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Flashpacking - What the Hell is it?

The term ‘flashpacking’ has popped up in a few recent newspaper articles and has been catching on in the backpacking scene. Judging by the people I’ve met during my travels recently I would say it is well and truly on its way to becoming a full on movement. So what’s the deal then?

There seems to be a couple definaitions floating around about what a flashpacker is:

The Geeky Flashpacker

The first is that flashpacking is backpacking with all the latest gizmos and gadgets including laptops, satellite phones, GPS systems and the more common things like mp3 players, digital cameras and cell phones. Where years ago the only travellers carrying around laptops were the lucky souls working for Let’s Go or Lonely Planet, today they seem to be everywhere. In some hostels you’re almost as likely to see a bunch of backpackers huddled around a laptop looking at photos as you are a group of travellers playing a game of cards! Bringing all of this along on a trip might seem like a burden but it also has its advantages.

The Minted Flashpacker

The second definition for flashpacking revolves more around money. Flashpackers have it and are willing to spend it – backpackers probably have it but would rather go cheap to be able to extend their travels. A backpacker would spend 24 hours on a bus to their next destination and a flashpacker would most likely spring for the plane ticket. Usually a bit older than the typical post-uni traveller, flashpackers might be less likely to put up with a 32 bed dorm of drunk, snoring, smelly guys and having to share communal toilets and might instead opt for the relative luxury of a single room in an upscale hostel or budget hotel. They tend to already be established in the workforce and have either packed it all in to travel, are on career breaks, or have taken a month or two off and have to get around quickly. This lends itself to having more disposable income than a recent graduate and might also require some faster, more expensive modes of transport to be able to see what they want on in a shorter amount of time.

The Minted Geek

The two worlds of flashpacking are bound to collide from time to time where you’ll end up with a technology savvy traveller with all the latest toys who also has the money to live it up a little while out on the road. This is on the increase as people discover ways of using the internet to take their work with them on the road or as a means of earning an income through businesses that exist purely online that allow them to earn money while they travel and even while they sleep! For a bit more information on this check out Working Nomad.

Catering for the Flashpacker

Clever hostel owners have picked up on this trend and are beginning to offer a more connected service for the wandering laptop users out there and have modernised their facilities to fit in with the standards expected from a flashpacker including having things like wifi and power points in all rooms. Hostels have been popping up all over the world for the past 5 or 10 years with hotel-standard facilities at backpacker prices and these places seem to know what flashpackers want and are providing spotless hostels, comfy beds, and loads of facilities like bars, swimming pools, spas and all that good stuff.

I think those of us who have been backpacking and have loved it are very unlikely to start taking organised tours and join the ranks of the package tourist, no matter how old we get. But as people age they tend to get a bit more wealthy, might want a bit more comfort and privacy and might be more inclined to need to take a laptop with them on the road either to keep on top of work or to keep in touch with family. The backpacking industry constantly evolving and changing and flashpacking seems to be a trend that’s here to stay.

By: Kirsty
July 2006 - Australia - Canada - Europe - New Zealand

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