge to disappear.
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.
Although I can count the number of Portuguese words I know on two hands, I hoped my decent Spanish skills would help me get by on a recent trip to Brazil.
I was dead wrong. I could read signs well enough, but anything spoken sounded like pure gibberish.
Learning the language would have made haggling so much easier — especially when ordering at restaurants.