The Less Pleasant Side of Moving Abroad Alone

Warning: this post might trigger several “Ughs!!”.

If you follow any travel bloggers on Instagram, you’ve probably seen or heard all the beautiful pictures and exciting stories.

But what you probably haven’t seen or heard as much are the headaches and frustrations that come with moving to a foreign country alone.


Well, not to deceive you but because we don’t want to sound like we’re complaining all the time. And who really wants to hear about our “PROBLEMS” in paradise?

But if you ARE interested, then read on, my friend! Here are four real-life situations that happened to me in Spain that I wasn’t sure if I should cry or laugh about.

1. Weird Airbnb Experience

During my second week in Bilbao, I stayed in a really–how should I say this–odd Airbnb. The ratings were mixed but because it was last minute, I took a chance. Bad idea.

Red flag #1
The Airbnb description implied only one resident (the owner) but when I showed up, there was her, her two kids, and a brother. But wait, there’s more.

Red flag #2
There was no lock on the outside of my room! I could lock it from the inside but not from the outside. And when I inquired about it, the woman assured me it was “safe.”

Red flag #3
Things kept disappearing. First the shampoo, then the body soap, then the hot water. I wish I was joking.

So why didn’t I just leave?

Honestly? I was too tired. Plus, they didn’t seem malicious and nothing terrible happened to me besides the fact that I wasn’t able to shower on the last two days.

But a week later…

I discovered something was missing from my suitcase. And the worst part was I had no idea if I left it in my house in New York or if they took it! Because there was no lock on the door.

Lesson learned: don’t stay at Airbnbs with mixed reviews.

2. Scumbag Landlords

In my third week of Spain, I moved into a semi-permanent home for about a month. I paid at the beginning of the month and was told I would have to pay utilities separately after my stay. “Fine,” I thought.

Except it wasn’t.

A few weeks after I left, I received a message saying I owed 110€.

That’s $124 USD for 5 weeks with no heat and no WiFi.

But without jumping to the conclusion, I asked around to see if that was the normal rate first. Surely enough, all my co-workers told me that was WAY too much.

So to make a long story short, I contested the bill and asked for proof. But she couldn’t provide any so she cut the bill in HALF.


How do these people sleep at night?

Lesson learned: stand up for yourself and always ask for proof no matter how “nice” the person seems.

3. The SIM Card that Never Arrived

“Donde estas, SIM card?”

A few weeks into my move, I ordered a Spanish SIM card but it never arrived. My tracking shows it came several times but I waited by my door like a house-cat and nothing ever arrived.

I tried leaving them notes, calling the company to reschedule the delivery and even tried changing the mailing address but still, it never showed up.

In the end, they returned my package to the company and CANCELLED my order.

Lesson learned: ask people how mail works FIRST before ordering anything (or just don’t order anything online in Spain).

4. The Never-Ending Refund Circus

Oh, why oh WHY do I have so many phone problems??

On a separate occasion, I was charged by a phone company accidentally.

So what did I do?

I went to the phone store THREE times (a 75-minute bus ride each way, BTW) and had to explain the situation over and over again in Spanish. Mind you, I only knew enough to order coffee and wine at this point.

And I couldn’t just “call” because I had no SIM card (see above)!

On top of all that, I had to go get copies of my bank statements and it was a whole mess that I never want to think about again.

And still, the refund is nowhere to be seen.

Lesson learned: sh*t happens but you have to move on.

So yes, moving to a foreign country is WONDERFUL and EXCITING. But it is also PAINFUL and MESSY.

But despite all that, I’m still happy to be here.

And as the Spaniards like to say, “tranquilo,” everything will be alright.

What are some of your greatest lessons learned while traveling or living abroad?

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About Living the Free Way

LTFW is a travel blog that emphasizes giving ourselves permission to do the things we love and stepping outside or our comfort zones. You can learn more about the author on the 'About' page.
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2 thoughts on “The Less Pleasant Side of Moving Abroad Alone

  1. Hey
    Girl I feel you! Spain is beautiful and all but i feel like people are constantly finding ways to try to squeeze more money out of you. Mail takes forever for sim cards but apparently not for items you buy on ebay. Bank accounts take at least a month….everything here takes time and i guess if you come to terms with that you will be fine. LOL

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