I love ATM’s. Money machines. Auto banks. Whatever you want to call them, I love them. It is an irrational love… and I don’t care.
This is pretty much exactly what I think each and every time I go up to an ATM machine, put my card in, punch a few buttons and get money out:
This is so cool. I just put this card in here and money comes out. Seriously, its like magic.
I have no money. I hit a few buttons. Money pops out of this slot.
Simply the greatest thing ever.
I feel like I am seven years old every time I use one this mystical and magical devices. Forget Harry Potter. This is real life sorcery.
Of course, immediately after those thoughts (which literally happen each and every time I use an ATM machine), reality quickly sets in and I realize that a corresponding amount of money has been electronically taken from my bank account halfway across the world.
It isn’t free money.
But damn if it doesn’t feel like that for about 45 seconds every single time.
I went about ten years of my life when I perhaps used an ATM three or four times, max. When I was a lawyer, a good bit of my work was criminal defense. Criminals (sorry, alleged criminals) pretty much… pay in cash.
It was one of the major bonuses to that line of lawyering.
So, I used to have a pretty good bit of cash on me — basically at all times. Since I am a half-ass struggling travel writer and blogger, I think I can say this about my past without making me off as a braggadocio, but if I didn’t have $300-400 in cash on me at all times, bare minimum, I felt almost naked.
There are days I miss being a lawyer.
My irrational love of ATM machines does occasionally turn to a more relevant topic to my current traveling and writing lifestyle, namely how amazed and awed by travelers from the past. And you don’t have to go that far back to get my complete admiration. Mid-70s is a far begone era in terms of ease of travel.
I regularly marvel at how difficult travel was back in the day, compared to now.
When I read great travel books like Paul Theroux’s The Great Railway Bazaar or Bruce Chatwin’s In Patagonia or Peter Matthiessen’s The Snow Leopard, I am stunned by how much more difficult travel was back then. And that doesn’t even go to say how difficult travel was in the 1920s or 1840s or even further back. If you stop to think about it, we have it so easy now.
Travel today verses just 20 years ago
Travel today means cell phones (though I don’t carry one), guide books, the internet, Skype, Facebook, ATMs, cheap international calling cards, couchsurfing, English as the world’s basic language, eBook readers and more.
Twenty or thirty years ago basically none of those things existed. If you wanted to get money around the world, you had to have a bank wire it to you, or carry cash or travelers checks. I can’t imagine doing a true, long-term trip. Communication was far more difficult. There wasn’t as an established of a network of places to stay. Just the little day to day things you need to be able to travel easily were so much different, or nonexistent, back then.
And do we need to talk about no internet? My personal digital heroin.
I do appreciate when people tell me when I eventually break down and tell them that I went around the world without flying or that I am a permanent traveler — “wow, that has to be so amazingly difficult.” It is meant as a nice compliment and I take it as such. There are parts of it that can be difficult, like being alone all the time, but frankly when it comes right down to it, it really isn’t that tough.
Especially with these magic machines out there that just give you money.