A Professional's Guide to Flashpacking: Part I

Queenstown, New Zealand • March 2017 • Length of Read: 4 Minutes

From my time spent on the road, I have learnt that there is no one way to travel. And that means that there is no right way to travel either. Far too often, I’ve seen people judge me for what they consider ‘wasting money’. They say that I’ve incurred unnecessary expenses as a result of ‘not travelling properly’. Well, guess what? I didn’t leave home to wander the globe under the strict conditions that I would live off a diet of pasta and noodles every day, only drink beer when it is on discount offer, and get a job cleaning the showers and changing the beds in hostels in return for free accommodation. I came away to enjoy myself. I came away to live life to the fullest. And this is exactly what two lads I met in New Zealand were doing. Every. Single. Day. They weren’t backpacking in your traditional sense, but flashpacking.

“Ditch the rucksack for a start,” said Adam, sipping on a dark n’ stormy. “The wheeled suitcase is the way forward.” We were sat with his travelling companion, Giles, in a fancy rum cocktail bar in Queenstown, shooting the breeze and killing some time before our dinner reservations that evening. “Oh, and avoid local backpacker bars if you can, especially during happy hour promotions. They always run in conjunction with mandatory organised fun activities. I’d rather shit on my hands and clap than spend my evenings gulping watered-down beer that tastes like feet whilst watching dudes take their clothes off in a bid to win a free skydive.”

I’d asked him what it meant to be a flashpacker, and he was spelling out the truth to me. Unlike some weapons that you find on the road who dwindle away money, he hadn’t relied on an inheritance to fund his jaunts around the Earth, but years of saving. A small portion of each month’s paycheck had gone into a separate travel fund and now he was enjoying himself. Road tripping across the United States, the boys had then spent Christmas in Fiji before coming to New Zealand.

“I’m also pretty lazy when it comes to cooking,” added Giles, “and would much rather eat out than wrestle around a kitchen that is more overcrowded than a Taiwanese jail; fighting for the only pan that doesn’t contain traces of salmonella. It also allows me to sample the local cuisine. And when it comes to preparing lunches you can forget it. A lot of people carry cooler bags around with them filled with half-packets of mince, near-empty jars of tomato sauce, and tubs of super saver peanut butter that they will spread on anything more solid than peanut butter. I always find the $9 pizza baguettes and steak pies from roadside pit stops to be much more filling and nourishing. The occasional $10 smoothie can also be very nutritional. We don’t want to be getting sick now, do we?”

Giles was wearing a Ralph Lauren Polo shirt and had his hair perfectly groomed. Appearance was important to him, and he hadn’t let being constantly on the move interfere with his fashion sense. “I mean, I really have no desire to slide on a pair of elephant pants from Asia or an oversized sleeveless vest advertising a beer I don’t even like,” he pointed out. “There are also the standard backpacker activities which we don’t get pure enjoyment from. Instead of playing mini-golf putting, for example, we would rather rent a set of clubs and play eighteen holes of a Championship course.”

“I see where you are coming from,” I nodded, my philosophy very much aligned with what they were saying. The boys were so unashamedly themselves that it was near-impossible not to be drawn into their lifestyle choices. “Some people that I’ve met on the road have changed so much that they would probably be unrecognisable now to their friends and family. If I can return back home the exact same person as I was when I left, albeit more cultured, have more apathy for the world, and have more epic stories to tell, then I will be as happy as can be. I once booked a $600 flight as a present for a friend to come and visit me on a trip, only to find out that they couldn’t make it and my purchase was both non-refundable and non-modifiable. Would that classify as flashpacking?”

“Absolutely,” said Adam. “A perfect example of doing something under your own accord and not because someone else has influenced you. Money can be earned, lost, and re-earned. Time cannot.”

“And what do you do when you want to slow things down and look after the wallet every now and then?” I asked, intrigued.

“That’s simple,” he laughed. “We have a quiet night in amongst the blackjack and roulette tables of a local casino.”