Life in a suitcase

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Some Queenstown backpacker hostels are turning into long-term accommodation options for seasonal workers. 

Take Sam Forster, an 18-year-old seasonal worker from Australia who’s been staying in a Queenstown hostel for five long weeks. 

He moved here hoping to get a job during the snow season but is still trying to pin down work and lock in permanent lodgings. 

His situation isn’t unusual – two friends living permanently with him at Base backpackers are in the same boat. 

They’re among many workers who’ve been living out of Queenstown hostels for more than a month, waiting for work to turn up before finding a permanent flat. 

At best, long-term hostel dwellers are paying $26 a night to stay in a shared dorm, meaning those living in hostels for a month or more will have already spent at least $780 of their savings on accommodation alone. 

It’s not all bad news though – these long-term stayers are helping keep local hostels in business and are having fun while doing it tough. 

“It’s been a bit difficult. It’s fun, but I need some money,” he says. 

Forster and his mates have been spending their time playing frisbee golf and doing other free activities to try to save money. 

Forster has ruled out moving into a flat at the moment, as the hostel is more convenient. 

“We booked for two months ahead. We’ve heard that flat hunting is quite hard,” he says. 

FreshChoice worker Eamonn McNicholas, from Ireland, is another long-term hostel stayer. He has paid a weekly rate of $150 at Alpine Lodge since February, which is going up to $168 for the peak season. 

McNicholas says living in a hostel while looking for a job isn’t as rough as some might think. 

“It wasn’t so bad because I’d saved money before coming here. 

“It’s a really good hostel – a nice atmosphere, it’s really laid back.” 

McNicholas recently moved into a flat and plans to stay in Queenstown until at least October. 

Hostels, experiencing lean times like other resort businesses, have been kept afloat by “long-termers” with the slow start to the ski season. 

One Base staffer says: “Three-quarters of our place is full of guys staying here long-term.” 

“It’s hard for them but we’re grateful we have the business – some other places are really struggling.”