Backpackers begging for money: Why travel's generation of entitlement is a disgrace
OPINION: This might be it. This might be the sign of the coming apocalypse. This might be all the evidence we need that humankind has reached a point of such ignorant lunacy that we're about to destroy ourselves. And we'll deserve it.
In south-east Asia, right now, there are young, healthy, well-off travellers who are going around cap in hand begging people to fund their holiday.
They're asking other travellers, but they're also asking locals. They're doing it in the old "banana pancake" countries, places like Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, begging people to give them money so they can keep on living the dream.
They're called "beg-packers". They might only be in the minority. They might be just a small subset of the backpacker population. However, there are enough of them now, popping up on social media feeds as they're snapped on the streets with their hands out for a donation, to warrant being known as a thing.
The question is: how? How can any backpacker be self-entitled enough to sit there on the street with their hand out, ignoring the incredible amount of privilege that got them there in the first place, asking residents of developing countries to donate to the cause of their own enjoyment? How can people be so idiotic?
Some aren't begging, exactly. Some are busking, playing musical instruments and hoping to get paid. Others are selling artwork, or clothes, or even photos. All in the hope that some kindly Cambodians or Laotians or Vietnamese or Thai people will buy their products and continue to fund their lifestyle.
There are idiots out there who are proud of the fact that they're going on these long journeys without any money at all. There are bloggers who boast to the world that they're "doing South America without spending a cent", who are travelling Central Asia on the strength of people's kindness.
This is not something to be proud of. They're abusing incredible privilege just to show off to the world, all the while leaning on the generosity of the disadvantaged. It's ridiculous.
Even if you haven't seen this for yourself, you know, immediately, who these people are. There were always the types in the hostels who looked ripe for this sort of lunacy, the trust fund hippies who are such citizens of the world that it wouldn't be anything big for them to beg from those in developing countries, to play on people's sympathies for a few extra baht to buy beer and friendship bracelets. They were the types who'd live the bohemian life for a year or so, stealing your milk from the hostel fridge, haggling locals out of 20 or 30 cents for a rickshaw ride, before going home to get a university degree.
This is a sense of shameless entitlement that people don't even seem to understand is a problem. It's not limited to travellers, either – look at Ksubi co-founder Dan Single, who used a Go Fund Me campaign recently to attempt to raise $250,000 from the public to aid his recovery from an accident. People like that can't seem to separate the concepts of a "good cause" and "my cause". (Though Single's campaign backfired spectacularly, which is at least heartening.)
Beg-packers clearly don't understand how good they've got it. They don't understand that their white privilege, their sheer good luck at having been born in a developed country that allowed them the means to travel the world in their teens or early 20s, already makes them stupendously fortunate.
To then ask people who haven't been born with that good luck to fund them with beer money? To depend on generous spirits to give them handouts so they don't have to endure the horror of going home and working a normal job and living a normal life in a comfortable apartment in the developed world? It's nothing short of lunacy. It's a sign of the coming apocalypse.
Want to travel around South-East Asia? Then just save up some money and do it. You'll have an amazing trip.
Want to have the gap year of a lifetime? Sacrifice a few things and you'll have the means together before you know it.
If, right now, you don't have enough money to fund your holiday around a developing country, then you don't have enough money to go on holiday. You'll have to wait a bit longer. Don't, instead, take charitable funds away from people and causes that actually need it so you can drink one more Beerlao and spend one more day lying in a hammock.
People in developing countries don't want to give you things for free. They don't need your crappy friendship bracelets or your beaded necklaces. They're not there to give you an amaaaaazing experience. They just want to get on with their lives.
Beg-packers should do the same thing. At home.
What do you think of the begpacker phenomenon? Is this the ultimate in travellers' self-entitlement? Or is it OK to fund your holiday like this?