The Door

There's always a tense moment when first entering your room in a youth hostel. What will these intercontinental strangers be like? Will they steal your passport and stash of Peppermint Aero Bars? Will you wind up best friends and strip to your undies for a pillow fight?

I always try to be friendly, so I put on a big smile and my most congenial "Helloooo!".

There was only one girl in the room and she did not smile or helloooo back. Instead she said in stern tones, "Do you know about The Door?"

"The Door? No."

"The Door is not good. It does not shut properly. You must make sure you shut it properly or someone will steal your belongings. You will do this, okay?"

And with that she stalked out, slamming the offending object behind her.

Ten minutes later we were back in reception, booking a bus trip for Thursday, when I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was the Door Watcher.


"Me?" I said meekly.

"You," she repeated, "You did not close The Door as I asked you to."

"Oh I'm sorry, I thought we made sure it was locked."

"It was not locked. You did not lock it. Make sure it is properly closed next time please."

She selected a chair in the corner and sat with her head resting on her knees, frowning, frowning, frowning, watching the travelers stagger in beneath their bloated backpacks.

Later that night we returned to find a new roommate, a sweet and chatty girl from Washington DC. Door Watcher was in the middle of her briefing, perched on the top bunk. "I already told these two about The Door, so don't forget okay?"

"Okay!" Washington said breezily. "So where are you from and how long have you been here?"

(D'oh! I always forget to play Where Are You From And How Long Have You Been Here. I'm such an amateur.)

"I am from Munich," said Door Watcher. "I have been in Iceland two weeks."

"Great! So Where Have You Been? What Have You Seen?"

"I have been all over. Mostly up North. Lava deserts, glaciers, fishing. Lots of willages. It is okay if you like willages. I prefer big cities to willages."

She was brandishing a Nikon with an obscenely large lens, peering down at us through it.

"How did you get around?" asked Washington. "Did you fly or do a tour?"

"No. Hitchhiking."


"It is easy. The longest wait was ten minutes. Quicker than the bus."

"You must have met some interesting people then?" I ventured.

"Yes. Sometimes. They are usually more friendly up North," she said. "Friendly, but stupid. Down South people are less friendly. But still stupid."

I longed to crack this crusty exterior, to see her smile or laugh. But it was impossible. Her routine was to deliver a few lines then swoop off the set. At one point Washington chirped, "I hear that they only get, like, three hours of sunlight in the winter!"

"No," said Door Watcher, "Five hours. Not three hours. Five hours."


The next night I returned from our delicious meal of Noodle Surprise (two-minute noodles sauteed in peanut butter) to find my digital camera charger had been unplugged from the outlet.

"That is your camera charger?"

The Door Watcher sat bolt upright from the top bunk, making me jump.

"Yes it is."

"I have unplugged it. I have to charge my phone. You must wait ten minutes and then you can plug it back in. Ten minutes."

She disappeared back into the depths of her sleeping bag.

Despite the lack of sunshine, I thought surely a nice warm person lurked beneath. Perhaps it was just her English making her sound a wee bit frosty. But I never got the chance to find out. The next night she was gone, replaced by two Finns with delicate tattoos and incredible legs.

About Shauna Reid

Ahoy there! I’m Shauna, an author, copywriter and content mentor. I love telling stories about life and helping others to tell theirs.

Find out more about me and how we can work together – I’m now booking for February 2023.

19 thoughts on “The Door

  1. Stupid hostels. None of the doors work. Ever.

    You know, due to a dodgy door in a hostel, someone stole my grundies from me. My fecking CAMERA was underneath them, but they just took the undies. Freaky.

  2. Somebody took my watch in the Bath hostel years ago, but that was because I was stupid enough to take it off, wash my hands in the bathroom and then walk out of the bathroom and forget about it.

    You do get some crusty types in hostels, but at least that one played relatively fair and didn’t sound like a psycho. There’s always one rule setter in the bunch.

  3. Oh, it sounds so interesting and exciting, new people every day and fun thigns to do! I’ve never done anything like that before, we don’t relaly go on vacations. Much less adventures!!! You are quite lucky!

  4. This’d be one of those times when one feels compelled to leave a comment saying “you’re great, Shauna!”, for no particular reason, just because one really enjoyed the appropriate post and, not having comments to make or hostel-related horror stories… erm, experiences… to share, actually must ‘fess up to having nothing to say. At which point I start to sound like Ed, because this is one long paragraph (for a comment) and I still haven’t said anything.

    Ahem. You’re great, Shauna!

  5. I agree with Mark. You’re great Shauna :). The content on this site just keeps getting better and better. When are you releasing that book eh :). Glad you’re enjoying your trip. Keep the stories coming and stay safe!

  6. Woohoo, another post the very next day. I think I’d rather experience hostels through you instead of first hand. For some reason, I keep getting olfactory hallucinations when you write about them. And they’re not good. By the way, was Breezy Washington from the state or from D.C.?

  7. I love peppermint Aero bars. It would be a tragedy if someone were to steal those.

    And to be more relevant … I was staying in a New York hostel once and our roommate (a New York native) was telling us what she did the evening before. She said – all casual like – she went and saw this band play a free promo gig in a Blockbuster music store. I asked her what they were called and she screwed up her face racking her brain for the name and said, “Awww, I think they were called … Blur?”

  8. Does everyone named Sarah love peppermint Aero bars? I was just about to comment about those tasty suckers. Iceland sounds like a dream! You are a thousand times lucky, Shauny, to have gotten to go there. Sigh.

    New York has hostles? I’m a pretty shoddy American.

  9. NY has some good hostels Sarah. I really liked the Westside YMCA on the park, about a block from the Lincoln centre.

    I have decided I am too delicate a sleeper for dorms (dammit!), this had made my trips necessarily more expensive and shorter.

    Unfortunately, the only other option is rambling about like a zombie-drone in sleep deprived fug.

    “Historic attraction, yeah fine – gimme coffee or die.”

    Bad (or just mildly eccentric) dorm mates, though, at least make for good stories … as you’ve proved!

  10. Crikey. Poor Shauny girl. What a tough nut to crack. I reckon she really liked you underneath that terseness. Of course she did!

    I get to stay in my first ever hostel in London in January. I feel a bit silly saying that considering I’m almost 28. But it’s been Lear jets and hot tub suites before now … well, not quite.

  11. Yes, New York has hostels! Only we call them “apartments” here.

    I wish I had more traveller in me. I rarely leave the city, much less the state or country. Sigh.

    Glad you’re posting more regularly now! Things were quiet here for a while….

  12. I sort of have a slightly resentful admiration for people like that. So blunt, so absolutely unconcerned with what other people need, want or think…

  13. Hate to be a real spoilsport, and peppermint aero bars are really yummy, but they’re made by Nestle. Could you all eat peppermint crisps instead? Besides, think of all those bubbles in the aero bar – do you really think you’re getting your money’s worth? They weigh half as much as other chocolate bars. Anyway, my issue with Nestle is that they promote baby formula in 3rd world countries without enough education on how to prepare it, sterilise the bottles, ensure the water is clean and safe etc. Have a look at Babies die because of it. So (sorry people) but could you boycott Nestle?

  14. I always had that opinon about Aeros (how much ARE you paying for bubbles of air?? I used to also think that the hazelnuts in Cadbury’s bars just take up precious chocolate space), but I’ve just discovered the peppermint ones and they are amazing.

    I concede on the Nestle point, though, I am torn. I suppose a possible substitute could be Fry’s Mint Pattie, which is a very underrated chocolate treat.

    Sorry Shauny to trivialise your travelogue with comments on chocolate! Don’t mind us.

  15. Pillow fights are supposed to be conducted in underwear? I never knew that before.

    “Willages” made me laugh. It’s always good when someone stern unwittingly gets mocked by their own way of saying things.

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