I was travelling in Vietnam by myself.
I was 27.
I started travelling a lot by myself because all my girlfriends at that time were in relationships and didn’t want to use their minimal vacation time for a girls adventure trip.
So, that year I planned a trip by myself to Vietnam.
I packed light intentionally. I had a small backpack, and instead of lugging a big wallet, decided to just take a wrislet to hold my credit card, debit card, and my passport. It seemed like the right decision at the time.
I spent New Years Eve in Hoi An, a cute, cute Unesco World Heritage Site town that I highly recommend visiting if you plan a Vietnam trip.
I spent New Years Eve intentionally. I was deep into my spiritual practice at that time in my life, and wanted to enter into the New Year in contemplation and gratitude.
I went down to the river that cut through down (you can kind of see in these pics), had yet another Pho dinner with spring rolls, and then said yes to one of the older women trying to get tourists to go into a boat for a special New Years celebration of lighting a candle on a tiny boat and then letting it float down the river.
I made a wish as the boat floated away.
I felt truly, utterly alone – me and this older woman who didn’t speak English on this boat – in a foreign country, on New Years…but it was perfect.
I was truly relishing in learning how to be alone, an important lesson from that trip that lasted me well beyond it.
Every time I would meet people on that trip, I just wouldn’t jive, and felt like it was the Universe telling me to just stop trying to be social and really use the trip to practice aloneness…so I did.
I walked throughout the lively streets solo until midnight, and then went home.
I came home, feeling uplifted and refreshed, and went to bed. I had to be up again at 4am to get a taxi to the airport.
I would be getting on a 6am flight to Ho Chi Minh City.
I would then have 12 hours in Ho Chi Minh, and then a flight from there to Hong Kong. I would then have 12 hours overnight in Hong Kong, before leaving on a flight to Bali the next morning.
As I mentioned before, I was traveling light with just a backpack and a wristlet.
I woke up at 4am feeling refreshed, but got stressed when I noticed that my taxi hadn’t arrived. I waited and waited and waited.
I was nervous that I was going to miss my flight and it wasn’t exactly easy to get another taxi at 4am on New Years Day.
I waited for over 45 minutes.
Pause. Breathe. If I am Meant to get on the flight – I will.
Luckily, my taxi did eventually arrive, and despite being so late, I eventually got to the airport with just enough time to get on my flight.
I thought that the only stress that day was going to be getting on my flight on time and arriving at the airport…wrong.
I arrive in Ho Chi Minh and Something is Wrong
I had 12 hours to kill in Ho Chi Minh so head downtown, just as I had planned.
The city was really quiet because it was New Years Day, which was kind of a welcome reprieve because I had heard that the busyness of it can be intense.
Once I arrived, I decided that I should get some breakfast.
This is where things took a turn.
I opened up my wristlet and noted that I had the equivalent of $10 in cash, but that my credit card and debit were not with me. My passport I knew I had because I had just used it on the flight.
I had no other means of cash or credit on me.
I didn’t know what to do.
Again – Breathe – The Universe is Always Guiding You. Pause Until the Next Step is Clear
Next step: Hotel.
I looked around until I found the closest large hotel. I figured that they would have dealt with this before and might help me.
I was wearing ripped jeans, which while very trendy in 2014, made me look raggedy in Vietnam. People kept looking down at me and pointing out the holes in my jeans, and at the hotel, they didn’t want to take me seriously.
They told me that they could look up the name of my bank and phone number but that was it.
I tried calling my bank, but had no luck in getting through.
I didn’t know what to do next.
Again, pause. Breathe. Okay, next step.
Remember to Breathe – then The Intuitive Insight Will Come Through
The solution will never come through when you are stressed.
When we are stressed, the amygdala fires and we go into a fight or flight mode. When that happens, the pre-frontal cortex, which is our decision maker and always knows the next right step, goes offline.
This is why we get caught in a mind spiral and can’t figure out an action plan.
I knew this, which is why I kept taking deep breaths until I figured out what to do next.
The Universe will ALWAYS guide us, but we need to be centered enough to hear the wisdom.
Some background: Online Booking Did Not Exist
Now, most things can be purchased online and money can be accessed easily from our phones. At the time that this happened to me, that wasn’t the case, especially in Vietnam.
I was in downtown Ho Chi Minh with $10 to get me from there to my flight that I would hopefully catch later to Hong Kong, to my hostel stay there that I booked through Airbnb so would already be paid for, and then to Bali.
My flight to Bali was non-refundable, and means that had I missed that flight, I would have been out of pocket a lot of money.
Intuition Says: Your Next Step is to go where the Foreigners are…Burger King
My clarity revealed that I needed to find someone who spoke English, and better yet, if I could find someone who was Canadian and had a Canadian bank account, I could transfer money to them from my phone and they could give me cash in return.
I walked into Burger King and there were only 3 other people in there.
I went up to the first couple who looked like they were speaking English.
“Hi…hello…umm…I have a weird question. I have no money, no credit cards, and I’m kind of lost here. What do I do? Do you know if there is somewhere I can get a Western Union or something?”
They apologized and had no idea what I should do next. They were from South Africa and didn’t travel often.
I thanked them, and went to sit back down where I got onto my phone. It was 11:45pm, just before New Years, back in Canada.
I was able to get onto the wifi at Burger King to start to message my parents and let them know their daughter was stranded in Vietnam with no money.
My mom lost her mind. She was already nervous about me traveling by myself, and now was concerned about what was going to happen. She and my Dad tried to figure out how they could send me money that I could access.
The issue was that all of the wiring companies were closed because it was NYE there. If they wired me money, it would have to be the next day, and even then it would take a few days for it to come to me.
Pause. Breathe. Again. The Universe Always Will Guide You.
After that, I wasn’t sure what to do. I kept just repeating to myself to pause and breathe and that the Universe was always guiding me.
WTF Do you want me to do UNIVERSE?!?!
I went on instagram, and saw a friend had just responded to my post from the night before. She used to live in Asia and was feeling nostalgic.
I then thought to text her:
“Katie!!! You might know the answer to this – I’m in Vietnam and I have no money or credit cards, what do I do?”
She had no idea…but asked for more details about where I was so she could ask around and see if she had any friends in those places.
I explained to her how I was supposed to be leaving and ending up in Hong Kong and then Bali.
“Wait – Bali? Bridget is going to Bali in a few days. Maybe you could meet up with her?”
Bingo. I had my first link. Once Bridget arrived in Bali, I could meet her, and she could give me money.
Once I figured that out, I next needed to figure out what to do between that moment and Bali, or the next 72 hours.
Pause. breathe. again.
The Universe Always Guides People Together: The Couple Comes Through
The South African couple saw me nervously losing it on my phone, and came over to me.
“I feel so bad for you – can I just give you money? Would that help you?” the guy said to me.
“YES. Yes that would.”
“Okay, I have $100 USD back at our hotel. I can give that to you – if you want?”
“OMG YES. THAT WOULD BE PERFECT.”
I went with them back to their hotel where they gave me $100 USD. I got all of his information and promised to pay him back when I got back home (I did, by the way and we became Facebook friends and are still in touch).
The Universe Provided Exactly the Amount of Money I needed
Without budgeting the exact amount, the $100USD managed to get me all my meals, accommodations, taxis or subways to and from all locations in Vietnam, Hong Kong, and Bali, up until the moment I met Bridget at the airport.
I was provided with exactly what I needed to bridge the gap.
After that, I spent the rest of the week with Bridget and was fine on cash, and then, as a little joke from the Universe, I didn’t realize there was an exit tax when leaving Bali.
I had no money left, and was about to be screwed again, when someone overheard the border agent denying me and offered to pay my exit tax.
The Lessons Learned: The Universe Always Provides and the Next Step Will Always Be Clear When We Pause, Center and Listen
This was a simple lesson: the Universe will provide you with exactly what you need, right when you need it.
The Universe will also, if you are listening, lead you to every right next step.
It was so random to get the insight to go to a fast food restaurant with the hope that someone who spoke English was there, but but for me following that guidance, I would have never met the South African couple who saved the day.
I learned in the goodness of people, and to trust in speaking with others, and that to every problem, there is a solution.
I also learned…always triple check the hotel room before you leave. What had happened was that I left my cards on top of my wrislet, and they had fallen onto the floor when it was dark, and I didn’t think to look for them. I now know…always triple check.
And lastly, a rookie mistake: always bring multiple credit cards if you have them on any trips you take, in case you lose or have one stolen.
I look back at this story fondly for the times in my 20s where I used to go traveling so often solo, and the lessons I learned in that process.