Travels Abroad Without Fear: Trapped in Turin

tl;dr Carry extra cash in your sock when traveling in a foreign country. I wish I had when I found myself stuck in Turin Italy. Also make sure the name on your plane reservation exactly matches the name on your id.

I was on business along with several colleges. We were in Turin Italy for a meeting then several of us were to board a plane for Munich for more meetings. One of the local secretaries made the plane reservations. When we went to check in, everyone had a seat on the plane except me. Apparently someone made a mistake. There was no ticket for James Kirkley. No more flights until tomorrow. So I made a reservation on the next flight, but now I needed a place to stay in Turin and spoke no Italian. You see Turin is a big automotive capital, kind of the Detroit of Italy. Fiat has headquarters there and at the time a big automotive convention was going on so most of the larger nicer hotels were booked. This was going to be a problem. I was running short of cash. Credit cards were unheard of. We used American Express traveler’s checks, but it was the weekend and there was nowhere to cash a traveler’s check. I could cash one at the train station the next day and I would be OK after that.

Luckily I had a friend and colleague who was living in Turin. Matt was American, but could speak relatively fluent Italian. I managed to call him and he invited me over to his flat so he could help me find a hotel. Matt was hosting a party that night (which is why he could not just invite me to stay with him.) I remember helping him vacuum his flat while Matt called around and found me a 1 star hotel close to the train station and within walking distance. While this was going on Matt offered and I accepted several glasses of wine.

I didn’t have enough money for a taxi, so I left Matt’s flat and set out for the hotel on foot schlepping my luggage (this was before luggage had wheels.) I remember it was quite warm. By the time I got to the hotel I am pretty sure I was in the early stages of dehydration; too much wine, not enough water. I know when I finally got to my room, I just sat on the bed and started laughing hysterically. I was just so happy to be there.

I left the hotel and found a small restaurant where I remember carefully ordering (with my last few Italian Lira) Linguine Carbonara and a large bottle of mineral water. It was a wonderful meal.

The next day I made it to the train station, cashed my traveler’s checks, taxied to the airport, got to Munich and met up with everyone. It was then I found out that there was indeed a seat on their plane after all, but the reservations were made for “Jim Kirkley” not “James Kirkley.”

The lesson here is always carry extra cash when you are traveling. We recommend carrying it in your sock. No one can steal it from you and you will have it there for small emergencies.

Also whenever making plane reservations be sure that the name on the reservation matches the name on your id exactly.

Finally, it helps to have a native-language speaking buddy nearby to help you out in an emergency.

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