Love backpackers

I love that it puts a random mix of people in a room together—people that have taken their own path, endured their own challenges and are searching for something completely different to you; but somehow you find yourself in the same spot in the same dorm at the same time. I embrace these moments of other people’s company that you may never have interacted with otherwise.

Dad introduced me to this way of traveling. Cheap living, surrounded by only the basics, but the essentials and communal kitchens… yet another story.

I found myself at the Queenstown Base back packers the other week and it opened my eyes. It was a last minute desperate booking after mucking up a previous booking. I was in a room with 11 guys all around my age 20-24 years old.

I quickly remembered that I don’t lead the life of a normal 20-year old. As I looked around the kitchen that night I saw people eating Nutella on wonder white bread, box noodles or cereal for the 4th time that day; there I was chopping up some cabbage, beetroot, salad with tahini and spices… ok, so I am picky with my eating and love to cook in a way most adults will never understand. That night I went to bed at 9.00 P.M. (yes, I know), reading my book when the guys came in, got dressed, and said they’d be back at 3-4 A.M. and up at 7:00 for work the next day… WHAT?! Talk about endurance of another kind.

When I saw some of them the next day we talked about what bought them to Queenstown. For some it was escaping home in Europe and exploring the unknown Southern hemisphere, some it was for work, some it was to trek and some it was meant to be a short trip that has landed them bunny hopping backpackers as they seek work to apply for a visa to continue their stay. When asked what I was doing in Queenstown? It seems silly but I wasn’t overly looking to be known as “that crazy runner” so I simply replied I was here to see the mountains and explore…

The next day I was checking out at 10 A.M.. At 7 A.M. I walked out of the reception with flask in hand and dressed to run. The guy at the reception asked where I was running “up Ben Lomond (a 18 km 1500 m run up the local peak), I’ll be back for checkout”, the reply “mate, that’s an 8 hour hike, you’ll be charged for late checkout” … At 9:30 A.M. I walked back in, smiling, sweaty and slightly proud of a new PB on the mountain… I handed in my key and pillow case with a smile.

A few days later (after the Shotover Moonlight Marathon) I had 12 new messages to my Facebook athlete page. All 11 guys from the room I was in, plus the receptionist had found me on Facebook, asking how my race went and apologising for not understanding the early nights and finally remarking that they didn’t realise that “seeing the mountains” meant fast by foot. They then offered to show me Queenstown’s night life now that I was done (little did they know it wasn’t quite the end). This meant the world to me… people from two totally different walks of life, “living” in two completely different ways but now connected from those 2 nights in Queenstown backpackers.

I encourage anyone to take a chance and stay in these places, talk to people, find out about their stories and share your journey (perhaps leave out the distances). I left the backpackers with a realisation of the unique journey I am on and how different life could be. I wouldn’t change a thing, even if it meant barely sleeping and helping one of the roommates who stumbled into the room with a torn ACL at 2 A.M. (but that’s another story)…

Be open. Embrace the journey. Learn and share.

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