Between vacation and lifestyle: An exploration of the diversity within contemporary backpacking practice and ideals
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Globalization, mainstreaming and institutionalization have a huge influence on backpacking since its beginnings in the late 1980s. Backpacking originated out of ‘drifting’, the first non-institutionalized form of traveling, which was common in the 1960s and 1970s. Although academics agree that the practice of backpacking is not the same anymore, they argue drifting continues to be the ideal for contemporary backpackers. This thesis is dedicated to this debate. With the data obtained from anthropological fieldwork in two slightly different backpacker enclaves, San Pedro la Laguna and San Marcos la Laguna at Lake Atitlán in Guatemala, the variety within the practice of contemporary backpacking is presented and analyzed. The anthropological concepts of home and communitas can partially explain why modern backpackers prefer traveling differently than drifters. They for example stay on the backpacker trail and in backpacker enclaves, instead of exploring authentic places and immersing themselves into the local culture. The analysis of the practice gives insights on the different ideologies that motivate the contemporary backpackers. The backpackers in San Pedro adapt their ideology to the changed practice of backpacking. For them, the ideal backpacking trip is exiting, fun and relaxed and is above all about meeting other backpackers. Whereas the backpackers in San Marcos also make use of the facilities provided by the backpacker industry, they still feel attached to the ideology of drifting and try to live up to these ideals.