The Rocky Road to Queenstown – where have I been??

What seems to happen with me is that when I have my shit together, I am an absolute superstar when it comes to keeping in touch, posting on Facebook and Instagram, blogging and generally letting the world know that I’m still alive and loving life.  However, when I hit a road block, or ten, it’s full swing into hermit mode whilst I frantically try and scrap together some sort of semi-respectable lifestyle that I can present to friends and family without feeling the ‘yes-I’m-31-years-old-and-probably-should-at-least-have-a-mortgage-by-now’ shame.

Before I left Stewart Island, I didn’t have too much of a plan as where I would end up.  I had organised  a two week road trip with some friends who were coming over to visit, but after that, I thought that I would embrace traveller spirit and just see where I ended up.  I had a few job interviews lined up in various locations, some half baked ideas of WWOOFING (volunteering on a farm in exchange for food and accommodation), but nothing  final.

However, since my arrival in New Zealand, I had been pretty certain on one thing.

I was not going to end up in Queenstown. 

Don’t get me wrong, Queenstown is a bloody fantastic place, which is actually kind of the problem.  I shall explain…

  • Queenstown is known for its high cost of living and low wages.  Having spent two years in London dealing with the same formula, I did not anticipate that applying it 42 degrees south would be any kinder to my bank balance
  • I love New Zealand for it being New Zealand – the culture, the people, the sparse and remote population, the nature.  Queenstown, I feel, struggles to offer these qualities and I do genuinely think that if you’ve come to New Zealand and spent all your time in Queenstown, you’ve not really experienced New Zealand
  • I had read many horror stories about the housing situation in Queenstown.  Tales of poor souls spending $250 a week to share a room with three other people, others ‘hot bedding’ as one person worked days and the other nights, horrendous landlords happy to squeeze every last penny from their over worked, underpaid tenants for cold, damp, poorly maintained dwellings.  That’s before I even get into the fact that each room advertised for rent probably has on average 50+ enquirers within 2 hours of posting.
  • Returning to my original point, Queenstown is like a mini Vegas.  It’s where New Zealanders and visitors alike come to play and party.  It’s the home of adventure sports, a glitzy and glamorous nightlife and an irresistible and vibrant party vibe.    Queenstown is basically the ultimate smouldering temptress; luring her guests into a life of debauchery, bad decisions, empty bank accounts and some of the best nights on the town they’ll ever have.

And yet there I was on the 16th May, driving from Christchurch to Queenstown, with no destination in mind afterwards.  I had passed through Queenstown a couple of times in the previous weeks and even then I had a nagging feeling that this was where I would end up.   I’m not sure if was the post Stewart Island high of experiencing bustling civilisation once again, the fact that I already had some good mates in town, the dramatic mountain scenery reminiscent of Scotland and Canada, the promise of a July winter on the slopes or just the general irresistible pull of the town –  but I knew that for better or worse, this was where I would be calling home for the next wee while.

I did have what I thought was a fairly lucrative job interview lined up when I arrived, however  once I realised that it wasn’t going to work out, I had no compulsion to leave.  It was time to begin the process of finding a house and job again.  I had performed this routine many times before – Vancouver, London and then when I first arrived in New Zealand.  I’m historically pretty  fortunate when it comes to getting set up somewhere new, and I saw no reason as to why Queenstown would be any different – despite the horror stories I heard everywhere I went.

Well spoiler alert – but it was tough.

I’ll spare the details for another post, but it turns out that it really is a bit of a Queenstown rite of passage to get through the ‘newbie blues’.  Everyone has their story of when they first arrived of sleeping in hostels, floors, squished  rooms with x number of other people for four, five, six and often more weeks before they found a place to stay.  I actually was pretty fortunate in that my very kind friends let me crash with them on their sofa for a month.  The job situation, although scary when frantically trying to find somewhere to live and not knowing when or how the next load of cash is coming in, is actually okay.  I found a pretty decent job within two weeks.

Considering that in comparison to others I had it good, I still had a few wobbles.  At one point, I was considering moving the entire operation to Auckland, or even packing the whole thing in and heading home.  It’s difficult to see how things are going to come together whilst you are in frantic, panic mode, but they always do in the end.  I guess my issue was a bit of self-doubt around my decision in coming out to New Zealand and doing the backpacker thing at 31.  When you are sleeping on a sofa, living out of a bag, applying for minimum wage customer service jobs, it’s difficult not to hear the voices of those who, with good intention, suggested that a better idea at my age might be to settle down and do sensible things like have babies and go to Zumba classes.

And that, ladies and gents, is why we travel and inadvertently put ourselves in these situations – to surprise ourselves as what we are actually capable of.  I’m now pretty much sorted in Queenstown – good job (not minimum wage or customer service!) and I really did luck out with my new room, house and housemates.  I feel pretty chuffed that I did stick it out – and I’m told that the payoff is more than worth it.  I’m now genuinely very excited to see what kind of exciting life unfolds for me here…debauchery and all!  So I’m back on track and unfortunately for you, the social media hiatus is over. 😉



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