BegPacking hit the travel industry a while back, in all kinds of wrong. A trend that is becoming blatant and obnoxious by the day, one that gives every western traveler a bad rap – like we need another?! Unfortunately, Begpacking is a bad combination of white privilege and millennial entitlement.
What is BegPacking
It is backpackers from western or so-called first world (read privileged) countries choosing to beg in developing countries, to fund their travel. This trend of begging for money to fund travel is most prevalent in South East Asia. A quick twitter search on #begpacker will give you the extent of this issue.
Obviously there is a spectrum in the “begpacking community” as well, some are begging to fund a trip home, due to genuine unfortunate circumstances while others to fund their next drunken-night-on-the-beach venture. And a whole bunch in between.
Current Situation with BegPacking
It is rampant. This phenomenon has grabbed a lot of media attention in the recent past and government officials in Thailand and Vietnam have given statements suggesting a larger crackdown on this population. Immigration authorities have amped-up the questioning at airports, visa/cash requirements, to further ascertain proof of funds.
Locals and local media in these countries have denounced this practice as shameless and one steeped in white privilege.
Begpacking – Is it White Privilege?
Most of the conversation and criticism locally revolves around “rich western tourist trying to scam locals by begging on streets”. Fact is, not every western tourist is rich. Western countries have their own version of poverty. That aside, that begpackers choose to travel and beg only in under developed countries with extremely low cost of living, is text book White Privilege. That they expect locals to help fund their trip is White Privilege. That they romanticize street hawking, think selling knick-knacks or busking their way to “earn money” is ok, is text book White Privilege. Often this is being done in countries that have extremely troubled history with colonialism, political struggle for independence and racial power divide, only adds to the disturbing subtext in begpacking.
These are countries where the local population works extremely hard to survive, let alone afford leisure travel. These are also countries where locals make their living within the travel industry. To expect them to fund your next jaunt, because you decided it was ok to enter their country with insufficient funds, is white privilege.
Begpacking – Is it Millennial entitlement?
Millennials have embraced travel like no other generation has, to an extent where we have been led to believe that travel is the new basic necessity of life. It is not difficult to notice that the begpacking community, by-and-large fits the millennial generation descriptors. The #wanderlust , gap year travel, finding the real you, attaining spiritual tranquility, social media influencer, could well describe the hoards of begpackers that have taken to the streets of South-East Asia. Let me be clear, there is nothing wrong with travel, if you can afford it. And there is a huge difference in traveling on a shoestring budget and begging your way to the next full moon beach party. It is the sense of expectation, that locals or strangers can fund your travel that reeks of millennial entitlement. The failure to recognize the difference between begging for a meal to survive and begging to travel is what makes my argument for that sense of millennial entitlement. That crowd funding online or begging on the streets is an acceptable option, to enable your travel, is millennial entitlement.
I hope begpacking becomes a thing of the past, soon. I want to acknowledge that a lot of the begpackers embark on these journeys with a Utopian viewpoint, to spread love, meet new people and learn about their cultures. However, they are going about it the wrong way around if the itinerary includes begging. And this, ultimately may be hurting the travel industry on a whole. Unfortunately, this trend is a bad combination of white privilege and millennial entitlement.