We’re in Paris now! About 24 hours from now, we’ll be at the airport waiting for our flight home. After more than two weeks away and receiving some heart-breaking news from home mid-week, we’re ready. Here’s a quick story from Greece I wrote while on the plane to France:
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you know that Greece is in a bit of turmoil. Its recent election was watched by the world, especially those with an interest in money. Which means everyone. We had the privilege of being in Greece during the historic elections and following the news from a first-hand perspective. We met one journalist who traveled to the islands to do a side story on the election’s effect on tourism and another son of a Washington Post journalist who was using his dad’s trip to piggyback on for a trip around Greece.
We were a little hesitant about traveling during this uncertain time, but the practical part of us also realized we would probably get some good deals and easier travel experiences due to the low crowds. Still, we kept our belongings close, packed lightly, always used the hotel safes, kept an adequate but not excessive amount of cash on hand, and did as much research as possible about routes before we set off on any journey.
For the most part, we were able to relax and trust the precautions we’d taken. One day in Santorini, though, we had a very scary experience.
We had walked to Fira, the main town, where we would catch a bus to the “black beaches” at Perissa. Fira had the island’s only ATMs, and it was time to refill our cash reserves. We have one debit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees or ATM fees anywhere, and it has been our golden ticket while we have traveled. T found an ATM, and I was the “look out” for shady characters.
The money was dispensed, and we dropped our guard. I asked T how much we had left from the last ATM visit, and we both looked at his wallet as we counted the few Euros we had on hand plus the newly-dispensed bills. Then, our good fortune suddenly changed.
We looked up simultaneously at the ATM and read:
YOUR CARD HAS BEEN RETAINED
What? Our golden ticket, no fee debit card?? All we could figure out was that the card must have been released from the ATM, but when we didn’t take it the ATM kept it as a security measure in case we had forgotten it and walked off.
What a silly mistake!
Thankfully, the ATM was connected to a bank, and we were visiting in the middle of a week during banking hours. When we got to the front of the line in the bank and told them what had happened, we were even more relieved to find out that the ATM technician was there in that bank branch at that very moment.
The debit card was retrieved, we showed some ID, signed a ledger that said something in Greek (hopefully not signing away our firstborn), and exited the bank not 15 minutes after the heart-stopping event.