2013, I am willing to say, the budget backpacker out of six months, had now been replaced by Flashpackers out for 30 days.
Flashpackers Culture Replaced the Backpackers
I want to keep this simple, as best I can explain, about 5-8 years ago it became trendy for people under 40 to use backpacks for travel luggage. From 1965 until maybe 2005 it was Europeans would travel for 6 months to two years internationally. American would do maybe 1-2 months in Europe, and then think about other places continents.
There are travel writers like Rick Steves who beat Europe to death, who never quite moved on…
Roughly, in 2005 it became trendy for all people under 40 to buy a backpack to use a luggage, this confused the backpacker culture it started changing.
The average time out for a backpacker dropped from about eight months to 30 days from 2005 until now 2013.
People that travel with a backpack for less than 30 days are called Flashpackers, I do not really care to understand why, but to me, they are flashy, quick, and tourist disguised as backpackers. They are trendy, yuppie; there it is more of a fashion statement, and not the budget traveler bunch, tourist with backpacks as luggage.
Backpackers are fading away, because it is not easy to notice a person out for a year, when surrounded by other people with backpacks out for 30 days.
And, the “Flashy” backpacker has no pride in budgets, going cheap and is insulting, and denigrates the true budget traveler. 15 years ago, wise use of 12-15,000 dollars could make a one year trip into three years; this type of thinking has been lost.
Generally, this new Flashpacker has become the standard Backpacker, while Backpackers 15 years ago had great pride, took 12,000-15,000 dollars an went on 1-2 year trips, walked, sacrificed and would talk at length on how they saved money.
This thrifty Backpacker is not confronted by a Flashpacker that spends 4-5,000 dollars in 30 day, and is proud when the live in a Five Star, recommended on TripAdvisor, resort. These people are painful to be near, they are on vacation, and money is not important, they are going home in 30 days.
Trust me; the biggest insult on the planet it to call someone cheap, the backpackers are in hiding, pretending to be part of the gang.
2013, the end of the Lonely Planet Backpacker, the end of Frommer Europe on 5 and 10 dollars per day, BBC purchased Lonely Planet, Frommer went Europe 20 year ago, the travel industry is losing a way for the average person to see the world on a budget.
Let me introduce you to the people on the splurge, living same economic backpacker model as the United States Economy. Borrow it, pay it back later, and never sacrifice the good life.
February Benin, West Africa 2013
Oh yes, the Africa Overlanders make the Flashpackers look cheap!
Sadly rings true, that. It does seem that a blurring has occured. Backpacking has gone 'mainstream' in a way, and has been appropriated by fashion and in some cases - fame / career seeking. It has been a subtle but sure change in the demographics and one of the victims of this change is (in my opinion) the demise in some areas of the sort of travel conversation that used to be in cheap guesthouses about budget and well received personal feedback / advice. In some ways the arrival of the internet put a dent in that and I was reminded very strongly of this a couple of years ago in a main room of a guesthouse, where I walked in and every person there was silent and absorbed in their own facebook pages or headset on and communicating on skype with friends as if they'd never left home. It was a bit depressing. Other travellers in the room were now irrelevant objects. I first began full indepedent travel in the mid 90s, and that seems very recent to me (I'm in denial) but recently for fun I picked up cheap 2nd hand copies of Lonely Planet guides from that time and also ones from the early to mid 80s.
Really, they were almost unrecognizable relics. Writers made comments in some of these that today would have the political correctness police knocking on the door today, and even had advise on dodging fees and the like. It almost exclusively focused on the shoestring too, with mid range and upper relegated to the occasional side note.
None of this - "splurge recommendations" for sure :D
It was amusing to read them, and they were quite a different animal than the ones of today (which I must say have far far far better maps though). At times I have wondered if my observations of changes in the way travellers relate to each other, is a case of the boring old - "in my day", but it does seem that there have been major changes in the way people travel and also the way travellers relate. Good developments have come over the years, along with the less welcome ones. Generally I find that the more obscure a country and less popular a country is for travel, the more that foreigners who meet each other get back into the travel conversation. In very popular areas, less so. As you say, a backpack can now be the luggage of all kinds of people who are on a wide variety of budgets and there from 10 days to 8 months or more. Its become blurred.
I never got caught in the backpacker culture as I had to work for the man for a living. But I did make my 1st trip to Europe with a wife and backpacks. We stayed in the Frommer $5 hotels for 9 weeks.
I now still at a much older age go with a backpack/flashpack when I travel because it accomplishes two things, it forces you to pack a lot lighter and not take things you really don't need and it is more convenient and easier to carry than 2 or 3 suitcases regardless of the wheels that half the time get broken.
I look back and I wish I would have been able to spent 2/3 years on 10/15K back in the 60s/70s traveling but we could not all do that for various reasons.
But I now travel with comfort, never have and never will do "If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium" bit, I stay in places and enjoy for a time then move on, with my backpack.
The travel culture has definitely changed. No doubt about that. But the serious travelers still get a lot of bang for their buck. I really see no point in spending lot of time and money to get to a destination and then staying two or three days. It takes that long just to find a decent coffee shop.
I tend to gravitate back to the places I really liked. Lago Atitlan, Subic Bay, and hopefully Costa Rica in the not too distant future. I have a kind of custom baggage set up with a soft carry on that sits on top of my roll away bag. It stays in place thanks to some well placed Velcro. I tend to travel kind of light though. My roll away is just a tiny bit bigger than the carry on roll away.
See you abroad soon.
I have definitely learned a lot about the dos and don'ts of air travel though. There is kind of knack for doing it the easiest and most pleasant way. I started watching the cabin staff and taking notes and learning where the best seats are and which airlines to avoid. And which air craft to avoid. And which airports to avoid at all cost. LOL.
But I may be a little biased towards air travel. I flew air crew in the navy and as a civilian. So needless to say, I love flying. And I sleep like a log once the lights are turned down.
Here are some tips for air travel. Take your own favorite condiments. And take one of those little salt and pepper shakers. I love salt and pepper. And take along a couple nice cup cakes or fruit pies for snacks. And I travel with little packets of my favorite instant coffee. And I take along a couple dinner rolls and some little packets of jam and little packets of real butter. Needless to say this really adds to the flavor of airline food.
And another tip. Asian airlines like Eva Air, JAL, and PAL really take good care of you. The stewardesses on Japan Airlines constantly bow and just bend over backwards to take care of the passengers.
See you in the air soon
Right about the distance/time/cost thing, Phil. Especially when taking into account things like the Air Passenger Duty from the United Kingdom, a tax on flying that is spun as an 'environmental saviour' (treasury filler, more like) supposedly determined by distance bands but is not correctly applied by distance upon further investigation.
Rather, is it determined by business and political relations. It is adding huge cost to final cost of a long haul flight now, and increasingly my journeys to far flung regions are starting to revert to longer time as a result, in order to make the best of it. Passengers will pay the same whether or not it is a 3 months trip or a week long.