Four girls, three nights, two bodyguards and a London hostel without door locks.

If it sounds dangerous, it was. If it sounds frightening, it was. If it sounds like the blueprint of a rather eventful weekend abroad, it most certainly is.

College students do not have money, but they want to visit exciting places and be independent. As a college student, most of my travel decisions were made by which restaurants had the lowest prices or which hostels had the fewest number of drunk people loitering around them late at night. With these standards in mind, it is no surprise that myself and the three other girls whom I was traveling with ended up at a pretty questionable hostel on Jerrmyn Street.

After three glorious weeks of studying in the warm and homey city of Cambridge, England, we began our journey to London, where we would be staying for the weekend before returning to California. In theory, a weekend in London with close friends seems like a dream come true. In reality however, four college students at the tail end of an abroad journey will always be exhausted and broke.

As we made our way to our hostel, we saw many peculiar places and even more peculiar people. “We aren’t in Cambridge anymore” we told ourselves. We walked for several minutes down a single street before realizing that we were on the wrong path. Retracing our steps, we found the sign for our hostel, but not until we discovered that it was in fact connected to Abracadabra, a Russian restaurant in the basement of our hostel. After making this discovery, we knew that we were marking the beginning of an relatively high-risk weekend.

This hostel – which shall remain unnamed – is an all-girls hostel run by Russian men. Confusing, no? The only female workers we ever saw there were the receptionists and after check-in, we never saw them again. There were no lockers to put valuables in during the day and, as mentioned previously, none of the room doors had locks on them. There were two bodyguards who would come out at night and guard the doors that led to the street, but other than that, everything was fair game. The only way of “ensuring” that your more cherished belongings remained safe was stowing them behind a curtain near the reception desk. This hardly seemed promising.

After settling in as best we could, we decided to go out and spend the night on the town. We explored a park nearby and found an amazing pastry shop that reminded us that there are in fact good things in life, even if our hostel was not one of them. We delayed our return to the hostel as long as we could, but by about eleven o’clock, the gig was up. Knowing that our night of low-budget adventuring had come to an end, we slowly began our trudge back down Jerrmyn Street.

Arriving back at the hostel, we concluded that although it was too late to be wandering around the streets of London, we were not quite tired enough to call it a night. We remembered the receptionist speaking of a restaurant that all women in the hostel had free access to, so we foolishly decided to visit it. Before we knew it, the short middle-aged man at the front desk was taking us down a long staircase, leading to a single red door. This was the uh-oh moment. He opened the door and the three of us were speechless. Throughout the club, there were several curtained quadrants, each housing a red lounge couch adjacent to a personal dance floor. It was cold. It was dark. And worst of all, it was empty.

Being the only people in the room besides our kind escort, our minds were moving a mile a minute. A million scenarios began rushing through our minds, and after a few short seconds, we told the man who brought us down that we would be leaving. Although he encouraged us to stay longer, we insisted on exiting and were able to vacate the premises without any of our initial fears being realized. From this point forward, we were just counting down the hours before our landing in LAX. We were ready to go home.

My uneasiness regarding our living arrangements persisted throughout the entire weekend. It was not until I collapsed into the rock hard, box-shaped chairs in terminal four of the Heathrow airport that I felt completely safe. I had a nonstop ten-hour flight ahead of me, but the thought of spending ten hours on a plane was infinitely more appealing to me than that of spending another ten minutes checked in at this hostel. I hate flying.

Four girls, three nights, two bodyguards and a London hostel without door locks.

If it sounds dangerous, it was. If it sounds frightening, it was. If it sounds like a long series of close calls culminating into a cautionary tale that I will speak of for years to come, it most certainly is.