My next challenge? Getting from Morocco to Spain. Let’s do this.
My Couchsurfing host dropped me off at the ferry terminal in Tangier where I caught an afternoon boat to Tarifa. Once in Tarifa I knew I had to play my cards right- I only had about 8 euros to get me to Malaga, where I had a money transfer waiting for me (thanks to the Bank of Mom). Whoosh.
The crossing only took about 35 minutes, and I was happy to be on to the next phase of my trip. At this point I knew the rest of my trip (excursions included Bosnia, Egypt, India and Southeast Asia before heading back to the US, my around the world journey completed) wasn’t going to happen due to my money struggles. Could I have kept going? Yes, I could have. But events from Tarifa to Malaga convinced me that going back to the US early was probably in my financial best interest, and in the interest of not getting any more grey hair than I already have.
Tarifa was a delightfully laid back beach town, full of tapas restaurants and bars and sunshine. I got there on a Sunday and things were pretty dead. For awhile I tried to find the bus station, which wasn’t signposted and not easily located. I asked for directions a couple of times and, when walking in the direction of the station (which I never found), decided to (literally) try my hand at hitch hiking.
Yeah. I was a bit nervous. But, like convincing myself to go for a run, lacing up my shoes/sticking out my thumb proved to be the hardest bit.
Until about 40 cars passed me and I wanted to cry. Can’t they see I’m just a lonely little white girl trying to get up the road?
The sun was going down and I really didn’t want to spend the night in a bush, huddled in my sleeping bag. I had no sooner scribbled ‘Malaga’ on the back of one of my maps than a car pulled over, the driver hopping out and clearing a space for my bags in the back before I had even turned around.
‘Where are you going?’ The older gentleman said.
‘We’re going that way, hop in!’
And with that, I had successfully hitch hiked. The man and his wife were from Germany, vacationing in Spain for a couple of weeks. They had a son who had travelled the world, couch surfing and hitch hiking much like me. I attributed this to their willingness to pick me up in the first place, and was grateful for it. They were both a bit older than my parents and we kept a nice conversation running as we headed up the coast.
Past the Rock of Gibraltar, steaming too quickly towards the point where I’d have to continue forging my own way. They graciously dropped me in the town they were staying at, about 100 kilometers from Malaga. I thanked them profusely for the ride, and headed on into the night.
Thanks to a conveniently located Starbucks and a WiFi connection I located the bus station and, after walking up a mountain in the wrong direction, eventually found it. I forked over what was nearly the last of my precious stash of euros and secured my place on a bus to Malaga. Where would I stay when I got there? No idea.
Thankfully there were a couple little hostel/hotel things near to the train station, and I exhaustedly made my way into one. The guy at reception didn’t speak much English, but seemed to understand my plea for a room despite the fact that I had no money to pay for it…. but the money was coming, I promise! Here, take my passport!
For a stiff 45 euros a night I had a safe haven until I could get my money. I decided that, while this wasn’t in my budget, it was a break that my brain and body needed. I would take advantage of my own room, my own big bed, my own shower, and free shampoo. Partay!
Four euros in my pocket the next morning, burning a hole. I wanted coffee, a croissant, anything. Haven’t eaten since Morocco. Can’t bring myself to spend until I visit the Western Union, the holder of my financial safety net. I’m there when they open the doors.
‘There is a problem,’ said the Eastern European man behind the counter.
My face, everything, fell. What do you mean there’s a fucking problem? There aren’t SUPPOSED TO BE ANY MORE PROBLEMS.
Life, as it turns out, never ceases to be problematic.
‘Your name. Is wrong.’
I went back to the hotel and explained my ongoing predicament to another non-English speaking receptionist. He seemed to understand that the teary eyed American in front of him could pay tonight, but needed to stay one more day, and if there were any more troubles she would cry right here in the lobby, sir. I locked myself in my room for the afternoon with Netflix, my sorrows and a pile of dirty socks I washed in the bathroom sink like a prairie woman. It didn’t help much.
Waiting for the hours to tick by until the time zones caught up with my saviors, my parents, who could help their 24 year old financially (in)dependent daughter out with her international life of travel fraught with disaster and inconvenience. It shouldn’t be this hard, and yet it is. I want a trip to go by where I remain in control, at least of my finances. Everything I took for granted seems to be too much to ask.
Finally, the text. It’s sorted out. I can’t relax until I’m back, same Eastern European man behind the window, same information shoved through the glass.
‘Here you go,’ he said, depositing those bright shiny coins and papers through the glass. For a society so advanced why do we value these little bits of paper? They’re not so important until they’re gone.
I ran out of the Western Union, back to the hotel. It’s ok now, Mom, thankyouthankyouthank you I owe you so big. Yes, I’ll buy you breakfast when I get back. And coffee. Loveyoumissyou.
To the receptionist. Here is too much money I didn’t want to spend, but thank you anyway. Passport, please.
To the grocery shop around the corner- OH MY GOD EAT ALL THE THINGS but within reason. I still have a month left.
Whoosh. Did I mention I also slept through a 6.1 earthquake? Because that totally happened as well. Spain is testing my anxious brain to the freakin’ limit.