• Jo

Locked out and totally exposed

Updated: Oct 26


There I stood, bare back against the hostel door, trying desperately to get the attention, of someone, anyone, to rescue me from extreme humiliation. I'd managed to lock myself out of my room, wearing nothing but my underwear (and only the bottom half of it).

"Hello!" I called loudly, followed by a "help!" rising in pitch and volume. The only reply was the sound of complete silence. I calmed, thinking that at least it was a quiet time of day - I could probably get to reception without exposing myself to too many people.


I had recently left my successful career and my familiar world, to take a sabbatical of sorts. I'd been travelling around Europe and the UK for around three months and had intentions to travel across the States and then Australia before heading back home. I'd happily found myself at the Edinburgh Festival (highly recommended). I was exhausted from watching every show possible, and I'd decided to sneak in a power nap before heading to yet another late-night production. I was booked into a surprisingly comfortable backpackers' hostel and was sharing a room with three friendly ladies.


This particular evening I'd found myself alone, after months of living closely with strangers. I was delighted with the quiet and the prospect of undisturbed sleep. So, I carefully removed my clothing and folded it very neatly ensuring I could wear it again later (the joys of travelling really light!) Then I placed my clothes in my locker, on top of my backpack. I also put my handbag and phone in the locker - making sure all my valuables would be safe during my epic sleep. With everything in place, I confidently snapped the lock in place.


As I shuffled towards my bunkbed to pull on my pyjamas and jump in, my brain wobbled. It registered that I’d locked my locker key and my room key, inside the locker too - they were in my handbag. I took a deep breath and decided to continue with my nap and head down to reception later to get help. As I pulled my pillow off the bed to grab my pyjamas the situation rapidly worsened, I'd somehow stuffed those in the locker too! I found myself in my knickers, alone in my room with no way of contacting anyone. I panicked. I popped my head out the door and called for help. Nothing. I shuffled a little bit further out the door in attempt to spot someone, anyone, who could rescue me. As I shuffled, I heard a faint 'click' behind me.


I immediately wanted the earth to swallow me. There I was, 33 years-old (at least a decade older than all my roommates), stuck outside, in my underwear, at a backpackers' in chilly Edinburgh.


I crept across the corridor hiding behind a pillar, looking out to see if the coast was clear. As I reached the top of a longish passage, I took a deep breath and ran towards the red door leading to reception. And as I flew through the door like an Olympic sprinter, I stumbled over a set of unexpected stairs and tumbled all the way down them. I landed feet downwards, on my back. Fortunately, ‘all the way down’ was only about six steps. But my ego was flattened.


As I looked up, I saw a familiar face staring down at me. An exceptional, hilarious friend of mine from university, Tumi Osei-Tutu, had a show playing on the comedy circuit and a HUGE poster of her face was strategically positioned next to my head. As I was taking mental notes of her show's details, I found myself mysteriously placed back on my feet. A young fellow had helped me up and then started to walk off. No questions were asked. No acknowledgment of my 'sorrys' or 'thanks yous' were made. As I flusteredly tried to explain the inexplicable, he simply brushed me off with a “don’t worry, you're ok,” and vanished.


I slithered towards reception and did a weird side-walk manoeuvre. I then pressed the front of my body against the desk and rested my chin on the counter. The receptionist didn’t bat an eyelash, as he muttered, “New room key?”

“Yes,” I replied, relieved that this seemed to be a common issue.

“Anything else?” he asked.

“A lock cutter and a new lock, please,” to which he vanished and came back with scary metal thingys for the alleged purpose of breaking locks. As I grabbed my tools of liberation, I shared how relieved I was that I wasn't the first to find myself in such an awkward spot.

“Not the first to lock yourself out, or the first to lock your key in your locker" he told me, "But you are the first to do both.” My cheeks burned.


I strutted back to my room, having given up on maintaining my dignity any further. I successfully cut the lock off my locker - which was (worryingly) easier than I thought it would be. I pyjamaed-up and then managed a short nap, before booking tickets to Tumi's show for the next evening and heading out to watch the brilliant, vulgar, life-changing, bouffon clown theatre show, Red Bastard.


The next morning, I was awoken by intense pain as I turned onto my side. Mild bruising covered most surfaces of my body. For a moment, I remembered the horror of my flash dance across the corridors. But then I took a moment and remembered how much bravery it had taken to leave my comfortable life, to go travelling alone, to be willing to lose everything in order to find something different. Any journey that's worth it has bumps along the way. For the rest of the week, I wore those bruises like I earned them - because I did.


When my imposter syndrome kicks in, I sometimes remember that moment in Edinburgh, all those years ago. Few of my perceived failings are half as awkward as being locked in a public space, without my phone, handbag, or any clothes. And few fleeting moments of embarrassment overshadow the incredible things I've done in the moments I've mustered the bravery to believe in myself. Celebrating our bravery and successes and laughing at our wobbles, helps minimise the unhelpful inner critic. Try it!


(As always, I'd love to hear from you. Get in touch via: email, LinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram.)

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