Is ‘begpacking’ empowering the ignorant traveler?


“Begpacking” is 21st century idiocy. But despite this, the trend is still rife in Southeast Asia. Source: @QbIx08 / Twitter

STORIES of traveling the world for free are written into colorful novels that excite little children before bedtime. But as we grow older and start to wise up, the realization that nothing in life comes for free creates a pessimistic bubble in our aura of optimism.

It is a simple fact of life that to get where you want to be, you have to work for it – especially if you want to travel the world.

But in the age of the Internet, hashtags and crowdfunding, the ethics of working hard to get what you want has flown out the window for a certain type of traveler.

Instead of working to save enough to go off on their travels, or finding a job to sustain their indefinite trip, they beg as though they aren’t able to support themselves.

This self-entitled culture has spawned a community of “begpackers”. The begpacker is a traveler who either: a) makes relatively unimpressive items and sells them for extortionate prices to locals; or b) simply relies on boards with “traveling the world with no money, please help me out” scrawled on it.

In most instances of this thoughtless money-gaining practice, the countries where they beg often has a far lower average annual income per household than what the beggar could be earning if he/she had even a lowly paid job back home.

So essentially, these predominantly white, millennial travelers are already more privileged than the people they are asking to help them, resulting in a callous conundrum with a simple solution: either get a job like everyone else or go home.

The conscious traveler urged begpackers to leave their unnecessary trend in 2017, but in true disregarding style, it entered 2018 and the Internet has shown no sympathy.

The trend seems rife in Southeast Asia, where backpacking is popular but also feasible on a low budget. Begpacking reached such a critical point in Thailand last year that reports revealed officials had to ask tourists upon arrival to prove they had enough money to sustain their trip before they were allowed to enter the country.

Critics of this practice pointed out that recklessly traveling to a country with no way of supporting yourself is idiotic and will undoubtedly be a strain on the local economy.

“In addition, consuming food, water, space, and utilities without spending cash also diverts resources away from locals who need (and deserve) them far more,” Quartzy‘s Rosie Spinks wrote.

The attraction of free travel has captivated explorers for years. There is certainly an art form of traveling on a budget or wangling deals that allow you to be comfortable at low costs. But begpacking is not an art form, it is lazy.

The message current begpackers are sending out to future travelers is one of utter self-entitlement and reliance on people who have a lot less than them.

Traveling is a luxury experience even if you stay in cramped hostels and only dine on rice and okra. Yet, it seems that fortunate explorers would rather forgo having money in their pockets to start with, than just depleting it while making memories on the road, like conscientious travelers.

It is this conscious choice that puts every begpacker into one category: someone who is self-entitled and ignorant of their privilege, who sees themselves as humble while trying to elevate their traveler status symbol via handouts.

Begpackers fundamentally seem to forget there is a difference between having to beg to feed your family and begging to maintain a privileged traveling lifestyle.