Is backpacking best left to the young, free and undiscerning? Many see it simply as a chance for eighteen-year-olds to put off real life for a while, getting drunk in ramshackle beach bars and sleeping in palm-frond huts.
But what happens when those undiscerning backpackers grow up without losing their yearning for real travel? They hit the road again as flashpackers.
Anyone who’s been through the world’s traveler hotspots a few times will have seen the advance of the flashpacker. Bangkok’s Khao San Road, the lynchpin of many a backpacking trip, was once full of seedy hostels, where travelers paid a few baht to sleep in a windowless cubicle. Today, it’s lined with comfortable mid-range hotels boasting rooftop pools.
The people who stay in those hotels are flashpackers. They are former backpackers who’ve grown older and landed good jobs without leaving their youthful wanderlust behind. But they chase that wanderlust in a considerably more comfort than the average backpacker. Their jobs pay for that comfort, but they also mean they’re not on the road for much time. Most flashpackers are on a long holiday, taking just a few weeks off rather than months or years.
Bigger budgets and shorter trips mean flashpackers can travel in style, bringing with them all the extras they need from home as well as splashing out on restaurants, cocktail bars and (relatively) plush hotel rooms.
Look inside a flashpacker’s backpack, and you’ll find a few gadgets, such as high-end laptops and DSLR cameras. They’re kind of things you wouldn’t want to leave in the average hostel, but that are pretty safe to have in a flashpacker hotel. You might find something like this ready-made travel kit, pre-packed with travel essentials (ideal when you’ve got to head to the airport straight from work). And alongside the obligatory Lonely Planet, you’ll probably find a few notes on the best local yoga retreats or cookery classes.
You may have left your youth behind in a haze of full moon parties, but that doesn’t mean you’re now restricted to sensible resort holidays. It just means you’re able to backpack better than you used to.
With a little extra money in your pocket, you can take the best bits of backpacking, the freedom and exploration, and experience them while sleeping in a comfortable, clean bed every night.
Young people on a shoestring budget will always be the beating heart of the travelling scene. But the travel dreams don’t have to end with age. For young-at-heart former backpackers, flashpacking is absolutely the future, if they want it to be.