A spectacle which has expeditiously gained notoriety, "beg-packing" is certainly not your emblematic method of sustaining your travels. From begging in the realms of train stations to selling "art" in the busiest of roads, these "beg-packers" are asking people in the poorest countries of the developing world to subsidise their travels - not in ardent desperation to go home but to avariciously go to their next 'gap yah' location. Irony and cretinism in its purest form - social media platforms have been inhumed with images of these "beg-packers" sulking, sitting on blankets with pitiful signs imploring for money. However, flash forward a week later and these "poor-for-a-day" backpackers are having the time of their lives, scuba diving by the world's clearest oceans whilst sipping on their freshly opened coconut water.
The majority of these beg-packers are soul-searching adventurists on their "gap yah" in Asia, climbing mountains and swimming in hidden waterfalls in an attempt to find themselves. Whether it's Thailand or Vietnam, it's difficult not to seethe when images of these backpackers beseeching for money surface on Twitter and Facebook yet their £500 iPhone is inundated with pictures of wild alcohol nights and serene business class flights home.
Whilst I (an eighteen year old student also on a 'gap yah') may be hastily judging these backpackers, I cannot begin to fathom what level of imbecility is required not to feel a remote sense of guilt for senselessly asking for money from people in the world's most deprived areas. Whilst some beg for money in the streets to make ends meet and feed their family for a day, these 'gap yah' travellers are using the money solely for leisurely purposes. Let's push aside the fact that it's ethically wrong and instead, elucidate on the fact that these backpackers feel that their desired funding is a profound justification for also being temporary street vendors. By decreasing the potential profits that the 'locals' should be receiving, their day-to-day lives are impacted, deepening their struggle. This isn't a struggle of making it to their next luxurious destination but rather an authentic struggle of putting food on the table, paying off debt or paying school fees.
While such a controversial action prompted outrage, perusing the land of extemporary opinions (aka Twitter) enabled me to encounter several people alluding to the idea that giving backpackers money for busking is a choice and that "busking" should be identified as a "service", which should receive recognition (with or without the money). However, besides a few rogue opinions on the justification for "beg-packing", it seemed that I wasn't the only one on the Internet who had also reacted with infuriation at the sheer asininity of these backpackers.
Travelling in South-East-East Asia for four months is certainly not the norm nor is it a God-given right. Thus, if these backpackers intend to travel for four months, they should anticipate the cost of these travels - not with the intentions of having a 5 star resort as accommodation but a £5 a night hostel should definitely not be considered as 'slumming' it. Backpackers have a plethora of options - from working in a hostel to waitressing - there is simply no adequate reason to justify the phenomenon of sitting by a main road wearing oversized harem pants, posing with a sign desperately pleading for money.
This, in itself, is hypocrisy at its absolute finest - backpackers complaining about their incapability of affording the "rest of their travels" yet having the initial funds for the £500 flight to Thailand while the complaints uttered by the street vendor next to them only consist of not being able to purely live. Now, that's not to generalise that all backpackers are rich and have sufficient funds - it's just the fact that these so-called 'beg-packers' have the audacity and callowness to spend time in the world's most poverty-stricken areas, exploring the depths and realms of temples and beaches and not have the moral conscience to realise that there is a distinction between not being able to continue their sight-seeing and not being able to eat.
As a Filipino, I have witnessed the tremendous increase in desirability of the sandy, pristine beaches of the Philippines as a 'gap yah' destination for middle class youths. Despite an overwhelming sense of pride that the Philippines is finally receiving attention for its truly beautiful islands, it's the stroke of ignorance that many youths seem to have when they visit that almost make me despise the garnered attention. These travellers have the financial means to pay for a day's worth of food with less than an hour's wage yet ask for money from the people whose weekly wages are inadequate for a McDonald's meal deal in the UK. Furthermore, the presence of "poverty porn" is palpable when tourists post images of them on Instagram and Facebook with street beggars and poor orphans in a feeble attempt to look 'hospitable' after giving 30p or so to them. To deepen the hole further, it's these same people that they are competing with for money or even begging money from when they beg for money or sell items - conjuring an image of benightedness.
In the lead up to the Brexit election of last year, many were quick to jump on the bandwagon of branding immigrants as people who "stole jobs" and "took benefits" as a fundamental reason to leave the EU. People criticised the UK government incessantly for allowing immigrants to "take money" from the welfare state system that they supposedly did not deserve. Thus, how does the millennial phenomenon of "beg-packing" actually differ? After all, by going to Asia, aren't the tourists sitting there selling 'indie postcards' in Birkenstocks and 'gap yah' trousers, extorting money from those who need it the same concept?
Backpackers seem to have a distorted image that they are somehow 'giving back' or that this supposedly vital 'cultural immersion' in an Asian country for their soul searching is the only thing that truly matters. At the end of the day, it fundamentally breaks down to the fact that all they are doing is asking people to inject money into their holiday. Despite the privilege and entitlement they already experience, they exploit this further by asking for money from the same people they supposedly want to help.
Beg-packing is undoubtedly a phenomenon which should stop. Despite the lack of funds some travellers may face, it's the sheer ignorance they approach others in third world countries with that makes me question the moral conscience these backpackers truly have. The issue does not lie with the belief that people should stop travelling if they do not have the financial capabilities to do so but rather, they should be aware of the ignorance they have when they beg to fund their travels from people who need money more.