The Perils of Creature Comforts While Traveling Abroad

Okay, you guys, I’m going to admit to something REALLY embarrassing.

I went to Starbucks. In Istanbul.

Now, I almost never go to Starbucks in the US. In fact, I can’t even remember the last time I did. I prefer the coffee I make at home – nice and weak. Starbucks is generally too strong for me, and I refuse to pay that much for a coffee. I’m cheap and I have bad taste, what can I say?

But I do like my morning coffee – two to three cups with 2% milk and a teaspoon of sugar. It’s my ritual. It’s my way of alerting my brain and my body that it is time to get moving for the day. I look forward to it when I get out of bed.

I’ve been traveling abroad for a week now, and my routine is shot to hell. As it should be while traveling. Travel provides an opportunity to get outside oneself, to see things from a new perspective. And the only way to do that is to get outside the regular routine.

Except yesterday I was really tired and had a headache and I hadn’t had a coffee in the morning the way I like it in a few days and I have PMS and I’m grumpy. So when we surfaced from the Metro in Instanbul on our way to Ferikoy flea market, there was a Starbucks RIGHT THERE OUTSIDE THE STATION, and I ABSOLUTELY HAD TO HAVE A LATTE. Like my life depended on it.

I went whole hog. I opted for the Venti. Hubs didn’t want anything (he would not stoop to get a Starbucks in a foreign land), so I got in line and ordered my latte. And I felt pretty good because I could order it without knowing any Turkish because Starbucks is the same everywhere. “Venti Café Latte,” was all I had to say. Though I did end it with “teshekkur ederim” which, I’m told, is Turkish for “thank you” and is the only Turkish thing I know how to say on the spot.

I paid with my debit card instead of using up the lira I had in my pocket, which I thought would be better put to use at the flea market where they likely didn’t take credit cards. Between hubs and me, that card is the only one that works everywhere we are traveling because it has the chip and pin. All our other cards are the stupid American swipey kind that only work in some places in Europe that have the swipey thingy. Many of you who have traveled abroad have likely encountered that quizzical look someone gives you when you take your card and pretend to swipe it to try to convey the idea that the person needs the swipey machine instead of the regular machine.

Americans must look like lunatics to other people.

I paid and waited for my receipt. I stood there for a few moments, but when I noticed a long chain of receipts that had been spit out before mine, I realized the cashier had no intention of giving me a receipt. And since I couldn’t ask him in Turkish, I just let it go and moved on.

That was a terrible mistake.

You fucking delicious latte, you.
You fucking delicious latte, you.

I enjoyed the latte, my headache abated, my mood improved and we went about our day. We had hoped to visit Taksim Square in addition to the flea market, but it was completely cordoned off because of possible demonstrations. It was the anniversary of the conflict there between civilians and the government/military about bulldozing a park and the police were preparing for the worst. We read they had water cannons at the ready, and our host thought there might be conflict and possibly tear gas to dispel crowds. As fun as that sounds, we opted to skip Taksim Square. So after the flea market we hopped on the metro over to the old town and walked around.

It was a beautiful evening and we decided to treat ourselves to a special dinner at one of the rooftop restaurants in the area that offered stunning 360 degree views of Istanbul. Mostly I just wanted some wine. Not only had I not had coffee in a few days, I also had not had wine. It’s not that easy to come by in the areas of Istanbul outside the tourist center, and most of our stay has been visiting and staying in the not-so-touristy areas.

The beautiful sunset right before I realized what an idiot I am. Still, it's very pretty. It's too bad I kinda ruined it by being stupid.
The beautiful sunset right before I realized what an idiot I am. Still, it’s very pretty. It’s too bad I kinda ruined it by being stupid.

Since a touristy dinner was my idea, I told hubs I would pay. At the end of the meal, I got out my wallet, and to my dismay my debit card was missing.

You know that feeling you get when you realize you have done something terribly, terribly stupid? Yeah, that’s the feeling that gripped me in that moment. Tears instantly spilled down my cheeks (hey, I said I had PMS). I frantically searched my bag but knew I wasn’t going to find it. I knew where it was. At that FUCKING STARBUCKS.

Oh, the divine retribution, the perfect kharma of it all. I have NEVER IN MY WHOLE LIFE lost a credit card. I’m super persnickety about keeping tabs on stuff like that. My punishment for having a Starbucks in a foreign land was the stressful and irrevocable separation of my person from my one reliable source of funds, for the first time in my adult life.

Fuck me. If only I had insisted on a receipt. I probably would have gotten the card back.

I made a call to the Starbucks, but the person who answered didn’t speak English, and since I can only say “thank you” that wasn’t very helpful. Our waiter spoke to him briefly and asked if they had my card, but they said no. Another call to the Starbucks the following morning by our wonderful Turkish host confirmed that my card was indeed gone forever.

The call to the bank was super fun, too, let me tell you. Surprisingly, you actually talk to an American person when you call the fraud hotline to report your card lost or stolen. And the three Americans I talked to could not quite wrap their heads around the idea that I’m in TURKEY (where is that? I assume they asked themselves) and needed my card shipped to my next location in BULGARIA (even more head scratching ensued, I’m sure).

So, I will wait. Luckily, I am a “prepare for the worst case scenario” kind of person so I am not in any kind of bind without the card. I just feel INCREDIBLY STUPID.

I promise I will NEVER GET STARBUCKS AGAIN. No more creature comforts for me whilst traveling, dear friends. No more giving in to the familiar while exploring distant lands. That’s not what this journey is about.

And maybe it’s time to stop using the coffee as a crutch, anyway. Got it, Universe, thank you. Note taken.

One thought on “The Perils of Creature Comforts While Traveling Abroad”

  1. Oh my! Just a crazy time but I know that I’d feel an involuntary gutteral twitch if I was abroad and saw the familiar sign of a Starbucks… and not JUST because they have a proper toilet either. I hope that you are able to continue your trip with ease despite your missing “with-a-chip” card! Love from back home!

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