- Things have changed over the last ten years in terms of backpacking. Today online reviews are preferred to those in guidebooks, the term 'flashpacker' has been coined, and you can book online to give yourself peace of mind. Read on to find out Hostelworld.com's top ten ways backpacking has changed over the decade...
1. Social networking sites
There was a time that, when you met people while backpacking, you’d have to (at the risk of coming across slightly forward) ask them for their email address. This would then be scribbled on the nearest piece of paper which would in turn deteriorate into a tatty old rag and alas, you’d never see or hear from that person again. With the immergence of websites like Facebook, Bebo and MySpace, this has changed. Now people simply ask each other “…you on Facebook?” and from that day on you will be in contact with them, knowing when they're on holiday (again), graduate from college or, in many cases, have cornflakes for breakfast.
2. More private rooms and better facilities
While some hostels did have private rooms ten years ago, most didn’t. And if you felt like treating yourself to the luxury of not having to let a chorus of snores send you to la la land, or if you were feeling particularly lucky and were convinced that you were going to get lucky, you’d have to opt for the nearest budget hotel. But oh how things have changed! Today, if you’ve just bought yourself a swanky new top and feel like you’re definitely going to have some company, the only problem you’ll have finding a private room in a hostel is that they might be full up. Facilities have improved drastically too as today you may find your hostel has a jacuzzi, restaurant, and maybe even a sauna!
3. iPods, mp3 players
The 13-hour bus journey – the arch nemesis of any budget traveller. Anyone who has travelled extensively has been faced with one of these at some stage or other. Usually broken up by stop-offs at petrol stations along the way, they aren’t pleasant. The iPod (and other mp3 players) has taken some of the pain out of these journeys, and now rather than dread the thoughts of them you can face up to the fact that you’ve got your entire music collection to keep you company on your 13 hour journey from Sydney to Byron Bay.
4. Online reviews
The days when people used to turn to their trusty travel book to find out more about a hostel in their next destination are almost a thing of the past. People no longer want to hear what professional travel writers have to say – they want to hear from fellow hostellers. And this is where Hostelworld.com stepped in. We’ve been surveying our customers since 2001 so the reviews that you read on the site are by backpackers for backpackers. Now choosing your hostel is easier than ever with first hand advice from travellers just like you.
5. More destinations are being visited
When it came to South-East Asia, Thailand was the spot for backpackers in times past. But today it is sooooooooooo yesterday! Today, thanks to greater awareness and a heightened sense of adventure, backpackers compete to have a longer list of more exotic destinations – the more obscure the better.
6. Cheaper flights
10 years ago the budget airline was almost only a figment of people’s imagination. But today you can fly from London to Barcelona for free, once you don’t mind paying taxes and charges, although on many occasions these can be waived also. Due to this, the volumes of people travelling have increased dramatically. Consequently, some people who wouldn’t have been exposed to different cultures now are, which can only be a good thing.
7. More advanced phones
10 years ago mobile phones were used in the traditional sense – they were used for talking. These days people use phones for anything but talking a lot of the time. You may have noticed that people who have iPhones tend to play with them more than speak on them. Chances are they are updating their status on Facebook, ‘tweeting’ on Twitter or uploading their latest photos. The use of SMS has increased tenfold also. So while a decade ago you used to go weeks without hearing from people that were on the road, nowadays you get daily updates not only through Facebook, but via text also.
8. The birth of the 'flashpacker'
‘The flashpacker’, a term that was coined by a journalist back in 2003 and one that hasn’t gone away since. If you’ve been under a rock since then, and aren’t familiar with it, the ‘flashpacker’ is one who stays in hostels yet carries around a high-spec digital camera (namely an SLR), a hot mp3 player (preferably iPod Touch), has the newest mobile/cell phone (yep…iPhone) and likes to keep their blog updated on their stylish laptop (smallest, lightest and most powerful available). To top things off, they treat themselves by staying in private rooms rather than dorms. ‘Why do they even bother to stay in hostels?’ you may ask yourself. Well, the reason most people do – to meet people and enjoy an atmosphere you won’t find in other forms of accommodation.
9. Can book online
Arriving at the hostel you wanted to stay at only to find it is fully booked can be huge disappointment. There was always the risk of this before the facility to book online popped up. Thanks to Hostelworld.com, in June 1999 (when we launched) we offered you the opportunity to pre-book your bed online months before getting there. This in turn meant you could now have peace of mind, knowing that there would be a bed waiting for where you wanted. It also meant you could guarantee staying with friends in the same hostel rather than leaving it to chance whether or not you’ll all get to stay there.
10. Hostels in stranger destinations
When’s the last time you heard of a hostel in a jumbo jet? Or up a tree? Or in a prison? Today the stranger setting for a hostel the better. Hostels can be found in all the above. They can also be found in caves, on trains and on boats. While you can find hotels in some of these settings, you’ll have trouble finding them in all of them. Plus, they won’t have the choice of shared rooms or private ones, and won’t have common areas where you can meet like-minded travellers from around the world.
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