Queenstown – the homeless experience

Grateful for:

  1. The natural beauty of Queenstown – it is AMAZING!!! The place itself looks like Boulder in Colorado and feels like Vang Vien in Laos – backpacker central. It is quite amazing how many of them are here I can’t stop wondering to myself, who allowed that many young people travel on their own?!
  2. Walking from the airport to town – who needs a shuttle bus when you can be greeted by a 1.5 hour trek along the shoes of a beautiful lake surrounded by mountains fresh off the airplane. Special thanks goes to the airport locker facilities for make it possible.
  3. Going ahead with my homeless experiment and deciding to sleep on the street at night. To experience their way of life and to regain a deep appreciation to the abundance already present in my life. What an experience that turned out to be! Chose a lake jetty as my first “bed” and froze in the wind. Decided to hide from the wind and found a half destroyed boat house. Another hour creeped by in the half asleep half super uncomfortable and cold consciousness. Woke up hoping it was half way through the night but it was only midnight! The cold was only getting worse and I was beginning to shake uncontrollably. The worse it got, the more my determination to persist with it strengthened. I couldn’t believe they have to deal with it every single night and I can’t do even a few hours! But the ready availability of plan B soon got the better of me and I headed back into town to look for accommodation. The first open reception I found had no vacancy and I was told only one other place is open all night. With a sinking feeling I headed over to the other place and sure enough, they were fully booked too. The Universe has definitely decided to give me the full experience and not let me off easily. So the high spirits and determination of early hours were replaced by total resignation as I went wondering around town looking for somewhere “inside” to sleep. At least, I thought, it is starting to feel more and more authentic… Tried sleeping in an alcove of an open wharf building but with stones underneath I just couldn’t find a comfortable position and as I heard someone rumbling with a set of keys opening the door somewhere nearby I fled the scene. Going through arcades, looking for open shopping centers, trying some vacant shop doors – nothing. Finally found a door of what looked like a boutique office building which was unlocked to my ultimate delight. So there, on the concrete steps covered with a bit of thin carpet leading down to the basement I spent the rest of the night. Intermittently stretching my legs or curling in a ball, dosing in and out of sleep. It was a weird experience all together and I have definitely accomplished my goal of gaining renewed appreciation of my life’s riches. But the learning that has stuck with me the most from it is the way of looking at the world: I arrived in Queenstown, arguably one of the prettiest towns on the planet, and all I could look for, see and care about was finding an enclosed place to sleep. My eyes and attention was completely absorbed in looking for niches and alcoves. Just as I was trying to explain to a friend the other day that we all live in the exact same world but we all see it differently based on our beliefs and past history, I got to experience what I was talking about first hand on my own psychology. That was the most valuable experiential lesson I got in a long while. It was also extremely valuable to have had dropped down to the lowest level of maslow’s hierarchy of human needs, those of survival, which most of those born in first world never even get to experience. And to think that there are whole nations, if not continents, still operating from that level… my mind can’t even stretch enough to absorb the enormity of this condition.
  4. Thawing for several hours at Starbucks in the morning absorbing the lessons from the last night and all of this week. It has been crazy… yet I can’t help but also add “as usual”! God, I love my life for the amazing never ending fairy tale that it is!.. I keep being reminded every single day that the visual affirmation I have set in my dream book almost a year ago by posting an Alice in Wonderland poster on the front page – I live in a wonderland full of magic, smiling cats and stoned caterpillars!
  5. Finishing what must undoubtedly be my longest blog post yet while finishing my coffee. And on the topic, somewhere in the past 3 months of NOT writing I managed to hit 300 posts mark. A well deserved pat on the back and here’s to another 300, which should happen before the same time next year.
  6. Booking myself a bed in a backpackers dorm. My first time ever staying in backpackers. And I got to sleep on the top tier of a bunk bed! And as expected, the results of last night’s experiment and undeniable – what might be one of the least attractive accommodation options I have ever taken now seems like heaven on earth.
  7. Backpackers is a bizarre mini Babylon filled with young people. Each group at the communal kitchen was talking a different language – as much as I hate tourist destinations it is a special little joy of mine to be in a place where I can hear several different languages spoken at the same time.
  8. Very interesting to hear everyone talk about their trips and plans of “doing stuff”. For me still the tourist activities are meaningless unless I am sharing them with someone special, but at least I am finding my own flavor of solo travel – do crazy stuff no other person in their right mind would agree to accompany me on.
  9. Finding myself in an interesting diet intersection: meat pies for breakfast as a memory of my March diet and then a trip to the supermarket to buy and eat carrots, spinach, apples and bananas which were my daily fare in solo travels last year. But none of it feels quite right, time to dig deep and excavate my authentic dietary needs and wants of the present moment. Savoring sweet memories of eating a paw paw in Vila airport the previous morning to the curious (and I am sure envious) stares of other passengers in waiting. “What? I’m in Vanuatu after all.”
  10. Buying myself a tea flask. Away with leaking travel mugs and water bottles – I now have a brand new insulated wonder of charcoal gunmetal stainless steel. And the lid cup matches completely in style to my cast iron Japanese tea pot I had to take with me on this trip. Just one of my many heavy totally inappropriate travel “necessities” that I can’t live without. I already stunned one friend by packing 2 small hardware organizers full of tea with me – what can I say, each to their own drug of choice and the accompanying paraphernalia. But the steady supply of hawthorn berry/lavender/chamomile tea from my new flask has definitely raised my wellbeing quotient today.
  11. Looking forward to a 6am sunrise walk back along the beach to the airport tomorrow morning! Good night and see you in Christchurch – the city of ruins. Another first time in my life – visiting a post disaster zone.