Anyone who has been travelling for a long time can probably agree that there is an innate change that takes place within us. We have broken down and dissected what different kinds of travelers there are and separated the major differences into 7 defining categories. This is what turns us from an Expert Backpacker into a Backpacking Expat.
First Time Backpacker
Everyone has to start somewhere, right? First-time backpackers tend to visit as many places as they can in a limited amount of time out of pure excitement, and they plan every little detail. They usually spend anywhere from 1-4 weeks in total for their backpacking trip squeezing in as many destinations as possible on a conscious budget. Their highlights of the trip are made up of partying and seeing the main tourist attractions rather than the cultural off the beaten path experiences. Their journey was the best experience of their life, and they're obsessed with talking about it. A common practice of the first time traveler abroad is being out until 3 am only to wake up 5 minutes before the hostels free toast and Tang breakfast ends.
After the excitement of their first-time abroad, the travel bug has persuaded them to take another trip. Upon discovery of the first trip, an intermediate backpacker will most likely travel a little slower, taking more local transportation, being interested in the people, local food and drink and culture. They're still motivated to plan everything, working out the details weeks in advance, but are more open to flexibility. They're better at budgeting than the first time abroad, but still enjoy being out partying till 3 am and then taking advantage of the hostel's free breakfast.
When the travel bug has intoxicated their everyday life, and they aim to travel for a few months at a time. All of their experience has permitted them to understand that moving slower is ideal, limiting the places they visit and allowing for more time to see and experience places off the grid. They're more appreciative of the tourist attractions, caring to understand more of the Why’s than the What’s of places. They invest in the local culture by staying in places longer, visiting home-stays, attempting to speak the native language, while cooking and eating local foods. Seasoned backpackers plan loosely knowing that it's easier to go with the flow. They're more understanding of how/where their money is spent abroad and conscious to spread it wisely.
When all else doesn't satisfy their desire for travel, they sell everything and pack life into a backpack. Being an expert traveler means buying a one-way ticket and planning the skeletal parts of a RTW trip. It's ideal for them to stay in one location for a month or more and they invest the time to learn a little of the native language, cook and eat the local food, and assimilate to the community. They're more interested in the culture and traditions of a country rather than the best bars in town. Expert backpackers are modest in mentioning their long list of places visited, but overzealous about their even longer list of places they want to visit. These backpackers live for the unknown, off-the-beaten-path finds, and act as their own travel agent for any and every journey. They're a catalog of advice and stories of what-not-to-do, while most likely hosting a travel blog. They've mastered the ability to travel long-term on whatever budget they can, making ends meet in creative ways while traveling.
First Time Expat
Now that they're an expert backpacker, they've been moving throughout the globe consistently, they're excited to pick a place and temporarily unpack their backpack. They've put away their elephant pants from Thailand and shopped for some comfortable everyday clothes, perhaps even professional clothes. An expat aims to embed themselves in a culture and a community, most likely picking a place because of opportunity and work, but hoping to assimilate like a local. Expats find a similar community, usually living in an expat area, and building friendships with expats from their work. They spend the time investigating and savoring the culture while watching seasons change and people come and go. First-time expats may spend anywhere from 4-12 months in one spot, building the confidence and financial funds to continue traveling.
Five Year Plan Expat
The backpack is stored safely in their closet abroad, as they're occupied and satisfied with their position as an expat. Their travels happen over summers and holidays, with time off from work, where they aim to understand the bigger picture of a region rather than a city or country. They've assimilated into a culture and discovered a comfortable place among the locals. Their community is not just made up of other expats, but of locals as well. They have a job either online or in the community to which their understanding of the culture and its traditions deepens. They aim to contribute to the lives around them. Their budget is more readily about sustaining a comfortable lifestyle and saving for the next trip.
Global Citizen Expat
You know those annoying people that say they’re a citizen of the world? Well, it’s a real thing and they’re not as crazy as you think. These people have taken the “five year plan” and turned it into an everlasting lifestyle. They literally feel as comfortable anywhere in the world as they do at home (or maybe even more comfortable than they do at home). They can turn any situation around to benefit them, they understand how “The Man” (so to speak) works and operates around the world, and could literally be dropped off anywhere in the world and would be able to figure it out. These are the kind of people that move to Djibouti because “why not”, and/or only come home every 2-3 years.
Are You More Backpacker or Expat?
Either way, here are a some cool facts about both:
Global tourism contributes US$7 trillion to the world economy (direct and indirect) and represents 9% of the global GDP.
An increasing number of bookings are being made online – global online sales in tourism now account for US$524 billion.
Youth (under 25) and student travel continues to be a growing segment of global tourism, with its monetary value equaling US$203 billion.
In terms of international arrivals, youth travel overtook business travel in 2015.
The top youth travel destinations by share of total visitation are the USA (15%), France (7%), Spain (6%), Italy (6%), and the UK (5%).
Western Europe and North America dominate as the top source regions for international volunteers.
The number of backpackers has increased thanks to more affordable transportation and a higher disposable income in the middle class.
65% of backpackers in Australia are aged 18 to 24.
Flashpackers spend, on average, €300 more than backpackers (€3,400 vs €3,100 per trip).
Hostels remain the top accommodation option for youth and students travelers.
Note: We made this Op-Ed piece sincerely and without rude intentions. Though we made some generalizations, we are in no way trying to place anyone into a box based on our observations.