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60’s Hippy Backpackers Vs. Backpackers Now

13 Jul 2019

Ah the nostalgic days of the hippy trail...for most of us it’s something we can only imagine. Backpacking has changed a lot over the years since the original hippies started it, some things for good, some for bad, but that’s development for you. We’ll let you decide as we look at the differences…

60’s Hippy Backpackers

The main way of getting from A to B was hitchhiking over land. Backpackers stand at the side of the road with their thumb out or a sign and wait for people in cars passing to take them in the direction they want to go. If not the whole way then at least closer to their chosen destination.

This was/is free to do and back then backpackers traveled with less money, it was kind of a philosophy to not have much.

End location - India
You may have heard of the reference ‘The Hippy Trail’. The journey mainly began in Western Europe, such as England, Berlin, Paris, Copenhagen etc while many people from USA went to Luxembourg.
Backpackers would then pass through Istanbul, Tehran, Herat, Peshawar, and Pakistan, finally leading them to India and Nepal.
The hippies found their freedom in Delhi, Varanasi and Goa, with all of these places still nowadays being a popular place to visit for any kind of traveler.

Inspiration - The Beatles
India became a popular place after The Beatles who were extremely influential through their lives and music, moved into an Ashram in Rishikesh.
The Beatles went to find spirituality and this spread to the normal folk of the time who wanted to follow in their footsteps and explore.

Tools - Lonely Planet Book
All backpackers needed was word of mouth between each other or a Lonely Planet travel guide-book. This would give you simple information on a place with a map and the rest was up to you!

The Unknown
Before the internet, you had to go out there yourself to discover places and find out about what they were like. You would never know the exact details of what may happen on your journey and would have to deal with issues as they arose. It must have been quite adventurous!

Collecting Memories
Phones, Laptops, Tablets and other devices were still a thing of the distant future for this generation. Yes there were some cameras around and you can find a few photos of this era now stored online but people were in the moment collecting memories rather than posting it on instagram.

The Few
Backpacking and travel in general were for the lucky few. Although it did not mean that you needed to be well-off or wealthy, it was just a not so normal thing to do. Backpackers were seekers who chose a different path, much different to today and the rest of the people who did get to travel would have had the money to do it but would not have been hippy backpackers…

Eat and Drink the Real Culture
Back in the 60’s and 70’s, Tourism was still a young thing and so when you went to a Country you would, of course, eat their traditional cuisine and drink what they drink. You would fall in love or get used to each region’s food however different from your own. In fact, exploring different foods should be one of the best things about backpacking! There were no international supermarkets or restaurants, what you ate would be the same as the locals.

Backpackers Now

With travel being widely available with competitive prices from many different airlines nowadays, most backpackers get to and from destinations by air. Within their chosen Country though most backpackers will still travel a bit by land such as overnight buses or boats. So at least you’re still getting a taster of
life on the road.

End Location Thailand, Cambodia and Southeast Asia
India is still on a lot of backpackers lists but now the route is to come to Southeast Asia, travel through Thailand, Malaysia, Bali etc and the new upcoming place seems to be Cambodia. Cambodia is still less developed than Thailand and cheaper so retaining its more backpacker vibe than the ever-growing tourism here in Thailand.

Inspiration - Instagram
Beautiful Instagram and its wonderful hashtags telling and showing us how to live our best life! Instagram makes everything look amazing and so most people are inspired to visit the same places that influencers are showing them.

Tools - Internet and Devices
Nearly everyone has a phone and nearly every place has Internet, backpacking has never been as easy with information at your fingertips 24/7. From online maps, planning routes, booking trips and accommodation, researching culture and customs, backpacking can be as organised or unorganised as you decide!

Safer and Easier
Backpacking is a rite of passage for a lot of people who finish school or college before, during or after they go on to University. It is such a normal thing to do now for thousands of people that everything is safer and easier than it was ‘back in the day’.
Everything is more organised with tour companies arranging everything for you if you like and with more knowledge out there online you can keep yourself safe by avoiding dangerous places. Most Countries welcome tourism in all its forms and so the police and authorities now pay closer attention to keeping foreigners more safe and crime on them down.

Collecting Photos
Of course like the hippy travelers you will also collect memories but we can’t deny that a lot of people collect photos as a priority when backpacking. This is great, and a lovely thing to look back on and show family and friends, but don’t forget to look up from your camera or phone once in a while.

The Masses
Travel is now for everyone. With flights to other Countries sometimes being cheaper than within your own, absolutely anyone can pack a bag and go explore the world!
This is where backpacking really comes in, if you don’t have a lot of money you can still backpack on the cheap to far destinations such as our amazing Koh Phangan!

Eat and Drink the World
With the development of any Country comes with it the introduction of food and drink from all over the world. Some people choose to stay and call a Country home as a foreign expat and sometimes start business there such as restaurants serving foreign food. This introduces foreign food into the culture.
More chain and larger luxury hotels opening in distant locations also brings foreign food supermarkets and businesses want to offer tourists their own cuisine as well as the local one as some people find foreign food disagrees with them.
So now, wherever you are, you can pretty much always get a burger or pizza and a coke or Russian vodka, be prepared to pay a slightly higher price of course.

There you have it, some of the differences between then and now. Whatever your thoughts just try to be mindful and respectful of the Country you’re backpacking in. Take some ethics from back in the day’s hippy travelers to implement for your journey and although you have everything on a plate now, make sure to actually try out the local and cultural way of life wherever you are.

for Phanganist readers.