New Zealand: Home Away From Home


aussie,bali,nz 587When I got on the bus in the morning, I had a backpack, an empty guitar case, and no idea where I would get off. Franz Joseph Glacier was an endless expanse of turquoise blue. The morning sun’s rays glinted off the ice like porcelain waves. The silver crampons strapped to my feet left pinpricks in the snow, small pockets that invited erosion. I slipped through caves and over massive crevasses, staring at my toes more than the surroundings.

When I returned to the hostel, I boiled my last serving of rice in the communal kitchen. I used the free wifi to book a seat on Nakedbus to leave in the morning, and drifted back to my bunk bed with intentions of a peaceful sleep.

I was greeted with a stunning mess. My backpack was torn open; clothes strewn about the room. I clutched my laptop to my chest, the rush of electricity buzzing against my rapidly beating heart.
I picked through the scattered ruins of my possessions that littered the floor. I had locked up my valuable items, all except for my second-hand guitar that wouldn’t fit in my locker—and was, predictably, absent. I repacked my bags slowly, questioning my roommates as they wandered into the room. I talked to the hostel receptionist, who offered sympathy, tea, and a gentle shrug. I curled up under my cotton sheets and accepted my fate, adamant to get as far away from Franz Joseph as possible.

Physical locations do not determine one’s impression of a place nearly as much as people and experiences do. Despite my horrible luck at the hostel, I had engaged with others on my tour and created a few quick friendships. My comrades met me at the bus stop to say goodbye. “This is the first Easter I’ll spend away from home,” I admitted to the group that gathered around me. “So far, it’s not going so well.” Unable to replace my missing guitar but determined to raise my spirits, the girls managed to sneak a massive chocolate bunny into my backpack. I love travellers.

I fell into Nelson as the darkness descended, cloaking the mysteriously vacant Town Center in night. I followed fellow backpackers to their previously reserved hostels, all of which were full. I stifled the panic that stirred in my stomach and forged into the motel district. The evening was unfolding rapidly. Eerie creatures eyed me from the shadows. I calmed my imagination with rational reasoning as ‘NO VACANY’ signs screamed in my face. It was Easter weekend and there was a rugby game in town. I was 18 years old, on the other side of the world, and without food, water, or shelter. I hiked back to one of the more welcoming family hostels, debating between begging for a spot of floor to sleep on or wandering around the dimly lit corners of the city for the evening. The compassionate hostel owner spent four hours on the phone receiving rejection after rejection. I held my head in my hands, her whimsical accent dancing over my depressed form. Just when I had given up hope, she turned to me with a smile. “There’s an old pub in the industrial section, on the outskirts of town. They’ve got a few bunk beds, and they’ll take you in.” Relief flooded my bloodstream, and for the first time that evening, I let my tears flow freely.

When I arrived at the pub, I carefully locked my belongings beneath my bed and slipped downstairs. The bartender greeted me kindly. “I can pour you a pint, but the kitchen’s closed.” I covered my growling stomach and smiled faintly, retreating to the common room to write. A man with unwashed hair and bare feet immediately recognized my stooped demeanor. His glossy eyes bore reflection and understanding. He nibbled on a modest plate of beans, apples, and rice. With a sad smile, he offered me his fork. I truly love travellers. I was overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers in lieu of my naive stupidity. Time and time again, travellers have provided for me, shared with me, and supported me. This experience was no exception.

I fell into my bunk bed that night, warm beneath wool sheets and belly full of nutrition, listening to rowdy rugby fans celebrate in the pub below. Families across the city snuggled together in twilight while I nestled within my own type of travelling family, full of awe and gratitude towards the wonderful world I am blessed to explore.

About the Author: Alison Karlene Hodgins is an award-winning travel writer, newspaper columnist, and writing & publishing student currently residing in Kelowna, BC, Canada. When she’s not boarding international airplanes or feverishly hunting for the best hostel, Alison can be found braiding hemp bracelets, editing her debut travel novel, and drinking copious amounts of tea. Follow Alison on Twitter @AlisonKarlene, on Facebook at Alison’s Adventures, and on her travel blog.

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