I was flipping through the channels and caught a Rick Steves Europe special recently - one that's all about super basic and practical travel trips. My sweetie and I got a good chuckle out of how basic, exactly, it was. Did you know that trains in Europe are well organized, and that you can often often figure out what the signs are saying by their similarities to English words (e.g. "farmacia" for pharmacy), and that they have ATMs?
I started giggling at Rick's detailed explanation of how an ATM works ("you have a 4-digit PIN number..."), but then my sweetie reminded me that when I was preparing for my epic vacation 2 years ago, my parents could not understand why I wasn't bringing a wad of traveler's checks.
The first time I traveled abroad and had control over my own spending was 1995. I brought traveler's checks and found them nigh-impossible to get rid of. I don't remember using an ATM; for big purchases, I used a credit card, and I had gotten my cash for smaller stuff from the attractive money-changing cashier who flirted with me.
My parents are pretty well-traveled themselves, but they have a different style than I do. They like being taken care of, and they stress out about stuff that I consider pretty basic. What if I get a headache? What if it pours and I run out of socks? What if my credit card gets stolen?
My answer to all of this is, people live there! You can find pharmacies, laundromats, and internet. Between my GPS, the internet, a basic phrasebook, and yes, a debit card, my sweetie and I tooled across our selected piece of Europe with no trouble at all.
I may have giggled at Steves' travel tips, but hey. We all have to start somewhere...