“What’s a Flashpacker?” I hear you asking in wide eyed bewilderment with a sliver of Durian dangling from the corner of your mouth. Let me tell you.
I only came across this term last week myself when I spoke with a friend who’s managing an upmarket Boutique Hotel (their description, not mine) in Phuket. He had been out on Soi Bangla one night and I commented that he’s lucky most of their guests are old couples who are in bed early in the evening and not roaming around the naughty bars or it could be bad advertisement for the hotel to have its manager sitting there drunk as a skunk, ogling the girls. He said: “Well, we actually get quite a few Flashpackers also”.
I had never heard the term before but it’s not that hard to connect the dots and guess the meaning of it. I mean, you won’t jump to the conclusion that since a Backpacker is a traveller carrying a backpack then a Flashpacker must be a traveller carrying a flash or perhaps a flashlight. No, the reasonable explanation, and the correct one, is that it is a word-play and that it means a “flashy Backpacker” (as opposed to the distinctly non-flashy character we normally associate with the term Backpacker).
It seems, or so I’m told, that there is an increasing number of travellers who could be put into the category Flashpackers. I asked my friend to describe them and the conversation went something like this:
Me: “Flashpacker? What’s that, a rich Backpacker?”
Friend: “Yes. We get a lot of these young people who travel with backpacks and on their own itineraries just like Backpackers do but they don’t do the budget crap and aren’t sleazy. You can see it on their appearances: expensive designer bags and really nice clothes and a lot of expensive stuff; you know, the I-phone and the I-pod and the I-book and all that jazz. They throw around some serious cash too.”
Me: “How are they as guests?”
Friend: “They’re great. We had four guests last week, two young couples, who were typical Flashpackers. Each couple paid our standard price of 5,500 baht per night without thinking twice about it. Then they asked for some tours to go on and they always chose the more convenient and expensive option. Plus they’re young and confident so you don’t have to pamper them or cater to them too much. Basically they get by on their own after a few pointers and they pay top money.”
Me: “To travel like that sounds pretty good.”
Friend: “Yeah. I guess I could have been a Flashpacker when I was younger, if I had had some more money.”
Me: “A booze-drinking Flashpacker.”
Friend: “Nah, I just mean…”
Me: “A booze-drinking, whore fucking Flashpacker.”
Friend: “Ok, I’m no Flashpacker, but neither are you.”
Me: “I know. But they sound pretty good. They sound way better than Backpackers.”
Friend: “They are. Not only do they dress better and pay better and behave better but there’s just so much less bullshit with these guys. Backpackers always try to show off with how much in contact they are with the locals and the culture, even though in reality they know less than shit about either. Flashpackers are not into that crap. They’re here to have fun and they know they are privileged and they don’t apologise for that.”
Me: “Maybe because they’re used to being privileged from back home too?”
Friend: “Could be. Perhaps that’s it. Flashpackers are used to being privileged so they know how to behave and they don’t feel the least bit strange about using their money to get ahead. Backpackers, by and large, are perhaps not so privileged back home so they carry this guilt when they are suddenly rich here in Asia and feel they have to compensate by lowering themselves to local standards and because they know fuck-all about real life here they end up acting like complete idiots.”
Me: “That’s an interesting theory. But of course Backpackers are often forced to lower their standards just to make their money last longer.”
Friend: “That doesn’t mean they are forced to be obnoxious assholes though.” (My friend doesn’t like Backpackers much.)
Me: “I guess that’s true. Anyway, it’s nice that you get to work with Flashpackers. But that means you have to watch out on Soi Bangla because I would guess most of them would check that area.”
Friend: “I know, I know. I shouldn’t be outside my house at all when I’m drunk but what can you do? I just have to hope for the best.”
Well, that was pretty much the conversation I had with my friend before I hung up the phone and cursed him and God and life on this Earth in general that it is him and not me who is over there in Thailand and that it is me and not him that is freezing my ass off back home and who hasn’t seen the sun or a naked girl for weeks.
So, if you didn’t know before then you know now what a Flashpacker is. To me they seem like an OK sort of traveller. It sounds like a decent way to get around and experience new places. I wish I could win the lottery. Then I’d start a new category of tourists called Flash-mongers.
I wonder if you and your pal have just coined a new phrase?