Backpacking is a form of low-cost, independent travel, which often includes staying in inexpensive lodgings and carrying all necessary possessions in a backpack. Once seen as a marginal form of travel undertaken only through necessity, it has become a mainstream form of tourism.

Backpackers in Vienna

While backpacker tourism is generally a form of youth travel, primarily undertaken by young people during gap years, it is also undertaken by older people during holidays, a career break, or at retirement, or by digital nomads, as part of a minimalist lifestyle.[citation needed] As such, backpackers can be of any age, but are typically aged 18-30.[1]

Characteristics edit

Backpacker tourism generally, but does not always, include:[2][3]

 
A hostel in Queenstown, New Zealand
  • Traveling internationally for long periods of time on a tight budget.[1]
  • Willingness to forgo luxury, suffer hardships, and be resourceful in order to make such a journey possible.[1]
  • Traveling via public transport or hitchhiking, using inexpensive lodging such as hostels or homestays, and other methods of lowering costs.
  • A longer duration trip when compared with conventional vacations.[1]
  • Working in other countries for short stints, depending on work permit laws. It can also be undertaken by digital nomads, people who work using technology while living a nomadic lifestyle.
  • A search for authenticity. Backpacking is perceived not only as a form of tourism but as a means of education. Backpackers want to experience what they consider the "real" destination rather than a packaged version often associated with mass tourism.
  • The desire to take part in or craft a narrative around traveling.
  • An interest in personal growth and discovery, as well as a desire to experience new culture, meet new people and foster a new perspective on the world. This is more significant considering that many backpackers are at a transitional point in their lives; such as between education and employment.[1]
 
Bunk beds in a hostel in Zürich

History edit

People have travelled for thousands of years with their possessions on their backs, but usually out of need rather than for recreation. Between 3400 and 3100 BCE, Ötzi the Iceman was traveling in Italy with a backpack made of animal skins and a wooden frame, although there are some thoughts that this may actually have been his snowshoes.[citation needed] In the 7th century, Xuanzang, a Chinese Buddhist monk, travelled to India with a hand-made backpack.[citation needed]

In the 17th century, Italian adventurer Giovanni Francesco Gemelli Careri was likely one of the first people to engage in backpacker tourism.[4]

The modern popularity of backpacking can be traced, at least partially, to the hippie trail of the 1960s and 1970s,[5] which in turn followed sections of the old Silk Road. Some backpackers follow the same trail today.[6] Since the late-20th century, backpackers have visited Southeast Asia in large numbers.

 
Backpackers in the Lake Chelan National Recreation Area, Washington, USA

Benefits edit

A 2018 study of over 500 backpackers conducted by researchers at Sun Yat-sen University and Shaanxi Normal University in China and Edith Cowan University in Australia showed that for Westerners, backpacking leads to acquired capabilities like effective communication, decision-making, adaptability, and problem solving, all of which contribute to an increase in self-efficacy, and for Chinese backpackers, acquiring skills like time and money management, language development, stress management, and self-motivation provided the biggest increase in self-efficacy.[7][8]

Mark Hampton of the University of Kent, writing for The Guardian, argued in 2010 that for many low-income communities in the developing world, the economic benefits of hosting backpackers outweigh their negative impacts. Since backpackers tend to consume local products, stay in small guest houses, and use locally owned ground transport, more of their expenditure is retained in-country than in conventional mass tourism.[9]

Criticism edit

Backpacker tourism of the hippie trail has been criticized for possibly encouraging urban liberal minorities while insulting Islamic traditionalist theology, possibly leading to the Islamic reawakening in the late 1970s.[10][11]

Even though one of the primary aims of backpacking is to seek the "authentic", the majority of backpackers spend most of their time interacting with other backpackers, and interactions with locals are of "secondary importance".[5]

Backpacker tourism has been criticized for the transformation of some sleepy towns, such as the creation of the Full Moon Party on Ko Pha-ngan in Thailand, which includes "scores of topless teenagers urinating into the ocean".[12]

Variants edit

Flashpacking and Poshpacking refer to backpacking with more money and resources. The words combine backpacking with flash, a slang term for being fancy, or posh, an informal adjective for upper class.

Begpacking combines begging and backpacking in reference to individuals who beg (ask directly or indirectly for money), solicit money during street performances, or vend (sell postcards or other small items) as a way to extend their overseas travel.[13] The trend has drawn criticism for taking money away from people in actual need, with one known begpacker barred from entering Singapore.[14][15] Begpacking is common in Southeast Asia and is a trend in South America and South Korea.[16][17]

References edit

  1. ^ a b c d e Bunda, Robert (2 May 2014). "The Business of Beds: An Exploration of Hotel and Hostel Business Strategy". Honors Scholar Theses.
  2. ^ Kelly, Catherine (2017). Backpacker Tourism. doi:10.4135/9781483368924. ISBN 9781483368948 – via SAGE Publishing.
  3. ^ Ooi, Natalie; Laing, Jennifer H. (9 March 2010). "Backpacker tourism: sustainable and purposeful? Investigating the overlap between backpacker tourism and volunteer tourism motivations". Journal of Sustainable Tourism. 18 (2): 191–206. doi:10.1080/09669580903395030 – via ResearchGate.
  4. ^ "The Inventor of Traveling - The First Backpacker in the World?". July 2007. Archived from the original on 12 December 2007.
  5. ^ a b Cohen, Erik (2003). "Backpacking: Diversity and Change". Tourism and Cultural Change. 1 (2): 95–110. doi:10.1080/14766820308668162. S2CID 144370135.
  6. ^ Conlin, Jennifer (11 February 2007). "IN TRANSIT; Traveling to the Ends of the Earth, at Ground Level". The New York Times.
  7. ^ AVAKIAN, TALIA (3 August 2018). "How a Backpacking Trip Could Make You a More Successful Person". Travel + Leisure.
  8. ^ Chen, Ganghua; Huang, Songshan (Sam); Hu, Xianyang (3 May 2018). "Backpacker Personal Development, Generalized Self-Efficacy, and Self-Esteem: Testing a Structural Model". Journal of Travel Research. 58 (4): 680–694. doi:10.1177/0047287518768457. S2CID 150169280.
  9. ^ Hampton, Mark (23 September 2010). "Backpacker tourism can be beneficial for poor countries". The Guardian.
  10. ^ MacLean, Rory (31 July 2006). "Dark Side of the Hippie Trail". New Statesman.
  11. ^ MacLean, Rory (2009). Magic Bus: On the Hippie Trail from Istanbul to India. Ig Publishing. ISBN 9780978843199.
  12. ^ Kingsley, Patrick (6 September 2010). "Gap years: Wasted youth?". The Guardian.
  13. ^ Bernstein, J.D. (2019). "Begging to travel: Begpacking in Southeast Asia". Annals of Tourism Research. 77: 161–163. doi:10.1016/j.annals.2018.12.014. S2CID 158997574.
  14. ^ "Infamous professional beggar Benjamin Holst denied entry into Singapore — twice | Coconuts". Retrieved 4 August 2023.
  15. ^ Bernstein, Joshua D. (2019). "Begging to travel: Begpacking in Southeast Asia".
  16. ^ "Young, entitled, and over there: The rise of the begpacker". The Guardian. 22 July 2019.
  17. ^ Gibson, Jenna. "'Begpacking' Phenomenon Draws Scrutiny in South Korea". thediplomat.com. Retrieved 23 May 2020.

External links edit