I'm sure I'm missing something fundamental, so please enlighten me!
It seems like just about everything I can trade through my broker I can take physical possession of if I really wanted to, although people rarely do. For example if I purchase 100 shares of MSFT I could request that my broker mail me those shares. The shares would be removed from my electronic account and they would be physically delivered to me. Similarly if I trade futures on a commodity I could end up with bushels of apples if I was so inclined. This is all heavily acknowledged in basic literature on these instruments. Furthermore, I've heard of a "horror story" in a podcast (I believe it was Planet Money) of a trader trading commodities in Chicago who ended up with barges show up at the dock by their office.
However this doesn't seem to be emphasized or talked about in FOREX spot markets. I've always heard that you must go through a bank or exchange house in order to convert money from say USD to GBP. I've also heard, and seen, that you never get the current exchange rate that the currency pair is trading at in the markets unless you're exchanging millions of USD in value.
So my question is could I decide I like the current exchange rate a month before a trip to Europe. Since I want that exact exchange rate I buy $4,000 USD worth of Euros in a FOREX trade, with an account I funded in USD, and request that the Euros are delivered to me (preferably in cash) before my trip? If not why since everything else seems to be backed by something physical that can be delivered?
Both current answers talk about FOREX futures. I'm asking about spot markets. In Investopedia under FOREX spot markets it has this blurb:
More specifically, the spot market is where currencies are bought and sold according to the current price. That price, determined by supply and demand, is a reflection of many things, including current interest rates, economic performance, sentiment towards ongoing political situations (both locally and internationally), as well as the perception of the future performance of one currency against another. When a deal is finalized, this is known as a "spot deal". It is a bilateral transaction by which one party delivers an agreed-upon currency amount to the counter party and receives a specified amount of another currency at the agreed-upon exchange rate value. After a position is closed, the settlement is in cash. Although the spot market is commonly known as one that deals with transactions in the present (rather than the future), these trades actually take two days for settlement.
Since one party delivers me the "agreed upon currency amount" and I have given them the "specified amount" of USD shouldn't I be able to physically receive the "agreed upon currency amount?" To further emphasize that I'm really getting the other currency for my USD there is this quote from the same Investopedia page (emphasis mine):
forex trading in the spot market always has been the largest market because it is the "underlying" real asset that the forwards and futures markets are based on.
In my mind this reinforces in my mind that my account is actually receiving EUR or whatever currency I'm buying since it is described as a "real asset" because I assume it is real like real estate. This is why I was equating currency to stock certificates. I give you my USD and you give me in exchange little certificates called EUR if I was trading EUR/USD.
If that is truly the case then I feel my question is logical. If the truth is I'm buying an instrument that is called EUR/USD that I can only enter and exit in USD, or GBP/JPY that I can only enter and exit in JPY, then my question is nonsensical. That would also make the answers' focus on futures make perfect sense because futures would be the only vehicle to actually get the underlying asset, and the spot market would be a public sentiment litmus test of sorts.
I flagged myself as a duplicate of How can one take delivery on the FOREX market? but I have retracted that flag because that question is primarily concerned with "How." What I'm trying to ask is "Why not." This isn't addressed at all in the accepted answer, and is really what I'm interested in. Furthermore it is countered by this question How does FOREX trading work? trading vs exchanging whose answers state it is possible. The idea isn't novel, but there seems to be great confusion and misinformation. What is interesting to me is WHY it can't be done, if it can't be done. If it can be done what are the barriers beyond ignorance that the possibility exists?