Ever rolled over in blissful sleep and come nose-to-nose with a complete stranger?
I hadn’t (honest!), until I moved to Queenstown.
Arriving in a fun hostel with kind staff and free soup, I joined a group of optimistic young people who were all essentially homeless.
Turns out, having a house, a room, or even just a bed, was gold dust around here, especially if you:
- Don’t know anyone
- Don’t have a job yet
- Aren’t a non-smoking, T-Total vegan hermit with an OCD in cleanliness
Like the hundreds who’d arrived in the past few months, I’d sent dozens of replies to adverts from the Facebook pages, Lakes Weekly Bulletin, Backpacker Board… sitting on my bed, sleep deprived and dejected, I’d jump every time my phone buzzed.
When I finally did get a viewing, along with six other women, it was seriously awkward. Everyone wanted the room, everyone wanted to stand out, but there was no way to do so. One woman was so competitive, she pushed ahead, exhausted the house owner with inane questions and glared if anyone else spoke.
In hindsight, I can’t blame her for the bullish attitude. Maybe her backstory was like many I’d met – shunted from hostel to hostel or crashing on sofas, with the dream of living in Queenstown fast becoming a nightmare.
It seems, like many popular towns, that people are having to compromise more and become thriftier to stay. Take my friend, for example, who is camping out in someone’s garage. He calls it his ‘man cave’, and has strung up a sheet between his bed and the communal washing machine for privacy. “How many others can have a floor to ceiling view of Lake Wakatipu, with the push of a button?” He laughs, opening the garage door.
“Aren’t you cold?” I ask, staring at the cement block walls.
“When the laundry is on, it’s super warm. Of course, it gets humid too, and then you have to watch for red tailed spiders.”
So followed an evening of googling New Zealand’s most poisonous spiders. Wish I could erase those images from my memory.
So I ask you again, would you share a bed with a stranger?
I am. I’m officially ‘hot bedding’ – a term I hadn’t even heard of before I came to Queenstown. My kind, quiet roommate works 12-hour night shifts and returns at 8am. I get up around half an hour later, so there’s an odd 30 minutes of the day where I could roll over and come face to face with a stranger.
Sure, it was bizaare to share such an intimate space with someone you didn’t know at first. But we’re humans. We’re adaptable beings. And when I rung my friend who’s volunteering in Nicaragua at the moment, she told me (as kindly as she could) to stop being a pansy and just enjoy the mattress (she was sleeping on a mat in a mud hut at the time).
The girl has a point.
I know of those who’ve left for Arrowtown, Wanaka, or even left the South Island completely, sadly due to the lack of space here in Queenstown. I’m so grateful to get a bed, even if it’s half of one, that sharing doesn’t matter at all, as long as I’m sleeping somewhere safe.