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 by yourself.


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” abroad?

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… odd Airbnb. The ratings were mixed but since it was last minute, I decided to take it. Bad idea.

Red flag #1

The Airbnb description implied there was only one person living there (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 when I go to bed but not from the outside. The woman assured me “it’s safe.”

Red flag #3

Things kept disappearing. First, the shampoo, then the body soap, then the hot water. Not kidding!

So you might be wondering, why didn’t you just leave?

Honestly? I was just too tired to look for something else. Plus, they seemed harmless and nothing too terrible happened to me besides the fact that I couldn’t shower on the last two days.

However, a week later, I realized something was missing from my suitcase. And the worst part is I have no idea if I left it 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. Scammy Landlords

In my third week of Spain, I moved into a semi-permanent home for about a month. I paid in the beginning of the month and I 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, no heat, no WiFi.

But without jumping to conclusion, I asked around to see if that was normal first. And surely enough, everyone told me that was WAY too much.

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 when something doesn’t feel right and always ask for proof no matter how “nice” the person seemed.

3. The SIM Card that Never Arrived

“Donde estas, SIM card?”

A few weeks ago, I ordered a SIM card but the delivery guy never showed up. They told me the hours they were coming so I waited and waited…and waited. But no one ever showed up.

I tried leaving them notes, telling them to leave it thinking maybe they couldn’t fit the package in the mailbox (but it’s a SIM card, how big can it be??).

I tried rescheduling the delivery three times with the automated system that they had on the phone and online.

I tried calling the company directly (which cost me $30USD!)

And SEVERAL friends made phone calls for me to the company but still, it was nowhere in sight.

Eventually, they returned my item to the company and CANCELED my order.

At this point, I was about to explode out of frustration because I put work aside to wait for them in my freezing house only to find out they canceled my order.

In the end, I had to order it again with a colleague’s help and sent it to the post office in town and finally got it.

It took me 4 weeks in total to get a tiny SIM card.

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. Fun.

So what did I have to do to get this refund?

I had to go to the phone store THREE times (a 75mins bus ride, each way, BTW) and explain the situation to then each time.

I couldn’t just “call” because I didn’t speak enough Spanish to deal with them on the phone (these people speak 100mph) and had no SIM card to do so even if I wanted to!!

On top of that, I had to go get copies of my bank statement and proof to them that I indeed never got a refund.

And to this day, I still don’t have my refund.

Lesson learned: sh*t happens but be persistent!!!

So yes, moving to a foreign country is wonderful and exciting but it also comes with A LOT of surprises (and not always good ones). But despite so, 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 abroad?

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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