Huffing and puffing I stalled to lean against a nearby wall to catch my breath and give my back a break. I had set out to go from one side of Amsterdam to the other as I was changing hostels halfway through my trip. If you know Amsterdam, it isn’t a big city at all, so it wasn’t bizarre for me to decide that walking across the city was doable, because I knew it was. The issue was, my backpack weighed half my body weight. When I stood up straight I toppled over backwards, and the only way to get any sort of relief was to pause strategically against a wall or a bench in a position that allowed me to alleviate the pressure on my shoulders and back.
Lets just say, I clearly hadn’t mastered the art of packing light yet. I was only in Amsterdam for 10 days and I think I had enough in my pack to cloth the entire city. On top of that, my backpack was clearly way to big for my body. Despite the fact I paid almost $300 Canadian for it and thought I had been properly fitted, clearly the salesperson missed the fact that I’m tall, skinny, and can’t carry something that large on my back.
As I walked down the cobblestone streets lined with tall narrow dutch homes, and canals that housed some of the most luxurious houseboats I’ve ever set my eyes on, I thought to myself, “Why didn’t I just take a taxi?” I thought I knew where I was going, I mean with the canals it makes it pretty hard to get lost in Amsterdam, but I was lost, I had too many layers on, and my bag was killing me. When I was on the verge of just breaking down to cry on a bench, I finally pulled myself together and marched to what I hoped was the direction of my new hostel. Finally it appeared, and was absolutely worth getting lost for as it was a gorgeous Dutch style home, converted into a hostel, that overlooked the canals. My room had giant windows that allowed me to sit on the windowsill and soak in Amsterdam and Dutch life. I could’ve lived in that tiny room for the rest of my life and been content.
After what seemed like a long trek across the city, I was in desperate need of a shower, but I figured I might as well continue my day exploring and shower later that evening. So I did just that, I had a jam packed day wondering around Amsterdam, and when I returned to the hostel later that evening I was in desperate need of a shower. I grabbed my towel, and my shower supplies and headed to the communal showers that were one floor down from my room. I’m pretty sure everyone at some point has experienced that moment when traveling where they’re actually frightened to open the bathroom door to see what lies behind it. You really never know what you’ll find, especially when you’re sharing a bathroom with other guests. To my surprise, the shower was clean, and normal. It was located in a private room that had zero windows and could’ve passed as a closet.
I closed the door behind me and reached for the light switch, which in most places usually appears beside the door frame, but in my case, there wasn’t one there. I opened the door and looked around outside the shower door, sometimes light switches are outside a room, especially in old buildings, but nope, I found nothing. The shower room was pitch black due to the lack of windows when the door was shut. How was I supposed to find this light switch? It then dawned on me that I had packed a flashlight. Something I’ve always thrown in my backpack for years because for some reason it always comes in handy! I reentered the bathroom feeling ridiculous as I shined the light around to see if I could spot a hidden light switch. I looked around the entire room, felt each wall, the floor, looked in the actual shower, and found nothing. What the heck was I going to do?
At this point you’re probably wondering why I didn’t just ask the front desk staff. Well the front desk was now closed for the night, and on top of that I kinda felt like an idiot that I couldn’t find the switch! Time to problem solve. I managed to prop my flashlight up somewhere that I could see what I was doing in the shower, and quickly got myself clean. When I got back up to my room I googled frantically to see if the Dutch had weird light switches, or if anyone wrote on TripAdvisor that they had the same issue finding the light switch.. I found nothing.
My next shower adventure I came down fully prepared to have to make a fool of myself and ask the staff, or use my flashlight, but to my surprise, someone left the light on! I basked in my glory as I showered in the light, and while I had full light, I also took this as a chance to search harder for the hidden light switch, only to find, yet again, nothing! At this point I didn’t care, I headed to bed and hoped someone would leave the light on the next time I needed to shower.
Two days later I find myself in the same situation as day one, except this time I had now been at the hostel for almost 5 days and to ask the staff now where the light switch was, they would probably think I was some dirty scum that hadn’t showered for almost a week (not to say I haven’t done that before). I decided to suck it up and shower one last time in the dark.
It’s been two years since my exotic shower experience in Amsterdam and I still have no idea where the light switch is in that shower, and to be honest, the mystery will probably remain unsolved for the rest of my life. The funny part is, I told this story to my best friend when I returned, and she told me that she had the exact same thing happen to her when she was in Amsterdam, and no, we didn’t stay at the same hostel!
Have you had a weird shower experience in a different country? Share it with me in the comments!
Jolanta aka Casual TravelerMay 3, 2015 at 8:56 pm
LOL, that’s priceless! What a great story and well written too! I have never had to shower in the dark, if I remember correctly, though I did bathe once in a stream very long time ago, while on a camping trip. I hope one of your other readers will explain the mystery of light switches in Amsterdam hotels!
Holly @BravecheeseheadMay 3, 2015 at 10:36 pm
Hahaha Lauren this is so funny! I can’t believe you showered in the dark… more than once!
Meg JerrardMay 3, 2015 at 11:48 pm
Lol well at least you have a good story out of it! I have many cold shower travel stories, but nonw which have gone on in the dark! Crazy that the same thing happened to your friend as well – must be an Amsterdam thing!!
eo.storiesMay 4, 2015 at 12:38 am
Haha I can totally imagine myself in a ridiculous situation like this! But at least funny stories to tell come out of it 😀
RuidaMay 4, 2015 at 6:50 pm
Former Dutch resident here. I think the light switch you were looking for is either a string you need to pull in the room, or a switch on a wall outside of the bathroom that you need to turn before you enter. LOL. I used to shower in the dark very often when I was living in Uganda, because the power was out every week. 😛
LaurenMay 4, 2015 at 9:41 pm
I tried looking outside the door to and nothing! Also, when I pulled the string in the room, nothing happened either. Haha
Tanj from A TravelogueMay 5, 2015 at 8:35 pm
Yes, Japan! Japan was weird because the bathroom is just really tiny. If you are tall, you probably want to shower sitting down! Lol!
LaurenMay 5, 2015 at 10:12 pm
That’s good to know! I’ll keep that in mind for whenever I go to Japan 🙂
Jeh-CMay 5, 2015 at 9:32 pm
This is the most hilarious thing I’ve read all day!
LaurenMay 5, 2015 at 10:11 pm
Bahaha. I’m glad you liked it 😛
Pola (Jetting Around)May 6, 2015 at 7:21 am
It’s those ‘hardships on the road’ that later make the best memories and travel stories. 🙂
JessicaMay 11, 2015 at 12:50 pm
Great story to tell! Nothing too crazy regarding showering on my travels… yet! haha