Are you a Flashpacker?

I was first labelled a "Flashpacker" by an ex-pat living in Kuala Lumpur, who we met during our recent stay there. He was a friend of the friends we were staying with and over a delicious post wake-boarding brunch NewMan and I explained our travel plans to the group. As is usually the case, there were groans of jealousy, gentle insults and thoughtful exclamations of "I wish I could do that...". Then we inevitably got asked the same questions we've been asked again and again since; "Where are exactly are you staying?", "Where are you going in Thailand?", "What is it that you do for a living again?", "Are you backpacking?". The latter is always the easiest to answer. NewMan and I always confidently chorus the words: "No, absolutely not." On this occasion he Ex-Pat thus responded with an entertaining guffaw; "You're flashpackers then?!" NewMan shrugged at me and I smiled, a little bemused.

"Yes, I suppose we are."

You may find this strange. You may even tut and immediately delete this tab in disgust. Call yourself a travel blogger, Birdie? You're not even a real traveller. Well maybe I'm not, if that's what it takes to define yourself as a traveller. I always thought it had more to do with moving yourself and a number of your belongings from one destination to another over a period of time; I had no idea it was dependent on the luggage receptacle I chose to facilitate this.

We never intended for this trip to be a backpacking excursion. We aren't planning on going anywhere our suitcases couldn't be pulled behind us (or failing that left in the safety of a hotel room) and we certainly didn't save up for a number of months to test our ability to carry considerable weight on our backs up a muddy jungle path. Call me boring, but this just wasn't an option for us . Before you jump to a conclusion that I am the other extreme and that we will be chartering private speed boats to overtake the overloaded-with-backpacks-and-backpacker long boats and we will then pay a Thai toddler pittance to carry our seventeen matching suitcases up hundreds of stairs, let me explain.

NewMan knows Thailand fairly well and we planned our trip, or rather potential journeys and destinations well enough to know that a taxi, train or tuk-tuk at least would be available to help us get where we were going. We are also working on this trip so our luggage has had to include valuable space for heavy (and expensive!) laptops, a tablet, two smartphones, a couple of spare hard drives and my camera, not to mention a spaghetti like stash of cables and wires. Our work also depends on a reliable internet connection, which isn't always guaranteed at typical off the beaten track backpacker havens. Needless to say work is effectively paying for this trip so it is a big factor dictating our destinations as well as how we travel, what and how we pack.

Let me also be a bit precious; I invested in a decent suitcase a few years ago when I used to travel with work so why shouldn't I use it rather than spending money on a backpack that would possibly swallow clothes, making them bedraggled and disorganised; two words that don't gel with me very well (yes, I am a princess, but I am a well dressed princess). I have also heard that packing up a backpack or rucksack is an art form, and quite frankly I didn't have enough time to learn such a skill; it was taxing enough applying my own tried and tested packing methods (and yes, I probably packed a bit too much!).

Backpacks are brilliant. Backpacking is brilliant fun, and in many ways brilliantly practical. But "flashpacking" is treating us quite well too and I have to say we're growing strangely fond of the term. As long as we do it in a responsible and sustainable manner it should be our choice to travel exactly how we want to travel and if someone wants to call it "flashpacking" that's alright with me, though I have to say we didn't feel very flash when we were getting soaked waiting for an "executive" bus to Malaysia in Singapore (but at least our clothes were dry in our hard case carry on bags... ahem).

To celebrate (and blatantly take the piss out of) our new status as Flashpackers  I've compiled this just-for-fun list of ten things that should they apply to you, could mean you're a Flashpacker too:

  • You always ask for your clothes to be ironed at a street side Laundry Service.
  • You initially think tuk-tuks and mopeds are a quaint and fun mode of transport as opposed to a necessary way to get around.
  • You carry more than five plug adaptors and still struggle to charge all your electric devices at one time.
  • When checking into new accommodation you always do a towel count in the bathroom and are disappointed when there are less than two each.
  • Same goes for pillows.
  • You pack (and more often than not wear) pyjamas.
  • You don't steal hotel complimentary toiletries, because the brands you use are significantly better.
  • You are suspicious of any dish on a menu that costs less than £2.00.
  • You think the word "hostel" is Spanish for hotel.
  • You find yourself saying the following out loud; "Gosh, it's been nearly a week since my last massage,"

I am accidentally guilty of a handful of these but certainly not all; I actually feel robbed if I pay more than £2.00 for a Pad Thai, I still steal hotel shampoo and as yet we've not ironed a single item of clothing between us since we left (you gotta love crease resistant cotton mix fabrics) - bliss!

Frances M. Thompson

Londoner turned wanderer, Frankie is an author, freelance writer and blogger. Currently based in Amsterdam, Frankie was nomadic for two years before starting a family with her Australian partner. Frankie is the author of three short story collections, and is a freelance writer for travel and creative brands. In 2017, she launched WriteNOW Cards, affirmation cards for writers that help build a productive and positive writing practice. When not writing contemporary fiction, Frankie shops for vintage clothes, dances to 70s disco music and chases her two young sons around Amsterdam.
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