I Wanna Be a Flashpacker: When Backpackers Grow Up or Get Rich
In my twenties, I was a truly budget backpacker. I traveled with few plans other than a need to be somewhere by a certain date, usually months ahead — perhaps to start a job, or to catch a plane to another continent. I carried everything I needed on my back in one pack, tied my hair back unattractively each day and didn’t bother too much if my clothes got dirty. Getting a cheap night to stay somewhere was important; buying a new handbag was not.
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Now that I’ve hit my thirties, I’m almost afraid to say, I’ve noticed my travel habits changing a little bit. These days I’ll pay a bit more for a private bathroom and a room of my own often opting for a cheap hotel, rather than lining up with everyone else; but I don’t mind if this is a private room in a hostel. Sometimes I travel with a suitcase rather than a backpack. And I tend to wear clothes that I wouldn’t be ashamed to be seen in at my local supermarket late on a Friday night.
A flashpacker shares some of the characteristics of a backpacker: a sense of independence, no fixed itinerary and relatively long periods of travel to more exotic and far-flung destinations. Whereas backpacking is traditionally associated with budget travel and destinations that are relatively cheap, flashpacking has an association of more disposable income while traveling and has been defined simply as backpacking with a bigger budget.
Does this sound like you, too? If you’re flashpacker, or even just a wannabe, then I’ve got some tips on successful flashpacking for you.
5 Ways to Be a Successful Flashpacker
#1: Don’t Forget Your Roots
Nearly all flashpackers used to be backpackers. Don’t forget this carefree attitude to travel you have honed, and if things don’t go according to plan on your travels, just remember that it’s all about the journey, not the destination. Don’t find yourself complaining about a too-hard or too-soft pillow in your hotel — a decade ago you didn’t use a pillow at all.
#2: Don’t Overplan Your Flashpacking Trip
Sometimes flashpackers are squeezing a vacation into annual leave from a job or some other tight timeframe, and the temptation then is to plan your itinerary minute-for-minute to make the most of your relatively short available time. Don’t. You didn’t when you backpacked and you don’t need to now.
Sure, you might need to book more accommodation or transport ahead of time, if you don’t have the luxury of being able to wait around a few days until the next ferry departs, but make sure you don’t fill every minute of your days. Remember that finding daily activities spontaneously is one of the best ways to ensure you have a memorable trip.
#3: Don’t Feel Guilty for Taking Shortcuts
On your flashpacking trip, you’re bound to come across backpackers who are spending a year traveling across Europe and can’t believe you’re about to board a budget flight from Berlin to Barcelona when they’re going to do it overland. But you’ve done this before and don’t need to feel guilty that you’re taking a shortcut.
It all depends on the goal of your trip and the time you have available, and if you want to see a couple of cities in detail without dealing with long bus and train rides in between, that’s absolutely alright.
#4: Don’t Be Ashamed to Splash Out
Flashpackers typically have a much bigger budget than backpackers, usually because they’re older, in more stable jobs and have had a chance to save some money after those young years of penniless travels got them home broke. This usually means that while you don’t have so much time at your disposal, you do have more liquidity, and you deserve to enjoy this.
If that means that your dream is to buy up big on expensive (but truly delicious) Belgian chocolates from a corner chocolatier in Brussels, do it (yep, that’s my dream). If you want to try each of the most expensive types of beer at a brewery in Munich, go for it.
#5: Don’t Forget the Technology (and the Chargers)
If you can’t travel without your laptop, iPod, digital camera and cell phone — and probably a bunch more technology — you have probably graduated from backpacker to flashpacker. Whether it’s to stay in touch with home (or even work), or to be able to transmit text and pictures of your adventures as you go, most flashpackers can be found right next to the backpackers in an internet café, but they’re more likely to be logging on with their own laptop. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
#6: Don’t Forget to Give Something Back
Perhaps the best thing about being a flashpacker is that now when you see some injustice or inequity in your traveling world, you have both the cash and the ideas to actually help out a bit. Now that I’ve got some cash to spare, for example, I buy the latest Big Issue magazine from every homeless vendor I see selling it. I still don’t give to beggars in the street in Asia, but I’m savvier about researching how I can help them and donating funds to worthwhile NGOs. And volunteer vacations are much higher on my list now since I can finally afford some of the fees they need to stay sustainable.
Are You A Flashpacker, Too?
Flashpackers represent a new generation of travelers, and the definition is still evolving. Do you consider that you’re a flashpacker? I’d love to hear about the other characteristics of being a flashpacker, so let us know in the comments.