Back in the penniless days of backpacking, I took on a big month long expedition throughout Europe.
I am ashamed to admit, I was chasing a guy.
Anyway, on the last leg of the tour, we parted ways in Zurich. As heartbreaking as it was, he was off on a bike ride adventure around the Swiss Alps, while I had a day and a bit to get back to Vienna to catch my flight back to Tokyo.
I decided to take a night train. I don’t know how something simple like buying a train ticket turned awry but somehow, with my last remaining Swiss Franc, I had only paid a reservation fee. Unbeknownst to me, I didn’t have an actual ticket that confirmed my designated seat.
Hopping on the plush sleeping carriage, I settled into the middle bunk with American uni students seated above me and a French family below.
Later in the evening, the train conductor came along to inspect our passports and of course, tickets.
He had a close look at mine, had a good stare at me and steered back down to my ticket. There was an awkward silence.
“You don’t have ticket…” he grunted.
“Sorry? I bought this at the Zurich Central station…” I assured him.
“No. Dis is only a reserveeeshion. Not ticket. You must pay eku-stra…”
Panic streaked through my body. I had no Francs left whatsoever. The only cash I had was in Japanese Yen. Not even a credit card to my sorry name.
And to this merciless, stickler of a railway officer, I didn’t have a name.
I was merely known as “Zee Austrrraaalian wid no moh-neeey”
Despite my pleading, assuring him I wasn’t a fugitive, my passport was confiscated. Then, in complete embarrassment, I was escorted out of the comfy bunk and thrown into cattle class.
Apparently he was doing me a favour because I hadn’t even paid half of a normal economy seat.
He scolded that I should’ve been kicked off that train, to be left stranded in the middle of the night at some rural town on the Swiss/Austrian border.
Fortunately, we agreed on an ultimatum.
There was a scheduled 10 minute stop over at Salzburg at the break of dawn.
I was to run out, find the nearest ATM (hoping to God that it was working 24 hours) and with my new train conductor friend breathing down my neck, withdraw some money to pay for my blasted ticket.
The Swiss Railway system got its cash. I made it to Vienna on time.
I did however, disembark that train with severe shakes and the biggest case of trauma.
I learnt 2 big lessons after that never-ending night.
Never to frivolously pursue guys half way around the world.
And always, always, have a credit card!
Do you have a nightmare no credit card story to share? What about a hairy backpacking one?