What is it like to run out of all your money while traveling abroad? How did you manage to survive in such a scenario?
I found myself in this situation in 2022 while traveling in New Zealand. I had been living out of a VW bus with a couple of German girls for about 2 months. When we arrived in Wellington (the capital city), I finally ran out of money. The two girls still had savings and money from their parents, so they were able to continue on to the south island. I had no choice but to stay behind in Wellington and find a way to make money.We had split the cost of the van 3 ways, so I figured when I departed, they would buy out at least a portion of my share. They agreed to give me my share, but not until they finished their trip and successfully sold the van. It was 2 vs 1, and we didn't have any formal contract so I didn't have much choice but to accept. So instead of dropping me off with $300-700 I was expecting, all I had was what was in my pocket, about $24.I spent my final dollars to pay for 1 night in a hostel. The room I stayed in slept 20 people, and fortunately was only about half full. In the morning, when it was time to check out, I placed my bags off into the corner of the room, praying I would later find a way to get back into the room as it locked behind me and I turned in my keys to the reception.I set off, walking around the city looking for work. I stopped by every hostel I could find, checking their job postings. I called and left messages for every job I came across. I was fortunate to have a prepaid phone with some minutes left. Many hostels have a 'free food' section, so I was fortunate to find crackers, a little bread, a little pasta, etc. to keep me going.At the end of that night, I went back to the hostel where I left my bag. To my good fortune, the door was left ajar, and again there were a few extra beds left, so I was able to sneak a free night's stay.I continued on like this for 4 days, checking job postings and free food sections in hostels during the day, then sneaking back to the hostel at night. When a busy Friday night came, I found the room to be completely booked so I went to the 'TV room' of the hostel and slept on a vacant couch for a few hours while nobody was there.After those 4 days, my luck turned. I got 2 calls back in the same day. I accepted both dishwashing jobs, eager to end this struggle. However, I knew that even if the jobs went well, I would still need to wait a week or so before I could expect to be paid. I had hope, but I wasn't truly in the clear yet.Desperate, I went to an ATM to double-check my account balance. Sure enough it read somewhere around $5. Almost angrily, I tapped the button for a withdrawal of $200—wishing it was an option for me... and then a moment later I heard the machine whirr as it spit out ten $20 bills! Overdraft! Up until then I had no idea a bank would let you overdraft on a cash withdrawal. I began laughing in disbelief. In a moment I went from completely lost and hopeless to safe with a plan.In those 4 days where I didn't know where I would sleep and didn't know where my next meal would come from, I felt a significant change in myself. I felt subhuman in a way. While walking through the busy city, I blended in and looked like any other person on the outside, but on the inside I felt more like an animal. I didn't belong amongst those people. Their worries were so far removed from mine. It was scary, but also freeing. I don't think I've ever felt so truly alive and in the moment.I probably could have called family or friends, and I'm fairly sure they would have sent me money. But for me that wasn't an option. I got myself into the mess and it was up to me to find my way out.AddendumAfter requests and encouragement I continued the story in the comments. I'm now copying the rest of the story below. So while the above portion best answers the original question, if you're interested in continuing the story, please read on. :)Getting that $200 certainly made things easier. $80 of it went towards the next 4 nights in that same hostel I had been sneaking into before. It was on the other side of the city from the two restaurants I'd be working, but it was also the cheapest hostel in the city. I had plenty of time to walk, but little money, so staying there was an obvious choice. It was a huge relief to now be a paying guest. I've never been so grateful to sleep in a room with 20 people.The first dishwashing job had me start the next day. It was a bistro style cafe owned by a hard working Vietnamese family. They were nice, but also expected a lot of their employees. Given that it was my first time working in a kitchen, it was more than I was capable of. I tried as hard as I could, washing dishes, peeling potatoes, sweeping, mopping, and scrubbing as fast as I possibly could and still they demanded that I go faster. It was hard, but at least it was a job. I just wasn't sure how much longer they would put up with my lackluster performance.After a couple days at the Vietnamese owned restaurant I started my second job at Capitol Restaurant. This place was intimidatingly nice. It had an inspired menu, upscale clientele, and an amazing location next door to the historic theatre. It's funny—at one point when I was walking around without food or money, I remembered walking by this particular restaurant and glancing into the windows at the well dressed patrons sipping on champagne and making small talk. I remember feeling a mix of jealousy and embarrassment as I compared myself to them. At the time I thought I couldn't be further from their world, and here I was stepping into the door.So naturally, I was nervous as I walked into Capitol Restaurant for my first day of work. If I wasn't good enough for the Vietnamese owned place, what chance did I stand here? I walked through the door and Tom, the owner and head chef, greeted me with a smile. He warmly asked if I'd like an espresso before we began the tour of the restaurant. I had been so cold, lonely and fearful up to then, that this simple small gesture almost brought me to tears.Those first few moments set the tone for the rest of my first day at Capitol. Tom patiently walked me around the restaurant, kitchen, and storage rooms, explaining what everything was and how it worked. He introduced me to all of the staff, kindly welcoming me into what he referred to as his second family. He never complained, never got frustrated with me, and gave me gentle guidance on how I could improve. At the end of my shift, Tom asked if I'd like a beer or glass of wine. When he saw me hesitate, he explained that all of the staff got a complimentary beverage at the end of their shift. He asked me to sit at one of those beautiful tables outside that seemed so distant just days ago. He joined me at the table and as the sun was setting on a beautiful warm summer evening asked about my situation—where I was living, if I had friends here, how long I planned to stay in Wellington. I was scared and unsure, but I tried to project confidence and assured him I would find a room for rent or stay in hostels if all else failed. I was trying so hard to be strong that when he then explained that he had an extra unit attached to his family's house and that he would rent it to me for no more than the cost of a hostel, I couldn't hold back. My lips pressed together in a smile and tears welled up in my eyes. I couldn't believe how kind this man was to me. After struggling with uncertainty and hunger for a week, this helping hand reached out and saved me.I spent the next 3 months working at Capitol Restaurant. I became one of the family. We joked together, and shared stories. I was invited to their parties and introduced to their friends. The unit Tom rented to me was beautiful and quiet. His family often invited me upstairs to join them for dinner or a movie. I explored the parks and hills, went to festivals and movie premieres, and swam in the warm summer waters. During my time in Wellington I truly got a taste of Kiwi life. When I had saved up enough money and it came time for me to continue my travels, it was bittersweet. I had the entire South Island ahead of me but was about to walk away from the place and people that had become home. Tom offered to take me to the ferry. As we stood there waiting for the ferry to arrive we reminisced and joked about my misadventures. After a pause in conversation I tried to explain just how much his hospitality meant to me. Again my eyes began to well up as they did on that first day I met him, and in typical stoic Kiwi fashion, he swiftly transitioned to a less serious subject. I hope Tom knows just how much he helped me in what was probably my most vulnerable time. As the Kiwi's would say (and excuse what may sound vulgar): "Tom was a good cunt."