Homelessness is a big issue across the world. With 100 million people struggling to get by on a daily basis, and news stories drip-feeding us articles about beggers earning up to £600 a day, the attitudes and politics surrounding homelessness are turbulent.
Off the back of this, during 2019 a new trend swept through the western world that filled global audiences with anger, and questioned the impact of privilege on youth culture.
Begpackers. A group of people who travel around the world begging on the streets as they search for money to fund their global travels. These people are usually from first-world backgrounds and congregate in east Asia.
When I first heard about begpackers many questions were raised. One of them being, Why are people from socially privileged backgrounds taking space and charity away from homeless people in third-world countries? It’s common knowledge that only a select percentage of the world can afford the luxury of travelling around the world.
Even with EasyJet and Ryanair selling airplane tickets at the extremely low price of £16, the additional costs of public transport, food, accommodation and activities all add up.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining about these costs. Instead, I’m highlighting that even a ‘cheap’ holiday can cost hundreds to fund.
The issue with begbackers is that they come from western first-world backgrounds. Most originate from the UK, US or Australia and have access to the resources and money needed to fund a global trip.
So, why are they begging?
Some begpackers want to achieve an ‘authentic experience’ in predominantly Asian countries, while others simply want a cheap way of travelling around the world. Either way, they are taking valuable attention and charity away from people in need.
And it’s not just article readers like me questioning these people. It’s also tourist centres that are getting sick of the privileged begpackers.
At home with the homeless
Begpackers initially hit the news during the summer of 2019, as travel costs rose due to school breaking up for the summer. But it quickly became a forgotten topic as the world continued to turn and even I forgot. That was until begpackers took over my hometown.
To give you some context, my hometown is a relatively rich area of the world, with upper-middle and upper-class people dominating the overall demographic. Large scale, white townhouses decorate the surrounding residential areas, while Gin and Jaz festivals make up much of the social calendar. Much care has been taken into making my hometown look like a pristine, desirable place to live or visit.
This subsequently means rent and house prices are comparatively sky high, resulting in a clear difference between those with money to spare and those without. Filtering that down more and we eventually encounter the homeless residents that live here. It’s not uncommon to see 10 or 20 people sleeping rough on just one strip of road.
As a way of combating the undesirable homeless people living along the main high street, the local council condemned sleeping rough as an illegal act. The homeless were then fined up to £120 a day for living on the streets.
So, when begpackers began begging in the middle of town the local residents had quite a lot to say about it. But regardless of the disruption caused, the council were not able to fine the begpackers, as they were not technically homeless nor did they hale from the surrounding area.
Quickly, middle-class begpackers began filling up the high street and those who were unaware of their reason for begging started donating money.
Begpackers took away the charity that was available in my hometown to fund their nonsensical travels, while homeless people were starving just down the road, hidden away from society.
And it’s not just my hometown that’s had to endure the shamelessness and inhumanity of begpackers. One tourist saw this begpacker begging for money to travel to Thailand, right next to an elderly woman who was collecting junk to resell as a means of survival.
The question is, has the western world become too privilaged and ignorant that we directly ignore those suffering around us, and place our desires above the needs of others? Begpackers surley do as they take charity away from those in need to fund their asthetical travels. But for those of us who aren’t begpacking, are we doing this too? After all, remember 1 like equals 1 prayer on Facebook and all that bullshit.