"please support our trip around the world"
July 5, 2019 8:26 AM   Subscribe

 
Yup. People are learning from 50+ years' worth of National Geographic articles, where some rando hikes through Tibet and says "oh, and the locals were so helpful to me!"
posted by Melismata at 8:33 AM on July 5 [11 favorites]


When I was five we left the nation we lived in under not great circumstances, my dad had the money he had in his pocket on the day we randomly chose to leave. He was out of money by the time we got to Miami. My grandfather in Canada wired us money but it would still take a day until it arrived. My three-year-old brother and I begged in the streets until we collected enough cash for the days food and hotel.

The money arrived after a couple days and everything was fine, we went to Orlando and Disney, so it was not that dire an experience.
posted by Keith Talent at 8:49 AM on July 5 [11 favorites]


You're not traveling without money if you are begging for other people to give you money (or things which are typically purchased with money). You're just traveling without your own money. You could just borrow some from your daddy and it would be the same ideological pursuit without the offensiveness of begging from people who have less than you.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:49 AM on July 5 [26 favorites]


I honestly thought this article was going to be about the common phenomenon of western travelers visiting countries where their money goes a lot further due to everything being so much cheaper in the local economies (the "I got a hotel room for $4 a night!" phenomenon, basically) and the implications of such an economic arrangement.

Nope, it's literally about western tourists begging for money in the countries they visit. Holy shit.
posted by chrominance at 8:50 AM on July 5 [37 favorites]


These people make my blood boil. The sheer levels of entitlement involved in parking yourself in an area heavily trafficked by local panhandlers, putting up bilingual signs asking anyone passing by for funds for their dream destinations, and often times deliberately scamming people towards that end. 21st century colonialism at its finest.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 8:57 AM on July 5 [19 favorites]


I had no idea this was even a thing - what's with the blindfolds?
posted by Ragged Richard at 9:00 AM on July 5


I usually try not to judge because I don't know what struggles someone else has faced and I don't want fall into the whole "how are you poor when you have a cellphone?" trap. Some of these photos are making it pretty tough though! I suppose that's partly why they were chosen and why the same ones are showing up everywhere.

It probably doesn't need to be said here, but don't do this!

Hopefully people just abstain from giving them money and they go away. Or maybe enough will face legal consequences that it falls out of fashion. I am being optimistic.
posted by ODiV at 9:00 AM on July 5 [5 favorites]


A lot of them are straight up scam artists. There’s two middle aged Russian ladies who have been active in Hong Kong for at least a year.
posted by frumiousb at 9:03 AM on July 5 [16 favorites]


So this is the international version of the wealthy-parented, zero real problems crustpunks who make pilgrimages (of choice) to places like Portland? Sounds like the whitest, most American thing ever.
posted by trackofalljades at 9:05 AM on July 5 [14 favorites]


They just keep coming back until they do get arrested, or be belligerent, counting on local norms to be baldfaced self-entitled shits about it.
posted by cendawanita at 9:05 AM on July 5 [5 favorites]


Wow, I had no idea that this was such a big problem. When I saw the Bored Panda post, I wondered how common it actually was. Bored Panda will make a story out of anything. But .... this is common enough that Thailand changed its visiting requirements and Vietnam has issued warnings? It's a whole trend, not just a few entitled assholes?

You know, I bet when they get home, they make a big deal about how personally enlightened they are now.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:19 AM on July 5 [4 favorites]


it's been a thing forever, it's just the internet raising awareness. I don't really know what to think of it, on one hand I wouldn't do it and I wouldn't give to them. On the other, while Caucasian people can have some privileges, they can be legit poor. I don't see Russia or Ukraine as rich countries. They have rich people, but so do most Asian countries. Scammers are universal, too.
One of my friends almost died on his "grand tour". He is born and raised in the West, but he is Inuit and thus appears to be Asian. When he passed out on a street from malaria, no-one took notice (he wasn't begging or anything, just very ill). Coincidentally a friend from high-school passed by and got him to a hospital.
A close relative was caught up in a natural catastrophe recently, and lost everything she owned. Because of the conditions, there was no way she could phone home. So she had to beg for a while, until she found a network of locals through volunteering with the clean-up.
posted by mumimor at 9:21 AM on July 5 [8 favorites]


Ugh. Fuck people.

There was a NYT column "The Frugal Traveler" or something. I always pictured him like this, figuratively. But people are literally doing this? Wow.
posted by humboldt32 at 9:21 AM on July 5 [5 favorites]


The fourth article in the OP is just outraged by this behavior......and then directly lists below it another article titled The best way to travel for free and lower your taxable income.

It can pretty much can be summarized as “become an Instagram influencer and get locals to give you shit for free - anything you do end up having to pay for on travel is tax deductible if you claim you are a travel writer”.

So as long as you position your grift as a tax advantageous smart business you are all good - ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by inflatablekiwi at 9:29 AM on July 5 [5 favorites]


Bootstraps have always been made out of other people's skin.
posted by srboisvert at 9:31 AM on July 5 [120 favorites]


On the other, while Caucasian people can have some privileges, they can be legit poor. I don't see Russia or Ukraine as rich countries.

Sure, not all caucasian people are rich. But the poor ones tend not to indulge in much recreational travel to Southeast Asia.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:32 AM on July 5 [62 favorites]


This is just gross. One of my friends did this after graduating - he went to Central America. He would post to LiveJournal (okay it was a long time ago) about how thrifty he was being. He posted things like "I bought a new bag from this lady, I talked her down from $50 to $3". And I'd be like, "cool story bro, you just cheated an impoverished woman out of a fair price for her work".

I have no problem living frugally or within ones means. And if you legitimately need help, it's okay to ask. But it's just gross to sponge off of those who have less than you, when you're not actually in need.
posted by Gray Duck at 9:38 AM on July 5 [22 favorites]


Sure, not all caucasian people are rich. But the poor ones tend not to indulge in much recreational travel to Southeast Asia.
Is this something you know, or something you project from your American experience? I'm not being snarky, I'm looking at the Eastern European scammers in the OP and just not thinking they are privileged or even lower middle class. Where I am, I see a lot of people from all over the world doing things you wouldn't expect. It's a weird factor of globalization.
posted by mumimor at 9:39 AM on July 5 [13 favorites]


Sure, not all caucasian people are rich. But the poor ones tend not to indulge in much recreational travel to Southeast Asia.
Is this something you know, or something you project from your American experience?


I mean, it costs a lot of money to get to SE Asia from pretty much anywhere. So that in itself would preclude people without means from engaging in this sort of chicanery.
posted by grumpybear69 at 9:41 AM on July 5 [16 favorites]


Needing help because of an unexpected catastrophe doesn't appear to be what anyone is talking about here. Scammers and people begging to fund their vacation are different, and probably would make it harder for the rare traveler who really does need help to get it.

I don't know why you're bringing up travelers in real need as if they're the same phenomenon.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:43 AM on July 5 [22 favorites]


Not to mention, the legacy of European colonialism in the region does mean they're tapping into the positive prejudice for white ppl, as in, white ppl are rich and if they're begging for money, they must be really serious. Compare to tourists of Asian or African extraction and how they get treated if they act poor.
posted by cendawanita at 9:43 AM on July 5 [22 favorites]


STOP JUGGLING YOUR BABIES YOU DAMN FOOLS
posted by Foci for Analysis at 9:46 AM on July 5 [9 favorites]


I don't know why you're bringing up travelers in real need as if they're the same phenomenon.

For real. People who are actually poor don't do this bullshit. It's pretty much the exclusive domain of rich kids who know they can easily find the money to come back home if they get bored or wind up in real trouble.
posted by tobascodagama at 9:52 AM on July 5 [13 favorites]


I mean, it costs a lot of money to get to SE Asia from pretty much anywhere. So that in itself would preclude people without means from engaging in this sort of chicanery.
No it doesn't. If you go for bargains and are willing to travel with less safe airlines, you can go from Europe to East Asia on a month's minimum wage or far less if you don't care about the return ticket. If you are planning to travel as a beg packer, you are probably already living off someone else in your home country.

For real. People who are actually poor don't do this bullshit. It's pretty much the exclusive domain of rich kids who know they can easily find the money to come back home if they get bored or wind up in real trouble.
It may be you are right, but I'm simply not certain when it comes to those people who are from the former Warsaw Pact countries. Things are different there. And come to think of it, I know more than one working class person from here in Denmark who went out there without any plans or money.

I don't know why you're bringing up travelers in real need as if they're the same phenomenon.
That was not my intention. Sorry for that. I was just trying to say that things can be complicated to judge when you are in the situation, which gives space for scammers to do their thing.
posted by mumimor at 9:57 AM on July 5 [14 favorites]


Just to make it completely clear: I don't agree with or like these people. And some of the examples in the OP are clearly atrocious. But I do think there are layers to the story.
posted by mumimor at 9:59 AM on July 5 [4 favorites]


I mean, it costs a lot of money to get to SE Asia from pretty much anywhere.

Realizing what constitutes a lot of money varies widely by country, you can get a one way flight in 2 weeks time to Kuala Lumper from San Francisco, Moscow, or Auckland, for under $400US. Many European and US hub cities you can get to KL or Bangkok for under $600 one way. From Sydney you can get to KL under $200US at the moment on Asia X. I imagine for well timed and planned trips it could be cheaper.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 10:03 AM on July 5 [4 favorites]


Regardless of whether they're rich or poor, they are clearly leveraging their white skin for money.
posted by Mrs Potato at 10:06 AM on July 5 [22 favorites]


But I do think there are layers to the story.

No doubt, and I'm not one to say that they are rich. But I've alluded to why they think their scams would get a better play here (tl;dr it's the white adulation), and why they're even here (tl;dr it's the eastern exoticism).
posted by cendawanita at 10:08 AM on July 5 [16 favorites]


Bugs Bunny didn’t put up with this noise.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:08 AM on July 5 [2 favorites]


"Only" $400.
posted by tobascodagama at 10:11 AM on July 5 [29 favorites]


The perfect Metafilter thread: we can feel outrage about colonialism, and privileged white kids, and whether someone is the right kind of poor!
posted by Nelson at 10:19 AM on July 5 [63 favorites]


The arrogance, cluelessness, entitlement, FFS. Really impressive that locals are not stabbing them.
posted by theora55 at 10:19 AM on July 5 [2 favorites]


Aimless poor teenagers/young adults have been hitting the road since...forever, actually.

These people jam the same buttons down for me as the crusties, and, as with the crusties, because of this, I really try to remember that it's a large enough group to embrace people from a lot of different circumstances; some behaving absolutely contemptibly, some choosing this method to manage unendurable lives at home.
posted by praemunire at 10:34 AM on July 5 [9 favorites]


As an Asian, I have less of a problem with folks who do this than "regular" Western tourists who burn a lot of carbon on frequent whirlwind trips of the high-impact kind and then go home without learning or internalizing anything much. But I realize that beggars and hippies are an easier target to hate.
posted by splitpeasoup at 10:37 AM on July 5 [18 favorites]


This is like going to a dinner party and then asking the hosts to drive you home at the end of the night, and that basic rudeness doesn’t even include the race and colonialism issues. (And like others have pointed out, it’s not comparable to a situation where disaster strikes and your car breaks down.)

And since when is hundreds of US dollars not a lot of money?
posted by sallybrown at 10:39 AM on July 5 [8 favorites]


Ugh. Back in my day the shitty backpackers just stole from other backpackers when they were drunk.
posted by nestor_makhno at 10:40 AM on July 5 [9 favorites]


In the late 1960s, my friends dad and some buddies spent a year or two and drove a vw bus to south America, sold the bus and flew to Africa and hitchhiked around until they ran out of money and went to an American consulate to phone home to get plane tickets back. I am not sure if much begging was involved, but white privilege for sure.
posted by CostcoCultist at 10:42 AM on July 5 [3 favorites]


I spend so much time thinking about who should be first against the wall and the thing about 2019 is more candidates are always popping up.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:50 AM on July 5 [4 favorites]


I spend so much time thinking about who should be first against the wall...

Plot twist: it's all of us.
posted by klanawa at 10:52 AM on July 5 [18 favorites]


Putting aside for a moment the ethics of this, I'm astonished by the confidence required. I worked in China for a couple of years, did a little bit of traveling and spoke enough Mandarin to get around (now sadly lapsed unless you want to talk about rabbits, the time of day or the beauties of the seasons)...and whenever I was traveling my brain was always going "backup plan backup plan must not run out of money what will I do if I get sick always have enough money for cab to hospital or consulate". It's making me anxious even to think about being in a foreign country without money. I don't even like to be in the suburbs without being confident that I can pay to cab home on short notice.

I assume the internet has changed things - not that stupidly or arrogantly confident travelers are a new invention, but the threshhold is probably lower than it was when it was actually a bit complicated even to call home.
posted by Frowner at 10:53 AM on July 5 [44 favorites]


The ones where they're wearing blindfolds and offering "free hugs" sets my teeth on edge. Say what you will about this thread being so MetaFilter, but if that isn't white privilege, what is?
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:09 AM on July 5 [3 favorites]


OK so I looked it up. The cheapest one-way ticket I could find from Copenhagen to Kuala Lumpur was 350 dollars.
I have done fieldwork with homeless people in Copenhagen and any one of the people I met would be able to save 350 dollars within a couple of months. They can't afford a home anyway so they don't pay rent, and they get their food from shelters and other sources. They get money from begging, or from day-labor. Going to a country that is warm and safe and where begging is viewed more positively than in Protestant Denmark looks good.
Most of them can't do that because they don't have passports, but for various reasons, some people do. Europe is not America; sometimes the authorities will help people get a passport.
I have also known quite a lot of very poor people who travel extensively, and I still know some. I live in a so-called ghetto area, and my kids have gone to the local schools. Going to East Asia, or Sub-Saharan Africa is not unusual here. One wonderful family I know who live at what would here be seen as below the poverty level regularly travel to India.
Also, some people from Russia and Ukraine and Belarus have values and goals that are very different from mine, and different economies from mine. They are definitely not rich, but they prioritize differently, so while they may live several people in a two room apartment, they may also travel several times a year. I have no idea what they do on those travels. I do know I'll have eternal guilt about one of the kids I lost contact with, who was living on the street last I heard.

I really understand why someone in Asia would be disgusted by this, and I get the colonial assumptions that some of these people are gaming. But I also think that this is an expression of how globalization has really unexpected side-effects. And I know that this already happened during the sixties, but wasn't as widely published.
posted by mumimor at 11:10 AM on July 5 [31 favorites]


MetaFilter: Really impressive that locals are not stabbing them.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:17 AM on July 5 [9 favorites]


I bet when they get home, they make a big deal about how personally enlightened they are now

Cheat, Prey, Grub
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:18 AM on July 5 [46 favorites]


for someone who isn't defending these people you seem to be doing a lot of legwork defending them

i get that globalisation has weird side effects but i don't see a sudden upswing in asian or african tourists begpacking their way across europe and the americas? maybe my irritation at begpackers would recede if i saw evidence of a trend like that.

it doesn't help that going to asia, anywhere in asia, really, is used as a shorthand for so many "finding myself eat-pray-love" type stories westerners have. and begging someplace else "safer" and "warmer" that isn't "protestant denmark" makes it even more gross.
posted by anem0ne at 11:18 AM on July 5 [34 favorites]


Worth noting, of course, that this is the biography of one of the article writers:

About the Author: Sam worked in investing banking for 13 years at GS and CS. He received his undergraduate degree in Economics from The College of William & Mary and got his MBA from UC Berkeley. In 2012, Sam was able to retire at the age of 34 largely due to his investments that now generate roughly $250,000 a year in passive income, most recently helped by real estate crowdfunding. He spends most of his time playing tennis and taking care of his family. Financial Samurai was started in 2009 and is one of the most trusted personal finance sites on the web with over 1.5 million pageviews a month.

He also helpfully remarks that out of "respect" for poor people in SE Asia he makes sure to stay thin and fit, because not being thin and fit is disrespectful to people who are poor. Some people might allow as how working in investment banking and enjoying a $250,000 income is a lot more disrespectful to poor people, but then one would have to not be an extremely rich man.

So anyway, I guess it's worth keeping a little perspective on big versus small fish here.
posted by Frowner at 11:24 AM on July 5 [80 favorites]


If you're interested in a dark comedy about begging, I recommend Philanthropy by Nae Caranfil. I just saw it on MUBI and it's totally hilarious. And dark.
posted by JamesBay at 11:27 AM on July 5 [2 favorites]


And this article reminds me of how middle-brow, anodyne and *dumb* Quartz is.
posted by JamesBay at 11:30 AM on July 5


I guess it's worth keeping a little perspective on big versus small fish here.

You underestimate the amount of contempt I have to go around
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:31 AM on July 5 [19 favorites]


[Folks, the repeated attempts to find ways to justify this, rather than engaging with the phenomenon as a problem for the people who are saying it's a problem is not a good look and needs to stop now. Your experience with a different demographic in a different location is probably not relevant and you should consider learning something new instead. ]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 11:33 AM on July 5 [48 favorites]


I could afford a plane ticket to Thailand, but not a vacation in Thailand. I would love to go to Thailand. I have been interested in Thailand for a long time - its language, history, music, and so on. I will soon be relatively unencumbered by work and family obligations, meaning it would really be the perfect time to go.

I'm not buying a plane ticket to Thailand. I'm not entitled to travel on other people's dime. I'm not going to leverage my white privilege to take money off of locals. It would be my choice to go to Thailand and to need to beg for accommodation, food, and travel costs.

The Bored Panda article is not good, I think most of us can agree. For those of you who aren't familiar, Bored Panda is basically a content aggregator - it is a lot like Buzzfeed but with less quizzes and celebrity culture. Many of their "articles" are crowdsourced and/or consist of images/memes culled from Twitter and other sites. But Cendawanita shared some better articles, and apparently, if you Google, you can find a lot more.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 11:34 AM on July 5 [17 favorites]


[Please refresh, a few more deleted.]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 11:46 AM on July 5 [1 favorite]


I read through most of the links and:

1. I can understand the motives of some of the people, but that doesn’t make it ethical. Being homeless in a country that is “more forgiving” climate- or culture-wise than your own makes a certain amount of sense, but it also displaces poor and homeless people in that country, so it’s not victimless.

2. The same goes for people busking or selling things — like tee shirt or shoe donations to developing countries, you are undercutting the local economy. Your picture sale eliminates some sale for a local vendor.

3. If we had a global culture that supported travelers from all over, this would be less gross, but, as has been pointed out in most of the articles and in this thread, If someone from, say, Thailand tried to travel across Australia or Europe by begging, I expect their trip would be shorter and less pleasant.

4. Shockingly, the United States does not seem to be the worst origin for this behavior.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:47 AM on July 5 [12 favorites]


I also am puzzled by the “blindfolded hug” thing. Why the blindfolds?
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:49 AM on July 5


My guess is that the blindfolded hug thing is supposed to hit some response from passersby from a demonstration of affection and vulnerability.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:53 AM on July 5 [4 favorites]


I am pleased to report that when my brother and sister-in-law did their backpacking stints, they set up work for themselves along the way, and if they needed emergency money (like when the work visas they'd lined up in Australia fell through at the last minute) they called both sets of parents for help instead of street begging. (And even then it was only after trying to do manual labor for cash at a mango farm only to discover they both had contact allergies to mangos.)

even more pleased to report that seeing people like this pissed my brother off enormously.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:16 PM on July 5 [9 favorites]


Many of the signs specifically ask for donations to fund their travel, not because they're on hard times or whatever. I'm guessing that at least 99% of them have a nonzero bank account back home. Not sure why we are discussing homeless people moving countries to be permanent beggars somewhere else - if that is indeed a thing, it's a tangent. People who have unintentionally lost all their money on their trip due to bad luck, poor planning etc and just trying to get home are also a tangent. The begpacking thing seems to be people intentionally planning trips funded by begging.

I had no idea that this was a thing and it's appalling. I love travelling and I am notoriously cheap, so I guess I get the motive in some sense, but asking others - particularly in areas less fortunate than you are - to foot the bill is so gross. It's a bit like going to a restaurant and not tipping because you're "broke". If you can't afford to travel...well, many people can't, that sucks but that means you don't go, not that you ask others to cover your cheap ass. If you can afford it and just don't want to, I don't even have the words.
posted by randomnity at 12:35 PM on July 5 [9 favorites]


When I was doing the budget travel thing, there were always moochers in the hostels, but I only ever saw them mooching off of other travelers. Straight up begging on the streets seems like a newer phenomenon, and a distasteful one at that.
posted by Dip Flash at 12:43 PM on July 5


I also am puzzled by the “blindfolded hug” thing. Why the blindfolds?

I think maybe so it doesn't seem like they're discriminating. Like, they're not trying to come onto anybody and they also aren't going to refuse anybody. Very non-confrontational.

The only person I know who was seriously considering doing this is a trust fund baby and grandson of a billionaire. (I know him because I help manage his grandfather's money). He's actually a nice enough guy, but super out of touch. His perspective on money is fundamentally different than most people's, because he's never faced a genuine financial constraint. That's one type of person who could beg for luxuries like this with a total lack of self-awareness.

I've had to ask for money on the street before (was a dumb teenager, landed myself in trouble) and it took a lot to screw up my courage, but the compassion I was shown stuck with me for life. Strangers saving your ass is a humbling experience, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Like a really scary trust fall. What's weird about people begging their way around the world, though, is that they're apparently not finding it humbling to have to rely on strangers for help? They're exploiting other people's empathy, but don't seem to feel any desire to "pay it forward," let alone "pay it back," or generally show any empathy of their own? I dunno, it's an odd mindset.

Anyhow, I feel bad for the children in some of these photos. It's all fun and games to be a nomadic bum, these people are probably the same dipshits who read On The Road and think it's cool, whatever -- but once your children are a prop in your begging business, something is genuinely messed up.
posted by rue72 at 12:44 PM on July 5 [11 favorites]


Frowner: It's making me anxious even to think about being in a foreign country without money. I don't even like to be in the suburbs without being confident that I can pay to cab home on short notice

I know, right? Just seeing these photos is triggering anxiety in me. The thought of embarking on an international trip with the plan of financing it by begging along the way is inconceivably alien and terrifying.

And why would anyone give these people money? Why does this work? It is baffling.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 12:45 PM on July 5 [11 favorites]


Busking seems fair enough though. I know some people who make full time living as street performers.
posted by Damienmce at 12:46 PM on July 5 [4 favorites]


This couple caused a fury in here in Wellington last year because they ate at a food kitchen. NZ is an expensive place to visit, not like SE Asia, so we don’t get many begpackers. For a few years, there were kids dressed in shredded, tatty clothes with expensive, high-end breed dogs like Malamutes or Huskies. I remember people taking pictures of them yet not giving money.
posted by lemon_icing at 12:46 PM on July 5 [1 favorite]


What's weird about people begging their way around the world, though, is that they're apparently not finding it humbling to have to rely on strangers for help?

I suppose they have the luxury of leaving the strangers, and the obligation, behind when they move on....
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:54 PM on July 5 [1 favorite]


It's the Trump OPM example; always use other people's money.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 12:57 PM on July 5 [2 favorites]


Sooo, I guess this is what is meant by "everyone can afford to travel if they made it a priority!" /s Though this goes beyond the garden-variety "stop drinking lattes and eating avocado toast" assvice into "be a horrible, immoral person" territory.

Maaaaybe if you can't afford to travel on your own dime (or your parents' or whoever) then find another way to get your "good sophisticated person" cred? Though I note that Americans are not the only or even major offenders.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 1:24 PM on July 5 [3 favorites]


From lemon_icing's article: "We know we can live without money" - wrong. They know they can live without spending their own money.
posted by lyssabee at 1:32 PM on July 5 [14 favorites]


The begpacking thing seems to be people intentionally planning trips funded by begging.

Interesting, to me, to compare this to the fairly successful artist, whose name I can't remember, who doesn't spend money on lodging or food instead prearranging for fans to provide it for them nominally because it makes the tour more authentic.
posted by Mitheral at 2:03 PM on July 5


The entitlement!

Besides the various issues others have addressed upthread, seeing the photos of the begpackers offering hugs in exchange for travel funds reminds me of the time Amanda Palmer asked professional musicians to work on her tour for free: "we will feed you beer, hug/high-five you up and down (pick your poison), give you merch, and thank you mightily for adding to the big noise we are planning to make." Ugh.
posted by rather be jorting at 2:17 PM on July 5 [10 favorites]


"Only" $400.

$400 is one quarter of the cheapest possible "New York City to London" Virgin Atlantic flights for a trip I'm putting together.
posted by sideshow at 2:45 PM on July 5 [1 favorite]


I have done fieldwork with homeless people in Copenhagen and any one of the people I met would be able to save 350 dollars within a couple of months. They can't afford a home anyway so they don't pay rent, and they get their food from shelters and other sources. They get money from begging, or from day-labor.

Do Danes typically carry cash that they can give to beggars? North of the border in Sweden, cash is all but extinct.
posted by acb at 3:16 PM on July 5


klanawa: "I spend so much time thinking about who should be first against the wall...

Plot twist: it's all of us.
"

The true fiends are the ones we made along the way.
posted by chavenet at 3:25 PM on July 5 [9 favorites]


The whole "Instagram Influencer" thing makes me rage. Who cares how many people look at pictures you post to some website? No I will not give you a discount on food/coffee/whatever because of it.

"Begpackers" make my blood boil.
posted by mrbill at 3:55 PM on July 5 [2 favorites]


I'm guessing that at least 99% of them have a nonzero bank account back home.

I dunno. Some of them, sure, just like there are trust-fund crustypunks, but I’ve lived in cities that were more friendly to homeless and semi-homeless people, and there are also a lot of people who are running away from something, OD’d on On the Road, aren’t suited to a stable lifestyle, or whatever and have the means (including a passport) to get somewhere and just try and make some kind of bad living (note: these people can be annoying or gridding, too). I would bet the number is... well, I’m not sure what the numbers are — the articles repeated a lot of pictures, and I am betting there aren’t good demographics — but I’m betting the number of relatively-privileged is less than 99% or even 90%. Those with the “fund my travel” signs more so, the ones with the “lifer look” less so.

The thing is, it doesn’t matter. Even if we sort them into more and less deserving, the fact that they are leveraging their privilege to take space from poor people in developing countries is not good. I guess if someone can talk their Instagram followers into supporting their traveling lifestyle, fine. But when they start stealing the resources of poorer people (and attention and generosity are resources), they are a social problem.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:37 PM on July 5 [5 favorites]


My attitude to buying things in places poorer than me is that both of us can be happy. If I feel like I've got a good deal and the seller feels like they got three times what some tourists screw them down to, then we are both happy. Yeah, I could pay less, why should I?

I've spent years traveling to over thirty countries, I've never even heard of begpacking, they can go to hell. Respect who you are with.

And mumimor, with respect, as an outsider who lived in Denmark for a time, it may be worth examining some internalised Scandinavian privilege.
posted by deadwax at 5:40 PM on July 5 [5 favorites]


the fairly successful artist, whose name I can't remember, who doesn't spend money on lodging or food instead prearranging for fans to provide it for them nominally because it makes the tour more authentic.

You’re thinking of Amanda Palmer. She did a Ted talk about it.

I clicked the link expecting an article about the bohos who post GoFundMes for their upcoming (or ongoing) travel. This is worse. I’ve seen it before but I had no idea it was so widespread.
posted by Leeway at 6:03 PM on July 5


I ran out of money as a teenager backpacking through Europe. It never occurred to me to beg, unless one considers asking about in local bars and cafes if I could have a job, which I found. And the lady who owned the place, when she saw the youth hostel where I’d bunked, gathered me up and let me stay in her guest room. It’s been 40 years, she’s still alive, and we still stay in touch via post. (For the record, I offered many times, as my financial situation improved to please let me repay her, but she said it’s my job to look out for other lost kids, and put them back on the path. She’s a hella lady.)
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 6:18 PM on July 5 [27 favorites]


Yeah, count me among the appalled. Back when I was doing budget travel, the thing was to just work at hostel for a while or, like, as a ski instructor/rafting guide until you had enough money to get to the next destination. Or to grift from other (white) tourists. That seemd ok to me.

I note that many of the pictures in the two articles I read explicity say "fund our world travel"--not, say, "help me get home." So no, this is not the world of the truly destitute/unfortunate. It's just selfish, assholes exploiting what I'm sure they think of as "exotic third world" countries.
posted by TwoStride at 7:22 PM on July 5 [4 favorites]


I note that there is a lot of repetition in the linked articles and relatively little about the begpackers themselves. I made a start at looking for who they were and came across
Would you give them money to travel? The rise and fall of Hong Kong’s ‘begpackers’
which identified two Polish living statues and a Japanese busker, and also led to "Encountering beg packers" Denis Tolkach et Al. doi here "Overall, eight begpackers agreed to be interviewed in Hong Kong. To the researchers’ surprise and contrary to reports in the mainstream media all interviewees were travellers from countries of the former Soviet Union, such as Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine. As the search for interviewees progressed on the streets of Hong Kong and through online forums, the researchers observed that most begpackers in Hong Kong came from the aforementioned three countries of the former Soviet Union."
posted by StephenB at 2:24 AM on July 6 [8 favorites]


If... I were to look for a full version of that article... Any advice?
posted by cendawanita at 2:29 AM on July 6


cendanwanita, check your memail.
posted by jadepearl at 3:29 AM on July 6


I'm not buying a plane ticket to Thailand. I'm not entitled to travel on other people's dime. I'm not going to leverage my white privilege to take money off of locals. It would be my choice to go to Thailand and to need to beg for accommodation, food, and travel costs.


I live in Asia, I'm white and from the US, and I've seen begpackers and the associated scammers. While I respect those in genuine need, I also get very, very annoyed at travel beggars.

Here's why - $400 Beijing-LA is like... Routine. It's less if you're hunting for bargains. $150 Beijing-Bali if you're not hunting that hard. I'm not saying those numbers aren't a lot of money to people who have bills I don't, but those are amounts that I myself and many of the people I know in Beijing and Bali and LA can make in week or two. The tickets aren't prohibitively expensive, for locals on any end.

So. White people begging. Well. Take a quick Google of China's visa policy and you'll see that Americans get 10 year visas roughly automatically upon proving a job, or even just a bank account with $3000. Indonesia, meanwhile, you get 30 days renewable indefinitely just for showing up at the airport.

China doesn't have begpackers. Indonesia does. China will arrest the crap out of you for even trying to beg. Indonesia won't, but in Bali they'll tell your embassy. Thailand used to not care, and Americans get 30 days upon entry at airports, fly in fly out, and Vietnam still gives Americans an automatic $100 year long visa just for the asking.

So. It's kinda like... They've put up with it until they can't. If they've managed to annoy the locals in Vietnam, Thailand, and Bali to the point that they're changing visa policy? And if China will arrest and deport on sight for it?

Well... It's bad.
posted by saysthis at 1:24 PM on July 6 [6 favorites]


[Couple comments deleted. Let's not have comments from white westerners speaking on behalf of e.g. Thai people to say how they feel about "good" western visitors; it's presumptuous at best.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:21 PM on July 6 [4 favorites]


I also, as a drunk but hopefully coherent person mean to say that if you ARE planning to come to Asia with no budget except your tickets and some pocket cash, there is an entire economy set up in China (actually not so much but kinda) and southeast Asia to cater to exactly that. I know this because I go on vacation in southeast Asia with Beijingers. Not rich ones, the migrant types who make $1000 a month. They rely on me to kinda be a tour guide to the cheap stuff because I've done it myself, and so something something China tourist economy I guess? But I mean, I'm cool and indie artsie etc and I wouldn't buy a tchotchke if you put a gun to my head.

The point is that in this part of the world at least, they are quite welcoming, even to long term people who are English teachers or some such. Even if you're making money off the locals on the wrong visa (don't do that but honestly), they seem to only care that you're a positive influence.

That's a wonderful thing about this part of the earth. It didn't get to the point where white tourists are being this obnoxious without these people being seriously welcoming and inclusive. Everyone still gets to come here and be real with them. Their nations didn't get such wide open visa policies without the locals being exactly that welcoming.

Don't let some stupid begpackers dissuade you from traveling in this part of the world.
posted by saysthis at 2:23 PM on July 6 [1 favorite]


Busking seems fair enough though. I know some people who make full time living as street performers.

Most travel visas do not allow for money-making enterprises. In your home country? Cool, go wild.
posted by lesser weasel at 1:28 AM on July 8 [2 favorites]


I’m Frowner: So anyway, I guess it's worth keeping a little perspective on big versus small fish here.

I’m sorry, I know you “mean well”, but you don’t get to dismiss white people selling their whiteness in the name of “but finance capitalism is worse”.

Classic move! A classic evasion maneuver of capitalism is when it gets people to say “but capitalism is worse”, thus hiding how capitalism leverages racism in order to better exploit an Other.

=

This is my surprised face.

Have you all met white expats in Asian countries? Many of them are horrible. A combination of racism, their exoticization of the Asian country, their inexperience dealing with cultures outside their own, and their whiteness combine into a sloppycocktail of condescension and entitlement.

White expats speak louder in restaurants, feel like they can get away with anything, are casually condescending to the country they’re in, are rude and entitled, mostly hang out with other white expats. They feel like they’ve “earned the right” to do so because they learned the language or have lived there for a decade or are dating/married to someone from that country. It’s even worse if they were an English teacher or something, because they’re used to structurally having power over students who valued them because... they grew up in the UK/Canada/USA.

Most of them do most of this relatively unconsciously, I think. They don’t realize their attitude. They don’t realize that the racism and orientalism and colonialism embedded in them from their western home countries would manifest when they’re in Asia.

And while much of what I said is about white expats, long term travelers who are white can be like this too, especially in Asia. They feel like they can “get away with anything” since they’re in a “faraway” country. Like what anem0ne said above: it doesn't help that going to asia, anywhere in asia, really, is used as a shorthand for so many "finding myself eat-pray-love" type stories westerners have. Asia isn’t a backdrop for some white person’s magical journey.

=

Once in Korea, I was talking with a white traveler who was being casually condescending to me in the way only a white person who thinks he’s talking to a “local” (ugh) can be. (If you’ve experienced this, you know EXACTLY what I’m talking about). I’m a bilingual Korean American, so they initially thought I was Korean Korean.

After some talking, it came to light that we had some mutual professional friends in common in the US.

Their attitude towards me and around me completely and suddenly changed. They were desperately nicer, friendlier, suddenly more polite. More so than if the same encounter would have happened in the US. It was as if they started thinking, “oh shit, this person is a ‘real person’ who is connected to my ‘real life’, ‘back home’ “.

Seeing them change really made me realize how that person imagined themselves not to be in ‘not real life’, and how much they might not realize that other people are ‘not real people’. How fucked up is that, white travelers?

I’ve had a handful of similar experiences like this, including when I start speaking English and the white expat or traveler goes from “good for you, you speak English really well” to “uh oh shit, we might have friends in common, hi again”.

=

Back to the story. These white begpackers? Classic combination of all of these dynamics rolled into one. Asia as blank canvas, as a place to “experiment”, separated from “real life”, without any thought or compassion for people who are living there who don’t look like them. What do you think their response would be if you offered to tag them on their personal social media pages would be? If all their friends “back home” could see what they’re doing?

Exercise left for the reader: imagine how this racist white expat othering works at the level of business, finance, etc.
posted by suedehead at 8:52 AM on July 8 [8 favorites]


I’m sorry, I know you “mean well”, but you don’t get to dismiss white people selling their whiteness in the name of “but finance capitalism is worse”.

I'm sorry - that was an extremely bad and untrue way for me to frame my response to the author bio. I was so shocked by the whole "I am not fat because that's being disrespectful to the poor" and "I have a passive income of $210,000, what a fine fellow I am" parts that I completely lost my head.

It would have been much more accurate to say that the inequality/colonialism/harmful beliefs about Asia that play out in begpacking play out in other ways too.
posted by Frowner at 1:35 PM on July 8 [2 favorites]


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