The Doldrums: Hanging Low in Queenstown


We were stuck in the doldrums.  Drifting aimlessly between breakfast and bedtime, numb hands and mind focused only on my e-mail inbox.  For seven weeks, Hadyn and I waited, responded to messages, waited more.  The whole of our future hung on the confirmation of a de facto Australian visa, and any ensuing employment.

Something about the mere word, waiting, can cause us to lose our sense of direction.  Especially when it freezes us in a foreign part of the world.

And though it’s easy to lose sight of a destination, or a sense of purpose, there’s only one way out of the doldrums: become a tourist again.

“Today’s catch: Cod, Turbot. All fresh, none of that frozen crud!”

So this afternoon, I did something I’d missed on all previous visits to Queenstown.  Camera held obviously before my right eye, I got lunch from Aggy’s seafood shack.   Just plain fish and chips, though the menu’s ‘Wild Foods’ options – muttonbird, abalone patties, kina – tempted.

Aggy didn’t smile when I ordered, he merely nodded and turned back to the fryer.  In front of the queue, I took clumsy photos of the diners, the chalkboard menu, the dark-haired back of Aggy’s head.  Just like a visitor.  Then, Styrofoam square in hand, I fought off flocks of seagulls and finished my food on the beach wall.  The birds screeched, passerby stared, and one Chinese man took obtrusive photos.  It was such a relief, this one-hour excuse from being a local…

Swarmed by new friends as I defend my lunch on Queentown’s beach.

Regardless of the reason – anticipating an extension visa, recovering from food poisoning, preparing for the next outward ferry – you must step out onto familiar surrounds like they’ve never been seen before.  Don’t hide your camera like a local, but hang it proudly round your neck and explore the once-boring setting with new eyes.  Force a bit of wind in your sails and glide outside your current sticking point.

Queenstown, New Zealand

Even under a doldrum-inspired cloudy sky, Lake Wakatipu stretches majestically onward.

Day after day, day after day,

We stuck, no breath no motion;

As idle as a painted ship

Upon a painted ocean.

-Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner

Kelli Mutchler
Kelli Mutchler left a small, Midwest American town to prove that Yanks can, and do, chose alternative lifestyles. On the road for five years now, Kelli has tried news reporting and waitressing, bungy jumping and English teaching. Currently working with Burmese women refugees in Thailand, she hopes to pursue a MA in Global Development. Opportunities and scenes for international travel are encouraged on her blog,
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