I’m Such a Flashpacker…

The hot sticky air of Bangkok only added to my frustration as I searched my belongings for the illusive memory card reader. I still haven’t found it… But that was the day, after I ripped every electronic related item from my bag and dumped them on the floor I realised… I’m such a flashpacker.

Flashpacking, according to Wikipedia:

Flashpacking is a neologism used to refer to an affluent backpacker. Whereas backpacking is traditionally associated with budget travel and destinations that are relatively cheap, flashpacking has an association of more disposable income while travelling and has been defined simply as backpacking with a bigger budget.

A simple definition of the term Flashpacker can be thought of as backpacking with flash, or style. One school of thought defines the flashpacker as a rapidly growing segment of travellers who adhere to a modest accommodation and meal budget, while spending freely, even excessively, for activities at their chosen destination. Another school of thought defines flashpacking as an incongruous mix of ‘slumming it’ and luxury; of adventurous travel with those on a budget by day and sedate dining and comfortable accommodation by night. Flashpackers have been further defined as tech-savvy adventurers who often prefer to travel with a cell phone, digital camera, iPod and a laptop, although none of these is required in order to be a flashpacker. As with other forms of travel, the term flashpacker is mainly one of self-identification. The origin of the term itself is obscure.

The term also reflects a growing demographic of travellers who are forsaking traditional organized travel, venturing to destinations once the reserve of more adventurous backpackers, and the increasing number of individuals who leave well paid jobs or take ‘career breaks’, using the time to travel independently, but with greater comfort and many of the gadgets they are accustomed to at home. As a result, hostels are evolving and offering more up-market accommodation and facilities to those still travelling on a budget in order to obtain their business. Hostels have realized a need to evolve in order to meet the changing demands of travellers.

I don’t spend money on expensive hotels (I try to keep to $20 AUD per night max) and I often stay in a hostels for cheaper. But if I am staying for a longer period, I will look for WIFI.

I’ll happily eat on the street for $1-2, but I’ll spend $20-$40 drinking in a fancy bar.

I don’t mind local buses, but if I need to be somewhere in a hurry I will fly.

My Cable Collection

I personally think these traits are similar to many individuals that class themselves as “backpackers”. The main difference I see between me and them is the number of cables I carry and the emotional ties I have to them…

The whole mobility / digital nomad / location independence movement has spawned many flashpackers and these numbers are only growing with technology advances and as more start to earn a living on the road.

But there is the argument that if you’re carrying the proverbial baggage that is your precious electronics, it can restrict you from the ‘full experience’ of travel. To this point, I would have to agree. I take precautions because of my electronics and desire to work on the road which restrict me. I’m also waay to attached to my electronics – not healthy.

Final thought

I can’t say for sure what the best way to travel is, each to their own I guess.

But I ask you this:

Does one experience more, travelling while working for 12 months or working at home for 11 months and travelling for 1?

12 responses to “I’m Such a Flashpacker…”

  1. Ideally I think it’s best to work for 9-10 months and travel for a couple months. Unfortunately, few people are able to fully disengage from work, emails etc. for so long. There’s also regular mail, bills and other day to day realities to contend with.

    I’m not capable of traveling without my laptop and all the attachments and converters that come with it but I think for my next trip I’ll get a light notebook.

  2. Yeh taking a couple of months off can be tricky for people in jobs. In Australia you get 1 month per year – and I hear its less in many other countries.

    There are solutions coming up all over the place to make digital travel easier. I recently heard of a service that takes all your mail, scans and emails it to you – to be read from any country!

    I have a small 10″ netbook because I’m on the road long term which is great for travelling. But I have travelled in the past without a laptop and the freedom of not having to worry is nice.

  3. I’ve always been a flashpacker, with a bit of thought all the gadgets can save you money and even make money too, that’s my excuse anyway.

    Sell photography later on (SLR camera), do some web work (laptop), find cheap places to stay (laptop/phone), etc.

    I was annoyed that my new phone wasn’t charged by laptop though, old one was so I never had to carry a charger for it, so that’s another cable carried, I try to minimalise these things. Again my new camera is much better on a cable to transfer photos, the old camera I used the netbooks card reader.

  4. Says the blogger 😛

    Gadgets are great, especially if you can make or save money with them. But sometimes I do feel a little restricted. Ever have any regrets for carrying them?

  5. That service that takes your mail and scans it is called EarthClassMail. I started using it when I started my nomadic lifestyle backing in India. The service has been great so far. It’s really incredible to be able to receive and read physical mail from the web. 😀

    If you receive a lot of checks in the mail, they even have a service where they will automatically deposit the checks into your bank account as they arrive! Great for the traveling entrepreneur, but a little pricy (something like $40/mo extra).

  6. Thanks for the comment and link Raam. Its amazing how many new and efficient solutions are coming out for the mobile Entrepreneur. What an age we live in 🙂

    Are there any other services like this you signed up before leaving?

    I have a Skype account I use on my iphone with an Australian number, forwarding and voicemail. This gives clients the impression I am still in Australia. Its also really useful cause I can walk into any wifi zone and call over 40 countries to do things like banking and change flights and only pay $12 per month for unlimited calls.

  7. I teach ESL which is a third option to see the world. I work in various countries for a year or so at a time. A lot of jobs provide flights and accommodation. While I’m not quite location independent during my contract, it is possible to find work it almost any country.

  8. Nice post.

    I’m also a flashpacker: same cable collection, laptop, android phone, and some other goodies (I even used to carry a wifi router!).

    I’m trying to design my life where I can either travel and have fun OR stay in one place and focus on working.

    I wrote some posts exactly on this topic in my blog.

    Glad to see someone who’s on the same page!

  9. @ Tom – ESL is a great option! I honestly thing its takes at least 1 month to learn a place well. Running around quickly seriously limits your exposure. I guess the only downfall of ESL is you cant travel in English Speaking countries… Thanks for your comment!

    @ Mavtraveller – haha glad to see a fellow flashpacker. I am still not sure about it. Sometimes I just get fed up with the big bag and want to chuck it all away, put on a bed sheet and start wandering around with a food bowl 😛 then I get to a city like London where everyone is dressed up and I’m happy you have all my stuff. I need a flying RV so I can have all my stuff but dont have to lug it around – would save on plane tickets too 😛

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