Backpacking (travel)

Backpacking (travel)

Backpacking is a term that has historically been used to denote a form of low-cost, independent international travel. Terms such as independent travel and/or budget travel are often used interchangeably with backpacking. The factors that traditionally differentiate backpacking from other forms of tourism include but are not limited to the following: use of public transport as a means of travel, preference of youth hostels to traditional hotels, length of the trip vs. conventional vacations, use of a backpack, an interest in meeting the locals as well as seeing the sights.

The definition of a backpacker has evolved as travelers from different cultures and regions participate and will continue to do so, preventing an air-tight definition. Recent research has found that, “...backpackers constituted a heterogeneous group with respect to the diversity of rationales and meanings attached to their travel experiences. ...They also displayed a common commitment to a non-institutionalised form of travel, which was central to their self-identification as backpackers” [ cite journal|title=Backpackers as a Community of Strangers: The Interaction Order of an Online Backpacker Notice Board|journal=Qualitative Sociology Review|date=2007-08|first=Barbara |last=Adkins|coauthors=Eryn Grant|volume=3|issue=2|pages=188–201|id= |url=|format=PDF|accessdate=2007-10-29 ] Backpacking as a lifestyle and as a business has grown considerably in the 2000sCite web|url=|title=Backpacker Tourism|accessdate=2008-04-07|publisher=Tourism New South Wales|work=Market Segments > Backpacker Tourism] as the commonplace of low-cost airlines,Cite web|url=|title=The Netherlands|accessdate=2008-04-07|publisher=Tourism Australia|year=2007-10|work=Monthly Market Report] hostels or budget accommodation in many parts of the world, and digital communication and resources make planning, executing, and continuing a long-term backpacking trip easier than ever before.


While there is no definitive answer as to the precise origin of backpacking, its roots can be traced, at least partially, to the Hippie trail of the 1960s and 70s [ cite journal|title=Backpacking: Diversity and Change|journal=Tourism and Cultural Change|date=2003|first=Erik|last=Cohen|coauthors=|volume=1|issue=2|pages=95–110|id= |url=|format=PDF|accessdate=2007-10-29 ] , which in turn followed sections of the old Silk Road. In fact, some backpackers today seek to re-create that journey, albeit in a more comfortable manner, while capitalizing on the current popularity of the green movement [cite news | first=Jennifer | last=Conlin | coauthors= | title= IN TRANSIT; Traveling to the Ends of the Earth, at Ground Level | date=2007-02-11 | publisher= | url = | work =The New York Times | pages = | accessdate = 2007-10-29 | language = ] . Looking further into history, Giovanni Francesco Gemelli Careri has been cited by some [cite news | first= | last= | coauthors= | title=The Inventor of Traveling - The First Backpacker in the World? | date=2007-07 | publisher= | url = | work = | pages = | accessdate = 2008-01-03 | language = ] as one of the world's first backpackers.

While travel along the old Hippie Trail has been rendered complicated since the early 80s due to unrest in Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran that continues today, backpacking has expanded to most regions of the world. In recent years, the increase of budget airlines and low-cost flights has contributed to this expansion. [ [ Budget Airlines spread their wings to Africa] ] At present, new "hippie trails" are being formed towards Northern Africa in places such as Morocco and Tunisia and other destinations being reached by low-cost airlines. [ [ Morocco's hippie trail] ]

Technological changes and improvements have also contributed to changes in backpacking. Traditionally backpackers did not travel with expensive electronic equipment such as laptop computers, digital cameras and PDAs due to concerns about theft, damage, and additional luggage weight. However, the desire to stay connected coupled with trends in lightweight electronics have given rise to the flashpacking trend, which has been in a state of continuous evolution in recent years [cite news | first= | last= | coauthors= | title='Flashpacking?' Don't Forget you Still Need Room for Extra Socks | date=2006-06-20 | publisher= | url = | work =USA Today | pages = | accessdate = 2007-10-29 | language = ] . Simultaneous with a change in “what” they’re carrying, backpacking is also becoming less and less reliant on the physical backpack in its initial form [cite news | first=Susan | last=Catto | coauthors= | title= PRACTICAL TRAVELER; The 'Pack' Of Backpacking | date=2002-04-14 | publisher= | url = | work =The New York Times | pages = | accessdate = 2007-10-27 | language = ] although the backpack can still be considered the primary luggage of backpackers.

Types of backpacking


Flashpacking is a neologism used to refer to affluent backpacking. 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 [cite news | first= | last= | coauthors= | title=Flashpacking | date= | publisher= | url = | work =Imagine | pages = | accessdate = | language = ] .

A simple definition of the term Flashpacker can be thought of as backpacking with flash, or style. In another sense, the term defines a growing segment of travelers who adhere to a tight accommodation and meal budget, while spending freely for activities at their chosen destination. Some may define "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. [cite news | first=Paul | last=Miles | coauthors= | title=Best of Both Worlds | date=2004-06-12 | publisher= | url = | work =Guardian Unlimited | pages = | accessdate = | language = ] Flashpackers have been further defined as tech-savvy adventurers who often prefer to travel with a cell phone, digital camera, iPod and a laptop [cite news | first= | last= | coauthors= | title=The Flashpacker: A New Breed of Traveler | date=2006-03-24 | publisher= | url = | work =Hotel Travel News | pages = | accessdate = 2007-11-07 | language = ] , 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 travelers 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 to those still traveling on a budget [cite news | first= | last= | coauthors= | title=Six of the World’s Finest Flashpacking Hostels | date= | publisher= | url = | work | pages = | accessdate = | language = ] in order to obtain their business. The hostels have realized a need to evolve in order to meet the changing demands of travelers. [cite news | first=James | last=Shrimpton | coauthors= | title=Flashy way to Backpack | date= | publisher= | url =,23483,19967555-5002900,00.html | work | pages = | accessdate = | language = ] It is likely that flashpacking and flashpackers will continue to evolve with changes in technology.


Gap-packing is also a neologism, used typically to refer to younger people, usually of European descent, who backpack to several countries in a short period of time, whilst on their gap year between school and university, or university and their first job. Gap-packers tend to, though do not always, spend a very short period of time, staying in very budget hostels and eating at roadside stalls, whilst partaking in tourist-focused activities and often, wearing clothes which differ from local, traditional dress style.Verify source|date=May 2008


One of the central tenets of backpacking is the sense of community. Whether this takes the form of staying at in a dormitory in a hostel with a self-catering kitchen and communal TV room, sharing rides with other travelers, purchasing a bus/train pass or something else, what matters is the shared experience. This allows backpackers to learn from one another while saving money at the same time: the first-hand account of a fellow traveler can often be more up to date than what was published in a recent Lonely Planet, the long cited bible of backpacker travel.

Of equal importance in backpacking is the sense of authenticity. Backpacking is not a vacation but rather a means of education [ cite journal|title=A “University of Travel”: Backpacker Learning|journal=Tourism Management |date=2007|first=Philip|last=Pearce|coauthors=Faith Foster|volume=28|issue=5|pages=1285–1298|id= |url=|format=|accessdate=|doi=10.1016/j.tourman.2006.11.009 ] . Backpackers want to experience the “real” destination rather than the packaged version often associated with mass tourism, which has led to the assertion that backpackers are anti-tourist [cite book | last = Richards | first = Greg | authorlink = | coauthors = Julie Wilson | title = The Global Nomad: Backpacker Theory in Travel and Practice | publisher = Channel View Publications | date = 2004 | location = | pages = 80-91 | url = | doi = | id = | isbn = 1873150768 ] . There is also the feeling of "sneaking backstage" and witnessing real life with more involvement with local people [cite book | last = Langston-Able | first = Nick | authorlink = | title = Playing with Fire: Adventures in Indonesia | publisher = Freakash | date = 2007 | location = | pages = 30 | url = | doi = | id = | isbn = 9780955340345 ]

Backpacking, like other forms of travel, remains controversial. As with the general history of backpacking some of these criticisms date back to travelers’ actions along the Hippie Trail [cite news | first=Rory | last=MacLean | coauthors= | title= Dark Side of the Hippie Trail | date=2006-07-31 | publisher= | url = | work =The New Statesman | pages = | accessdate = 2007-10-27 | language = ] . Criticism comes from many sides, including the host countries and other travelers who disagree with the actions of backpackers although the perception of backpackers seems to have improved as backpacking grows more mainstream [ cite journal|title=From Drifter to Gap Year Tourist Mainstreaming Backpacker Travel|journal=Annals of Tourism Research|date=2006|first=Camille|last=Caprioglio O'Reilly|coauthors=|volume=33|issue=4|pages=998–1017|doi= 10.1016/j.annals.2006.04.002|url=|format=|accessdate= ] .

See also

* Hostel
* Hostelling International
* CouchSurfing
* Khaosan Road


External links

* [ Travel Independent Info ] - Beginner backpacking advice and motivation.
* [ Backpackbuddies - Information and travel forum for backpackers]
* [ The Day12 Project - Sustainable backpacking magazine featuring articles, photography and phrasebooks for backpackers]

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