The Rise of the Millennial ‘Beg-packer’

I’ve defended Millennials several times- five times alone on Acculturated- but it’s getting harder and harder to defend my generation. Sure, we may be destroying the napkin industry and we single-handedly caused the worst ratings of the Olympics, but being broke actually isn’t entirely our fault and we can use technology to help those in need. But some things are just so absurd I can’t help but roll my eyes at my generation.

Millennials are known for throwing off the shackles of 9-to-5 office jobs and working freelance so they can backpack around the world and post a million selfies on Instagram. Other than the selfies, that’s pretty admirable and daring, and if I weren’t such a stereotypical broke Millennial with more debt than my annual salary, I might consider doing the same. But instead of working remote jobs or finding jobs where they travel, some of these backpackers have turned to begging to fund their travels.

I don’t mean begging their parents for money; these “beg-packers” are begging for money in the streets in Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong, and Malaysia. Some of them are trying to sell trinkets or photographs, but others are flat out pan-handling.

One couple even has a sign that reads, “Support our trip around the world,” that’s being propped up by an expensive DSLR camera. Other travelers play music with (expensive) electronic instruments and an amplifier.

Not only is this behavior appalling, but it may also be against the law in some countries. “First of all, you don’t see many people selling knick-knacks or playing music in the street in Singapore because there are strict rules governing these activities,” a Singapore local Maisarah Abu Samah said. Only people with work visas are allowed to sell in the streets in Singapore.

So not only are these beg-packers shamelessly asking for money to fund their luxury travels, they’re also ignorant of the local laws. It would be understandable if a traveler was robbed of all their money and they had no way of getting home, but all signs suggest the beg-packers are just asking for money to fund their world travels. And it isn’t just one or two people, this trend is starting to grow.

A reporter walked around streets in Malaysia one night and found seven Westerners begging and selling goods in just one night: “Among them, two were selling caricature drawings, one was peddling aerosol spray paintings, two were busking, and one was seen panhandling.”

I live in Center City Philadelphia and I see about the same number of people begging in a night. But these people begging are homeless and barely have any clothes on their backs; they don’t have expensive cameras and amplifiers. Begging to live and begging to travel are two entirely different things.

Being able to travel the world is a luxury and a privilege that the majority of the people around the world (especially in poorer countries like Singapore) will never experience. And the locals may view the beg-packers as insulting and disrespectful. “We find it extremely strange to ask other people for money to help you travel,” Samah said. “Selling things in the street or begging isn’t considered respectable. People who do so are really in need: they beg in order to buy food, pay their children’s school fees or pay off debts. But not in order to do something seen as a luxury.”

I don’t throw the word “privileged” around too often, but these beg-packers are the epitome of privileged and shouldn’t be begging in foreign counties. If you’re going to travel the world and you can’t afford it, at least try to find a job or remote work. And if you have to beg in the streets, don’t show off your expensive camera and amplifier; you just look tacky.

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  • BizGrowth

    A bit sanctimonious article describing a lifestyle choice that has been spanned multiple generations. Some seek charity, some manage lodges, others volunteer, go to school or maybe take on the role of stringer for a rag trying to make it in the attention economy of the first world.