Contrary to popular belief, it’s not the bungy jumps, the skydiving, the bar crawls or hiking trails that let you know you’ve reached the mecca of backpacker New Zealand. Rather, it’s the library. In place of students hunched over books and children reading Dr. Seuss, the Queenstown library is filled with sun bleached, denim wearing, beard faced, hair wrapped, wifi seeking travelers. They fill the small public space in every nook and cranny, sitting on floors, leaning against bookshelves and squeezing into tiny red plastic children’s chairs in the reserved “Kiddie Reading Korner”. No one seems to be over the age of twenty six or have had over five hours of sleep. The look is weathered and tired but still eager. They seek vacant hostel beds and plan the next leg of their road trip in a mess of Google map tabs and actual maps with dog eared tags in every corner. German is the most commonly heard hushed whisper over top of the constant rustle of Lonely Planet pages. The power outlets burst forth from the walls with an array of converters and adapters furiously transforming energy to power ipads and ipods and imacs and i want everything charged. A map of New Zealand hangs on the far wall with a box of tacks next to it that can be used to pin places people have visited, turning the map into a kaleidoscope of blue and green memory markers.
The contrasting ideologies of wanderlust adventurism and 21st century social media co-exist within that little library. They live in a symbiotic relationship of stark contradiction – living within the worn out pages of The Hobbit and Instagram pictures of sunsets. It’s a strange relationship between the barefooted altruistic backpacker and the Tripadvisor review that rates their journey. It’s the obscure reality that says welcome to Queenstown.