Flashpacking vs Backpacking
Flashpacking is a term that only recently came into being as far as I know. Now it is commonly thrown around and sometimes in a derogatory sense among holier-than-thou grizzled travelers. I don't use it in such a way but I feel as though the term is appropriate for a certain type of person.
A great definition of the term "flashpacker" that I found online goes like this.
A Flashpacker can be thought of as backpacking with flash, or style. One school of thought defines the Flashpacker as a rapidly growing segment of travelers who adhere to a modest accommodation and meal budget, while spending freely, even excessively, for activities at their chosen destination.
I don't feel the need to denigrate anyone else's traveling ways so I think the above definition is pretty fair. When I hear people use it in a negative sense I will often say something like "what makes you so special? Just let people live how they want to dude.." and that is the way I approach most things in life.
I think your average flashpacker wants the backpacking experience of simply turning up somewhere and figuring the place out once you have already arrived but without the hassles of encountering full hostels, or needing to walk endlessly to find a place that suits your needs. In many ways I can totally identify with this way of doing things and also need to keep in mind that this way of traveling wasn't actually terribly available back when I first started traveling the world.
Technology has made advanced bookings and getting the "scoop" on your upcoming destination remarkably easier than it was even in the early 2000's. Back then almost everyone had a Lonely Planet travel book and they would just get dropped off and wander around using that. This certainly fared very well for the businesses that were featured in that guide book, as the Lonely Planet was far and away the most popular of these travel guides. Nearly everyone I encountered was using one and it was the "travel bible" of the time.
This could result in many people actually traveling the same path, as one would expect and again, there is nothing wrong with that. Back in those days the "purists" were the people that didn't have a guide book and simply took it as it came. These same people would look down on all of us that used guidebooks. I guess some people just feel a need to try to feel better about themselves at the expense of others.
So even though this is just my opinion, here is what I believe a "flashpacker" to actually be.
- They always have accommodation booked before they arrive somewhere
- They rely heavily on technology such as smartphones and probably are traveling with a laptop and even other electronics such as tablets
- They regularly use credit cards
- They are willing to spend a bit more for added comfort
That is me now, but it wasn't me 20 years ago. Back then smartphones didn't exist and laptops weighed 20 lbs and were thousands of dollars. Basically nobody had one and internet cafes were all the rage. These days you barely ever seen internet cafes anymore.
To advent of the tech-savvy traveler resulted in flashpacking hostels which offer the backpacking experience such as having dorms and nightly social gatherings but will also feature rather luxurious bathrooms and even things like sky bars and swimming pools. These places never really appealed to me because they would normally cost as much as or even more than getting your own room. I can totally understand the desire to socialize though, because that is a very important aspect of traveling on the cheap since the advice or word of mouth of new friends is far more reliable than any review site is ever going to be.
To be honest, I don't think there are many spots left in the world where people truly "backpack" anymore. The last remnants of it are likely in India and Nepal, where technology doesn't really have much impact on how you get around or even how you make bookings. Granted I was last in either one of these countries around 6 years ago, so things may have changed.
Do you pay $20 to stay here with 7 strangers or get your own room down the road?
There is nothing wrong with flashpacking and I disagree with anyone that tries to suggest otherwise. It does tend to be quite a youthful game and there is a good chance that a guy in his 40's like me would feel a bit uncomfortable staying in a dorm room with a bunch of 20 somethings. Many of these party hostels have age restrictions that would probably be illegal in other countries.
So if you are a flashpacker, just admit it... There isn't anything wrong with it.