I was sitting in a park the other day with a good friend, overlooking the city, talking about our travel experiences — mine to Europe (& beyond) for a year, her’s across the United Sates for 5 months — and we broached the topic of hostels and flashpacking. She had a few complaints about many hostels with a common room and a dozen backpackers hacking away at their keyboards, focused on their screen instead of interacting with each other and making new friends.
Travel for any length of time, and you will see it. Just like you’re gonna get woken up at 3am by rowdy drunks coming home… it’s par for the experience.
But is flashpacking a crime? should it be? I know I enjoy the time I get to Skype with people I havent spoken to in months. I like to find out where they are, what they’ve been doing, and whether I should meetup with them.
Just like taking a guidebook, having your technology (SmartPhone, Tablet, Laptop) can come in very handy; as long as you know when to disconnect.
If you’re staying in a hostel, aren’t you there to meet people? You can schedule your facebook and email time for mornings when most hostel-goers are still catching Zzz’s. I can forgive you with Skype though, we know that you’re trying to get the timezone difference right.
It makes no-itinerary travel easier
I’ve written before about how I love the Internet, and for good reason, free wi-fi at cafes, bus stations, and hostels can make buying tickets, paying credit cards/bills, and finding cheap (or free) accomodation and things to do much easier.
I am all for the Flashpacker lifestyle, for me it makes no-itinerary travel easier. Taking an Internet-ready device (Laptop, iPhone, etc) means:
Your family always know’s where you are, and that you’re safe.. all it takes is a Facebook update, Tweet, or Checkin.
Having an open itinerary, and changing plans more often than you change your underwear.
Easy to find the cheapest transport options, and compare them on-the-fly.
Keep in touch with other travellers for organising meetups in the future.
No need for a guidebook, you have blogs, ThornTree, etc.
Backup your photos and other documents to the cloud (Google is my resource).
Movies, Music, Books. Download them when you can, and keep them for when you need them (eg. that 9 hours you spend caught in a snow-storm in the Atlas mountains, or that 3 hour flight delay getting out of Ibiza).
Saves money on paying for Internet. Many places I travelled charged a few dollars an hour to use their computers, but it was free to use the wi-fi.
You definitely can get around without being tethered to the Internet, but I found (travelling Europe without a phone) that it enriched my experience, and saved me money in the process.
If you do take one with you, get a small, light-weight, and basic laptop. Mine is a 13″ Acer (Aspire 1). It worked so well, when my first one was stolen, I bought the same brand and model again.
Use lockers in hostels, or lock your backpack down to something (just a padlock works fine in a secure hostel).
Don’t flash your tech gadgets around, use them discretely. Especially in countries where it’s 4 months wages to buy the gear.
Don’t take a laptop you can’t afford to loose. Nothing wrong with a secondhand netbook pre-loved by another backpacker. Nothing wrong with travel insurance either. Or backing everything up (SD cards, external HDD, “the cloud”).
Get a decent backpack. My laptop carry case is small (fits 14″) and doubles as my daypack. Looks like a regular, cheap backpack, but has plenty of padding to protect my gear.
Keep documents, personal information, passwords and other details online. So when something goes wrong, its available anywhere.
In the end, it’s your trip, it’s up to you whether you want the extra weight and worries of carrying around a laptop; but I think the freedom it gives you is worth it. I’ve found flights out of cities for $30, and hostels at 11pm (to check-in that night) for $10, as well as last-minute couches, and advice when I was stuck.
is a guy who gave up his career and mortgage for solo long-term travel. He travelled extensively across Europe for a year before heading onward to North Africa. He is now planning a trip to Latin America. As always there’s sure to be plenty of laughs, tears, and misadventures along the way.