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Backpacker world trip
Backpacker on a world tour
Backpackers in Austria (2005)
Group of backpackers in the mountains
Hitchhiking travel

Backpacking is a type of tourism in which you only carry a backpack with you as luggage ( backpacker or backpacker ) and usually do not stay at a destination, but travel independently to different places.


The term backpacking (am. English backpacking ) originated in German-speaking countries in the 1970s. The anthropologist and tourism scientist Eric Cohen also referred to the backpacker in 1972 as a drifter (derived from the English to drift - to drift, to be drifted). Today we speak of backpackers, globetrotters or globetrotters. The name backpacker comes from the American English ( backpack = rucksack, in British English rucksack is common).


Also known as globetrotters or globetrotters , young people from the Anglo-American region traveled with only the most essential luggage and mostly without a clear idea of ​​the accommodation options. These were only explored on site and should be as inexpensive as possible and away from the other accommodations of the package tourists , but in closer contact with the local population. Backpacking saw itself as an alternative to mass tourism .

The hippie trail became known - a highly frequented travel route from Europe overland to Asia. Southeast Asia was generally a popular travel destination and is also known as the cradle of alternative tourism. The travel guide South-East Asia on a shoestring ( Lonely Planet ), first published in 1973, played an important role . The travel guide mapped out routes that were frequented by backpackers and thus enabled the establishment of tourist infrastructures (hotels, restaurants). In this way, backpacking often becomes a forerunner of regions' tourist development. In Europe, the introduction of the inexpensive InterRail ticket by the European railways in 1972 contributed to the growth of backpacking tourism .


While there is a clear motivation for most of the types of travel mentioned , it is particularly broad in backpacking and is discussed controversially in the literature. Some authors only name two, others twenty, the most common classification goes back to Claude Kaspar, he distinguishes five main motivations:

  • Physical motivation : expectation of physical rest and relaxation
  • Psychological motivation : Hoping for psychological relief and self-discovery
  • Interpersonal motivation : desire for experiences adventures
  • Cultural motivation : Interest in education and getting to know foreign cultures
  • Status or prestige motivation : desire for recognition and appreciation (prestige trips).

In sociology , a connection is made between the reasons for travel and the individual social milieus :

  • The younger generation tends more towards the self-realization milieu, which also participates in the high culture scheme . Above all, "untourist" and "unspoilt" places "off the beaten track" are valued. Today, remote villages in Burgundy or Tuscany , but also strange areas such as the Himalayas, are classic travel destinations for this group .
  • By connecting Hochkultur- and Trivial scheme predominantly by members of the medium forming layer and formed in prone particularly to adjustment is integration environment characterized. Tried and tested and well-known places, such as the coasts and beaches around the Mediterranean , but also the Austrian mountains and lakes, are valued . At the same time, components of the classic educational canons such as a study trip to Paris are also used to a lesser extent .
  • Younger people of all social classes finally gather in the action milieu , which is characterized by the tension. In their travel behavior, they strive above all for dynamism, variety and physical movement. Places where “something is going” are valued, such as the discos in the seaside resorts, “action-packed” metropolises like Berlin or London , but also adventure and sports trips . In the hunt for new stimuli, people like to cover long distances, preferably also by hitchhiking or Interrail .
  • Finally, in the harmony environment based on the trivial scheme , it is predominantly older people from the lower educational levels. If you travel at all, you are mainly looking for peace, relaxation and security, especially in familiar and familiar places in your own country or language area such as the Black Forest or South Tyrol . The leisure program consists, for example, of walks and hikes or of swimming and home evenings .

Backpacking Today

Backpackers travel in a variety of ways and for a variety of reasons. Some have a precise destination, only stay in one place, others only know the first place of residence and then let themselves be drifted or there is a fixed route plan from the outset. The return date can also be fixed in advance or indefinite. The travel budget can cover the entire duration of the trip ( traveler's checks and credit cards ) or work activities are required on site to secure subsistence in the meantime, although longer stays in one place are quite common in some cases ( work & travel ). Initially developed mainly from the hippie movement of the 1970s, today's backpackers have very different backgrounds.

New form of mass tourism

Started as an expression of individuality, this alternative form of tourism has developed into a mass movement over the years . In many areas that are heavily frequented by backpackers, this has side effects, as they also occur in conventional tourism, which was actually originally rejected. Sometimes the backpacker harms the target regions in the long term just like mass tourism. Furthermore, not every backpacker has a more ecological or social attitude than the mass tourist. For the assessment of the local population, it is usually irrelevant whether it is backpacking or conventional tourism.


  • Jana Binder: Globality. An ethnography about backpackers (= Forum European Ethnology , Volume 7). Lit, Münster 2005, ISBN 3-8258-8686-7 (dissertation University of Frankfurt am Main 2004, 243 pages with illustrations, 23 cm).
  • Eric Cohen: Nomads from Affluence. Notes on the Phenomenon of Drifter-Tourism . In: International Journal of Comparative Sociology , Vol. 14 (1973), pp. 89-103.
  • Eric Cohen: Toward a Sociology of International Tourism . In: Social Research , 39, 164-182 (1972).
  • Anthony Giddens: Consequences of Modernity . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2008, ISBN 978-3-518-28895-5 .
  • Stuart Hall et al. a. (Ed.): Representation. Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices . Sage, London 2009, ISBN 0-7619-5432-5 (reprint of the London 1997 edition).
  • Kevin Hanam, Irena Ateljevic (Ed.): Backpacker Tourism. Concepts and Profiles . Channel View Publications, Clevedon 2008, ISBN 978-1-84541-077-3 .
  • Sarah Kröger: Worldwide. Backpacking observations . Lit, Münster 2009, ISBN 978-3-643-10223-2 .
  • Greg Richards, Julie Wilson (Eds.): The Global Nomad. Backpacker Travel in Theory and Practice . Channel View Publications, Clevedon 2009, ISBN 978-1-873150-76-4 .
  • Günter Spreitzhofer: Third World Tourism - Focal Point Southeast Asia. Alternative tourism as a motor for mass tourism and socio-cultural change (= European University Theses Series 4: Geography , Volume 16). Lang , Frankfurt am Main 1995, ISBN 3-631-47965-4 (Dissertation University of Vienna 1994, 232 pages with illustrations and graphic representations, box, 21 cm).
  • Andrea Vetter: Journey without Return. Home practices of backpackers, globetrotters and vagabonds in: Helge Baumann, Michael Weise et al. (Ed.). Have you already flown tired? Travel and homecoming as cultural anthropological phenomena . Marburg 2010. ISBN 3-8288-2184-7 .
  • Klaus Westerhausen: Beyond the Beach. An Ethnography of Modern Travelers in Asia. White LotusPress, Bangkok 2002, ISBN 974-480-009-7 .
  • Alex Garland : The Beach ("The Beach"). Goldmann, Munich 1997, ISBN 3-442-30705-8 (filmed under The Beach ).
  • Iris Bahr: Moomlatz: or how I tried to lose my innocence in Asia ("Dork whore: my travels through Asia as a twenty-year-new pseudo-virgin"). Frederking & Thaler, Munich 2007, ISBN 3-89405-699-1
  • Iris Bahr: Sluts in the sleeping bag: On the Moomlatz route through South America . Malik, 2010, ISBN 3-89029-758-7
  • Benedikt Geulen, Marcus Seibert: With a tailwind: A literary backpacking trip . Tropen bei Klett-Cotta, 2005, ISBN 3-608-50070-7
  • Burkhard Rothe, Frank Eichhorn, Julius Franzot, Andrea Winkmann, Peter Haberstich: Authors Without Borders: Backpacker Stories . Traveldiary.De Reiseliteratur, 2006, ISBN 3-937274-20-0
  • Jon Evans: Deadly Path ("Trail of the Death"). Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-423-24436-4
  • Daniela Konefke: Be brave once in a lifetime. The ultimate guide for backpackers . Verlag Kern Bayreuth, 2009, ISBN 978-3-939478-15-7

Literature citations

  • Cohen defined the Drifter as “the type of tourist [who] dares to venture off the beaten path and the usual ways of life of his homeland. He [the Drifter, JB] avoids any connection to a tourist infrastructure and sees ordinary tourist experiences as spurious. He tends to get by on his own, lives with the local people, and often takes casual jobs to get ahead. He tries to live the way the people he visits [...] has no fixed travel or time schedule and no clearly defined travel destinations. He is almost completely immersed in the host culture ” (Eric Cohen 1972, p. 168, translation: Jana Binder).

See also

Web links

Commons : Backpacking  - Collection of Pictures, Videos and Audio Files


  1. Everything about backpacking »Information, tips & recommendations. Retrieved May 7, 2019 .
  2. Langenscheidt Maxi Dictionary English
  3. Kaspar, Claude: The structure of the tourism demand with special consideration of the Federal Republic of Germany . In: Storbeck, Dietrich (ed.), Moderner Tourismus. Trends and prospects . In: Materials for tourism geography, issue 17, Trier: Geographische Gesellschaft Trier, 2nd edition (1988 1 ), 1990, p. 281 f.
  4. Cf. Gerhard Schulze: Die Erlebnisgesellschaft. Contemporary cultural sociology. Hamburg 2005.