Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A Few Traveling Stressors

When we arrived at the airport in Auckland, we had to be there in time for my family’s international flight back to the states. This meant I was hours early for a domestic flight and, if you remember my security check from my flight down to Christchurch you will know how unnecessary that is. I checked in right away and noticed an earlier flight to Nelson; there happened to be space on it, so I changed my flight so that I would arrive in Nelson almost before I was meant to leave Auckland!

When I got the flight squared away and checked my baggage, naturally, I went to the gate to wait for my flight. It was somewhere around that time that I realized how unprepared I was to continue my journey. I had not arranged a place for me to stay that night, nor had I even scheduled a ride from the airport. I didn’t even know what was next – Working in Nelson? WWOOFing? Getting back on the Flying Kiwi tour? The only thing certain was that I would, indeed, get back on the Flying Kiwi tour, but that I would have to book that ahead of time and it most certainly wouldn’t be a last minute arrangement during peak season!

I hurriedly called a few backpackers (hostels) in Nelson, including some that I had been to before and remembered me well, but there was no space for that night! In the middle of dialing yet another number, I realized my flight had been called so I had to board the plane. I tried my best to put it out of my mind until I landed, but of course I spent the next hour on the plane thinking about where I was not going to stay that night (and how I would find a place that would take me, or what I would do If I couldn’t). My friendly Nelson couchsurfer friends would probably have been willing to help, but they were on holiday in Australia. I didn’t have a tent I could put up anywhere, and I began to wonder if I would end up like the girl I saw up at the Centre of NZ one night – sitting on a bench with a sleeping bag and a bottle of wine.

Sunset at the Centre of NZ

Our plane landed and I collected my backpack from the luggage trolley (no conveyer belt, just the trolley that they load it onto when it comes off the plane). I looked around to figure out what was next – was there a bus to town? Would I have to splurge on a taxi? Perhaps I could make friends with someone heading that direction. But, where would I want them to take me? I had no place to stay. No plan. I had never waited this long to figure out where I would sleep that night! There was still plenty of daylight, but it was late enough in the evening that most people had booked their room (or bed), even if they weren’t yet in it. I spotted a girl that was across from me in the plane and seemed pretty friendly. She was getting into a taxi, so I ran up to see if she was headed downtown and if I could split the cab. She was, so I piled my belongings into the van while another guy approached and asked the same. Taxi split three ways? I could handle that.

Once settled, I proceed to call backpackers that I hadn’t yet tried. No go. They were all booked. I think I did find one with a super expensive double room available, but I didn’t exactly want to splurge on that! We arrived downtown and dropped off the first girl. I said I would get out wherever, since I hadn’t found a place to stay. The guy was going to a place down the street that I had not called, so I gave them a ring. They happened to have one bed left in a dorm room and it was mine! I don’t know why I hadn’t thought to call them before, The Palace is one of the bigger backpackers in town, and I thought I would know a few girls staying there. Talk about a sigh of relief! I checked in and plopped my bags down, then headed toward the kitchen to have a look around. As I approached the kitchen I heard a familiar voice and, wouldn’t you know, it was one of my German girls I knew from one of the first backpackers I stayed at in Nelson! Carlina said she was happy to see me because her other friends had left the day before and she was still in town until she could find a car to buy. And I, of course, was happy to see a familiar face after the stress of finding a place to stay!

I wound up staying at The Palace for the better part of a week, trying to seclude myself and focus on planning. Planning, however, is not an active endeavor and is quite easy to get distracted from! There were others in the hostel that invited me to go check out the live jazz that was playing in town all week, or go exploring on a day trip somewhere. I wanted to get out and go to the climbing gym at least one night, so I spent some time quite distracted from the task at hand.

Palace porch, aka, my office

I did spend quite a bit of time on the porch, picking up the McDonald’s Wi-Fi from across the street (at least they’re good for something). I looked for jobs in and around Nelson that might appeal to me, and expanded throughout the country to see if anything really drew me in. I focused first on jobs that were somewhat related to Recreation Therapy, just to see what was out there. I found a tour agency that provides NZ adventure tours for people with disabilities, but after contacting them, found it’s a small family company and they didn’t have any need for me at the time. I was stumped. I didn’t really want to stay in Nelson for the sake of any random job I might find, as I had spent quite a bit of time there already. I thought if I found something I’d really like to do, I would follow that. I looked for fruit-picking positions in Blenheim, for WWOOFing places around the top of the South Island, but nothing that interested me was actually available.

I went from day to day, not knowing if I might suddenly find something and want to move on. So, each morning I would wake up early enough to pack up all of my belongings and check out by 10am. Before I did that I would go down to reception to see if there was room for me to spend another night. Sometimes I would decide the evening before so they could pencil me in, but I didn’t want to commit to anything too far in advance. I was lucky enough to stay in the same room as Carlina, and didn’t have to change dorm rooms while I was there. One morning, however, I went down to check on the availability and though they did have room for me to stay in a dorm, I would still have to pack up all my things and move to another room. Somehow I decided that, if I was going to pack up anyhow, I might as well find a different backpackers to try out. Several people had warned me of the possibility of getting “stuck” at The Palace, as the atmosphere is so laid back it tends to draw you into it. So, once again I called around to a few of the backpackers I hadn’t stayed in, and found a dorm bed available just down the street! I moved that morning, and spent a lovely afternoon in Trafalger Park (underneath Nelson’s cathedral) job searching by using my new backpackers’ Wi-Fi. The new hostel place was more like a hotel than a backpackers. Professional; not homey. It was not my favorite place, but it was a bed.

Now, I have a confession to make. Sometimes I don't like other people. I don't like their unnecessary rummaging through bags, their weird smells, their perfumes and deodorants, their door and window preferences, their nighttime noises, their manners, their movement, their voices, or their attitude. All of these things, however, you must deal with when staying in a dorm environment.

That first night I spent tossing and turning because the guy in the bunk beneath me was coughing. All. Night. Long. Not just a superficial cough, but one that shook the whole bed. Then he would get up and cough in the hallway when he couldn’t stop. I finally slept a few winks but was awaken by my bunkmate and his friend who were packing up to leave the country and not talking in appropriate voices considering there were 4 other people sleeping in the small area around them.

A few sleepless nights in backpackers, combined with having things stolen from me twice (at two different backpackers), caused me to grow quite wary of that type of environment. Theft is apparently inevitable as a traveler, but it still provokes a certain sense of vulnerability. I had some food stolen while I was away for the day at one place, and my favorite pair of climbing capris stolen while I was out for a brief grocery shopping run at another place. In a way it made me think about how lucky I’ve been that I am traveling in a “safe” country and that is all that has happened so far, but in another way it made me absolutely furious!

It is one thing to feel vulnerable when you fail to plan things enough in advance for yourself, but an entirely different feeling when your personal space is invaded. A traveler’s backpack is everything, and to know that someone else helped themselves to your belongings feels like a personal offense. I am more than grateful that this is the worst I have had to worry about thus far, but it did encourage me to be a little more cautious and aware of the different circumstances I encounter!


  1. I have something to learn from you - don't be afraid to ask (about opportunities, for help, etc.) and put yourself out there. Be honest with yourself and your circumstances. Thanks.

  2. Emmy, I love how well you summarize life sometimes! These things are so important and I am still learning them myself! :)


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