credit to FastPhive on flickr.
Stylish sojourns or penniless paths, Gemma Fottles lets us in on the 'flashpacking vs. backpacking' debate
When people talk about travelling, what often springs to mind are the stereotypical images of scruffy, 20 year olds bumming around the world with an equally scruffy and massively over sized backpack weighing them down. This is clearly not the ideal way to see the world for everyone, and this stereotype could unfortunately put a lot of people off the idea of extensive travel.
However, travelling doesn’t always have to involve the dirty grittiness of cliché backpacking. Flashpacking is the new luxury backpacking. Forget living off poorly cooked rice in a 12 bed shared dorm at £5 a night hostels, flashpacking is all about seeing the world in a socially acceptable state that your parents wouldn’t be ashamed of. Staying in private rooms, eating out at restaurants and being able to take regular – and sanitary – showers are just some of the perks of flashpacking, and although ultimately a lot more expensive, it is an increasingly popular way to travel for the more cleanliness-conscious nomad.
Backpacking in the more traditional sense does have its perks too, though. Aside from potentially saving a huge amount of money overall, the whole backpacking exercise can result in a multitude of experiences you may not have even known about if taking the somewhat easier road of considerable comfort. Staying in a shared dormitory, for example, isn’t the most pleasant type of accommodation but the people you meet and stay with in such hostels can often become friends, who in turn share tips and advice about the various places they have visited. This kind of information is more often than not exclusive; practical tips and hints that you won’t find in the guidebooks.
Other perks of backpacking include a more complete immersion into the new culture that surrounds you. Staying in a nice hotel and eating at nice restaurants is…well, nice. However this is often catered to a Western market, meaning you miss out on taking part in the true culture of the country. Whether this means the type of food you eat, or even how you actually travel about, budget backpacking often results in living the way the people of the place you’re visiting really live, and can be an eye-opening and exhilarating experience. For example, having very little money in Bangkok means, if you need to get across the city, you’re probably going to have to get in a Tuk-tuk – a terrifying cross between a motorbike and a rickshaw. Opting for this way of getting about rather than the comparatively tame taxi drive is arguably one of the highlights of the city, and something that people with more access to money may avoid.
On the other hand though, staying in more expensive places and spending a decent amount on food throughout your trip can be safer, easier and generally more reassuring than staying in dodgy but cheap areas and eating solely from street vendors. Although it is not common to feel threatened in hostels, the added security of a hotel definitely helps to ease concern in particularly dangerous parts of the world.
While the more hardcore backpackers may look at the new generation of flashpackers with a slight sneering smile of superiority over their 10p noodle soup, it doesn’t really matter how you choose to travel. If the only way you’ll be happy touring the world is with a few added home comforts, then so what? There are many ways to travel but the most important thing is that you find the one best suited to you.