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The Extermination of the Backpacker

Documenting the Extermination of the Backpacker Series The art of long term budget travel — backpacking, whatever you want to call it — is becoming exterminated. Long term budget travelers are finding themselves moving through a world that is becoming more politically hostile, more expensive, and ever more in-conducive to their lifestyle. The perpetual traveler [...]

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Documenting the Extermination of the Backpacker Series

The art of long term budget travel — backpacking, whatever you want to call it — is becoming exterminated. Long term budget travelers are finding themselves moving through a world that is becoming more politically hostile, more expensive, and ever more in-conducive to their lifestyle. The perpetual traveler is facing new challenges, and they come at the hands of governments, banks, communications technology, and an entire host of other scrappers vying to take their cut off the top of their budget. As the world grows more interconnected, as people come together, as the global transportation and technological infrastructure gets better and better it has oddly become more expensive and challenging to travel the world.

There seems to be a global movement against the backpacker rearing its head on the horizon. Just as the roads of this earth opened up wide, the ugly apparitions of various authorities, business men, and underwriters have stepped in to put up fences.

This is the introduction to a series of articles which document the yang backlash to the yin of globalization, multi-nationalism, and the global communications infrastructure and the effects this is having on world travel.

Read more at The End of Perpetual Travel

Go home backpackers, give us tourists with real $$$

The days of backpacking are over.

A friend wrote this to me the other day, and I must agree: the world of travel is changing. I have been traveling for 11 years, and I am sitting back and watching my lifestyle becoming extinct: countries are less apt to maintain policies to accommodate travelers, visa fees are going through the roof, banks are scrapping every last penny off of international withdraws, and, with the internet, the prices of accommodation are rising.

A decade ago, I would meet long term travelers with regularity, now — I speak honestly — there are relatively very few. It is now vastly more complicated and expensive to travel the world, but this is not the end of it:

Culture has shifted,  the draw to take to the road to discover an “alternative” sort of lifestyle has dissipated, and the backpacking infrastructure of the world now seems to be full of young people with unlimited funds living as tourists. The long term low budget traveler a dying breed, a character representing an antiquated lifestyle bound to be forgotten by the wayside as the world grows together just to split apart.

I am not the type to worry, but, as I look at a map of the world that was once wide open ten years ago, I am finding road blocks, additional expenses, and tougher mazes to work my way through as I move between point A and B. As the world grows together in the maturity of this globalization thing, countries are closing their doors to travelers — or they are taking all their money that they can get.

Global tourism is being restructured to accommodate the rich on short vacations, to the rest the message is clear: stay for two weeks, buy things, then go home.

This week I will publish a series of articles about the new challenges that the long term traveler now faces when traveling the world. This series will include pieces on sky rocketing visa fees, the trend towards shorter duration tourist visas, muli-country immigration agreements and what this means for the traveler, the shift in backpacker culture, the political backlashes of globalization on tourism, as well as banks, airports, hotels, everybody in a position to do so, raising fees for services relevant to international travel.

A new article in this series will be published daily, keep reading the VagabondJourney.com travelogue throughout the week to find out more.

Use the links below to navigate through this series


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Filed under: Budget Travel, Culture and Society, Tourism, Travel Lifestyle, Travel Problems, Traveler Culture

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3722 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

12 comments… add one

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  • brandon September 27, 2010, 8:49 pm

    This is a scary thought indeed. I look forward to this series to answer the questions you posed earlier. I definitely have to agree with the young travelers living as tourists. I’ve really seen the trend in that.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com September 27, 2010, 9:32 pm

      It is interesting to see the changes and how fast they occurred. More on this throughout the week.

      Link Reply
  • Dave from The Longest Way Home September 27, 2010, 10:05 pm

    Great title, and looking forward to this. Biggest problem is that the term backpacker means somethingp else to travellers today. Many today think tough travel is staying in a dorm and having to share a bathroom and no more.

    The reality is, we’ve seen the closing off of borders, visa hikes, and bank charges coming for years. But we as old schoolers do nothing but what we are good at, move on. Then again, what else to do? The travel mindset is too fragmented to do anything about this other than moan, groan, and pay.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com September 28, 2010, 2:19 pm

      I used the word “backpacker” in the old sense and, bluntly, to create a title that would attract more visitors. Today, the word backpacker just means “a young tourist” or “an independent tourists who uses a backpack.”

      I suppose I long for the old days of permeable borders and countries that wanted me haha.

      But what can we do? We travel on to the countries that still allow us to stay and don’t charge tons of money to enter.

      I am in Mexico where I can stay for 180 days before needing to renew my visa, you are in the Philippines where you have traveled for two years.

      We are on the run.

      Link Reply
  • craig | travelvice.com September 27, 2010, 11:00 pm

    I fear for what the state of things will look like in 15 or 20 years, should my now 2½-year-old son wish to do the same. Between the technological advances in access to instant, global communication and the ever-increasing trend for groups of countries to restrict visitors within their borders to puny time frames for visitation, what constituted budget travel backpacking for the generation that came before us will have vanished completely.

    It feels like we’re all riding on the last, mushy wave of independent low-budget travel. It would seem that xenophobia and the 6-day workweek are back in style.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com September 28, 2010, 2:15 pm

      Our lifestyle is going to have to change to meet these new parameters. I fear this is also just the beginning: either things are going to get much worse for global travelers or the bottom is going to drop out and things will go back to how they were 10 or 20 years ago — when countries invited in tourists and the money they want to leave behind.

      It is my impression that it is going to get much worse for a long time before it gets any better. But I do maintain hope that countries like Nigeria are going to realize that it is pretty stupid to charge nearly $200 for a tourist visa, and China is going to come to terms with the fact that their country is huge and travelers need more than 30 days, and the US is going to realize that taxing tourists with high visa fees is not a very good idea.

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  • Andy Graham September 28, 2010, 1:32 am

    The splurge mentality of the fiefdom, people used to look for value. Hyperinflation in the developed world will eventually extend Detroit economy around the world.

    Descarte called the normal public the rabble.

    Backpackers are destroying themselves, the same as the USA— people get out of life what they deserve.

    I can rent rooms on the beach for 40 dollars per month.
    Andy of HoboTraveler.com

    Link Reply
    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com September 28, 2010, 2:22 pm

      I agree, we are teetering on the edge of the great fall — Detroit for everyone.

      It is true, backpackers are destroying themselves, it has become a consumption culture.

      But, right again, we can still rent rooms for 40 dollars a month, we just need to side step the tourist industry, break out of the bubble — which is still not too difficult to do.

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      • the candy trail ... October 7, 2010, 9:13 am


        Greetings from China. I, too, have seen the changes … as a low-key, alternative and perpetual traveler, since 1988 / 100+ countries. The days of the zany, travelling eccentrics are fading as the masses – as you outlined; campus-party-types and middle-aged straights with backpacks – contend also with the package-sheep tourists.

        However, there’s still plenty of places that don’t see this lot. Andy, I see you going up West Africa – Sierra Leone & Liberia are still quiet but in Senegal and other former-French areas you encounter elite tour groups. Also that area is going to be expensive, unless you skip sites.

        Anyway, the masses always screw themselves – or rather get fobbed by the elites; power to the individuals beyond the system … but yeah, I too, have been watching the world restrict travel freedoms … on solo travelers.

        Regards – Michael Robert Powell / the candy trail … a nomad across the planet, since 1988

      • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com October 8, 2010, 12:35 pm

        Great to hear from you MRP,

        The world is changing for travelers, but they can’t stop us. Th world is big, and we have enough time to think up subversion strategies haha.

        “Why pass through open gates when first you can tear them down?”

    • Chris Smith September 30, 2010, 10:48 pm

      Que? Donde?

      – Culture Vulture Chris en Colonial Guanajato, MX

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