Tuesday, 3 January 2012

100 things…Backpacking

Backpacking is a term that has historically been used to denote a form of low-cost, independent international travel. Terms such as independent travel and/or budget travel are often used. The factors that traditionally differentiate backpacking from other forms of tourism include use of public transport as a means of travel, preference of youth hostels or couchsurfing to traditional hotels, longer trip than conventional vacations, use of a backpack, an interest in meeting the locals as well as seeing the sights.

The definition of a backpacker has evolved as travelers from different cultures and regions participate, preventing an air-tight definition. Recent research has found that "...backpackers constituted a heterogeneous group with respect to the diversity of rationales and meanings attached to their travel experiences. ...They also displayed a common commitment to a non-institutionalised form of travel, which was central to their self-identification as backpackers." Backpacking as a lifestyle and as a business has grown considerably in the 2000s as the commonplace of low-cost airlines, hostels or budget accommodation in many parts of the world, and digital communication and resources make planning, executing, and continuing a long-term backpacking trip easier than before.
The roots of backpacking can be traced, at least partially, to the Hippie trail of the 1960s and 70s, which in turn followed sections of the old Silk Road. In fact, some backpackers today seek to re-create that journey, albeit in a more comfortable manner, while capitalizing on the current popularity of the green movement. Looking further into history, Giovanni Francesco Gemelli Careri has been cited by some as one of the world's first backpackers.

While travel along the old Hippie Trail has been rendered complicated since the early 80s due to unrest in Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran that continues today, backpacking has expanded to most regions of the world. In recent years, the increase of budget airlines and low-cost flights has contributed to this expansion. At present, new "hippie trails" are being formed towards Northern Africa in places such as Morocco and Tunisia and other destinations being reached by low-cost airlines.

Technological changes and improvements have also contributed to changes in backpacking. Traditionally backpackers did not travel with expensive electronic equipment such as laptop computers, digital cameras and PDAs due to concerns about theft, damage, and additional luggage weight. However, the desire to stay connected coupled with trends in lightweight electronics have given rise to the flashpacking trend, which has been in a state of continuous evolution in recent years. Simultaneous with a change in "what" they're carrying, backpacking is also becoming less and less reliant on the physical backpack in its initial form[10] although the backpack can still be considered the primary luggage of backpackers.

Where to go?
Popular areas:
The most popular backpacking areas are generally cheap, offer many activites and thing to see combined with good weather.
- Thailand - has a very good reputation for ticking all those boxes and is probably top of the list. Surrounding countries around Thailand have began recently to climb the ladder of backpacker popularity as they are nearby:
- Cambodia
- Vietnam
- Laos
- Australia
- New Zealand - It threatens to offer just as many adrenaline activites but does have stunning scenery and cheaper prices up its sleeve. However, the warmer climate, Barrier Reef, and Ayres Rock are normally enough to bring slightly larger crowds.
- Asia
- Pacific Islands – Cook island, Fiji

Cheapest Areas:
Often the cheapest backpacking areas are also the most popular.
- South East Asia – Backpackers tend to travel between Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos because they are easy to move between. 
- New Zealand – If traveling with British pound this is a relativly cheap place to backpack and it offers an enormous amount of things to see and do. Some hostels offer a bed for the night for as little as £7.

In cheaper backpacking regions you do sometimes get begging which can be quite intimidating at first. India is an area where begging is common but there is also a lot to see there as the culture is so different. Generally in Thailand and the neighbouring countries begging is not so prominent.

Expensive areas:
- Japan - not one of the most popular destinations for backpackers because the language barrier is so difficult, it is expensive, and is not realy very well geared up for backpackers. Although it is a beautiful country and very green outside the major cities despite what you may imagine. If you are into temples and shrines, and a whole different way of living you will have a great experience in Japan.
- Australia - does not really follow suit in that it is a very popular backpacker destination that is also quite dear. The hostels in the cities can charge up to £15 a night for a bed which in comparison to neighbouring New Zealand is expensive. Likewise food and drink costs can be high if eating out but cooking for yourself or buying a sandwich from a shop can save you money. This should not deter you from visiting Australia as it is home to the Great Barrier Reef, The Opera House and Harbour Bridge, Ayres Rock and many adrenaline filled activities.
- USA - like Japan is not a big backpacker destination because of the cost, but right now the dollar is weak and it is worth a visit for a foreign traveller. There is an abundance of things to see for anyone with any interest as the country is so diverse. Accommodation could set you back a bit even at the hostels which are still cheaper than in Australia in my opinion, but food is cheap and plentiful. With such large portions you could easily survive on two meals a day.
- When planning where to go, you should always think of the season and what activities you want to do; this may determine the time of year you travel in.
- Everyone knows that the summers and winters are the opposite in the north and southern hemispheres so it is possible to follow the summer sun around the world. To do this you could of course spend May to September in the northern hemisphere travelling Europe and the USA, and the months of October to April in Australasia and South America.
- you must also account for wet and dry seasons in each region you visit. These can be dependant on the time of year or purely regional. Around the equator and South East Asia for example, there is a definite monsoon season but it is not clear cut.

When to go?
Factors that determine this:
- Time
- Budget
- Desire
- Seasons
These factors are evidently dependant on each other and therefore it is essential to get a balance which is right for you.

When is it right for me to go backpacking?
- It is popular to go backpacking when you are young because you are more outgoing, have fewer commitments and more disposable money. Many people decide to go either during a gap year before university, or in between graduating and perhaps starting a masters. It can be difficult to raise the funds at this time but students generally raise a little bit of cash to do some form of backpacking. Not only do you make great friends, have an amazing time but you also gain valuable life experience whilst on the road which is attractive to potential employers.
- Big companies are also very lenient nowadays of employees taking a few months off whilst you go travelling and ensure you of a job when you return. This is popular amongst young professionals aged between 23 and 26 who have started a career, earnt some cash, and want to see the world before possible promotion or before getting too much responsibility.

What to take?
When packing to leave to go travelling for a substantial period of time, it is important to remember that you are a backpacker. This means that you will be carrying everything you need in your backpack. You obviously cannot carry 12 months of clothes, you can only afford to take "the essentials" with you as you do not want to be weighed down by the kitchen sink.
The essentials:
- Good pair of shoes
- Medical Kit
- Mosquito Repellant
- Camera
- Waterproof
- Locks
Things can go missing in dormitories and so it can be useful as an extra precaution to take a light weight bicycle chain with you and chain your backpack to the bunk bed when out for the day.
In addition to having a valid passport when entering a country you may also need a Visa. A Visa is a permit which allows you to stay in a country for a designated period of time. Whether you need a Visa will depend upon the country you are trying to enter and possibly the country you are coming from as different rules can apply.

To obtain/apply for a Visa you need to contact the Embassy or Consulate for the destination country which can usually be found in your capital city. Alternatively for some countries you can now get an electronic Visa which can be purchased through a travel agents or with some airlines. Be sure to keep the print out of the Visa you are given and take it along with your passport to your destination. Apply for your Visa a couple of months before you travel as complications can occur, but electronic Visas can be obtained within seconds if all goes to plan. Alternatively you can obtain a Visa when arriving at the destination international airport but again it is risky if complications occur.

Visas can be expensive but again it depends on your nationality, where you are going, the purpose of visit, and the length of time you are staying for. As an example a UK resident purchasing a 3 months electronic Visa for Australia will cost roughly ten pounds.

You can get all your Visas sorted out before you leave but do not forget to ensure your passport is still valid and that you have at least 6 months left on it until expiration for the entire duration of your trip. Also note that although EU travel for EU citizens is relatively slack at borders, if your are travelling outside of the EU by law you need to present a valid passport to the local authorities if asked as well as at borders so carry it with you securely at all time.
Travel insurance
Travel insurance is a necessity for any trip regardless of how far you are going or what you are doing. On a backpacking trip you will be going to far away destinations and partaking in activities you normally would not and therefore insurance is of the highest priority.
As a budget traveller or anyone with good sense, you are looking for the cheapest travel insurance which also gives you the maximum cover. The amount of cover you need does depend on what you are likely to be doing and will be priced according to the company's risk classifications.

What to be covered for
-Medical Cover It can be very easy to fall ill in a foreign country as it is an environment you are not used to and you meet so many people germs can spread. If you do happen to fall ill you could be facing very expensive medical bills for your treatment as few countries have a free NHS service. Bills for treatment can be very high and therefore insurance is vital. Be sure to keep receipts of all treatments and expenditure as proof required for claims. The policy should cover you for at least £2 million.
-Cover For Your Possessions It is not always wise to take a lot of expensive equipment with you but sometimes there are things you cannot do without. If you take an mp3 player, laptop, or expensive camping gear with you and it gets lost or stolen, it is good to have it all covered so you can claim when you return.
-Trip Cancellation If this clause is present in your insurance policy then you will be covered for any trip or flight you have paid for but cannot take because of illness.
-Travel Delay If a flight is delayed for more than a set length of time some insurance policies will pay out for this misfortune. It is almost worth cashing in on a policy with this clause because delayed flights are not a rare occurrence.
-Personal liability If you accidentally injured or damage somebody else's equipment and you are directly responsible, this clause with pay assuming the other party is holding you liable. Remember, accidents do happen.
-Personal Accident If you have an accident leading to some form of permanent damage or loss of sight, a limb or equivalent, you or your family would be entitled to financial compensation.
-Luggage Delay/Loss Unfortunately this is a common occurrence especially as a backpacker making several flights or transfers. It typically covers for loss or damage or sometimes even delay.

Taken from http://www.holidayinsuranceweb.com
Our backpacker holiday insurance has the following features and benefits:
• Backpacker holiday insurance cover from 31 days to 365 days.
• European or worldwide cover including Australia and New Zealand.
• Sports and activities automatically included - including 2 bungee jumps.
• Additional adventure sports cover available.
• Working abroad automatically included.
Our backpacker holiday insurance combines great value with high levels of cover, so you don't have to worry while you're abroad. We protect you against lost or delayed luggage, cash, passports and other personal documents plus emergency dental treatment and £5 million medical cover.
And with our backpacker holiday insurance, you'll have more money to spend on your gap year or adventure holiday.

Europe – 2months backpacking – summer holiday period
Europe – 1 year backpacking
Australia – 2months – summer holiday period
Australia – 1 year backpacking

Australia statistics and facts
-Age. Despite being considered tourists on a tight budget, backpackers in Sydney tend to stay for a longer time and have an average age of 17 – 35.
-Accommodation. Most backpackers wish to spend the bulk of their finances on activities and not on accommodation. They are looking for value for money and not necessarily the cheapest.
-Social. Backpackers are normally social types and looking to make new friends and 'party' a great deal of their holiday. They are interested in finding great travel tips amongst others and sharing their information. Many hostels do their best to help the travellers in this aspect.
-Price conscious. The average backpacker actually spends about double the average tourist (around 4000 dollars) but they are looking to get value out their money.
-Extended and flexible stay. Most of them only have a few major goals in their holiday plan looking to decide on how and where they will go during their stay. They will often stay at least 3 or 4 times longer than the average tourist. Note that it is easy to get a 1 year tourist visa to Australia as long as your meet a few simple requirements.
-Adventure. These types of people are looking for adventures and often travel off the beaten track and try more of the exciting and exhilarating activities one can find such as bungee jumping and heading into the outback.
-Confident. Most backpackers are used to striking up a conversation with many different types of people and revel in different situations.
-Hard work. Most backpackers don't mind doing some hard and labour intensive work to get a feel for and enjoy a longer stay. Some backpackers are in Australia on a working holiday visa.
-Both sexes. You will find groups and even individuals of both sexes enjoying backpacker holidays. A great way to have fun and meet new people, and perhaps make more than friends. Hostel accommodation and activities lend to relationship building and meeting new people.
-Multicultural. Because Australia is so close to Asia you will find many people from Asian as well as European countries.
-Students. Many backpackers use it as a way to improve their English and struggle with at the beginning and find their way.
-Free and independent. Many backpackers actually have a good income and choose this type of travel for the lifestyle and a way of meeting people.
-Local. Australia is very large and many people who live in it have not actually seen much of it, and a good way for the locals to do so, and have fun, is to join in with the rest.

Tourists in Australia
Another major source of tourists to Australia include backpackers, mostly young people from Western European countries (particularly the United Kingdom) and North America. Spending more time in Australia, these travelers tend to explore considerably more of the country. Many backpackers participate in working holidays enabling them to stay longer in the country. Working holiday visas for Australia are available for those aged 18 to 30 for most Western European citizens, and also citizens of Canada and some developed East Asian nations such as Japan and South Korea. 

Activities on backpacking holidays
If you are heading off for some fun on the slopes this season, don’t forget to pack some common sense along with the sunscreen and ski insurance.
- Avalanches are most often triggered by people using the mountains or by temperature or weather conditions.

If you don’t understand avalanches it is worthwhile doing some research. Consider taking an avalanche safety course to learn about the emergency equipment you should carry and how to use it (transceiver, probe, beacon, air bag, shovel, etc.)

- Avalanches may occur anywhere there is a heavy accumulation of snow – and when temperatures warm up during spring skiing the danger is higher. So, whether you are heading for a European resort or to North America, remember that many accidents and deaths are unnecessary and could be avoided:

- Oodles of fresh powder is every skier’s dream, but combined with the right conditions that white gold can turn deadly. The last thing we want to do is put anyone off going to the mountains, but please take care.

Here are just a few sobering avalanche statistics – for North America:
For the current U.S. 2010-2011 ski season: (via avalanche.org)
• 9 have been caught in avalanches so far, with 7 fatalities (3 snowmobilers, 1 skier, 1 snowboarder, 1 ski patrol, 1 climber)

2009-2010 U.S. ski season:
• 63 caught in avalanches with 36 fatalities (15 skiers, 3 snowboarders, 16 snowmobilers, 2 climbers, 1 ice climber, 1 caught in a roof avalanche)
Statistics so far this season in British Columbia: (Canadian Avalanche Centre: avalanche.ca)
• 2 snowmobilers involved in incidents – one fatality
• 3 backcountry skiers involved in incidents (all fatalities)
• 1 snowmbiler in a group triggered an avalanche and killed (airbag deployed)

The above statistics do not include the many other accidents and incidents that result in injury and death on the slopes each season.

If you stick to a resort’s main ski slopes and areas there is little chance of an avalanche ever affecting you. Before you even think about going off piste (out of bounds), helicopter skiing or backcountry skiing check your ski insurance policy – assuming you have one!
If an accident should occur and a mountain rescue/helicopter evacuation is needed, you (or your family) could end up with an avalanche of very expensive bills. This is before you even reach a hospital bed and receive any treatment – or repatriation by air ambulance if it becomes necessary… Ignoring posted warnings about avalanches, skiing off piste, and venturing into closed areas could not only put your life in jeopardy, but also potentially invalidate any claims on your ski insurance! Ski insurance is not a license to take unnecessary and dangerous risks.

Studies on Backpacking
‘THE backpacker in Australia has transformed into a new creature of more enterprising habits, with British wanderers no longer leading the way, an academic says.’ 

Dr Jeff Jarvis, from the National Centre for Australian Studies at Monash University, says his research shows a "complete change in the structure of the backpacker market as we know it" thanks to the rise of working holiday makers.
"The number of working holiday makers has increased quite dramatically, far exceeding the growth rates in the backpacker market, he told the 2011 Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) Backpacker & Youth Industry Conference at Airlie Beach on Tuesday.
"So what that's done is change the shape of the mobility of backpackers, who are typically known as being free and easy, travelling wherever they want.
"Now we're seeing a lot of them are coming here and because of things like the high Australian dollar, they're having to work, so they have to stay in certain locations for an extended period of time.
"And the whole model of backpacking in Australia, which was built around people travelling on long routes all the way up from Melbourne to Cairns, has now been transformed."

Such visitors now stop in one place and work for three or six months, and travel in a "hub and spoke pattern, flying to locations for a short break and then going back and getting another job".

Dr Jarvis said backpackers now spent more nights in cities, especially in places like the Gold Coast, whereas growth in backpacker nights in areas like the Whitsundays hadn't grown nearly as much in the past decade.
Another significant factor, he said, is the decline of the British backpacker.
"Ten years ago the British backpacker was king, but their share of nights has dropped from over 30 per cent to about 18 per cent.
"The model of tourism that we developed, targeting primarily the British market, is changing, and we're seeing new markets emerging quite rapidly such as France ... driven by the Working Holiday Maker Visa (WHV).
"We're also seeing growth out of Asian backpacking, particularly the two working holiday markets of Korea and Taiwan.
"Between 2005 and 2010 the market increased by 3.7 million nights from those two Asian markets alone. The French market increased by 1.9 million nights and Germany by 1.6 million nights, while in contrast the UK declined by 900,000 nights."

Dr Jarvis said visa changes Australia introduced in 2005 were clearly working and driving backpackers to work in regional and remote areas, but changes were needed to keep pace with countries like Canada.
"Modifications are needed to the visa conditions, including increasing the age limit to 35 years, allowing multiple visas and redefining the definition of work," he said.

Effects of backpacking holidays in Australia on alcohol, tobacco and drug use of UK residents.

Whilst alcohol and drug use among young people is known to escalate during short holidays and working breaks in international nightlife resorts, little empirical data are available on the impact of longer backpacking holidays on substance use. Here we examine changes in alcohol, tobacco and drug use when UK residents go backpacking in Australia.

Matched information on alcohol and drug use in Australia and the UK was collected through a cross sectional cohort study of 1008 UK nationals aged 18-35 years, holidaying in Sydney or Cairns, Australia, during 2005.

The use of alcohol and other drugs by UK backpackers visiting Australia was common with use of illicit drugs being substantially higher than in peers of the same age in their home country. Individuals showed a significant increase in frequency of alcohol consumption in Australia compared to their behaviour in the UK with the proportion drinking five or more times per week rising from 20.7% (UK) to 40.3% (Australia). Relatively few individuals were recruited into drug use in Australia (3.0%, cannabis; 2.7% ecstasy; 0.7%, methamphetamine). However, over half of the sample (55.0%) used at least one illicit drug when backpacking. Risk factors for illicit drug use while backpacking were being regular club goers, being male, Sydney based, travelling without a partner or spouse, having been in Australia more than four weeks, Australia being the only destination on their vacation and drinking or smoking five or more days a week.

As countries actively seek to attract more international backpacker tourists, interventions must be developed that target this population's risk behaviours. Developing messages on drunkenness and other drug use specifically for backpackers could help minimise their health risks directly (e.g. adverse drug reactions) and indirectly (e.g. accidents and violence) as well as negative impacts on the host country.

1 comment:

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