Whenever anyone asks me what kind of traveler I am, I always say I’m a backpacker. It’s what I’ve been doing since I left home in 2006. I stay in hostels, live in dorms, stay with backpackers, travel with them, eat cheap, travel cheap, and do it all with my big trusty backpack. In many ways, I’m a budget traveler but overall, I consider myself of the backpacker mindset.
Yet things are changing. Maybe it’s age. Maybe it’s income. Whatever it is I feel that my travel style is slowly changing and that the worst part of it is that I know it. I’ve already upgraded myself to flashpacker. You know – one of those travelers who has a little more means, a lot more fancy electronics, and isn’t always looking for the cheapest place to stay or eat.
When I first started traveling, I always went for the cheapest option. Big dorms. Eating in hostels. Buses. Hitching. Overnight trains. Constant haggling. Street food. Stealing extra breakfast rolls. Now, I go for smaller dorms, I don’t mind flying, and I don’t like traveling to countries in order to cook pasta in a hostel. (I eat out. A lot.)
I’m not the 21 year old gap year kid on a finite budget. When most backpackers head off around the world, they have a limited budget. They saved up a certain amount of money and when that is spent, the trip is over. However, for me, I make my money via this website so I don’t have that constraint. Money is constantly flowing because I work and travel at the same time.
This has led to a certain upscaling in my travels and, frankly, I’m not sure I like it. I like being the vagabond backpacking traveler. I find it’s a more organic way to see the world and a better way to interact with the locals and get to know the local culture. My travel philosophy is to live like a local. The closer you can live to how the locals do, the more understanding of their culture you can have.
However, the more you upscale your travels, the more you lose that local pulse. It’s hard to experience local life flying from resort to resort. Sitting in some fancy restaurant or taking private buses around a country disconnects you from much of the local population. You are seeing but not experiencing. Yet I find myself upscaling more and more. After so many years of travel, I just want some creature comforts. Part of me (especially the frugal part) is always searching for the cheapest place to stay but when I find it and stay there, I find myself unhappy and unable to sleep. I just can’t do the cheap bed anymore.
Maybe some of it has to do with the fact that I’ve been living in Asia for a while and this area of the world feels more like home than a place I travel. Yet even when I go away, I feel like I’m moving away from my roots. I want more than I did in the past.
I don’t like it. It makes me wonder – what moves a person away from their original travel style? Age? Income? Relationships? A combination of them all? Can you still be the vagabond you were when you were younger? If you do change, can you change back? Or should we just accept this as another part of life? Can we simply live a modified backpacker lifestyle or will there be a point where I forgo hostels and places like Khao San Road forever?
I don’t have a good answer to any of these questions.
You are only as old as you feel. And I don’t feel old. I enjoy hanging out with the college aged backpackers – they keep me young. But as I get older and I can afford to do more things and eat at better places, I want more creature comforts. That moves me away from my old backpacker lifestyle and I’m not sure I want to give that travel style up just yet.
I see my travel style changing in front of me every day but I’m not sure how to stop the rising tide.