Fear, Loathing & Western Union

I am a “plan for worst, hope for the best kind of person”. Trust me I’m a positive gal, but I realize you’ve got to have a Plan B ready in an emergency. And I was facing one such emergency on the first stop on my Asia adventures - Nepal.

No matter where you are in the world you need money.

As much as I’d love to get by on my peaceful personality and provocative smile, taxi cab drivers, restaurants aren’t having any of that nonsense. Nor do many of these speak English. so the odds of flirting your way to a free meal are zero to none.

So when I landed in Nepal and realized that my debit card was not working, that many of them did not accept MasterCard, and that the ATM’s were not even communicating with my bank, it led to a rather frantic 15 minutes.

Not something that happens very often for me,

But, there is something about being in a third world country, in one of the busiest cities in the world, with not a person around you that can speak english (not to mention a relocation to a shady hotel room you DID NOT reserve), no cell service and no wifi, that can put even calmest person on edge.

I was in Kathmandu and i had NO MONEY. I had no access to money via my debit or credit card. It was first night after spending four days at a serene Yoga Retreat in the Kathmandu Valley. The bliss, ease, and flow I had been immersed in just hours before had been blown wide open.

I should have namaste-d my a$$ in Kathmandu Valley, but I had a training to attend to!

So after some unhelpful phone calls to my bank and credit card company, I decided to think outside the box. What is one way to get money from anywhere in the world to anywhere in the world … Western Union. I recalled this from my days working at Price Chopper. It seemed to be the money exchange service for criminals and thieves, if you read the fraud protection warnings next time you are at your bank.

In case you live on Pluto and have never heard of Western Union, it is an international money transfer solution. The country you are transferring to will determine how much you can receive.

The plus sides of Western Union:

  • Convenience

  • Easy user interface

  • Great app

  • Thousands of locations

  • Can get money in minutes

Drawbacks of Western Union:

  • Very high fees

  • Often time you get hit twice with cash advance fees if using a credit credit card

  • You may be obliged to use a credit card if you want the money in minutes, otherwise it can take up to 4 days

  • You are left carrying a lot of money (not to mention the hundreds of people in a bustling city who just saw you walk out of that place that gives away money)

I was literally in between a rock and a hard place, with no place to sleep and a gurgling tummy so I connected to wifi in the godforsaken hotel I was ambushed with, downloaded the App, set up an account, and voila had $500 USD available to me within 5 minutes. Thamel, Kathmandu is not the easiest place to get around but luckily Google Maps worked to bring me to my official Western Union money pick up store.

I know money doesn’t solve all your problems but it certainly helps.

Since I began this digital nomad lifestyle in 2017 , I am happy to report my travels have been free from stress, thanks to careful planning on my end. I can honestly say this has been one of the most frustrating trips I’ve ever taken. I can’t say I’ll be back to Nepal anytime soon, but I certainly the appreciate the experience and the learning.

My most fond memory was a young Nepalese man, hawking his wears in Thamel, after I bought a hemp fanny pack (everyone needs one) … my stress was still smoldering after money debacles, food poisoning and lack of any directional guidance in what is a very challenging city to navigate…

“Have a good day, make it sweet.”

Sweet indeed. A friendly face and a warm greeting can make even the most wayward traveler smile and forget her troubles.

Shae Sterrett

Entrepreneur, dreamer, doer, lifestyle coach, business consultant, helping you get more done, live freely and fully with total wellness in mind, body and spirit.