One of the unfortunate aspects of travel is when basic customs and practices are done very slightly differently, causing you to make a significant mistake.
One of the first that new travelers to Asia experience is that ATM machines don't always automatically release your debit card when you withdraw money. You have to press a button on the screen afterwards that says "Finished" or "Eject Card."
Many Americans -- where the ATM machines almost always spit out your card automatically before your cash -- forget to hit "Finished," and leave their card in the machine. Sometimes multiple times. It's a big hassle.
I adopted a rule to avoid this. I keep my wallet in my hand until I get my debit card back, or if I'm paying at a store, until my credit card is handed back to me.
My wallet won't go back into my pocket until the card is in it.
It becomes a very physical reminder that I'm not done. I estimate it saves me from leaving my debit card in a machine or credit card at a shop about three times per year. Every machine is a little different, every shop is a little different in when and how they hand cards back, and it's easy to forget if you're not vigilant.
It's a small thing, but it's helped me avoid a tremendous amount of hassle.
Generally speaking, I look for similar advantages everywhere -- little markers or indicators or practices I can set up, that once I've set them up, keep me doing smarter things and avoiding stupider things forever.
I really like the attitude of trying to SOLVE these things permanently once they've come up a few times. It reminds me of your previous post "Stuck in vendor-approved hell != a tactics problem."
Here are some of mine:
I keep the following in my backpack at all times:
In my car, in addition to normal stuff like road flares, I keep a spare change of clothes, more water, a couple space blankets, and a beach towel.
Everything in my pack and my car has gotten there as the result of needing it at some point and not having it. Now those problems are more or less SOLVED.
Before leaving the house, I have a simple little physical mnemonic of tapping my two front pockets and my left back pocket to make sure I have my wallet, keys, phone. I've left the house numerous times without one or more of those and it sucked, After adopting this simple physical routine (and doing it enough so that it became a habit) this has been solved.
I often found myself just daydreaming in the shower, which is great if you have time and want to let your mind wander, but not so much when you have appointments and don't want to be late. The solution: a simple mechanical kitchen timer set for ten minutes on those days that I can't afford to daydream. BTW, i use the kitchen timer for tons of things when I'm home because there are so many activities that I want to timebox, and it's easy to lose track.
Some great questions from a friend of mine striking off internationally / mobile.
Also, you had some tips for this lifestyle. What are they? My biggest questions are:
1) Receiving phone calls. I imagine there are good (even free) Voice Over IP services that will allow me to
Take my old local calls and transfer them to the Internet; Forward the calls to whatever local number I'm using in whatever country I happen to be; Transfer voice mail and SMS messages to e-mail.
1. Google Voice is good for getting a USA number ported. I don't know about Europe... maybe you can port it to SkypeIn (a nice product), or maybe to Grasshopper if they're working in Europe. Get Google Voice though definitely, it's free and good and does what you want.
A good checking account will have (ranked in order of subjective importance):
No fees, particularly monthly maintenance, incoming wire, etc
ATM Fee Reimbursement: ATM fees from other banks are reimbursed