The serious accusation to travel bloggers contributing to begpacking plus my insights about the issue
Cover photo credit: PBS
In the past few months, I’ve been asked about my opinion with the rise of the so-called ‘begpackers’ – a term coined for backpackers who are allegedly begging to fund their world travels. I never really had energy for it because I think it is very subjective and personal – I refuse to judge these people because I have a full understanding of people leading different lives: to each their own.
The inspiration to write this article was from getting an accusation from John Doe that I am contributing to the begpacking mania. This blog always aimed to tell stories (that are mine) and offer nothing but the truth (my truth) so today, I don’t want to sit down and keep quiet about it.
Bear in mind that you will get my version if you choose to continue reading.
The serious accusation to travel bloggers contributing to begpacking
My Facebook community for readers is one of the reasons why I got to know a lot of people who are reading my blog personally. Whenever the schedule permits, I try my best to check out on everyone because their travel experiences and the groundbreaking move they executed to live a life of travel interests me. We are all travelers but never navigated things the same way so it’s very refreshing to see how others are making it out there. Some stories of my inspiring readers (who I now consider my friends):
Ryan quit his job to travel the world. He is currently sustaining himself on the road through translating files to different languages.
Kate went to Asia to go backpacking and eventually found an English teaching job in South Korea.
Those are just some stories shared to me the readers of this blog and they all look like success stories to me. When I receive these kinds of messages, I don’t offer any kind of advice but I share my personal experiences about it. Most of them would follow my lead; a few would do it their way. As I said (and truly respect), different people, different dynamics. We are all entitled to choose our travel styles because we should always go for the one that will work for us. Nobody leads the exact same life as you.
From where I stand, Ryan, Ferna and Kate are all inspiring people to do the same in their own ways but are sending the message in different manners and in very distinct mediums. I am not saying their success came from reading this blog – they propbably read thousands of blogs in order to execute their long-term travel efficiently.
Which leads me to the next point: travel bloggers are real people who only give inspiration through sharing their stories. They are never the reason for someone else’s travel success/fail nor the rise of begpackers shouldn’t be blamed on them. It’s always easy for us to pass the burden to other people when in reality, we are the ones who made decisions for ourselves.
I think if (we) travel bloggers should be blamed for anything, it’s about the lack of transparency about the perils of the ‘quit your job to travel’ propaganda. Most of us have not really delivered the message right. We are showing photos with rainbows and unicorns because this is what sells. But then again, if you are a person who decides for yourself, you will also know that different people have different dynamics. You will also have your own thought about nothing ever comes easy even if it looks like a walk in the park.
Let’s say you are the consumer and travel bloggers are the sellers – it’s up to you if you’re going to buy the product. Even though customers are always right, you can never blame the seller for buying trinkets. It’s your decision. You can never challenge travel blogger’s experiences because this is their own truth. It’s subjective. It’s personal.
Although travel bloggers have the right to publish their own content (it is their space after all), we should also be responsible in what we publish. To be honest, most of us do it full-time (we earn money from it) so Google ranking is more on top of the priority but we, as today’s ‘role models’ on the Internet should always be transparent. We owe honesty to our readers because our blogs are bookmarked on their mobile phones. Whenever they are in trouble, they run to us. It is a privilege for us to be looked up to so we should use it right.
Bottom line, I don’t agree that travel bloggers should be blamed for this. Let’s not burden other people with the decisions we make. I’d like to believe I am speaking for all the other inspiring travel bloggers out there. They don’t deserve this treatment because seriously, big following or not, everyone is good at what they do.
The begpacking issue is cultural
I noticed the issue is a big deal only in Asia. Hailing from the Philippines, one of the most visited Southeast Asian countries, I haven’t seen begpackers in the flesh but I can relate to the sentiments of my fellow Asians. Busking, for example, is labeled as a way of begpacking in Asia but in Europe and South America, it is a form of expressing one’s art. When I first went to Italy to study, I honestly didn’t understand why people would choose this over a conventional career choice. Where I am from, we will not be encouraged to do this because it’s a shameful act. In my mind, Europe is a first-world country and that there is always a job opportunity for everyone.
When I came to think of it, employment wise, most of the world I’ve seen is exactly the same where I am from. There are not enough jobs for everyone (especially for Millennials) and the boom of travel is the result of the world’s recession and the never-ending urge of many young people to taste freedom. We live in the world where choices are not limited and that we can do whatever we want as long as we are happy. Unlike the generation before us, happiness is on high priority rather than money.
The United States of America is considered a first-world country but most people who graduated college are unemployed and are drowning with over $100,000 debts from University loans. Most of the people I met while traveling have high-end degrees but opted to travel the world because there are no decent paying jobs for them back home.
The recession is not Thailand, Malaysia or Singapore’s fault but they are complaining about this so-called begpackers when all the while, they funded their tourism slogans abroad with millions of dollars. How do you expect them to respond? English people can’t just watch the buses in London filled with tourism slogans from Asia. Of course, they have to do something about it, hence, they are in the land of tropics. Though it got out of control, the advertising worked.
It happens everywhere. Do we mean to say that busking is only valid in Europe and not in Asia? Why is Asia making a big deal out of this? Because we still believe we are the minorities. The victim story that whites are the privileged ones and we are not should end. I know many people of colour who are very successful in what they do. Not all white people are ‘privileged’. We all think they can call home, mommy will click “transfer,” and they will live happily ever after but just like you, these people whom you call ” first world” are also trying to make ends meet.
I am really not comfortable with saying the W word because it encourages labels but I don’t have any other way to put it. We are humans. Period. We shouldn’t be divided by race, colour, ethnicity, etc because all of us can make it out there no matter where are are from.
On another note, one cultural aspect that backpackers should respect is if selling goods on the sidewalk is legal. For example, Singapore is considered a first-world country and has many strict rules about street vendors. As a foreigner, you should take this into consideration. You just can’t sit by the train station, lay a blanket with your products and start selling. This, along with many other rules and regulations we don’t know of is against their laws. Be informed. Begpacker, tourist, long-term traveler, whatever we call ourselves: none of us are entitled to trash one’s culture just because we feel like it. If I am a Singaporean and you did this in my country, I won’t be mad but I will be furious. Respect begets respect.
“Begging” is a strong word
When I first heard about this issue, I was bothered by the fact that it was called ‘begging’ when in reality, backpackers are selling their work. Whether be it a postcard, their music, handmade crafts, etc. They are not opening their palms, kneeling on the sidewalk and mumbling, “alms, alms, alms, spare me your mercy.” Again, I have to clarify I haven’t been in Asia for a while (a long time, really!) so please, if you think this picture in my head is wrong, feel free to inform me.
The idea of traveling without money is another issue we have to tackle. Let’s admit it, through the years, it really sounded so cool that most of us forget the real meaning of travel – it’s a privilige. It’s not for everyone. You shouldn’t travel without money is the new trend now. Our actions in life are dictated by what’s in our not.Our parents are not the ones raising us anymore. The Internet already took that responsibility.
‘Begging’ is not the only word involved in this issue. Some say these begpackers are also “stealing” jobs from locals and I strongly disagree on that. Although I am really a fan of local art, we have our own tastes and preferences because art, no matter in what form, touch people in different ways. Even if me and my sister will go shopping for shoes, we will never buy the exact same thing because of personal choice.
I get it – you feel for the locals who are also busking on the street but are not getting the same support. So what? It doesn’t mean they get zero. This is how humans respond to things. We have the freedom to choose. Remember, not all people watch Game of Thrones, listen to Nickelback, or read this blog. You can’t blame anyone for having their preference.
Nobody is forcing you to give them money
This is a question we can’t really answer but it applies to everyone: when you were in Thailand, Malaysia or Singapore and you came across these ‘begpackers,’ did you give them money? For example, if there was a British guy who was singing very well it caught your attention, did you stop, watched and gave him a few bucks because you believe in his art and was awed by his voice?
If you did, isn’t this an action no one forced you to do? Isn’t this something you willingly did because you wanted to? I would really love to hear your first-hand experience about being obliged to give money to these ‘begpackers,’ if any.
This is related to the first discussion above about the consumer-seller relationship between travel bloggers and their audience. No one forced you to read our content nor follow our lead. Like giving money to these people whom we call ‘begpackers,’ it is up to you.
All opinions are valid
If you got to this point, thank you for reading. If you are reading this blog consistently, you will notice that like most people, I also have a lot of opinions about many things because that is human nature. Based on my experience, we always attack people who express their thoughts on the Internet without reading the entire piece.
As this is my blog, this is my space, you should take into consideration that, you and me, we are not the same. We don’t believe in the same ideals nor we don’t have to agree on the same things. But what we can agree to is that none of us is right or wrong. We live in a free world where every human being is entitled to voice their opinions. Unfortunately, it is easier for us to express them than to accept other people’s truth. At one point or another, we will be challenged but bear in mind that no matter the issue is, you have all the right to take your seat at the table and say something.
What are your thoughts about the intense begpacking issue?
Whether you agree or not, negative or positive comments, I would love to know what you think! Leave your thoughts on the comment box below and let’s agree to disagree.
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