I was 30 when I realised I’d unwittingly made the transition from backpacker to flashpacker.
As I prepared to set off on a three-and-a-half-month trip with my husband, 10 years on from post-university travels, the hints were all there. The thought of a room without air-conditioning made me sweat, while reviews of cold showers sent shivers down my spine. I knew something had changed – but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what.
Weeks later we found ourselves in Guatemala, saying goodbye to new friends we’d made on a 10-hour bus journey across the country. When they asked which hostel we were staying in, we confessed that we had actually booked a hotel this time, after a traumatic experience in a party hostel filled with vomiting students. A long, awkward silence followed.
Their baffled faces filled me with shame – and sent me on a panicked, late-night Google search to diagnose the disconnect. Here’s what I found:
Defining the flashpacker
“A flashpacker is one who travels with the intrepid ethos of a backpacker but having added comfort, style and technology whilst still maintaining a sense of exploration and adventure.”
If this sounds like you, read on.
How to own your new status:
Don’t turn your back on the ol’ backpack
Leaving your backpacker days behind does not mean forgoing your trusty backpack. A sleek suitcase may tempt you, but nothing can replace the convenience and freedom of a backpack. It’s seen you through tiny cobbled streets, many a sweaty hike and hundreds of hostel staircases, and will always come in handy.
Bigger budget = bigger opportunities
You’ve likely been working for a number of years now, and have earned the right to have a cheeky cocktail after a long hike rather than a warm, flat beer – or to splash out on a one hour plane journey over a 15 hour bus. Time is money after all!
Connect with like-minded people from all generations
You will find yourself meeting all sorts of interesting people who share your desire to explore the world. From a French couple in their 60s in Guatemala who had recently sold their home to spend the rest of their life travelling, to a British music producer in Mexico who was working 2 days a week from a boujie Airbnb, we heard some fascinating stories and made lifelong friends.
Embrace travelling with technology
Have a penchant for the latest gadget? Perhaps a translator? Can’t go a day without your laptop? Add them to the packing list. While years ago, you could be found waiting for the computer in an internet cafe, now you can plan the next part of your journey or share your latest adventure with friends and family from the comfort of a poolside lounger.
Dare yourself to try something new
Whether it’s splashing out on an Indian street food tour with the best in the business, or paragliding off a cliff over Lake Atitlan, you can now afford to explore the world in new ways, from new heights. Make the most of it!
I’ll admit it: it took me a while to come to terms with accepting my new travel habits. There’s a pride in the backpacker way – seeing the world on a shoestring budget, re-wearing the same shirt for the fifth day in a row, hearing someone in your 10-bed dorm fart and knowing, in that moment, that the rest of you are in the same smelly trenches. But being a flashpacker doesn’t mean you’ve lost your curious, adventurous spirit.
So go ahead! Explore the world how you want, while indulging in your creature comforts – and know you will always be a backpacker at heart.