100 Coffees

Coffee #8: David Shiel

David Shiel, one of my coworkers at Hostel Roots, shares some of his life experiences in this conversation.

Over the summer, I became an employee at Hostel Roots in Tilburg, a city I had never heard of prior to working there. The first memory that I have of David is going to Albert Heijn XL (Dutch supermarket chain) together and the interesting conversations we had about his background growing up in rural Ireland. He was the first person to welcome me to the hostel and to the city, and since then, we’ve shared many good memories together with the other hostel staff—from exploring the city to preparing staff dinners to entertaining guests. 

From these experiences, we found out many surprising facts about him—he was ranked nationally in Ireland for trivia and he gives the best bear hugs! David, despite growing up with many difficult circumstances, continues to be resilient. He is mature for his age and has a heart of gold.

An hour before he left back home for Ireland, we had this conversation about his travels, his strong relationship with his family (especially with his mother), and some formative experiences in his life.

– Caroline


AB7A70C8-2EA1-42E1-81B4-8879EDEBCBE6Occupation: Student at IT Sligo in Ireland

Hometown: Swinford, County Mayo, Ireland

Favorite Coffee or Tea: Earl Grey tea with one sugar and milk

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Photo Source

What brought you to Tilburg?

For my college degree, I need to do a work placement and I chose to do it here. I was lucky enough to get accepted here, and here I am today!

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Good times at the hostel

What got you interested first in hospitality?

I wanted to get into the aviation business with airlines and things like that and I thought this way would be a good way to start off. My uncle was in the royal air force and he was a commercial air pilot himself, and I just got the bug from him, you can say.

Since you’ve traveled around to many places, what is your favorite place that you’ve been?

Oh, that’s a tough one. I’d have to say Norway. The nature’s just amazing. I went to Oslo and went around the Fjords and Bergen.

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The Fjords (Photo Source)

What is one thing you think we have to see in Norway?

Oslo city is something you really should see. When people go to Norway, they don’t really see Oslo—they just go straight into the fjords and things like that. There’s a lot of museums and a nice character and feel to the city.

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Bergen, Norway (Photo Source)

The one food you can’t live without?

Being Irish, potatoes. Especially mashed potatoes with ground beef.

What is one activity that you did a lot as a child?

I used to ride horses a lot when I was a kid. I started riding horses when I was eight. Hopefully when I have my own home, I’d hope to buy my own stable with a few horses.

Do you remember your first experience riding a horse?

Scary as f–. I kept thinking, “I’m going to fall off,” “I’m going to fall off.” But after a couple of gos, it gets much much easier real quick.

How do you deal with challenges generally?

I deal with challenges by looking at the end result of it. Say you’re stuck with a situation or something like that, just think of how good you’ll feel once the situation is past and try to work until that.

Can you tell me about one experience that impacted you?

The death of my father would be one—the manner in which he died as well. A lot of people hear about stories about suicide in the news and you never think it will happen to one of your own family. He worked hard—very, very hard. Just the stress from the two jobs he was working took their toll on him, and he just had enough. That’s the way life is and you just have to move on from that. And when it does, you think to yourself, “as bad as that’s going to get, there is options available to help. Seeing the way my mother reacted to the whole thing—I realized that no matter how bad things get, I can get help. There are other options out there. You don’t have to take that route.

How did you react when he died?

Just a massive shock. I didn’t even cry at his funeral because it took a really long time to sink in what had happened. It’s been five years now, and it’s also made our family much closer.

What is one big lesson that you have learned in life?

That your family is always there as a backup—you’re never alone. If things go wrong, you have family to back you up.

Can you describe your relationship to your family?

We spend so much time together, especially myself and my mother. It’s just the two of us living together now. My sister has moved out, so has my brother because he has a girlfriend and a child—they live together now. Because it’s just the two of us (my mother and I), we do everything together.

I took her to New York for St. Patrick’s Day as a Christmas present. We went to New York, Norway, and a few other places. She’s dealt with an awful lot in her life and seeing that makes me feel almost as bad. Because my father was away a lot as well, and she did more than her fair share to fill his position as well. You can kind of say that I had three parents: my mother was a mum and a dad, and my dad as well.

What is one misconception that people have about you?

People think I look a lot older. I’m only 20 years old, but people had said I looked about 25, 26. One person went as far as to say that I was 30. Now, he was drunk a little, so maybe that affected his judgment.

Do you think that’s good or bad?

I think it’s good and bad depending on who you talk to, since in that case, it sounds like I’m probably more mature as a more mature 20 year old than most 20 year olds. It’s made me more mature. If people are thinking that I’m in my late 20s, maybe I should take that into account. Most 20-year-olds my age would be interested in going out and partying, which I’m not into.

What is something unique about you that most people don’t know?

My secret talent is that I love geography and I know every flag in the world.

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Photo Source

Who is someone you admire and why?

I’d have to say my mum because she’s dealt with so many things and she’s shown great guts and resolve throughout the whole thing. She had breast cancer twice within three years, she lost both of her parents within five months of each other, and then she was in London involved in a car crash four months after my dad died and then my dad’s suicide. She’s dealt with a lot in the last 10 years and I think she’s now past all that and she’s now having the best time of her life because she’s found new hobbies that she’s never tried before.

What are some of those hobbies?

She loves to go out dancing, like jive and quickstep. She’s a very very good dancer—she will dance you off the floor. Once the show starts, she won’t get off the dance floor until it’s over.

What is one principle that you live by?

To be honest. If you try and lie about it, you’ll dig yourself into a bigger hole that’s going to be harder to get out of. So when you just admit it straight away, there will be less damage. I’ve tried to fib about things before and I’ve always been found out. Just get it out, get it over with quickly.

Can you tell us about an experience that cemented this lesson for you?

I thought I had my passport in my bag and I told my mother that I packed everything, so we were nearly halfway to the airport and I realized that I didn’t have it in my bag, and we had to drive an hour back to get it, and we only just made the flight. So I said, “maybe I shouldn’t have said I packed it when I didn’t. Maybe I should have rechecked.”

List 3 words to describe yourself.

Chatty—very chatty—and ”listenitive?” I’ll always listen if someone has a problem. I’ll do my most to listen to them. And I always look out for my friends and family, so caring.

List 3 words that you wish other people would describe you as.

I think funny enough the same 3 as I’ve said in the last question. Because I think If there’s people that are those things, they can be more trustworthy.

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