Meet The New Breed Of Western Traveler: The "Beg-Packer"

“Long-term foreign travel is not a god-given right, no matter how good it feels.”

Young, drunk, disheveled Westerners are a familiar sight in Southeast Asia. The region’s low rates of violent crime, well-trod tourist trails, and advantageous exchange rate means it has become a favorite destination for backpackers seeking their first solo travel experience. Formerly war-ravaged countries such as Cambodia and Vietnam provide tourists with dirt-cheap accommodations, delicious street food, and a relaxed attitude. In exchange, these cash-rich tourists pump money into developing economies. In 2016, Thailand welcomed more than 32 million visitors, with $71.4 billion generated from the tourism sector alone.

But recently, locals have been shocked to discover backpackers begging on the streets in a new trend that has been coined ‘beg-packing.’ From Hong Kong to Bangkok’s Khao San Road, photos have been snapped of young, white travelers busking, selling trinkets, or simply begging for money to fund their travels. They often carry some variation of the same sign: “Support my trip.” Many choose to set up shop in crowded metropolitan areas, usually alongside impoverished local vendors.

“It was the first time I’ve seen something like that and it stopped me in my tracks,” says Singaporean Maisarah Abu Samah, who first posted two pictures of begging tourists to Twitter. She added: “We find it extremely strange to ask other people for money to help you travel … People who do so are really in need; they beg in order to buy food, pay their children’s school fees, or pay off debts, but not in order to do something seen as a luxury.”

[quote position="left" is_quote="true"]Long-term foreign travel is not a god-given right, no matter how good it feels. [/quote]

On my own backpacking adventures, I’ve often witnessed frugality turned into a competitive sport. Backpackers, anxious to stretch their finances to the limit, catch slow-moving sleeper trains and and obsessively compare hostel prices. I’ve been that person—first as a wide-eyed teenager in Indonesia, desperate to stay forever; then later, in my 20s, traveling around India for months at a time with only a small bag and a furry blanket I’d nestle into on public transport. There’s a sense of exhilaration that comes from living without routine or fixed direction, dependent on a dwindling pot of money and surrounded by others doing the same. Once you get a taste of that existence, it’s hard not to want more—especially when the alternative is an office job, crippling rent, and all the other shackles of life back home.

I’ve met all sorts of entrepreneurial types who have figured out a way to remain on the Asia backpacking circuit, sometimes for years at a time. One man launched an online business selling herbal remedies he picked up in India. Another woman with an eye for design collected jewelry on her travels and sold it on her annual trip home at a huge markup. There are volunteer schemes, opportunities to teach English as a foreign language, digital nomad gigs. Or, if money runs out, there’s always the option of simply flying home.

Long-term foreign travel is not a god-given right, no matter how good it feels. It’s an experience granted only to those who can afford it—one that involves money, and favorable exchange rates, and spare time. Asking other people to fund that privilege—especially the locals whose country you’ve decided to visit and whose salaries are a fraction of what you’d earn back home—isn’t the sign of a free spirit. Instead, it signifies a deep sense of entitlement, neatly wrapped in youthful obliviousness and written across a ratty cardboard sign.

On travel forum Squat the Planet, which describes itself as an online community for misfit travelers, a recent thread discussed the ethics of busking and begging in Asia. While many users roundly condemned the idea, others considered busking and selling trinkets to be a legitimate means of generating income because it’s an exchange of services. One woman from Montreal, who says she finds busking useful in supporting her international travels, was openly conflicted by the discussion. “I wouldn't busk in really poor countries for example,” she writes, “but I mean, if you have zero money, it remains zero money no matter where you are.”

Ryn Jirenuwat, a Thai news producer based in Bangkok, sees a double standard in Western travelers arriving in Asia and expecting handouts. “Begging for living and begging for leisure is completely different,” she says. “When us Southeast Asians travel to countries in the EU and America, we have to show full financial statements and even proof of having jobs.”

“It’s not even white privilege,” she adds. “It's more like Western privilege.”

Center for American Progress Action Fund

Tonight's Democratic debate is a must-watch for followers of the 2020 election. And it's a nice distraction from the impeachment inquiry currently enveloping all of the political oxygen in America right now.

For most people, the main draw will be newly anointed frontrunner Pete Buttigieg, who has surprisingly surged to first place in Iowa and suddenly competing in New Hampshire. Will the other Democrats attack him? How will Elizabeth Warren react now that she's no longer sitting alone atop the primary field? After all, part of Buttigieg's rise has been his criticisms of Warren and her refusal to get into budgetary specifics over how she'd pay for her healthcare plan.

The good news is that Joe Biden apparently counts time travel amongst his other resume-building experience.

Keep Reading Show less
Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert

This election cycle, six women threw their hat in the ring for president, but is their gender holding them back? Would Americans feel comfortable with a woman leading the free world? Based on the last election, the answer is a swift no. And a new study backs this up. The study found that only 49% of American men would feel very comfortable with a woman serving as the head of the government. By comparison, 59% of women said they would feel comfortable with a woman in charge.

The Reykjavik Index for Leadership, which measures attitude towards women leaders, evaluated the attitudes of those living in the G7 countries as well as Brazil, China, India, and Russia. 22,000 adults in those 11 countries were surveyed on their attitudes about female leadership in 22 different sectors, including government, fashion, technology, media, banking and finance, education, and childcare.

Only two countries, Canada and the U.K., had a majority of respondents say they would be more comfortable with a female head of state. Germany (which currently has a female Chancellor), Japan, and Russia were the countries least comfortable with a female head of state.

Keep Reading Show less
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

If you are totally ready to move on from Donald Trump, you're not alone. According to a report last April from the Wason Center National Survey of 2020 Voters, "President Trump will be the least popular president to run for reelection in the history of polling."

Yes, you read that right, "history of polling."

Keep Reading Show less
via Around the NFL / Twitter

After three years on the sidelines, Colin Kapernick will be working out for multiple NFL teams on Saturday, November 16 at the Atlanta Falcons facility.

The former 49er quarterback who inflamed the culture wars by peacefully protesting against social injustice during the national anthem made the announcement on Twitter Tuesday.

Kaepernick is scheduled for a 15-minute on-field workout and an interview that will be recorded and sent to all 32 teams. The Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys, and Detroit Lions are expected to have representatives in attendance.

RELATED: Joe Namath Says Colin Kaepernick And Eric Reid Should Be Playing In The NFL

"We like our quarterback situation right now," Miami head coach, Brian Flores said. "We're going to do our due diligence."

NFL Insider Steve Wyche believes that the workout is the NFL's response to multiple teams inquiring about the 32-year-old quarterback. A league-wide workout would help to mitigate any potential political backlash that any one team may face for making an overture to the controversial figure.

Kapernick is an unrestricted free agent (UFA) so any team could have reached out to him. But it's believed that the interested teams are considering him for next season.

RELATED: Video of an Oakland train employee saving a man's life is so insane, it looks like CGI

Earlier this year, Kaepernick and Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid reached a financial settlement with the league in a joint collusion complaint. The players alleged that the league conspired to keep them out after they began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016.

Before the 2019 season, Kaepernick posted a video of himself working out on twitter to show he was in great physical condition and ready to play.

Kaepnick took the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2012 and the NFC Championship game in 2013.

He has the 23rd-highest career passer rating in NFL history, the second-best interception rate, and the ninth-most rushing yards per game of any quarterback ever. In 2016, his career to a sharp dive and he won only of 11 games as a starter.