The ‘Begpacking’ Phenomenon: It’s Not Cool So Don’t Do It
Backpacking is the dream, but don’t let those inevitably difficult moments as you explore the world on a shoestring cloud your judgement of how lucky you are to be on this adventure.
There is something impossibly appealing about the ‘one-way ticket and let’s see what happens’ philosophy when it comes to travel. We all long to drop everything, quit our jobs, reject routine and set off for true discovery. For many western travellers, this dream state of living is actually possible and affordable too! Which is why the recent ‘epidemic’ of extending your adventure by begging and busking, now coined as the art of ‘begpacking’ is all the more disappointing.
It’s even gone digital. Like, how shameless is this?
“At very best, this
is pretty tasteless and ignorant behaviour and it shouldn’t be happening. At worst, it’s more often than not completely illegal!”
‘Begpacking’ is taking hold in Southeast Asia where western travellers and backpackers are rather shamelessly asking strangers for money to continue their travel dream. At very best, this is pretty tasteless and ignorant behaviour and it shouldn’t be happening. At worst, it’s more often than not completely illegal! Don’t confuse begpacking with couch surfing as they’re completely different and personally speaking couch surfing is an incredible way to travel, benefiting of both parties.
You don’t need us to explain the appeal of backpacking to you. It’s in the stories, the pictures, the videos of your friends newsfeeds, their friends timelines and so on. Solo travel in particular is sky rocketing (and so it should because it’s awesome) but with it, scores of millenials are becoming ignorant to the economic situation of local populations in some of the world’s most well-worn backpacking countries like Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
“Be spontaneous when you travel, do things you wouldn’t do at home (within reason!), meet all sorts of interesting people and soak it up every second – just don’t completely lose sight of the reality around you”.
In Bangkok, westerners like below are showing the audacity to generate funds simply because they don’t want to go back to the real world yet. All the while, blissfully unaware of the everyday struggles and hardship that exist for local populations here. Maybe it’s not blissful ignorance. Maybe it’s selective ignorance. Now you’re on extremely shaky moral footing.
There’s a reckless abandon associated with backpacking. It’s a significant part of the mystique of doing it. Being against the act of ‘begpacking’ is in no way an attempt to dampen this spirit. Be spontaneous when you travel, do things you wouldn’t do at home (within reason!), meet all sorts of interesting people and soak up every second – just don’t completely lose sight of the reality around you. A traveller looking for $20 to hitch a ride down the spine of Vietnam while having an expensive camera and iPhone in hand is not a good look…
There are exceptions to this rule but in general, if your finances are not sufficiently stable to support yourself (including an emergency fund) on a 3 month+ journey, then you really need to question the validity of it. If it’s what you dream of doing, then work towards it. Save for it. Don’t completely disregard how fundamental your finances are to living this life of discovery. Don’t let your moral wallet empty at a greater rate than your physical one.
“Offer your help, your talents and your time, not your relatively mild desperation”.
If you find yourself in a difficult spot while on your adventure then offering something of actual value and making a positive impact on the place you’re visiting is surely a more rewarding, acceptable and synergistic way to generate cash? Offer your help, your talents and your time, not your mild desperation.
Obviously it’s important to be relatively on-guard in these situations but 99.9% of the time your willingness to help will be at worst appreciated and at best rewarded. Not just monetarily but also in terms of the experience, and isn’t that what backpacking is all about.
Don’t become blinded by your own sense of entitlement. Ultimately, it won’t get you very far.