Don’t worry, I didn’t know what that meant either, until yesterday.
Basically, a “flashpacker” is a backpacker who may or may not ditch the backpack for a roller bag, brings along their camera, laptop and iPod, and who, you know, showers.
Well, it’s a little bit more nuanced than that, and people have different reasons for going this route, but going on the incredibly scientific empirical evidence gathered by your friendly neighborhood travel ninja (moi), it’s growing in popularity and, in my opinion, practicality.
Let’s face it, it’s not 1991. Cell phones, WiFi, fancy and not so fancy cameras are common and relatively inexpensive, and hostels have increasingly become not just a place to rest your head at night, but a place to mingle, socialize and meet people with whom you can explore the sights and share your travel war stories.
So bringing along a roller bag and maybe a pair of heels for a night out? Not such a faux-pas anymore.
Heck, I even brought a flat iron for my hair and (gasp) perfume. Who says you can’t climb mountains by day and dominate the dance floor by night?
Judging by a look around my hostel – girls with perfectly styled hair and guys Skyping on their iPhones in the lobby – I’m not the only one. A study conducted by Hostel World in 2006 clearly illustrates that flashpacking just may be the new backpacking: 86% of visitors to its site that took the survey travel with a digital camera. Ok. Yes, everyone and their mother has one now, but add that to the 54% that travel with an MP3 player and the 21% that travel with a laptop and you’ve got yourself a trend.
Me? I came to Australia with a few of my friends: Dwight (my iPhone), Nixon (my digital camera), Pinky (my video camera), Brain (my travel tripod), Candy (my blowdryer), Crystal (my hair iron) and most importantly Forrest (my MacBook).
That might seem like a lot of gear that a true backpacker would most certainly not only do without but also judge me for lugging along with me, but it all packs up neatly and makes keeping in touch, getting posts up and looking good while doing it (wink) incredibly easy. And yes, I managed to fit 3 months of my life, high-tech comforts included, in a pack and a (very small) roller bag. So save from the fact that I always look like I’ve recently showered and that I’ve washed my clothes in the last month, you really couldn’t tell the difference.
For like-minded travelers, it doesn’t detract from the experience to dine out every once in a while and take advantage of some of the local offerings that fall outside of the “free” or “near-free” category. Of course since the whole point of traveling is to soak in your surroundings, I don’t recommend staying in your hostel, hovering over your computers for the duration of your stay. But I do recommend waving your flashpacker flag high and allowing yourself to be a bit more comfortable in your journey. Especially in a place like Sydney, where it’s not all roughing it in the wilderness, taking moon walks and getting in touch with your inner giraffe, it’s OK to backpack to your own beat, courtesy of your iPod.–