Somewhere before my bus broke down in Australia, I was called a flashpacker. Despite traveling for 18 months, it was the first time I’d heard the word. A flashpacker is defined as a person, unusually in their mid 20s to early 30s, who travels like a backpacker but has more disposal money as well as electronics such as a camera or laptop. Flashpackers also expect better accommodation and services.
Neither fully backpacker nor tourist, flashpacking is new to the traveling lexicon. Flashpackers rest in hostels, carry a backpack, and find cheap transportation but blow their wad on meals, beer, tours, and parties. They usually aren’t walking into a hostel randomly or wearing the same shirt for a week. A number of hostels are up scaling to meet the mounting wants and desires of flashpackers and you’ll find these hostels in all over the world. Flashpackers still have no fixed voyage and all the time to wander around but don’t pinch every penny. They are backpackers with means.
Backpacking is not about a look, it’s a lifestyle. Just because a traveler doesn’t have a certain look, doesn’t mean they lack the will of a backpacker. It doesn’t make them less of a backpacker. It goes against the backpacker outlook to look down on someone because they travel a different way. Aren’t we supposed to be embracing different ways of life?
It all comes down to what makes a backpacker a backpacker. That’s sprit. The desire to explore new places and experience new people. Backpacking is about opening your mind to new things and looking differently at the world. It’s not about the stuff you carry. As your spirit is the same, what stuff you carry shouldn’t matter.
We’re all flashpackers, whether you like it or not. We may not be driving up to the hostel in a limo but we all expect a little “flash” nowadays. According to a Hostelworld study in 2006, 21 percent of travelers travel with a laptop, 54 percent with an MP3 player, 83 percent with a mobile phone and a whopping 86 percent travel with a digital camera.
Now think about your last vacation- how many people did you see with cameras? Ipods? Laptops? I can’t remember seeing one person without a camera, and at least 3/4 of the people I saw had Ipods.
The truth is we all travel with expensive electronics now. We check our email and Skype our friends. We all have a camera and most of us have an Ipod. We’ve become flashpackers and it’s not a bad thing. All these electronics allows us to stay better connected with our friends, our family, and helps us better document our travels. The key is to once in awhile to put down the camera, turn off the computer, and enjoy the culture you came to see.
The backpacker who set off with 1 shirt, a small pack, and two baht to his name is getting hard to find. Many of us have a little more money and want a little more but we still carry his spirit. We still seek new cultures, exotic locales, and long term travel. We still look for cheap hostels and transport. We camp on that jungle trek. The difference is that now we also want a location to plug in our camera, check our e-mail, and take a hot shower. We just want to be pampered…once in awhile.