As of right now, I have been in the United States for a little over three weeks. Before that, I was in Poland. Poland. I don’t know how that makes me feel.
It was with a summer program called Angloville which teaches English to Polish kids via volunteers and paid coordinators.
I was a volunteer, also called a mentor, and actually, I would be really happy if I could go back this coming summer as a coordinator.
However, traveling to Poland alone was incredibly scary, and it did have its downsides.
For example, within two hours of being in Warsaw, the capital city, I got into a fake rideshare car. This man told me that the cost was simply “the meter,” and locked me in the backseat. My only excuse for getting in is that I had been awake for over 24 hours and I really wanted to get to my Airbnb.
Anyway, when we got to my Airbnb (by the way, it is safer when you are traveling alone to tell the person driving something close to, but not exactly, where you’re staying) he told me that the price would be 560 złoty, or about 150 dollars. This was a 10-minute drive. And for context, the average Uber in Poland is 11 złoty or three dollars. I also only had 360 złoty in cash.
The longer we sat there arguing, the meter just kept going up, and he was threatening to take me to the police for not paying. Side note: I later learned that his license plate was probably fake, so where he would have taken me if I had said, “fine, let’s go,” I don’t want to think about.
I was tired, scared, and at this point, I was ready to throw up. He told me not to throw up in his car. I wish I had.
He finally drove to an ATM and told me that part of the journey would be free. He had me take out the equivalent of 100 more dollars and then just snatched it out of the ATM. He still had my bag so I didn’t run.
Finally, we made it back to the hotel, where he gave me a 20 bill back, or five dollars, and forced me, now, to get out of his car.
He took 200 dollars from me. For a 10-minute drive. I did end up throwing up outside.
So, this is how I dealt with the situation. While in the car, I told him I was French. I told him that my boyfriend and my mom knew where I was. I told him that the hosts of the Airbnb were my cousins. I told him anything that would scream I am not unfamiliar with Europe, and I have people who know where I am and would miss me.
Afterward, I cried for six or seven hours. I called my mom and boyfriend, and as much as I hated myself for this, I had to ask them for money.
My next step was to debate taking an emergency flight home. I had three weeks in Poland and 50 dollars in my bank account.
But I stuck it out, partly because I was afraid of getting back to the airport. And I had a great time with Angloville, and I promise to tell more about the good times next week.
As a moral or closing, if you are traveling to Europe, and Poland specifically, only use official rideshare apps, like Uber. Or use public transportation, which is really good once you figure it out. And if you do end up in that situation. Do not tell them that you are alone and try to seem as well-traveled as possible.
Kidnapping is common over there. Please stay safe.
Story: Amelia Jennings