Whilst not exactly a new term, ‘flashpacking’ isn’t immediately recognised by a lot of seasoned travellers. Best way to explain a term? An example!
A bit of background information: my wife and I love Italian culture, history and food but we don’t have much direct experience of the country. I’ve only ever been to Rome and she’s, sadly, never been. This year, we decided it might be fun to go backpacking around Italy. We’re both in our mid-late 20s and it’s the sort of adventure that we wanted to do before we have children. Our plan is to fly in to Napoli and then visit Ischia, Procida, Florence, the Tuscany countryside, Siena before eventually flying out of Rome.
When we started planning we really wanted to retain a ‘backpacker’ feel to the trip but we found that we were booking some nice hotels and experiences. Had we lost the backpacking roots to the trip? This is where the concept of flashpacking comes in. As previously stated, we have no children (unless cats count?) and we don’t have any major financial burdens so we, naturally, have a fairly decent disposable income.
We sat down and questioned the idea that we were actually ‘backpacking’ round Italy and realised that, whilst we would still carry backpacks and ride trains, there was something inherently different about the way we were travelling compared to your run-of-the-mill backpacker who has traditionally been quite low budget.
We don’t really want to get lost so we’re taking a Samsung Galaxy S3 (with Google Maps and TripAdvisor for on-the-fly recommendations.) and we’re going to be taking Kindles for the long train journeys. Years ago, we might have been looked down on by some backpackers for having a magical device that shows us exactly where to go (and how to get there) but, the fact is, we just don’t want to lose our way. We only have a finite amount of time per year to travel and there’s a natural desire to fit as much in as possible.
We also booked some pretty nice hotels (I’ll blog about these post trip – in the meantime, look up Albergo il Monastero in Ischia and Follonico in Montepulciano) so, suddenly, it didn’t feel like a backpacking trip anymore. We’ve booked no hostels either which would usually be a sure sign of a low budget backpacking trip. As a married couple, we weren’t keen to share a hostel dorm room and the private hostel rooms didn’t really work out much cheaper than most hotel rooms.
And, again, we go back to the disposable income. I think we’ve both got to the stage where we’d rather carry a little bit less on our backs and a little bit more in our wallets. No towels somewhere? I’d rather buy some cheap towels and then donate them to charity instead of carrying with me for 2 weeks. Suddenly rainy? I’ll buy a coat while I’m there instead of lugging the thing all around Italy.
I’ve left it until last but here’s our final difference between this trip and a traditional backpacking holiday – we’ve rented a car for 3 days for part of the trip, something that would have been unheard of in backpacking circles a decade ago.
So I suppose this is where flashpacking comes in. I found the following definition on the Internet:
A flashpacker shares some of the characteristics of a backpacker: a sense of independence, no fixed itinerary and relatively long periods of travel to more exotic and far-flung destinations. Whereas backpacking is traditionally associated with budget travel and destinations that are relatively cheap, flashpacking has an association of more disposable income while traveling and has been defined simply as backpacking with a bigger budget.
There you have it; I guess we’re probably flashpackers now but certainly not backpackers. I’ll write a big, proper blog post about the trip (I’m back around the 20th September) so do keep an eye out for it. I’ll try my best to make it exciting and hopefully inspire you to take a flashpacking trip to Italy or somewhere else (which, of course, we can help you plan).
For the record, I don’t think it’s a good or a bad thing that some portion of backpacking trips has evolved into flashpacking trips – I guess it’s just a reflection of the more modern, switched-on world we find ourselves in. Have we lost some of the ‘purity’ of traditional backpacking? Probably, yes, but in our situation I can’t help but feel the pros outweigh the cons.
Final point.. am I looking forward to the trip?
(Disclaimer: this post is the opinion of an individual staff member at Al Arabi Travel Agency and does not represent the opinions of the company)