Well, this is what is happening with the new travelers stereotype, the begpacker, who has created quite some divided opinions all over the world. If you want to see what this new trend is about, keep reading.
What is “begpacking”?
Easy. It’s Western backpackers that beg for money in the streets, so they can continue traveling for some extra time. This trend is growing in Southeast Asia the most, especially in countries like Thailand, Malaysia or Cambodia, among some others.
The usual is to see them playing some instrument or selling postcards of pictures they’ve been taking along the way to fund their trips around this part of the world, which usually covers the traveler’s trail of Thailand-Cambodia-Laos-Vietnam-Malaysia.
You will spot them with signs like “I am traveling around Asia without money. Please support my trip” and similar messages.
The controversial issue
Although in many cases the backpackers aren’t actually begging (since most of them offer music, handmade jewelry or some specific good in return), they carry this practise in countries where a big part of the population is straight poor, so why would any passerby give them money to travel when there are people that would need that help to actually eat?
This trend doesn’t make sense to the travelers community and especially to locals, who don’t see this practise very ethic, since it’s a way of disrespecting the people who beg because they haven’t eaten a proper meal in weeks or don’t have enough money to make their children go to school. Traveling is of course seen as luxury, not a bare necessity.
Moreover, even it’s not their intention, by selling postcards, jewelry or any other souvenir, they are taking away from local business and markets the chance to have more sells. Especially locals believe that’s not okay taking into account that what backpackers spend in a single week (or less) of traveling, might equal a family’s monthly income.
This unfair situation can be even more annoying to locals if you take into account that they themselves aren’t allowed to beg, meaning they can’t play music in the streets or sell any little gift or jewelry if needed; they must have a legal permission from the government to do those activities. If they don’t, they could get in serious trouble with justice. Then why Western backpackers can? It doesn’t seem to be any reasonable explanation for this kind of distinction.
There are alternatives to begpacking
From what I’ve read, especially in social media, one of the main critics these kind of travelers receive is that they are “lazy”: they’d rather spend a few hours sitting in the street selling stuff to passersby, than to get up and work “properly”.
No matter what age you are or how long you’re staying in one country, you can find a job pretty easily if you want to. There are many websites like Workway, Wwoofing or Working Nomads, among many, many others that will provide you the opportunity to work to get some money while sailing the world. Working a few hours a day is certainly enough to make you live comfortably (with a backpacker lifestyle, of course). This way, your travel will cost you much less and you’ll get your hands busy!
Looking at begpacking from a different angle
It’s easy to understand why critics of all kinds have been inundating social media regarding this matter. But I have to say I’m one who believes that it’s not right to jump to conclusions like that. Everyone has a past and specific current circumstances going on.
You may be coming from a First World country, but who has the right to judge the reasons you are selling postcards in the side of the street? Maybe you had trouble traveling through a country you don’t know at all, you got robbed, had to pay for unexpected expenses to come back home… Who knows?
All I say is that, although the average begpacker is likely to come from a middle-class family in a rich country, every case is different and having your mind free of prejudices will make you see everything in life with much more perspective.
Hanhkhatkito – main picture.