As promised, here are what I see as some of the defining elements of flashpacking. (Please excuse the HUGE generalizations. It’s all in fun!) These generalizations come from my reading experience and about 10 flashpackers I’ve met in SE Asia so far (which is to say I don’t know too many, so I’m interested to hear from more of you!). Most flashpackers I’ve come in contact with has been through the blogosphere.
1. Flashpackers are NOT a sub-set of backpackers. Backpackers being defined here as those who travel on a strict budgets, use backpacks, and prefer traveling experiences over touring experiences (a distinction that is like the problem of evil discussion in philosophy, mix two beers and you could go at it all night long). In my experience, the different attunements to money make the two fundamentally different types of travelers. Flashpackers will, for example, stay in a super budget hotel, but splurge on the famous restaurant in town. Therefore the fundamental credo of the backpacker might be to seek out budget experiences that are “locally authentic” (in the best cases), whereas the credo of the flashpacker would be to seek out high value experiences that are personally interesting.
2. Flashpackers have mobile income or more budget then they could expect to spend during their allotted travel time. This is perhaps the most critical difference-flashpackers have been defined before as merely backpackers with money, and the money element is what is generally the driving the key differences between flashpackers and their backpacking counterparts.
3. Flashpackers seek out high value experiences and services. Whereas a tourist might seek high convenience, or highly transparent experience (understandable or pre-arranged) and the backpacker seeks budget experience-whatever is cheaper. Flashpackers seek a high value for their dollars. Yesterday I shared 30 minutes of my morning walk with a backpacker (just off the bus with two huge bags, must have been over 50 lbs of stuff, this seems to be about the average for backpackers) on the SE Asia circuit looking for a hotel room-she must have spent an extra 2 hours trying to save 2 dollars (or 1 pound for her) on accommodation. The flashpacker, with a more flexible budget, would have traded 1 dollar for 2 extra hours of exploration. The flashpacker will also stay at a luxury resort if it’s a good value and an interesting experience-whereas backpackers might eschew this experience as in-authentic.
4. Flashpackers have business or career experience. In general, this seems true. Two things seem to fall out from this-most flashpackers I’ve meet are trolling up a million business ideas, foreign lands are an ideal place to cross fertilize business ideas and create high value outcomes and partnerships. Also, flashpackers tend to be more skilled negotiators-backpackers will trudge around town all day looking to save a dollar-a flashpackers will learn how to save 25% off their hotel by using the right strategy.
5. Flashpackers are more experienced. Most flashpackers are former backpackers who caught the bug, turned it into a science, and managed to create a lifestyle out of constant traveling. A standard mold for flashpackers is essentially former backpackers who now have some money.
6. Flashpackers carry 50 dollars instead of 50 pounds (of luggage). Two days from now I get on a plane to fly to Hanoi, where the winter season is starting. My first order of business will be to get a warm jacket and hat.
7. Flashpackers are concerned about the time value of their money. Because they have more freedom with their budget, flashpackers are more likely to rent cars or use budget airlines than take more time consuming travel options.
8. Flashpackers are often on career breaks. If they haven’t yet managed to have mobile streams of income through companies, many flashpackers are living off of a good amount of savings and tend to have at least some small assets.
9. Flashpackers travel with toys. Laptop, phone, MP3 player, video camera, SLR camera, you name it. Flashpackers are digitized and connected to the world.
10. Flashpackers are FAST and FLEXIBLE– a more often than not, LIGHT. Their flexibility with budget, and efficiency with digital communications, allows them to use “GIT” or “get it there” techniques to keep their packs light and efficient. If the average pack weight for a backpacker is 40-50lbs, flashpackers are would average about 20lbs.