The ‘gap yah’ student travelling around Thailand on daddy’s coin is still going strong, with privileged Western kids donning their brightly patterned backpacks year after year.
It’s a humorous yet frustrating stereotype when viewed alongside the many young people who are forced to scrimp and save their way through university, and highlights a much more worrying ‘gap’ indeed.
However, more concerning than this is the rise of the ‘begpacker’, a traveller who will beg for money alongside genuinely impoverished people in countries such as Thailand and Bali. Unlike genuine beggars, driven by desperation, begpackers request cash to keep travelling.
For f*ck's sake, the white #begpackers are getting their desperate "act" together for the night. As usual in Seoul's Jongno 3-ga, in front of not-so-well-off elderly people, who generously donate their cash, believing these shameless scums are actually poor. #베그패커 추방해라! pic.twitter.com/jtGlYSwiH1
— Raphael Rashid (@koryodynasty) June 7, 2019
I do not of course have to spell out how inappropriate this trend is, with the naivete of such individuals illustrated perfectly by all too predictable statistics.
Research conducted by non-profit trade association, The American Gap Association in 2014-15, reveals 61 per cent of gap year participants reported their family’s annual household income to exceed $100,000 (£79,300).
Over 80 per cent of US gap year students had parents had been educated to bachelor’s degree level or higher. The vast majority were found to be white.
The #begpackers move in gangs to their next spot. Organised crime. To fleece some more elderly poor people from their generosity and hard earned cash. Yet authorities say nothing. pic.twitter.com/xayRKQly9u
— Raphael Rashid (@koryodynasty) June 21, 2019
There are similar markers of privilege among Brits who head out to ‘find themselves’ in developing countries. According to a research report from the Department of Education, gap year students are more likely to be from ‘white or native English speaking backgrounds’, with ‘families of higher socio-economic status’.
They will also have had ‘a substantially higher propensity to attend an independent school’, and will be more likely to go on to attend elite universities.
For such people, begging on the streets for donations and handouts will no doubt one day make for a fun, ‘edgy’ anecdote once back in the comfort and safety of an English pub. Those begging alongside them to feed their children are not so fortunate.
These fake #begpacker beggars must have one helluva sense of entitlement to have the nerve and audacity to scam and emotionally bribe vulnerable people, especially poor people/in front of soup kitchens, asking to help "fund" their travels. Disgusting.https://t.co/X2cvDbwpXw
— Raphael Rashid (@koryodynasty) July 2, 2019
On the other side of the coin, those forced to beg on the streets of popular backpackers destinations Bali and Thailand will have received a starkly different upbringing.
According to statistics from The Garden of Life Foundation, the poverty rate in Bali is just above 35 per cent, with the minimum wage at an approximate US $125.00 (£99.00).
The poverty rate in Thailand has been declining significantly in recent decades, according to The Borgen Project, dropping from 67 per cent in 1986 to 10.5 per cent in 2017.
However, there are still serious issues with begging in Thailand, with ongoing problems with children being trafficked from neighbouring Burma, Laos or Cambodia before being forced to beg on the streets.
Just f*ck off already! Yet another begging white #begpacker scumbag in Seoul's Jongno 3-ga, as usual in front of elderly and poor people who cannot comprehend how the mighty white man is in need, so share their pennies.
Claims he's lost wallet, needs your cash. Zero crackdown. pic.twitter.com/s0dsD37jz6
— Raphael Rashid (@koryodynasty) June 29, 2019
The Bali immigration department has now cracked down on begpackers, reporting them to their respective embassies.
As reported by Detik News, Setyo Budiwardoyo from the immigration department has made the following statement:
We have seen many cases of problematic tourists, lately they are either Australian, British or Russian. We tend to report these cases to the relevant embassies, so that they can oversee their citizens who are on holiday.
In the past, the department helped begpackers by providing them with food and shelter. However, as time went by, they became sceptical because some of foreigners taking advantage of this assistance.
Thailand has taken stricter measures to clamp down on begpackers, with visitors now having to prove they have US $651.00 (£515.50) in cash before entering the country.
오늘 또! 종로3가에서.
지갑 잃어버려서 (여행)돈 필요하다고?! 정말 어이 없고 뻔뻔해요.하지만 불쌍하다고 생각하는 가난한 어르신들 돈을 계속 기부해요.
한국과 한국인에 대해 만만하게 보고 있는 것 같아 맘이 불편하네요. pic.twitter.com/8n1l1u4A7Q
— Raphael Rashid (@koryodynasty) June 29, 2019
Hopefully these respective crackdowns will push begpackers to pursue more ethical ways of funding their journeys of enlightenment.
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Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.