The new hippy trail
Based on the concept of a 'grand tour', the term hippy trail refers to the trips made by hippies in the 60s and 70s overland from Europe to South Asia with countries such as India, Nepal and Pakistan on the top list. It also covered the routes from Eastern Europe, passing through Turkey and Iran.
Past and present
Decades ago, the main reason of hippy journeys was to explore new places and to stay as long as possible away from home. Most were young people with little means to travel. Thus, hitchhiking or 'thumbing' was the most common form of getting from one place to another. When it comes to accommodation, travellers used the cheapest forms possible such as youth hostels and inexpensive B&Bs. Armed with guidebooks and little money, these backpackers made it back home (or not at all) with nothing or a few cents in their pockets.
Journeys began in major European cities such as London or Amsterdam. Luxembourg was also a major starting point with the existence of super low-cost flights from the US and vice-versa. From there, backpackers made their way by any means of transportation from buses and vans to trains and lorries. The trail ended in 1970s when Iran closed its borders due to the Islam Revolution and the Russian invasion of Afghanistan.
Today, the hippy trail is no less different. The purpose remains the same - to travel at a budget or as cheaply as possible. The majority of travellers doing the hippy trail are still young people but there are also older people and families joining the bandwagon. With the emergence of budget airlines and low-cost flights, the hippy trail continues but there are new spots taking the original destinations of the previous decades.
One such trail is the route to Morocco and Tunisia in North Africa.The Banana Pancake Trail to Asia is another route added. It is an affectionate term referring to the banana pancakes served as breakfasts to backpackers in Southeast Asia particularly Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. The trail also reaches China and India.
Similar in concept is the Gringo Trail in Latin America that refers to the list of countries popular with visiting Americans or foreigners collectively known as "Gringos" in Spanish. These countries include Belize, Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica, Peru and Chile.
Variations to the hippy trail
As travel becomes more and more affordable with the presence of low-budget airlines, the original hippy trail is kept alive. This time, journeys are not made for months and is less characterised by extended stays in one place. Before, the greater number of tourists were Western Europeans, Americans, New Zealanders and Australians. As improving standards of living and increasing purchasing power in emerging economies continue, there is a diversity of nationalities on the hippy trail. Expect more routes added to the string of places already favoured by travellers.