The first time I saw a Donate button with a “Buy Me a Meal” tagline on a hiking blog, I immediately thought of that famous line from Dickens’ novel, Oliver Twist.
You know the one I’m talking about. When Oliver was fed up (figuratively rather than literally) with gruel, and after a bit of nudging from his mates, gets up the courage to ask for some extra food:
“Please, Sir, I want some more.”
After a wee chuckle to myself, it struck me that aside from the fact that these hikers and Oliver are both requesting additional alimentation (or in the case of the former, it could be beer, coffee, straight out cash, etc.), they actually don’t have that much in common.
So without further ado, here’s the tale of the tape. Oliver Twist Vs “Buy Me a Meal/Donate Button” Thru-Hikers. What the hey, for good measure let’s throw in the “GoFundMe” crowd as well:
Oliver Twist – Rail thin nine year old orphan born into abject poverty.
Donate Button/Buy me a Meal hiker – Twenty to forty-something middle class bloggers…………occasionally older hikers get in on the act as well.
Oliver Twist – Oppressive workhouse, nineteenth century England.
Donate Button/Buy me a Meal Hiker – Some of the most beautiful natural surroundings of America’s lower 48 states (fingers crossed).
Oliver Twist – Chronically underfed and overworked.
Donate button/Buy me a Meal Hiker – They haven’t saved enough money to fund their trip themselves, so for the price of posting the occasional paragraph and photo on social media, they decide to ask complete strangers to chip in and help pay for their holiday.
Oliver Twist – Plate in hand and lump in throat, Oliver approaches the exceedingly well-fed Mr. Bumble and quietly asks for a bit more food.
Donate Button/Buy Me a Meal Hiker – From what I can tell, the process goes something like this:
1. Read a hyperbole filled long distance trail journal in which every chilly morning potentially means hypothermia, and every warmish day could result in severe dehydration and an intravenous drip. Or alternatively, just pick up a copy of “Wild.”
2. Sufficiently inspired, convince yourself (but not really) that you are doing something “out of the ordinary.” That being the case, surely folks will pay to help you achieve your goal…………I mean really, why wouldn’t they? It’s not like they have more important things to put their money towards.
3. Embellish your back story as much as possible. Be sure to mention that you’ve worked hard for years in order to realize your dream, however, you’re just a little shy on the savings front, and you sure would appreciate a helping fiscal hand.
4. Be shameless……..#*!# it……….you’ve come this far…………why not go the extra cyber mile? Ask readers to pay for town accommodation, flights to trailheads, maybe even big-ticket equipment items such as tents and sleeping bags.
I suspect that this post will get up some peoples noses (e.g. hikers with donate buttons, the people who give them money, folks with no sense of humour, Cheryl Strayed fans and maybe the family of the old guy in the photo asking for $10).
However, after seeing a bunch of these donate buttons and GoFundMe campaigns in recent times, I couldn’t resist any longer.
As a person that has spent most of his adult life living, working, volunteering and travelling in developing countries, I have seen more than my fair share of extreme poverty. But at the same time, I’ve also seen countless cases of men and women working their guts out twelve hours plus every day, seven days a week, year after year, just to put food on their families tables.
All jokes aside, the idea of comparatively well-to-do long distance hikers from first world countries, asking strangers to help pay for what ostensibly is a multi-month walking holiday, just doesn’t seem right to my way of thinking.