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Safety concerns of millennial backpackers

October 27th, 2017 | | Accommodation

As a backpacker back in “my day”, my safety concerns were mostly just the threat of someone in my hostel stealing my Nokia 3310 that I used solely for text messaging friends back home. I’d anxiously sleep with it wrapped up in bag under my pillow. These days backpackers have to deal with a new concern that comes with carrying a mobile phone – that is, not theft, but also their social media presence.

Back when I travelled, I could go for weeks without anyone back home knowing where I was or how much weight I had put on (the so-called, “Heathrow injection”) or how daggy my backpacking clothes were. Kids these days can’t travel anywhere without hundreds of online friends and family knowing exactly where they are and what they are doing or wearing. And this pressure to present themselves as having the “best time ever” and looking amazing with a layer of Snapchat filters can’t really be conducive to a good time. Surely it is sucking the fun out of travel?

With reports that 70% of employers are using social media to screen candidates before hiring, millennial backpackers also have to worry that their online presence now is also their future. Doing shots at a nightclub in Berlin is all part of the Euro-trip experience, but do you want a tagged picture of this to kill your future job prospects? With more than half of employers (54 percent) finding content on social media that caused them not to hire a candidate, you’d be silly not to care.

As travel writer Ben Groundwater wrote recently in a piece called, Why Backpackers aren’t as fun as they used to be, “Almost everything you do overseas now is public – it’s on the permanent record. That has to change the way people travel, it has to affect the risks that they take and the way in which they conduct themselves.”

Like Groundwater, I’ve noticed that millennial backpackers are getting less adventurous and more vain. Unless of course the adventure will make their social media post really shine (like all those kids at Wedding Cake Rock who are risking life and death for the perfect shot). A report by Expedia showed that 43% of Millennials said that whether people comment on their vacation photos is as important or more important than experiencing the authentic culture of the destination. This compares with just 16% of baby-boomers.

It seems that the lines between adventure and popularity are getting blurred. Backpackers don’t want to go to the same old places their older siblings (or god forbid their parents) went to – they want to be the first to discover the “new” places…. how many times have you heard an Asian destination referred to as “the new Thailand”? In my day that was Laos but I suspect that tubing in Vang Vieng is not cool anymore!

Gary Morrison, senior vice president and head of retail at Expedia explained: “I think it’s not that we’re getting less adventurous but a sense of risk aversion is growing. The sense that ‘I need to know that it’s going to be authentic, I need to know that people are going to look favourably on it.’”

So, while the threat of mobile phone theft is significantly lowered these days, the threat of someone stealing your thunder on Facebook remains on high alert. Is that what adventure travel has come to? Sad times indeed.

Do you think backpackers are more concerned with their social media image than having a good time these days? Have your say.

Written by Alex Harmon

Editor: and very well written at that, thanks Alex.





2 Responses

  1. Mark Cameron says:

    On a recent trip to Vietnam under “old style E connectivity rules” it was sad to see so many travellers walking around with an I phone in their face. Social media can be a threat to personal integrity – switch off and enjoy the experience of travel !

  2. Greg says:

    Who says a pic of doing shots in a nightclub is going to kill their job prospects? As an employer I’d be a lot more concerned if they didn’t have pics like that – how are they going to show my customers a good time if they don’t know how to have one themselves? :-P