Have you ever run out of money while travelling?

Recently, I had my first experience, and it was a humbling, scary experience that challenged my fortitude and my creativity on a new level. We could have given up, defeated, but we held strong, kept the struggle to ourselves (because my Grandma would have been worried sick!), and we pushed through it.

I have only been broke once- right after my divorce. I made it out of that rut pretty quickly because A) My new business took off, and B) I had family and friends nearby who occasionally brought food or baked goods.

I am cautious with my money, especially while being out of the country. I have always had enough in my savings to fly the kids and I home on a moment’s notice in case of emergency, or in case I just got sick of being away. I never want to feel “stuck” somewhere, so I manage finances responsibly.

However, the end of the year poses extra challenges because my clients get too busy to pay me on time, and holidays are always expensive. This year, though we spent next to nothing during Christmas, while we celebrated in Costa Rica, I had other unexpected challenges. I had to pay lawyer fees in regards to my ex-husband trying to sabotage our travels, and we had a LOT of travel expenses that needed to be paid for immediately. I completely wiped out my entire savings, paying for airline tickets to go home for a visit and to make a court appearance, leaving a few Colones in change to pay for food.

As a mother, I felt like a complete failure. We already live on a strict budget, and I make good money, so how did this happen? This was my #1 fear by far before I left the states, and here it was, a reality. A very scary reality. Survival mode kicked in, and I had to quickly turn my thoughts towards abundance- imagining a full pantry and refrigerator, and a re-plenished bank account.

The first few days were the roughest, but a neighbor (who did not know our situation) brought us a bunch of homemade tamales. I cried out of gratefulness.

A couple of days later, Jonathan got paid for a job he has been doing here, so we paid our final month of rent here, and bought 2 days worth of food. I just kept hoping something more would come through, someone would pay their invoice, or I would find a hundred dollars on the street. I tried to remain hopeful, but I was also feeling desperate.

One night last week, we all shared a meal of cabbage, eggs and rice, and I cried through the whole meal. I get emotional even thinking about it. The kids didn’t know our struggle. They always had 3 meals a day, and knew nothing of the couple of meals I skipped so they could have enough. This, to me, is not even close to ideal. I was so angry with myself, but felt helpless to do anything about it but wait.

Finally, someone paid an invoice, so we were able to buy more food, and another large chunk of money I was expecting will be available in less than 24 hours.

I learned a lot during these couple of weeks.

Situations are temporary. A lot of people live paycheck to paycheck, and it is perfectly normal to skimp on even essentials sometimes. Here, families make the best of it. I have been incredibly fortunate that this has only happened to me one time in 2 years. Not only that, but for me, I knew it was only a temporary situation, as I knew I had plenty of money on its way to me within a few days or weeks.

Money comes, and money goes. People even here in Monteverde spend their last Colones every pay period on food, and know that more money is coming. They don’t worry. They don’t live their life around money and how much or how little they have. As long as they are working hard and enjoying their lives, they know money will find its way to them when they need it. And it always does.

Karma seeds sprout when needed. One of us must have done something good for someone because we were given a bunch of tamales that fed all of us for 2 meals. People here have friends, family, and neighbors here for them, and with such a small community, everyone pitches in to help. Had we expressed even the slightest need, people here would have delivered food by the tray- I just know it. Their hearts are pure, and they feel responsible for each other in their small community- even to us as visitors. They also know that when they are in need, their community is here for them.

We will always make it. It was terrifying. I felt like a complete failure, and I had no other options except to ask someone to borrow money (which, had we gone any longer, I may have). But we used the resources we had, and we made it. Jonathan is very creative with the most off-the-wall ingredients, and when I had just about given up trying to make it all work, he stepped in, and made a meal out of very little. He encouraged me, and reminded me that I was not a failure, and we would be more than ok. He was right.

I am not immune to hard times. Just because I feel like Super Travel Mom on my best days, I don’t always have it all together, and I can’t make everything work perfectly. Things happen. Money needs to be spent. Invoices are paid late. Lawyers demand payments. Kids get sick. I think what made this situation more difficult for me is the fact that I am not home, surrounded by friends and loved ones. I have my little family with me, but no one outside of the situation was here to provide support or encouragement. I felt all alone in a foreign country with nothing left, and it was a humbling experience to say the least.

It is all part of the journey. Last night when I whipped out my calculator to make sure we really were ok, Jonathan gently grabbed my hand and told me that this was part of the experience. We could have stayed home and had plenty of money, friends, and extra support. But we gave it up for something-not necessarily better- but different. We chose another path full of different experiences, and there are ups and downs, just as there were ups and downs when we were in the safety of our home towns.

Living without increases awareness. I was intently focused on money or the lack of it during the last couple of weeks. Once I had literally worried myself sick about it, I realized that I needed to use the resources I had and to maintain a healthy atmosphere for my family. I had to ground myself in the present circumstances- all the positive and the negative- and be acutely aware of my body, my mind, and my emotions. I was creating more turbulence by walking around with a frown on my face, complaining about an empty bank account, worrying about tomorrow, and crying. One night, I chose to focus on the good, the present, and the meals we were fortunate enough to eat that day. The next morning, I woke up with money in the bank.

Has this ever happened to you while you were away from home? What resources did you use to get past it? How long did your predicament last? How creative were you in solving your dilemma?

“He is richest who is content with the least, for content is the wealth of nature.” –Socrates


Posted by | Comments (2)  | January 6, 2014
Category: Money Management

2 Responses to “Have you ever run out of money while travelling?”

  1. Katie Says:


    Great post and I commend your bravery on sharing something that most people would cringe to share publicly. I too recently found myself in a similar situation. I don’t have kids and wasn’t in a foreign country but my bank account had a huge goose egg for an uncomfortably long time when my business decided to stop producing– long, irrelevant story. And I resonate with your insights and observations. Ironically, the whole experience has given me more confidence because I now know that I can survive one of my greatest fears! Of course it wasn’t pleasant and I don’t desire to do it again but it brought me face to face with some perspectives that may have been holding me back when I previously thought that money equaled certainty or security. Life is interesting, isn’t it?


  2. Autumn la Boheme Says:

    Katie, yes! Exactly! Since I left the states, a couple of my biggest fears have come true- being broke, and losing friends. (Some people do not understand my need for travel, and they are very angry that I left home.) But you’re so right. We survived through one of my biggest fears, and I learned more than I would have if everything had been comfortable and easy. I have a new confidence that we can do ANYthing, and we will always be ok. Just another reason travel is so amazing. 🙂