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The First Few Days Abroad

I booked with Iberia which was serviced by Level, a really wonderful airline to take, I must say. The flight was as direct one from OAK to Barcelona.

In this post I want to talk a little about the logistics of moving abroad or even visiting another country for longer than a few days. There were certain things which I didn’t plan for well and other things worked out beautifully.

 

Foreign Currency

Thankfully my friend N. gave me 15 € before I left. When I went to my bank in Portland they said that they had to order me the foreign currency and it would take 4 days. I should have done that a bit earlier because I have no euros on me now and spent the 15 € on food.

Then I read that you shouldn’t exchange your money at the airport because of the high fees. This is true because it’s a double whammy, 1) they give you shittier exchange rates 2) they charge a service fee.

I froze my credit reporting accounts before leaving, something I recommend anyone doing to prevent identity fraud. This is important to do even if you aren’t traveling. This meant that I couldn’t open a credit card with low/no foreign transaction fees. But then again, I’m not sure I wanted to use a credit card.

For now, I am using my bank’s debit card to make purchases. I am not sure what exchange rate they will give me or how much they will charge me per foreign transaction. However, VISA/MASTERCARD cards are good to use because they often offer the best rates – it’s the fees that can be up to 5%. Not terrible but not ideal.

 

Getting To OAK Airport

I was staying with my friend N. in Walnut Creek and though Uber would have only cost me $30 from WC to OAK, I really prefer to take public transport whenever possible. I rarely bother being in cities with shitty public transport these days.

I took the BART from downtown WC for $10 straight to OAK airport. It was an incredibly hot day so I did use Uber to get me to downtown WC for $7.50 which includes a $2 tip.

I’m glad I left early because there was a bit of an issue with the BART and they had to backtrack but that only cost us 20 minutes. I had to change stations 2x, not bad at all. Getting the hang of public transport is well worth it.

I wanted to get to the airport early to hang out in the terminal but that didn’t work out well. I got there too early and couldn’t check in my bag. So I had to wait for an hour until my airline’s terminal opened (usually 3-4 hours before the flight) and then check in my bag and head to the terminal.

 

The Flight

The plane was an Airbus. I normally don’t care about such things but fuck, this was a comfortable plane. I upgraded only 1 level in order to check in my bag but this level included meals as well – that’s a bonus. I think in total my 1-way flight was $560.

For another $60 I could have sat in economy plus which was located in the middle of the plane. And we’re talking 70 seats which were almost completely empty! I passed by the first class seats and I am still not sure what they had that would justify paying for those seats but maybe I didn’t look closely enough.

I sat next to this firecracker 70-yo woman and we had a blast. She paid for my drink, I gave her my meals, and we chatted a little about her career. She is a college professor teaching English. Every few years she goes overseas for a year and teaches ESL. Only makes $30-40k a year but everything else is paid for, so that’s straight profit.

She told me that she finds her gigs on Dave’s ESL Cafe, if anyone is interested. She mentioned that there are far more jobs available than native English-speaking teachers.

The 11 hours was quite tolerable in those comfy seats. I slept most of the way. Mixing coffee with alcohol was a deliciously terrible idea. And not eating the whole 11 hours (I gave my food to my neighbor whose ticket didn’t come with meals) was a worse idea.

What I found delightful was the mellow attitude of the flight attendants. They were lax, weren’t checking my fucking crotch every 2 seconds to make sure my seatbelt was on and they came across genuine.

 

The BCN Airport

Man, I thought I was gonna grilled at the immigration zone of the airport because I only had a 1-way ticket which is sort of no-no when you don’t have a longer-term visa. But, not at all! Nicest guy. Asked me where I was staying and for how long. I was as vague as possible. If I said I came here to work doing telemedicine that would be another red flag – for that, I’d need a work visa.

The line was fast. Everyone friendly. I have never seen so many different people from different culture in one airport. Then again, maybe I’ve been living in Portland for too long.

Transportation

I mapped out my trip from BCN to my AirBnb which was a little under 7 miles. I couldn’t figure out how much I needed on my Metro card so I just got a 2-day ticket for $17.98 which was excessive but when you’re tired, dehydrated, over-caffeinated, and starving, you often make hurried, money-wasting decisions.

They don’t have Uber in Barcelona, so a taxi would have cost me 30 € ($37) which is a bit excessive with Barcelona’s amazing public transport network. And I don’t know the area well enough to prevent getting ripped off by a Taxi driver.

 

AirBnb Experience

I have never gotten an AirBnb before and never got a shared room other than in a hostel. The advantage of a hostel is that it’s a business and they are fairly effective at enforcing rules.

I met my host K. who is a wonderful woman a little younger than me with a 12-yo son. She rents out her spare bedrooms in the AirBnb to tourists. She showed me around the house and she work in an urgent care overnight – what a coincidence. My Spanish is shit and she doesn’t speak English so I’m not sure what she does – I think I heard nurse.

My room has a full-size bed in it and the room is just large enough to fit it. It’s a room that’s about 8’x8′ with a decent sized closet. The apartment is old but what I really enjoy about it is that things aren’t replaced, you can tell where everything was patched, even the particle wood kitchen cabinets. I enjoy that.

 

I went to bed at 10:30 pm but the other house guests and K and a few other friends come by a little after midnight and short of breaking down doors they were rowdy. Not fighting but I think some alcohol was involved. Then they started smoking until 2am which filled my room the entire time with the smell. There is no A/C so I had to leave my door ajar to get some circulation. I fell asleep finally at 2:30am to the lullaby of heavy snoring, interrupted by some apneic episodes.

What was I doing from 12:30-2:30am? Looking for a place of my own. I have this AirBnb only for a week and I got it for only $30/night. Unfortunately, it’s tourist season and real estate is incredibly hard to come by. So why am I not investing in Spain’s insanely high demand real estate market?

 

3 replies on “The First Few Days Abroad”

Hahahaha. Damn dude. Get your ass outta that place. Find some AC. It’s incredibly hot there this time of year. Have fun man! Hard to understand that costellana eapanol amigo

There are some banks that dont charge ATM fees even when overseas. Charles Schwab bank is one.

CS won’t charge you a fee for using an ATM. They won’t even charge an exchange fee. However the local ATM will still charge you a fee. Not had if you take out larger sums of money at a time. I have a CS high yield checking account opened for this particular reason but didn’t get the ATM card in time so waiting for it to get forwarded to a place here in BCN.
Mail Boxes Etc. is a good company to use for receiving forwarded mail while you’re abroad. That way you don’t have to use a foreign home address which sometimes will change if you’re in the middle of a move and a shipment gets delayed.

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