The New Backpacking

by Peter Adones www.peteradones.com

Neither fully backpacker nor tourist, flashpackers are new to the traveling lexicon. Flashpackers sleep in hostels, carry a backpack, and find cheap transport but blow their wad on meals, tours, and parties. They usually aren’t strolling into a hostel randomly or wearing the same shirt for a week. A number of hostels are up scaling to meet the growing demands and needs of flashpackers and you’ll find them in all corners of the world. Flashpackers still have no fixed journey and all the time to meander around but don’t pinch every penny. They are backpackers with means.

Backpacking is not a look, it’s a lifestyle. Just because someone doesn’t have the look, doesn’t mean they lack the spirit. It doesn’t make them less of a backpacker. It goes against the backpacker mentality to look down on someone because they travel differently. Aren’t we supposed to be embracing different ways of life?

It comes down to what makes a backpacker a backpacker. That’s spirit. 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 study, 21 percent of people 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.

The truth is we all travel with fancy 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 Flashpacker and it’s not a bad thing. All this stuff 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. Most of us have a little more means and expect 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 place to plug in our camera, check our e-mail, take a hot shower, and splash out on tours. We just want to be pampered once in awhile.

Matt Kepnes is an experienced backpacker and travel writer. For more information about flashpacking, visit his website about backpacking the world.
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